Before Dean Ambrose underwent surgery to repair a torn triceps tendon in December, he was told to expect a three or four-month recovery period. Once doctors saw the extent of the damage, they upped the timetable to six months. And about six weeks after that, Ambrose said a routine checkup quickly escalated into a second surgery to combat an infection. All in all, Ambrose describes the eight months he was off WWE television as “one nightmare after another.”
Ambrose made his return to the ring last month and tonight he will appear at WWE’s first-ever live event in Edinburg, Texas. Ambrose will team with Seth Rollins against Raw Tag Team Champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre — a preview of their Raw Tag Team Championship Match this Sunday at WWE Hell in a Cell.
In advance of tonight’s show, Ambrose gave an in-depth interview to The Monitor on September 3 before Raw in Columbus, Ohio. The WWE Superstar detailed the excruciating pain he worked through before finally taking time off and the grueling recovery process that followed. Highlights from the interview are as follows:
How has it felt to be back on Raw the past couple of weeks?
“It’s good to get back out in front of people. I had a lot of frustration I needed to really get out that built up over the last eight months. It was a long, long period of time. Much longer than would have been anticipated.
“It was just one nightmare after another. It was a pretty challenging period of time to go through. I ended up having two different surgeries. I had this MRSA, Staph infection. I nearly died. I was in the hospital for a week plugged up to this antibiotic drip thing, and I was on all these antibiotics for months that make you puke and crap your pants.
“So it was a pretty rough time. My arm wasn’t healing correctly, and my triceps. It’s kind of an indeterminate period where I initially hurt it. I thought it was, we call it Dusty elbows. It’s a pretty typical wrestler thing. You just get this bursa sac of fluid on your elbow from banging it on the mat or whatever. I’ve had that dozens of times on both elbows. It usually just goes away. It was kind of disguised.
“By the time I finally went and got the first surgery, my triceps was already starting to atrophy and look weird. I wasn’t able to flex my triceps for a really long time. And then the first surgery didn’t really, something went wrong in the process. Probably due to that infection. It’s kind of hard to say when that really even got in my body. This is a long answer to your question. But for a minute there, it was getting scary.
“By the time I got that second surgery, it was March, I think. My arm was so shrunken and skeletal that it was weird. I hadn’t been able to move it or flex it in so long that I was starting to get scared I wasn’t ever going to get it back. To go from not being able to eat my Froot Loops, to being able to get back in the ring and throw people around and throw punches and do everything back to normal, it was a very gratifying feeling.”
How long after the first surgery did you realize you had the infection and would have to have another surgery?
“It looked good. Before I went in for the first one, they were like, ‘OK, yeah, this is going to be a three or four-month thing. You’ll jump right back.’ Once I woke up, they were like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be six months minimum. Because we went in there, and that thing was messed up. You beat it to death. It’s going to be a lot harder than you initially thought. But still, not so bad.’
“They said they found traces of an infection during the first surgery, but they cleaned it out. I don’t know if it was in there previously, or if it came after. It could’ve been with me for years. I don’t know. But it was about six weeks or so after that I was like, ‘This is not healing correctly.’ I didn’t have anything to compare it to, because I had never been hurt before.
“So I ended up going back for just a checkup. I thought I was just going to turn right back around and get on a plane and go home, and they were like, ‘No, you have to go in again for surgery like right now.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I had just kind of got through all of the stitches and all of that stuff. It was a giant mess. I just kept having to start back from square one.
“I ended up just moving to Birmingham just to play it safe and be with the doctor and best rehab guys. As soon as I got out of the second one, I was flying home, grabbing my dog, turned right back around, got in the truck and drove to Birmingham. I just stayed there for two and a half or three months until they felt like I was pretty good. Once the MRSA really got out of my system, I was working out twice a day. Rehabbing twice a day on top of that in Birmingham. Doing everything possible to try to get my arm working again, and once I started to come back, I started to make a lot of progress over the summer. So I’m feeling good now.”
Was the second surgery entirely for the infection or did you still have structural damage to the triceps?
“The tendon was attached when I went in there the second time. But there was all this goo. The environment wasn’t letting it heal correctly, I guess. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know. But they just had to scoop out all this gooey stuff. I didn’t realize how bad it was. If I hadn’t gone in for that checkup, I could’ve gotten seriously sick. It could’ve been even more dangerous. But it all worked out.”
Ambrose also discussed his diet and training routines, his new style in and out of the ring and his WWE goals going forward. To read the full interview, click here.