At first glance, one would assume Dolph Ziggler is a perennial main eventer and multiple-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion. And if you squint hard enough, that’s technically true. Yes, Dolph Ziggler just faced Triple H on RAW in the pseudo-main event match (albeit in a losing effort). And yes, if Dolph Ziggler retired tomorrow, he would still be a 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, not to mention a 4-time Intercontinental Champion, US Champion, and even a World Tag Team Champion if you count his time in the Spirit Squad (NICKY!!!).
He is a former Money in the Bank winner, and received one of the biggest pops of all time when he cashed in his briefcase to pin Alberto Del Rio and win the World Heavyweight Championship the night after WrestleMania 29.
So, what’s the problem?
For one reason or another, Dolph Ziggler can’t seem to catch a break. Just when it seems he is about to break through the proverbial glass ceiling and grab Vince McMahon’s elusive brass ring, something happens that causes Ziggler to crash and burn back into the midcard where he has been most of his career.
Ziggler receives good crowd reaction whether he is portraying a face or heel. His Money in the Bank cash-in, and the pop he received for it, came while he was a heel. He has a great look, he can go in the ring, and he oozes charisma (as heel – more on that later). But for one reason or another, he just doesn’t seem to be a “Vince McMahon guy” and that has kept him down in the midcard.
Perhaps the WWE views him as too injury-prone, which would be unfortunate if true. From my recollection, the only two instances where he missed any extended amount of time were for concussions, the first of which came at the worst possible time.
In April 2013, not even a month after winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Alberto Del Rio, Ziggler suffered a concussion after an errant kick to the head from Jack Swagger. Just weeks away from his first title defense against Del Rio and Swagger in a Triple Threat ladder match at Extreme Rules, the WWE was forced to change directions due to Ziggler’s injury. Even though it was in no way his fault, the timing more than likely angered McMahon and other WWE decision-makers.
By the time Ziggler returned from injury at Payback, he lost his very first title defense at the hands of a vicious Del Rio, who targeted Ziggler’s head and caused a rare double-turn. For the first time in his career, Dolph Ziggler would be booked as a face, and I believe that did Ziggler more long-term harm than his concussion ever did.
As a babyface, Ziggler just doesn’t have that same spark that he does as a heel. His character is supposed to be narcissistic and arrogant; heck, he’s the Showoff! While the smark crowd cheered for him as a heel, that does not mean he makes a good babyface. Most of the interesting traits that made him such a good heel were largely dropped once he turned, and he then became just another vanilla babyface that the WWE has way too many of already.
Since that ill-fated face turn, Ziggler mostly floated around the midcard, losing most of the Intercontinental and US Championship matches he received against the likes of Curtis Axel, Big E, Bad New Barrett, and Luke Harper. In that span, he actually managed to win the Intercontinental a surprising three times, but all of the reigns were short and inconsequential.
The WWE missed a major opportunity at cementing Ziggler as a main event-level babyface when they surprisingly let him be the sole survivor of the 2014 Survivor Series elimination match that saw him and Team Cena beat Team Authority despite being down to just Ziggler versus Kane, Luke Harper, and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins.
This victory put The Authority out of power, and it should have been a major moment for both Ziggler and the WWE as a whole. Instead, the moment was overshadowed by the arrival of WCW legend and future WWE Hall of Famer Sting. Ziggler was not given any of the limelight; in fact, his pin of Rollins only happened after Sting draped Ziggler’s unconscious body over Rollins for the three-count.
The focus was all on Sting and whatever issues he had with Triple H while Ziggler’s heroic effort was mostly ignored. The Authority was reinstated not even two months later, and Ziggler’s accomplishment was largely forgotten. The fact that Ziggler tweeted about this last week led to what many believe to be legitimate heat from WWE management.
Yes, this angle lead to him facing Triple H in the COO’s first match on RAW since 2013. Stephanie McMahon even gave Ziggler the stipulation that if he won the match, he would be allowed to enter himself into any match on the WrestleMania card, except for the WWE World Heavyweight Title match, of course. Unsurprisingly, Ziggler lost. Now, he’ll likely be just another competitor in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and is unlikely to win that.
Is there still time for Ziggler to turn things around in the WWE? Unfortunately, it is unlikely. A heel turn would definitely do him some good. The best and more realistic option for Ziggler at this point would be for him to be released from his contract and then tour the independent scene, where he would be a big draw. There are many intriguing matchups in promotions such as Ring of Honor or New Japan (hopefully not Impact Wrestling), and he could easily follow the path that John Morrison took following his departure from the company.
As much as I would love to see Ziggler back in the main event, it is looking like an increasingly unlikely possibility for the Showoff.