What’s Next for Dolph Ziggler?

As we all know, Dolph Ziggler’s time in WWE has left many fans and Dolph himself, desiring better utilization and recognition of his talents as an all-around performer, whether on the mic or between the ropes. Ziggler much like other larger than life characters got lost in the sea of talents.

For years Dolph has always been “That Guy” that we knew could be ‘The Guy,’ however is usually given short title reigns, dropped storylines, or used as a transitional champion, there to help the newest up and coming talent.

I will never forget watching him cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Alberto Del Rio on the Raw after WrestleMania 29 and the pop it received from the crowd. I even popped at home when his music hit and he came racing down to the ring followed by Aj Lee and Big E, with the frantic urgency of someone who knows they have one shot and cannot mess it up, and when he then succeeded in his attempt the arena went even more wild, partly because they wanted Del Rio to lose the belt, partly for the buzz of someone cashing in. The will it-won’t it, after all, his attempt could have failed. The biggest reason we popped though was because that was Dolph’s moment in the spotlight, and it was long overdue.

Dolph began his WWE career back in ‘OVW’ Ohio Valley Wrestling, a developmental feeder system for WWE in 2004 under his real name Nicky Nemeth. Following a very successful high school and college amateur wrestling run that saw him hold many records.

Just one year later in 2005, Nemeth was brought up to Raw as the caddy of Kerwin White, a golfer character played by Chavo Guerrero Jr. A storyline that was dropped following the death of his uncle Eddie Guerrero, sending Nicky back down to OVW.

Dolph returned as a part of the Spirit Squad. A heel faction of male cheerleaders with annoying jokes and gestures but a dangerous numbers advantage and pack mentality.

The group held the World Tag Team Titles under the Freebird rule after defeating Big Show and Kane. They went on to battle many of the top teams of the time including a feud with DX, at the time consisting of just Triple H and Shawn Michaels. The run was short lived though, and by November of that year, the group had all been sent back to developmental.

WWE switched their feeder system to FCW, Florida Championship Wrestling, the precursor to today’s NXT. Here Nemeth won the FCW Tag Titles on two occasions, and by September of 2008, he got his big break, being signed to the main roster brand Raw.

Nicky’s character then got an overhaul, and upon mixing his Great Grandfather’s first name and a surname suggested by a friend, Dolph Ziggler was born.

Ziggler went on to have many great matches and feuds that were enjoyed by the fans, holding the Intercontinental Title five times and the United States Title twice. Ziggler is also a Triple Crown Champion having held the Tag Titles as Nicky with Spirit Squad, and as Dolph having held the World Heavyweight Championship two times, the second being the previously mentioned briefcase cash-in.

Before that Dolph was awarded his first World Heavyweight Championship reign on the February 18th, 2011 edition of Smackdown. He was given the belt by Co-General Manager Vicki Guerrero, with whom he had a romantic storyline involvement at the time, due to Edge using his finishing move ‘the Spear’ which had been banned at the time.

This prompted Vikki’s partner Teddy Long to award Edge his rematch the same night which he won, removing Dolph’s spotlight as fast as it had appeared, his moment was taken from him.

It was the following year that he won the Money in the Bank match holding the case for nearly a year before his cash-in on Del Rio, his second reign would last only two months.

Dolph has also been the sole survivor of his team for the 2012 and 2014 Survivor Series Elimination matches. With the latter in an effort to save the jobs of himself, Erick Rowan, Ryback and Big Show. After being fired by the Authority, they joined forces with John Cena in an attempt to get their jobs in WWE back. In the end, they got a little help from a debuting Sting, but Dolph got the final pin on a heel Seth Rollins. Ziggler was then awarded the 2014 WWE Wrestler of the Year Award by Rolling Stone.

It seems like every year Dolph’s career has changed drastically from the previous one. Becoming that big match guy to get the other big match guy over, with his pushes only ever going so far, which has continued up until recently when Dolph, like many other disgruntled employees last year voiced his displeasure, in this case during interviews.

In these interviews, Dolph revealed his unhappiness with his characters direction and the lack of credibility born out of being the guy who loses the big matches to the next stars. Over and over. Build a feud, lose a feud.

Understandably after his tenure and experience on the main stage, he would be used to give newer talents a rub and shine them up ready for their push. However, it ate at Ziggler. The lack of recognition for his accomplishments and the time, blood, sweat, and tears he has shed over the years to become one of the most popular names in WWE.

Dolph began to mock the entrances of superstars and legends alike. With appearances as the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage and even Naomi. During this time he also feuded with Bobby Roode and Baron Corbin which resulted in him winning the United States Championship just last year, before dropping the belt in the ring the following Smackdown and walking out on the crowd without an explanation.

These interview rants had allowed him to test the waters, see how much interest he would get from outside sources should he mention possibly leaving, while at the same time allowing him room for negotiation with WWE. Everyone thought he was gone for good and would turn up elsewhere shortly.

Ziggler would be well received in any other promotion around the world due to his experience and charisma, and given how successful the Indy scene is right now and in particular for people who have just left WWE, I believe he would have flourished. Especially with his creativity and the freedom you gain as an Independent wrestler.

We’ve all heard that the money is at its best right now and there are more eyes on the Indys than ever before, plus the lower amount of dates per year would allow Dolph to pursue his other projects such as comedy.

I for one think the Chris Jericho or the rumored Mysterio part-time deal would suit Ziggler best in that respect, as he would be able to take bookings elsewhere thus making his WWE character even more of an attraction.

Dolph would remain away until this year’s Royal Rumble rolled around where he had a surprise return at Number 30, yet was eliminated before long and back to where he was before he walked out. Or, so it would seem.

Dolph and Baron Corbin then interjected themselves into the WWE title picture with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, all looking to take the belt from AJ Styles at Fastlane. The match soon became a Six-Pack Challenge after John Cena asked to be added to the match because, at the time, he still had no WrestleMania match penned in, defeating Styles to gain his place in the title match.

I still hold a little hope that WWE can figure out how to make his character what it always should have been, which I can’t see happening yet due to the loss at Fastlane and no clear route for Dolph to WrestleMania. There are rumors of him facing Shane McMahon or teaming with him to take on Kevin and Sami. Which I think is more likely after the finish of Fastlane’s main event, where Kevin inadvertently hit Shane, who was busy arguing with Sami, prompting him to break up both of their pin attempts further fuelling the tension between the SmackDown Live Commissioner, and WWE’s best friends.

I was sure that with Kevin and Sami back at each other’s throats they would face off at ‘Mania. With Shane’s continued involvement, however, I see no way that the three of them won’t be in a match together, I’m just not sure where Dolph will fit into the card, but this seems like the most logical choice.

A tag as Shane’s partner against an already dysfunctional Kevin and Sami could work. However, I would prefer to see a four-way between them all or even better, a one on one matchup on the main card as Dolph has never been granted that privilege.

If rumors are to believed, Dolph has signed a $1.5m per year contract, putting him on par with many of the companies full time higher earners. Where he can leave shows once his segment is done, allowing more time for him to focus on his other activities and that he will be used to put over new talent with more choice on his part as to who he works. I’m not sure if these reports are true. However, I am sure that if they are, Dolph got the best deal.

He has stated that he wished to have a much longer period away from the product before making his return. Making said return mean more, clearly, that was not to be though as we saw in the Rumble. I’m sure this was rectified by the offer made to him.

Given all of these facts though, I’m sure we will end up getting Sami, Dolph and Kevin in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, with Shane costing Kevin and Sami their spots.

It doesn’t make sense, but sometimes it’s easier to stop resisting WWE’s confusing ways and just see what cards we get dealt, after all, the dirt sheets having false information fed to them wouldn’t be a big surprise. I fully expect some matches to change before the event takes place.

So what is next for Dolph? Will we see him slowly fade away into the shadows as new stars climb past him on their roads to glory, or turn up in Japan for a big marquee match?

I would like to see Dolph be given the big belt again before he rides off into the sunset and have one last shot at the top. He deserves nothing less.

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