Feature Interview: WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose

“The Lunatic Fringe” discusses SummerSlam, finally winning the WWE title, and his connection to the fans while being “put on blast.”

Joshua Caudillby Joshua Caudill

As WWE wraps up the summer with one of its premier PPVs this Sunday in Brooklyn, it will also serve as the setting for Dean Ambrose to further his championship run and write another chapter in his whirlwind journey.

After taking a backseat to two of his former Shield brothers the past year, Ambrose seized his opportunity a mere two months ago by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. After being drafted to be the face of SmackDown Live and a successful title defense against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, Ambrose is staking his claim as WWE’s top man.

It’s a position that Ambrose gladly welcomes but one he never thought would be thrust upon him. Nevertheless, the laid-back superstar has plans for staying true to his nature and as he prepares to defend his title against Dolph Ziggler at SummerSlam, Ambrose took a moment to open up about his match, winning the WWE title, the difficulty of wrestling in jeans and what he does to escape the madness of being in the ring.

SummerSlam

CraveOnline: This Sunday at SummerSlam, you defend your WWE World Heavyweight Champion against Dolph Ziggler. What are your thoughts on Ziggler as your opponent?

Dean Ambrose: I was very excited to see Dolph Ziggler come out of that No. 1 contender deal to challenge me at SummerSlam. Ziggler is one of those guys who don’t get all of the credit he deserves for being so good consistently for so long. Every single night for years, he’s out there busting his ass and tearing it up and keeping his nose to the grindstone. I like having that attitude and work ethic because when you bring that to the ring with the same mindset you can create something special.

I also like that we’re representing SmackDown Live. There’s an attitude and an excitement on that team because it’s a new thing, it’s a live show on Tuesdays and we’re going to try and built it into something. Plus, we’re trying to stake our claim to see who’s the leader on that team and both Ziggler and me want to stake our claim as the main guy on SmackDown Live.

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SummerSlam is one of the top shows of the year. As a performer, do you feel the need to step it up a notch or is it business as usual?

There are times when you got to put a little “extra” in especially on a card at WrestleMania or SummerSlam because it’s no time to hold anything back. You have to pull out all of the stops. The thing about Dolph [Ziggler] and me is that we really never hold back anyways. Whether we’re in Paducah, Kentucky or WrestleMania, we go out there to lay it all on the line and I think that grassroots of busting our ass from the bottom to the top attitude is what got us to this title match at SummerSlam.

The face of SmackDown Live

You have mentioned your admiration for the way the old NWA champions carried themselves with the title. Now you’re the WWE Champion and the face of SmackDown. What does that feel like internally for you?

It feels like a responsibility. It’s like I’ve been given the keys to a very nice car or something. The WWE Championship is the greatest championship in the history of this sport. It has the most history of anything. You go back to Bruno Sammartino and uniting the titles in the 2000s to the first undisputed title, it’s a ‘grade A’ championship. You can’t go out there and be a goofball. You have to represent like a true main eventer.

“I’m kind of like a part of people’s families”

There has been a connection between you and the fans throughout this journey of you getting to the ‘top of the mountain.’ What do you think drives that connection?

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Anybody can come in and be hot for a day or a week or a month or something but I’ve had my ups and downs as you know. But when you spend enough time in people’s homes because we’re on TV every week and they see you go through your journey, they feel like they know you. A lot of people feel they spend enough time watching me go through the good, the bad and the ugly so they feel like they know me and are a part of it. I’m kind of like a part of people’s families. You can’t buy that kind of connection with people.

You can’t really imagine until you get in that position where you meet these people all around the world and you’ve helped them get through some tragedy or gave them motivation. I get stuff from dads saying their sons and them watch every week and that’s their father and son thing they do and they thank me for that, for giving them something to connect with their sons and how they’re creating memories. I didn’t plan on doing any of that but it’s the position I was given. That stuff is important.

“It was a huge sense of relief”

When you finally won the WWE championship at Money in the Bank, what was going through your mind?

It was a huge sense of relief. I was instantly more tired after a 30-second match than I’ve been in my entire life. I was instantly exhausted. It was like a giant weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I never put much value in accomplishments like a lot of others who say ‘I want to win this, this and I want to be recognized as this.’ I just wanted to be in business and be a good wrestler and have fun and just go out there and be myself.

I could have retired very easily having never been WWE champion and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Again, though, I felt a lot of responsibility to the fans because I had been put in a position where I always pushed the boulder to the top of the hill and then it would roll all the way back down.

People were going on that journey with me because they felt like they were a part of it and at some point, it felt like I owed it to these people that I disappointed so many times. I got to do it for them somehow and someway. It also shows people don’t let people throw their negative crap on you and don’t let people say no. Get back up and dust yourself off every time you fall down.

Wrestling in jeans

Let’s talk ring attire. What’s it like to wrestle in jeans?

It can be a little tough. You got to find stretchy jeans. Sometimes it can impede your movement. It can be a little hard to leapfrog and jump up and down, you know [laughs]? You have to find a nice comfortable pair. They get worn out real easy. They will be loose and hanging off of me because I beat them up wrestling in them so much. It has its challenges but at the same time I can walk right out of the ring and into a car. I feel like in 2016 putting on little underwear to fight really doesn’t make sense.

Skyline Chili and the outdoors

What’s the best thing about your hometown of Cincinnati?

Cheese Coneys without a doubt. It’s weird because when you live in Cincinnati you eat Skyline [Chili] fairly regularly. You don’t think much about it. Then once you haven’t had it for a couple of years and you haven’t even seen it or smelled it and you come back you’re like ‘Oh, man’ and it becomes nostalgic. I like them so much more now.

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What are your hobbies? What do you do when you get home from being on the road?

If I do have a couple of days off and I get to go home, I always end up wearing myself out more when I should be relaxing and resting my body. I’m really into outdoorsy stuff. I really like mountain biking and hiking and stuff like that. I live out west so there’s plenty of mountains and state parks. I like to do stuff outside and exercise and be out in nature.

Sometimes I’ll get two days home and I’ll be so excited because I got a little time to go do something and then spend all day mountain biking and then I get on a plane on Friday and I feel so sore and beat up. I just beat myself up more voluntarily. Sometimes I push myself too far.

What is it like traveling with the WWE championship while on the road?

Dean Ambrose: I keep it on me in a little secret compartment. I’m really prone to losing things so I have a constant awareness of where it is so I keep it on my hip all the time. I usually travel pretty light. I usually don’t have anything necessary to carry on me but I obviously can’t lose that so it stays on my hip all the time.

Legacy

Last week you said you felt “put on blast” while speaking to Steve Austin. What do you want out of this championship run and this legacy of yours when it’s all said and done?

I kind of roll with the punches and roll with the wind. In real life, I’m the most laid back person you will ever meet. When I’m on the job, I’m on the job but in reality I’m not a guy with a chip on my shoulder. In my younger years maybe I did but over the years you learn that carrying that negativity will just weigh you down. I like to sit back and look at the landscape and breathe it in instead of having all of these goals. I like to see what the world throws at me.

As far as what I want out of a legacy, I don’t really have a clear vision for it. I’m going to do what I do and I how I want to do it. I make it up as I go along a lot in life and in the ring so that is how my story will ultimately be written.


Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of WWE

WWE SummerSlam is live on WWE Network Sunday August 21st from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

WWE SummerSlam

Sunday, Aug 21 | 7 PMET/4 PMPT

Barclays Center
Brooklyn, NY