WWE Extreme Rules 2013 was The Shield's night, but Dean Ambrose stood out even more so than his dark-clothed brethren.
On a pay-per-view billed as WWE's most extreme night, it was a traditional singles match that produced the event's biggest breakout star. Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston for the United States title and is now so flush with momentum that it's easy to imagine Ambrose continuing to climb the WWE hierarchy at a rapid pace.
It has been Ambrose that has stepped out of the trio to compete in singles match most often. He took on The Undertaker at WWE SmackDown and later defeated Kane. Extreme Rules offered not only a shot at Kingston's title, but a major test.
How would he fare along in a pay-per-view match with elevated expectations? How would he fare once Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins left him to fend for himself? The answer is wonderfully.
On his way to victory, Ambrose was among the most enthralling figures of the night.
His crackling energy made the match feel special and compelling from the opening bell. It meshed well with Kingston's speed. Both men did well to intrigue fans, to make their match one of the most talked about of the event.
After a few leapfrogs, Kingston went for the Trouble in Paradise early on. The kick felt like a dangerous weapon, one that Ambrose was wary of but prepared to face.
Ambrose came off as focused, primed and as entertainingly vicious as we have come to expect from him.
The short, exciting match featured Ambrose pulling out a number of rarely used and unfamiliar moves. Ambrose brought Kingston to the ground with the move Bob Backlund made famous, the crossface chicken wing. He later landed a butterfly superplex.
Even the match's most awkward sequence seemed to enhance the match. Kingston and Ambrose, at one point, stumbled through an exchange, but it only added to Ambrose's reputation for having an unorthodox style, for being a chaotic force in the ring.
His performance was among the most fun and the most meaningful.
The U.S. title suddenly feels more prestigious. With as prominent as The Shield, and Ambrose in particular, have been in recent months, expect to see that championship showcased much more. It's tangible evidence of Ambrose's progression. It will be an excuse to put him in pay-per-view matches.
It is sure to be something he will brag about ad nauseam.
Going forward, this title win is either the highest Ambrose will get or a prelude to bigger things. Mick Foley seems to think it is the latter.
Mick Foley @RealMickFoley
Well done @TheDeanAmbrose. Something tells me this is just the tip of the championship iceberg for Mr Ambrose. #ExtremeRules5/20/2013, 12:34:43 AM
Reigns and Rollins went on to win championships on Sunday as well, but the fact that Ambrose is the first to earn singles gold has the spotlight focused more brightly on him.
The headlines for now will focus on how Ryback vs. John Cena ended and how Brock Lesnar outlasted Triple H in the cage, but years from now we may look back at this moment as the catalyst that drove Ambrose to superstardom.