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Since last year AlternativeNation.net has done several celebrity interviews with athletes and entertainers from MLB, the NHL, and WWE. Our latest celebrity interview is with WWE superstar Dean Ambrose, who discusses his musical taste and wrestling career. Ambrose will perform at WWE’s SummerSlam event on August 17th on the WWE Network.
You used a lot of great songs on the indies over the years as your entrance theme including songs by Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, L7, Led Zeppelin, Deftones, Misfits, Muse, and Foxy Shazam. What motivated you to pick some of songs you have as your themes in the past?
A couple of them, I might have thought out beforehand, and came in with the idea. But a lot of the time I would show up and put no forethought into the music I’m coming out to. I would be like, ‘What have you got?’ They would be like, ‘We’ve have 4 CD’s, pick between these. And [it would be like] uh, use that.’ Sometimes there was no forethought into it at all, and then sometimes it stuck and they always kept bringing me out to that song. Some of them I picked, like Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” because it’s a classic, it’s got such a good vibe that I felt it fit me really good. L7 same thing, just a song [“Sh*tlist”] that pumps me up, and puts me in the right frame of mind. You want a song that puts you in the right frame of mind, so when you hear it, it is part of the performance. If the song doesn’t match your attitude when you’re walking out, then you’re off to a bad start already.
What are you usually listening to backstage these days, or when you’re traveling?
Right now, me and Roman Reigns are pretty obsessed with a guy named Shooter Jennings, he’s a country artist and he’s also Waylon Jennings’ kid. We like Hank Williams, and country music on the road. When I’m working out, I like Deftones a lot. This is kind of a cop out, to say I listen to everything, but I’m not a fan of a particular genre, I just like good music. I like rap, I like The Game, like I said Deftones, Slayer, Pantera, stuff like that I’ll listen to when I’m working out. When we’re traveling, or just hanging out in the locker room, we like keeping it light with some country music, and fun songs. It’s never a bad time to have some Pink Floyd The Wall going at like 4 in the morning if you’re traveling by yourself on the highway, and getting into some crazy driving zone and tripping out, that’s pretty cool too.
Right, I think listening to everything makes sense as a wrestler because you’re around so many people. Like I saw Colt Cabana talk about having a complete education on some metal bands that he never would have heard of before, just by being in the cars with guys like that, it’s just kind of the way it is in wrestling. Moving onto wrestling, what did you think of your Battleground match with Seth Rollins being turned into brawling segments? Do you think it helped build the anticipation more for a match at SummerSlam?
You never know what you’re going to see, card subject to change always. There are some fans that may have been a little disappointed, but I think in the long run nobody will really remember it as much as a negative as they might have instantly thought they would. That night definitely upped the intensity of the rivalry between me and Seth Rollins. If anything, even though there was a lot of craziness in me getting kicked out of the building, and fans never got to see the match, but one of the things I take away from it is that at the beginning of the night they wanted to see the match. But they weren’t all that vocal, and they didn’t really realize how much they wanted to see it, but when they realized they weren’t going to get it, the whole place started chanting: ‘Let them fight.’ Then the whole place realized just how much they wanted to see it. I think the way it worked out shone a bigger spotlight on me and Seth and our rivalry, than if we had just gone out there and wrestled, personally.
Yeah, you don’t see many blood feuds any more really, but that feud really feels like something like that. There was definitely some original stuff like you coming out of the trunk that got me interested. Now when it comes to traveling with Roman and Seth, you mentioned Roman a bit, but how long did it take your relationship with those guys to formulate on the road? And do you have any funny or interesting road stories?
Yeah we started traveling together pretty much immediately, once The Shield became a thing. We got advice from a lot of people we trust too, a lot of it was like: ‘You guys are going to be put in a really good spot, and there’s going to be people trying to pull you in different directions, and people maybe for whatever reason want to be destructive to what you guys are doing.’ But the thing is, we’re trying to be destructive to the whole business as a unit ourselves. So our thing was, we’re going to keep it all in house, and keep it tight. We all knew each other and trusted each other enough to know we could have that sort of a pact, then it all came together by itself. We started traveling together just immediately. We’ll ride together, we’ll keep everything in house, we’ll train together, travel together, stay together. If one guy has a problem, the other two guys have that same problem. The other two guys have got that guy’s back, and so forth. [It works as] a friendship, [and] as a competitive spirit [too]. We’re competitive with each other, but also competitive with [everyone]. As far as we were concerned, screw everybody, we’re taking over this business. We tried to put our acts together, and stick together, and that’s what we did.
Everybody’s got their different schedules. I’m a little bit of a night owl, I don’t like to get up super early, Roman is the same way. Seth has got his certain schedule he likes to keep. He likes to say: ‘Often Roman will be on Samoan time.’ He just kind of is on his clock all the time. I always get a lot of stuff for disappearing, I pull a lot of disappearing acts a lot of the time on the road. A lot of the good stories I can’t get into the specifics of. The main thing with us is just work ethic. Every morning: drag all three of our asses to the gym, go to the gym, hit the show, drive to the next town, same thing the next day. We carry that attitude and work ethic in our separate directions. That becomes a part of your lifestyle, we’re still going to bring that after The Shield to everything we do.
When it comes to transitioning into being a singles star again like you mentioned, What kind of input have you had in regards to your new street ring gear and theme music? Roman ended up keeping The Shield gear, and Seth has his new gear, but what kind of input did you have into the change of your character and its presentation?
So far, I’ve pretty much been left to my own devices, honestly, since The Shield kind of abruptly broke up. But being left to my own devices has actually been quite refreshing. To be perfectly honest, it’s kind of a good feeling to have that feeling of freedom and not having to worry about anybody else. Right now, I can kind of do whatever I want in the ring or on the mic. I mean, not [completely] anything I want, but more than I could before, because if I’ve got 2 minutes to talk, now I have 2 minutes to talk. It’s not like okay, well, I’ve got to worry about what these other two guys are going to say. I’ve got it all to myself, which is nice.
I’m very unorthodox in the ring, I tend to have very outside of the box ideas. Now I don’t have to worry about if it fits into a Shield match, or if it fits into the context of what we’re doing with the group. I can pretty much do whatever I want now, and wear whatever I want. I’ll just show up to the building in whatever I’m wearing, I’ll pretty much just walk to the ring like that, I don’t walk out of the building like that. If I had an idea tomorrow to wear a cowboy outfit, I could probably do it and nobody would say anything. I’m pretty much just kind of in my own little world right now, and it actually feels pretty good, to be quite honest.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently surrounding recent WWE signings and potential free agents that might come in, the company recently signed KENTA and Kevin Steen, along with Sting’s video game promo airing. What is your reaction to these recent signings, and the potential of Sting coming in?
I mean everybody has always wanted to see Sting come to WWE. It’s just been ‘Sting’s coming to WWE! Sting’s coming to WWE!’ for so long, at this point everybody is just like, ‘Just come in, just have a match, just do it, it’s time.’ We all obviously [want] Sting at WrestleMania. Do whatever, if he’s in fighting shape, then great, I think anybody would want to be there and see that, [even if] it’s a one off. I mean he’s Sting. If you’re a fan of the business from any historical perspective, or if you were even just a fan as a kid, he’s a very important figure in history. I think he deserves to have that one night where he’s celebrated on a bigger stage, whether that be a Hall of Fame thing or a one off at WrestleMania. I think Sting as a character, and Sting as a person, for what he’s been I think he deserves that one big night on the biggest stage.
When it comes to KENTA, I saw him in Japan and talked to him a little bit. Him coming in just shows you the difference in the Performance Center. When I came in it was a totally different story than what it is today. I slipped in the back door of developmental, the only guy I was even vaguely familiar with was Seth [Rollins], and I never wrestled him before. I may have crossed paths and maybe said hello to him once or twice over the years, but we were in different circles. We were always kind of on parallel paths on the indies, so I never really crossed paths with him much. But he was the only guy I had even remotely heard of, it was just a bunch of other guys. For instance, to give you perspective, the top guy in developmental when I got there was Lucky Cannon. If you don’t know [him], just Google it. That will show you the difference in the talent that is in developmental now.
You’ve got KENTA, Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, and [others] coming in. The competition is just blazing so much. Even though everyone wants to be on the main roster, I think NXT is kind of a brand in itself. It’s cool to get all those different styles and different guys all in one little building, and let them loose and see what happens. Anybody who is really good coming in, that’s a plus. [Everybody should want to] get in the ring with a guy like KENTA, or even on the completely opposite end of the spectrum, a legend like Sting. Anybody who is smart would chomp at the bit for either opportunity. Or if you’re a fan and you don’t want to sit back and watch either of those guys, you’re a fool too. So it’s all pluses, and all positives.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your WWE career, already having wrestled legends like Triple H and The Undertaker, and having worked with Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Mick Foley, Roddy Piper, and very memorable Jake Roberts. What have you learned from being around these guys, any interesting stories from being around them?
When it comes to having a live mic in your hand, it’s a much different world today than it was in the 80’s. If Roddy Piper had a live mic in his hand in the 80’s, it was on. He could say whatever he wanted, there were no real restrictions. It was up to him to take you on the ride. Now it’s different, you’ll get a certain amount of time, you’ll get something put in front of you. There’s some ways you can stretch it and spin it, it’s just about making it feel like it’s your own. The thing is as time goes on, the company [gains] more trust in you to twist it your own certain way. They’re not just going to send anybody out there with a live mic and say: ‘Can I just wing it? Is that cool?’ You’re not going to get that. So watching Roddy Piper do the whole Piper’s Pit thing, he had a certain vision of how it was going to do, the interview part of it, which I think was a little bit different than their vision was. So [I got to see] him kind work within the context, and make something his own, and go through his process.
[I saw the way] his head worked, and [how he would] kind of [be] reading something, and thinking about it, and then he came up to me talking about it. [He was] giving me something to play off of, and seeing how I would react, and [then] throwing something back. Backstage feeding each other stuff and doing some kind of Inside the Actors Studio stuff with Roddy Piper was really cool, getting to see him go through his process. [I got to see] how he puts things into his brain, and how they come out on the other side. It was pretty cool, because he’s the master. Being on live TV on a live mic against Roddy Piper, who could go off the rails and throw you a crazy curveball at any moment, it’s like going up against a Cy Young Award winner, or boxing Muhammad Ali. You’re in there with the best, and there’s no bigger adrenaline high than that.
It’s still surreal to me still to be in the ring around a lot of people who I have watched and studied for so many years. Yelling at Mick Foley, or being in the ring with The Undertaker, it’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around. Kicking The Rock in the face, it’s really strange and hard to wrap your brain around, but that’s reality. Because it all happened so fast, and we were so lucky to get to work with so many guys. Now I just live in this world, where I’m walking down the hall, and all of the sudden Big Show pops out of a room, a giant 7 foot dude. ‘Hey what’s up Big Show how are you doing?’ It’s just a part of my daily life now, it’s so crazy, that it’s so normal.
[We ended up being able to] work with Triple H, and [I would] go up to him with what [I thought] was a brilliant idea, because I tend to think I’m pretty smart. I’ll go up and say I have a brilliant idea, and he’ll shoot 10,000 logic holes in it, and I’ll go, ‘Oh yeah I am stupid, that’s way smarter the way he put it.’ Seeing how Triple H thinks is very educational. Kind of the same thing with Piper, seeing those guys go through their process and think about things, and bring logic to what is often an illogical form of entertainment, is pretty cool.
A lot of the guys [who teach me a lot] you don’t see on TV. For instance, I learn a lot from Arn Anderson. He’s a producer backstage and he’s often on the road with us. I could care less what journalists, or people on the internet, or assholes in the third row, I could care less what they really think. If Arn Anderson says that’s the way it needed to be done, he’s the barometer of what I need to go out there and accomplish. If he gives me the thumbs up, I know I’m doing a good job. He was part of the Four Horsemen, he’s one of the greatest workers of all time. Michael Hayes, Joey Mercury, and Dusty Rhodes [are others who teach me a lot].
[Michael and Dusty] drew a ton of money, and hearing what they say, you keep that in your brain. I get to learn about how those guys drew that money. They’re not really teaching at a Performance Center or anything like that, you can’t really learn that in a warehouse, so it’s really cool to be backstage with those guys. Another guy I learn so much from is Joey Mercury, who is a producer backstage. He’s way younger than a lot of those guys, and he may not have that legend status quite yet, but he’s a guy who understands everything from ECW inspired kind of indie wrestling. The environment of where me and Seth Rollins come from, he understands that whole scene and psychology. He understands old school Memphis southern stuff, he knows everything, he’s seen every match and studied it. He was also on WWE television in one of the most successful tag teams in the last decade or two [MNM], every week, having kick ass tag matches. He has so much experience in so many different styles and subgenres of the sport, he just has a wealth of knowledge, so he has a brain that I’m constantly picking.