Back when large, burly, bearded men wore flannel, wielded large axes and cut down trees for a living, they had to entertain themselves on their down time. One way was to have a good ole fashioned fist fight. Testosterone does not always flow evenly among men. If a lumberjack chose flight instead of fight, they had to be corralled and forced back into combat until there was a decisive winner. At least this was the explanation given by Jesse Ventura at a 1985 Madison Square Garden house show broadcast before a match between Greg Valentine and Tito Santana.
Flash forward 29 years and that same lumberjack match stipulation is being featured on the second biggest card of the year, SummerSlam. Dean Ambrose, the “lunatic fringe”, and his former ally in the Shield, Seth Rollins,will finally face off after two months of tension. Ambrose earned the right to handpick the stipulation after winning a Beat the Clock challenge on the Aug. 4 edition of Monday Night Raw. Did a lumberjack match make sense?
Two reasons for having a lumberjack match come to mind: 1.) A strong heel or authority figure wants to stack the deck against a babyface by employing fellow heels to be the lumberjacks at ringside. 2.) A face wants a cowardly heel to be prevented from continuing to run away from confrontation. It appears the story they are trying to tell is aligned with reason No. 2, but has Rollins been a coward?
The former members of the Shield were scheduled to have a match at Battleground. Ambrose attacked Rollins before the match, however, and was banned from the building. This didn’t stop them from brawling around the ring later in the night, unsanctioned, as Seth was about to celebrate his forfeit victory. Let’s focus on this brawl. As WWE officials were holding them apart, was Seth rushing to the back? No! He was yelling audible obscenities as Fit Finlay held him back from attacking Ambrose. They were trying to get at each other equally.
Is Rollins being booked as paranoid? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t he be? Ambrose has shown he can attack anytime, anyplace. A paranoid Rollins helps establish that Ambrose is indeed a “lunatic fringe”. Rollins isn’t afraid of Ambrose; he just doesn’t want to face him outside of a sanctioned wrestling match. Rollins isn’t coward because he doesn’t want to get attacked walking to his car after a show. That makes him fairly rational. This is why the lumberjack match stipulation is a head-scratcher when deconstructing the feud.
Another break in logic, even if this may be over thinking, is why does Ambrose think the authority will be fair? Ambrose is a huge thorn in the side of Triple H, so what is stopping him from making all the lumberjacks authority friendly wrestlers?
The intense hatred these two have for each other has falls count anywhere written all over it. The feud has been on a slow boil since June 2, the night Rollins hit Roman Reigns in the back with a steel chair and joined the authority. WWE should get credit for such a slow build, given the impatient booking that dominates the product in the modern era. However, lack of logic can cool off a heated dispute even for the most casual of fans.
The lumberjack match at Summerslam needs to be wild. An Ambrose or Rollins dive from the top rope onto multiple lumberjacks pretty much writes itself. They need to show that even the majority of the roster can’t contain the intensity between these two. Ideally, the ultimate payoff would happen at Hell in the Cell. It isn’t often in the PG era you get a feud worthy of such a brutal match; but they may have succeeded here. The problem is that it’s two months away — this is also a problem with match themed PPVs in general. Can the creative team keep both guys busy through Night of Champions while keeping the feud hot enough to have the blow off at Hell in a Cell?
Rollins and Ambrose are talented and can overcome anything creatively they are given. The upper-midcard needs strength and excitement, and this has all the makings of a career elevating feud. Both men can be serious contenders come Survivor Series if booked correctly; I just hope WWE realizes the strength of the pen.