The Mystery of 2012: WWE's Booking of Dolph Ziggler
2012 has been a pretty up and down year for the WWE as a whole.
The one constant we've had, however, is the increasingly large number of young developmental talent that could eventually take the entire company by storm.
In years' past, a guy like Dean Ambrose (a blue-chip character and wrestler with no ceiling) would have to be rushed into relevance due to floundering mid-card feuds and no new challengers to shake things up.
With Damien Sandow, Ryback, and Antonio Cesaro making great debuts (or re-debuts) this year, the crop of talent above them has been able to take several steps forward with this depth.
This group includes Daniel Bryan, but many are noticing that Dolph Ziggler has FINALLY gotten to main-event status.
Or so we thought.
This slideshow will outline The Show Off's journey since dropping the U.S. Championship last December, and see if you can make a distinction between "WWE is saying this is the next guy" and "WWE saying we shouldn't care about this guy."
TLC 2011: Dropping the U.S. Title
This match was more about putting Zack Ryder over than freeing Ziggler of the U.S. Title, but it turns out that's exactly what it did.
Ryder was the darling of the WWE Universe for months since his adoption of everything social media. It was the right move to give the people what they wanted.
As for Dolph, he could set his sights at something higher, although at this point, despite showing how great he was in the ring, we were unsure if he would even maintain his status in a mid-card title feud.
Royal Rumble 2012: Feud for the WWE Championship
Although this feud was more based on CM Punk vs. John Laurinaitis, Dolph Ziggler was a perfect in-ring opponent for the champ.
A great series of matches on Raw had Ziggler winning in multiple screwed finishes thanks to the Raw General Manager, but each one was different and entertaining. When we got to the Royal Rumble, Punk would prevail, but Ziggler seemed to show that he was ready for the spotlight.
Even though this feud had him as an afterthought in the story, his work in the ring and on the mic validated his place in the main event.
Elimination Chamber 2012: Plummet out of the Title Picture
A painful-to-watch buildup for the WWE Chamber
We all saw where this one was going. The returning Chris Jericho and the infamous "Lite Brite" jacket were gearing for CM Punk for his use of the phrase "Best In The World" and the WWE Championship.
Kofi Kingston was in the Chamber for high spots, R-Truth and the Miz were recently in a heated mid-card feud that had grown stale, and Ziggler had just finished with a mini-feud for the title being contested.
We all knew it was really a glorified Jericho vs. Punk match, and Ziggler was predictably a non-factor in the build up and the match itself.
Little did we know exactly how far he would fall on the card in the coming weeks.
Wrestlemania XXVIII: Team Johnny Punching Bag
The best monkey flip Zack Ryder will ever deliver
Dolph and fellow Vickie client Jack Swagger would find themselves in the ridiculously large Johnny vs. Teddy feud for the general managing duties of both TV shows.
Once again, Ziggler was just a spoke on the wheel and didn't see much solo TV time because of it.
On the Grandest Stage of Them All, Ziggler would still manage to steal the spotlight in the 12-man tag team match with some outstanding solo work, some goofy pulse-checking, and a ridiculous sell of a Zack Ryder monkey flip.
But, as the mystery continues, Ziggler would take the Rough Ryder (beautifully, mind you), and roll out of the ring as The Miz would steal the victory.
Even after taking an irrelevant Superstar's finisher at WWE's version of the Super Bowl, we left feeling good about Ziggler. But his free fall was far from over.
Extreme Rules 2012: Low-Card Jobber
Let me say something before I unpack this: booking new Superstars to win against established Superstars is great if they have a gimmick and skill set that can make it believable without devaluing anyone.
With that in mind, think about this: A comedy, dancing act with exactly zero legitimate wins in a short tenure gets in a mini-feud with a guy who was three months removed from a feud for the WWE Championship.
What's worse? The heel is getting a louder pop than the dancing act. What's even worse? The dancing act still wins.
In the words of the great JBL, Brodus Clay is a "Justin Timberlake-Trained Sea Monster" and hasn't laced together a legitimate feud in eight months. If it wasn't bad enough that Jack Swagger was pulling down Dolph's potential feuds, he gets beat with a head butt multiple times.
How are we supposed to believe in Ziggler's stock at this point?
Over the Limit 2012: Tag Title Picture
As if it weren't obvious that WWE Creative had no clue what to do with Swagger and Ziggler, they reached into the bag of "they've wrestled together before" and threw together a WWE Tag Team Championship match for the Over The Limit PPV.
It got the job done considering circumstances, and the matches were at least kind of entertaining.
Despite the lackluster reign of Truth and Kofi, the rematch on the next night's Raw saw Ziggler pushing his way out of Team Vickie and saying he's "better than this."
We already knew that, but it took a legitimate injury for him to get catapulted back into relevancy.
No Way Out 2012: World Heavyweight Championship Match
After Alberto Del Rio began a painful feud with Sheamus, he suffered a legitimate concussion, sidelining him for the No Way Out PPV. Dolph Ziggler would serve as a last minute replacement and delivered with a great match that we all knew he had zero chance of winning.
Ziggler in 2012 has proven regardless of opponent that he can have the best match on the card on any given night. His dance partner just has to be ready to give it his all. Sheamus has had a great 2012 as well, and he and Dolph put on a show.
The Show Off would have a mini-feud with Del Rio on TV to determine who was truly the No. 1 Contender, and of course, Del Rio would win to continue that feud that we all wish never happened.
With Money In The Bank on the horizon, we knew Ziggler may have his breakout moment.
Money In The Bank 2012: Justification
In a match full of characters and spot guys, it appeared that it would either be Cody Rhodes or Dolph Ziggler to be crowned "The Next World Heavyweight Champ."
Christian had the Intercontinental Title, Santino had the U.S. Title, Tensai struggled for respect from the fans since day one, Sin Cara and Tyson Kidd were there for high spots and Damien Sandow hadn't really wrestled anyone yet.
Ziggler survived a botched superplex from Sin Cara and Tensai throwing him into Michael Cole's chair to get the briefcase.
I loved how he would tease a cash-in later in the night, but they really wore me out with him nearly cashing in every Smackdown afterwards for over a month.
This win wouldn't only grab Ziggler's key to climbing the totem pole legitimately for the first time, but it would help kick off one of the more underrated feuds of 2012.
Summerslam 2012: Stealing the Show
Chris Jericho's lack of success in 2012 was finally addressed by Dolph on the Raw after MITB. We were all drooling at this feud, and it didn't disappoint.
Jericho brought back his Y2J persona, thus turning face for the first time since 2008. His in-ring work was as good as ever, and these two had a program to remember. Great segments, great promos both ways, and a great match.
Jericho is my favorite wrestler of all-time, so I was happy to see him win one. In the long run, though, it set back the guy we are supposed to believe will be the next World Heavyweight Champion.
Although Dolph would avenge the loss and protect his contract the next night and send Jericho to his Fozzy tour, the loss on the big stage of Summerslam bruised his momentum slightly.
We can only hope these two pick this feud back up if and when Y2J returns.
Night of Champions 2012: Losing Again?
After a signature win over Jericho on Raw, Ziggler would start a program with Randy Orton. These matches were highly entertaining as well, but with Randy Orton going off to film WWE's next feature film and Ziggler needing to pick up momentum to look like a legitimate champion, WWE Creative would book Dolph to go over, wouldn't they?
Nope. I wish I could find some way for this to make sense, but I can't find one. What's worse is that Dolph faced Santino on Raw this past Monday after the loss and actually took some moves.
My hope for this is that he looks strong (stronger than Monday) against legitimate singles competitors for the next few weeks and gets back into the fray with Orton and wins at Hell In A Cell.
If that doesn't happen, you can consider the last two months an absolute waste. It could take months to solidify and validate Ziggler as a world champion. And I highly doubt that the WWE wants to make the same mistake with Ziggler that they did with Daniel Bryan and his WHC reign.
A great interview from March 2012 with John Pollock and Dolph Ziggler
Reliving the last 10 months for one of the best in-ring workers in the WWE is very puzzling. One could argue that Santino has had a more successful 2012 than this future champion.
For a guy that has had to retool more than once in the developmental territories, he deserves better. And if a breakaway from Vickie Guerrero is on the horizon followed shortly thereafter by a cash-in, we could be looking at a very strong candidate for Superstar of the Year in 2013.
What are your thoughts on Ziggler's booking in 2012? And where do you see him cashing in? Should he break away from Vickie sooner, or later?
Please indulge in even your deepest of Ziggler thoughts.