Almost a week removed from Dolph Ziggler finally cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, the brilliance of this move by the WWE has become increasingly clear.
Ziggler had been the heir-apparent to the WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship for almost a year. His ascension to the top was much anticipated. This led to dozens of discussions around the subject of why the WWE had chosen not to capitalize on his potential.
Whether cultivated deliberately by the WWE or by lucky accident, Dolph Ziggler’s future prospects have been one of the most hotly disputed subjects amongst wrestling fans.
So it was brilliant timing for Ziggler to take the belt in front of a post-WrestleMania crowd.
The WWE could guarantee that particular crowd was going to be knowledgeable. Many crowd members, if not all, would be appreciative of Ziggler’s in-ring ability. WWE officials could have the reasonable expectation—which played out in reality—that Ziggler would be popular, despite his role as a heel.
The end result was a huge pop when Ziggler’s music played as he went to cash in the contract.
This is surprisingly significant for the WWE.
The top championship belt must appear to be important for wrestling’s illusion to be maintained. WWE makes this doubly hard for itself as it tries to juggle two supposedly equal titles at the top of its pyramid. An underwhelming reaction to a surprise challenge can damage a title’s prestige, or leave the challenger looking weak.
Ziggler’s role as a heel would usually elicit a negative reaction from the audience. This could be interpreted as disappointment by casual observers.
The more involved crowd left over from WrestleMania was always likely to look past the portrayal Ziggler’s character gives. This resulted in the desired outpouring of positive emotion toward the arrival of a new contender and led to consistent emotional reactions as the match twist and turned.
How important it is to be champion was really reinforced by the audience.
WWE’s timing looked even better when SmackDown aired.
The more traditional audience reinforced Ziggler’s position as a heel. There was always a danger that such a positive reaction on Raw would lead to a change in attitude toward him. SmackDown’s more youth-orientated audience showed no evidence of such a switch, and Ziggler may have been more booed than usual.
Even the injury crisis the WWE is suffering may help Ziggler’s transformation into a main event player.
The potential loss of CM Punk, plus the definite removal of The Rock from WWE screens, means Ziggler will need to lead SmackDown. He is likely to receive air time that would have gone to more established names otherwise. This may turn out to be Ziggler’s opportunity to prove that he can be pivotal to the WWE’s future.
Of course, Ziggler could fail miserably and sink back down the order. At least he is likely to be given the time to discover whether he is capable or not.
WWE and Dolph Ziggler have been rather calculated about the athlete’s rise to champion. More time and effort have been invested in him than many young hopefuls who have had short reigns before falling down the roster. Now, we will all find out if it has been worth the effort.
What can be said for certain is the WWE did everything it could to time Ziggler’s first week as champion perfectly.