Hey WWE, Pay Attention to Your Narrative


Dolph Ziggler is in a rough spot right now. Whenever anyone has the Money in the Bank briefcase without cashing it in, there’s always the fear that they’re going to be the one up-and-comer to fail cashing in (conversely, when John Cena held it, we were, collectively, rooting for him to fail). Ziggler so far has gone the longest in the calendar without cashing it in. Yeah, Edge’s first cash-in was a longer time elapsed, but as we get closer and closer to WrestleMania, the hazier Ziggler’s picture gets. Of course, it doesn’t help that WWE is intentionally misleading the audience about what Ziggler’s intent with the briefcase is all about.

[adinserter block=”1″]I hear Cena and Michael Cole and Sheamus and anyone else they have talking about Ziggler speak week in and week out making the point that Ziggler clings to the briefcase, that he’s too scared to cash it in, and that he’s letting the untapped potential of possessing the case instead of actualizing it define him. That would be fine and great if there wasn’t such a great divide between the narrative and the actual story on screen.

If Ziggler has had to cling to his briefcase, it was only because he’s been forced to put it up in matches twice. To the best of my recollection, only one person had to defend his briefcase even once, and it was out of necessity. Mr. Kennedy won the briefcase, but had to surrender it to Edge in a match because he suffered a real-life injury. Meanwhile, Ziggler was forced to put his briefcase up against Chris Jericho (ironically, by his current main squeeze AJ Lee) in a straight-up match, and then in an unprecedented move, he had to put it up in another ladder match against Cena. If I were going to face authority figure after authority figure who wanted to take a possession away from me that I had earned in a brutal match, I’d cling to it too.

However, his attachment to the briefcase has only been strategic inasmuch as he’s definitely tried to cash it in several times. I can count the times on both hands at least that Ziggler has teased cashing in the briefcase. Hell, he even had a prime opportunity to cash in and have a shoo-in win for the Big Gold Belt the night after TLC, when Sheamus knocked Big Show out with the BIG ASS CHAIR and a couple of Brogue Kicks. He would have become World Champion if not for Cena spitefully attacking him before the bell had a chance to ring. It would be one thing if the chirping birds were the bad guys in this case. Of course it would make sense for Cena to call Ziggler a coward and do everything he can do to ensure that narrative, regardless of how true it was.

However, Cena is the face of the company, and Sheamus is his heir apparent. Cole is the voice. Basically, WWE is lying to you and expecting you to believe it. It’s almost like what is produced in the show is ignored because it doesn’t jibe up with what they want to present.

WWE has had an awful problem of ignoring the phrase “show, don’t tell.” A good mode of entertainment will show you why you need to believe things about characters. If we’re supposed to think that Ziggler is a coward, then why tease him cashing in the briefcase so many times? If we’re supposed to believe that he’d rather have the briefcase and not the belt, then why did it take an act of God (or in this case Cena, which in WWE parlance is the same thing) for him not to be Champion the night after TLC?

It’s not like there aren’t people within the company who don’t see it. I’m not sure whether The Miz was fed the line through his headphones or whether he was just coming up with something to provide a natural conflict in the booth with Cole, but on Main Event, he made the argument that outside observers have been making for awhile now. He sees it. I’m not sure if it’s the Bobby Heenan viewpoint that is contrarian for contrary’s sake, or whether the WWE is actually trying to engender a discussion and not have fans view things dogmatically. However, if it is the latter, they’re doing a terrible job at it. If the only guy who notices that Ziggler has several times tried to cash in the contract is the color commentator on the C-show, a show that WWE admits not as many people watch evidenced by them doing the same exact Great Khali/Antonio Cesaro match on RAW this past Monday they did two weeks ago on the show, then are they really putting in a solid effort to blur the lines and create debate?

[adinserter block=”2″]No matter what the intent is, WWE has to do a better job of framing their narrative. A good narrative supplements the action. It doesn’t dominate. Ziggler right now should be the heir apparent to Edge’s ultimate opportunist title, or at least acting with a wink and a nod to it. There’s enough meat in that story to frame Ziggler as an unsavory character. There’s no need at creating an artificial trope framing him as a coward when the doings on camera speak to the opposite of that.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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