Dolph Ziggler has become a punchline for many a joke the past decade in the WWE. The poster boy for the talent that always works hard, outsells anyone in the industry, does whatever gimmick tweak he’s asked, yet always still seems to fall just short of the carrot at the end of the stick. If he followed the Brass Ring to Mordor, he’s perpetually Gollum in a free fall. The Ring is always right in front of him, bouncing between his fingers.
But this past Tuesday on Smackdown Live!, Ziggler, in his go-home promo to give the crowd some semblance of a reason to care about his appearance versus WWE Champion Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam, gave the performance of his career and suddenly had the naysayers perked up with a glint in their eye that maybe Dolph Ziggler now had a shot.
To be fair, he was working with one of the WWE’s current best mic workers, the intensity of Dean Ambrose. But many have fallen flat when trying to keep up, and Dolph didn’t exactly have a track record of Award winning promos. There was no legendary pipe bombs in Ziggler’s resume. In fact, despite all of his athletic accomplishments and ring psychology accolades, one of Ziggler’s biggest knocks has been that he never had the full strength it took on the mic to be a legitimate World Champion. He was a great transitional Champion, a feat he accomplished twice. The first was on the February 15, 2011 episode of Smackdown, when he was awarded the World Heavyweight Championship by his then “girlfriend” Vickie Guerrero, only to lose it by the end of the night back to Edge. His second one came after he cashed in the Money In The Bank contract he’d won in the 2012 MITB match, when he cashed in on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, on April 8, 2013, for the feel good moment of the spring. But, although his second reign was longer than his first, he would drop it back to Del Rio at June’s Payback, after only 69 days. That feel good moment was simply a prop to elevate Del Rio’s heel status, not to put Ziggler on the first train to Main Eventsville.
But while he’s still had a pretty successful WWE resume so far – two World Championships, four Intercontinental reigns, one time US Champion, and one time WWE Tag Team Champion (with the Spirit Squad). But Ziggler was always a mid-card guy. He may have flirts in the main event, but they were merely supporting character parts in someone else’s bigger story (like Edge’s face run or Del Rio’s heel run). While his promos always showed a passion for the industry he was in, there was always something missing that made them still feel slightly forced or awkward. He was trying, but we still weren’t buying.
But as the past few months rolled by, after an underrated feud with Baron Corbin that really helped pull Corbin into the realms of believability with many of the WWE Universe, Ziggler seemed to go into his “underappreciated” phase. We’ve seen it before, he gets all frustrated looking and bewildered and somewhat pouty, and declares that he’s tired of getting passed over. He gets slightly more aggressive, combs his hair back in his hands, and proceeds to be the same Dolph Ziggler than apparently got him passed over. He’d grown stagnant and predictable.
But this time, he seemed a bit different. Despite being the “heel” of Twitter, Ziggler’s declarations of getting serious never seemed to cross the line of morality. His character, accusing the upper echelon of management/creative of corruption, always went back to playing by the rules to combat this. What’s the old adage about insanity and doing the same thing over and over in hopes of a different outcome? This time, he seemed to get darker, this time he seemed to rebuff even the authority that seemed to support him, this time he seemed to have a bit more Zag in his Zig.
It all came to a head this past Tuesday when Ziggler, confronting Ambrose on MizTV, admitted that everything Ambrose was saying was true. He was a failure, he lost the big matches, he had hit that glass ceiling. It was a one of those hair-raising moments, where you hung on every word that Ziggler said for perhaps the first time ever. And it wasn’t just the fans who picked up on it. One WWE Legend (and current Raw General Manager) in Mick Foley immediately took to Facebook and gave Ziggler one of the highest compliments Dolph will ever receive.
Where the heck did that guy come from – and can he show up at#SummerSlam on Sunday? DAMN, that was a GREAT promo by Dolph Ziggler last night on #SmackDownLIVE – a possible career changing moment; reminiscent to me of Steve Austin‘s game changing promo in June, 1996. Suddenly, I no longer cared how many matches Ziggler has lost in the past; to me he was a brand-new guy out there…a brand new guy who could walk home with a little gold around his waist on Sunday night.
Yes, one of the guys who was there to feel the winds of change at the beginning of the Attitude Era, just compared Ziggler’s moment to Austin’s famous 3:16 speech at the King of the Ring. High praise indeed.
If you haven’t seen it yet (or want to rewatch it again), here is the promo from Smackdown Live:
The Superkick was a thing of timing beauty. At the height of the nerve tingling tension in the air, Ziggler swung his foot to Ambrose’s jaw, stunning the world. Ziggler was done playing by the rules. It was now his time to be in the main event.
Only this time, we believe you, Dolph Ziggler.
Because yes, you are that damn good.
(Main Photo: WWE.com)