In an era where wrestlers are frequently pushed because of their marketing appeal and demographic metrics, current WWE Champion Dean Ambrose stands out as a bit of an enigma. Ambrose got his start working bloody “hardcore” and extreme matches, taking chainsaws to the head and getting tossed into barbed wire and thumbtacks. WWE hired Ambrose with the hardcore angle in mind, hoping to set him up as the heir apparent to hardcore match innovator Mick Foley. When Foley wasn’t medically cleared for a match, they scrapped the angle and eventually re-packaged Ambrose as the mouthpiece of the highly successful Shield faction.
Since Ambrose’s Shield days, Ambrose has transitioned into a hard working blue collar underdog character. While not as talented in the ring as his ex-Shield compatriots Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns, Ambrose has a natural charisma that makes him an easy to root for fan favorite. Reigns (the epitome of the WWE’s #brand efforts) appeals to children and Rollins is much loved by the dedicated wrestling enthusiast, but Ambrose has the heart of the common folk, because fans feel like Ambrose is one of them. Even when saddled with bad storylines and crappy gimmicks (Ambrose is often called the “Lunatic Fringe” despite being surprisingly lucid about his goals, strategies and desires), fans seem to prefer Ambrose over the pre-packaged #brand ambassadors pushed by the WWE.
It helps that Jonathan Good, the real life person who “plays” Dean Ambrose, is such a fascinating dude. Good openly admits to having a checkered past growing up in a poor neighborhood in Cincinnati, OH, forced to sell drugs as a teenager and fighting to not let poverty beat him down. Many younger Cincinnati residents have some sort of “Dean Ambrose before he was famous” story, spending his nights partying and brawling near college campuses. Even as he outgrew his partying phase and became a millionaire wrestling celebrity, Ambrose’s non-conformity still shines in his open interest in cryptozoology, conspiracy theories and the bizarre.
Ambrose’s genuineness is probably why Dean Ambrose: Bigfoot Hunter exists. A nine page comic written and drawn by Minnesota creator Marina Harkness, Dean Ambrose: Bigfoot Hunter plays on Ambrose’s interest in cryptozoology and shows the wrestler hunting for the mythical hominid. When Ambrose finally tracks the sasquatch down, the story takes a strange and delightful left turn into the absurd, as only a Dean Ambrose story could.
Harkness’s Ambrose is a gentle giant and she portrays him as far beefier than he is in real life. Harkness’s comic captures Ambrose’s pensive and thoughtful side, the one that appears on interviews opening up about his checkered past and his unrelenting desire to win titles and earn of the respect of the fans. In nine pages, Harkness demonstrates the nuances of Ambrose’s character in a way that many WWE television writers fail at on a weekly basis.
Dean Ambrose: Bigfoot Hunter isn’t a story about the “Lunatic Fringe”, it’s about the character behind the character. The comic is as much a commentary on Ambrose’s natural draw and popularity as it is a goofy comic about a dude chasing Bigfoot through the woods. I don’t think many other WWE wrestlers would command an artist’s interest enough to make a 9 page comic about them, especially a comic that involves zero wrestling or violence. Nor would an artist take the time to show the layers of a wrestler, as professional wrestling isn’t exactly known for its nuanced characters.
When Ambrose won the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the first time last month, he got one of the biggest cheers in recent history because fans were happy to see him finally get his due. Dean Ambrose: Bigfoot Hunter is a more modest celebration, a well-drawn and fun appreciation for one of the most fascinating and well-rounded wrestlers in the WWE’s employ.