Sept. 15, 2008, marked the official WWE debut of Dolph Ziggler. When we first got a glimpse of the bleached-blonde superstar in a brief altercation with Mike Adamle backstage, I could have sworn he was the son of Ric Flair.
Surprisingly, I wasn't far off, as Ziggler now possesses a number of qualities that can make him comparable to the legendary Nature Boy.
Another WWE Hall of Famer that Ziggler reminds me so fondly of is none other than Mr. Perfect, given their similar "perfection" gimmicks and tremendous technical wrestling ability.
However, it wasn't until last October that Dolph Ziggler had me reminiscing of another one of the best the industry has ever seen: Shawn Michaels.
At last year's Vengeance pay-per-view event, Ziggler put away Zack Ryder with a swift Superkick and I've been drawing comparisons between the two in my mind ever since.
As you probably already know, Shawn Michaels began his WWE career as a tag team wrestler with Marty Jannetty as a part of the Rockers in the late 1980s. Sure, they were never met with any championship gold, but they're easily one of the best tandems in history, given their natural chemistry and charisma.
In one of the most memorable moments in WWE history, Michaels delivered a Superkick to Jannetty right through a window on the Barber Shop, thus ending their partnership. From there, Michaels developed his own Heartbreak Kid persona, which eventually led him to the prestigious Intercontinental Championship.
Nearly five years later, HBK became the breakout star of the decade by emerging victorious in the 1996 Royal Rumble for the second year in a row. At WrestleMania 12, he defeated Bret Hart in an epic Iron Man match and won his first-ever WWE Championship.
Thereafter, the rest became history, as Michaels is now recognized as one of the greatest wrestlers that ever lived. Just last year, he took his rightful place among the immortals in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Thinking back on it now, his illustrious career nearly parallels that of Dolph Ziggler's, who has been built up in a very familiar fashion over the last few years.
Before he was Ziggler, Nick Nemeth was a key member of the short-lived Spirit Squad in 2006. During its tenure, Nemeth was able to capture World Tag Team title gold and hold it for nearly seven months.
After being briefly removed from television, he returned to the main roster as the new and improved Ziggler in late 2008. The first six months of his run as Ziggler made him seem like nothing more than an enhancement talent with losses to a variety of wrestlers on Monday nights.
Thankfully, Ziggler was sent packing over to SmackDown via the 2009 WWE Supplemental Draft where he was finally given his chance to shine. After nearly a year of chasing singles gold, Ziggler was finally successful in the summer of 2010 when he won the Intercontinental Championship.
While his five-month reign as champ came to an end at the dawn of 2011, his ambitious aspirations were not yet over. A little over a month later, Ziggler was able to capture the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time, even if it was one of the shortest the company has ever seen.
Since then, Dolph Ziggler has maintained his momentum amongst the main-event players on today's roster, having challenged for the United States and WWE championships numerous times. It's only a matter of time before Ziggler is wearing world-title gold around his waist for lengthy period of time.
What I like most about Ziggler's character is the way he's gradually climbed the WWE ladder since his debut a few years back. He went from a tag-team competitor, to a developed mid-card act, to a legitimate threat to the WWE Championship in the main event picture.
That being said, Michaels received the same treatment as Ziggler and look how he ended up. Not only that, but their phenomenal in-ring skills have me now regretting not seeing an anticipated singles match between the two before HBK retired.
Twenty years ago, Michaels was attracting women left and right with his cocky heel gimmick that got him extremely over with the crowd. Two decades later, The Showoff has taken that same moniker and made it into something of his own, aligning forces with the likes of Maria, Kaitlyn, and, most recently, Vickie Guerrero.
Whether it's a shout-out to the inaugural Grand Slam Champion or not, Ziggler certainly executes the Superkick to near perfection. I surely hope he continues to use it as a signature move in his matches, as it enhances each bout he competes in.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Ziggler will ever outshine Michaels or even earn the same respected reputation that HBK did during his time.
Instead, I'm stating why Ziggler could easily be looked at as the Michaels of his generation in the sense that he has a bright future ahead of him.
Could Dolph Ziggler be the next Shawn Michaels?
Only time will tell if Dolph Ziggler ultimately reaches his full potential in the not-so-distant future, but I have high hopes for the man who could quite possibly be the future of the company.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and make sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on whether Ziggler could indeed be the next Michaels of the modern day. As always, your criticism and overall feedback of my piece is greatly appreciated.