When Dolph Ziggler defends his World Heavyweight Championship at WWE Extreme Rules later this month, he will find himself in a must-win situation.
Of course, it’s always a must-win situation for a superstar when he is defending his title. But this is particularly true for Ziggler.
Ziggler hasn’t even held the World Heavyweight Championship for a month now, and yet, we’re already hearing fans question whether or not the WWE has any real faith in “The Showoff.” Can we blame ‘em, either?
In less than a month as champion, Ziggler has already lost two big matches. He lost a Raw match to Jack Swagger a mere week after he won the belt, and on this past Friday’s SmackDown, he was pinned by Alberto Del Rio in a triple threat tag team match.
Huh? What? How? Who the hell is booking this?
Obviously, it’s in the WWE’s nature to book its heels—whether they’re holding titles or not—to lose far more often than they win. But the booking of Ziggler during his first month as champion has been incredibly questionable.
While it wasn’t surprising to see Ziggler consistently lose before he became champion, it’s still somewhat shocking and certainly baffling to see him continue to lose so much after winning the World title.
It’s inexcusable, too.
Ziggler is one of top three or four all-around talents in the entire WWE, and even though he’s finally gotten to the point where the creative team feels confident enough to make him a World champion, it obviously isn’t quite confident enough to make him a consistent winner.
But at Extreme Rules, Ziggler has to win. Has to.
There is no choice here—no leeway for Ziggler to lose the title at the pay-per-view and then win it back at a later date. That is going to do him absolutely no favors whatsoever.
What is going to help Ziggler, though, is the first major win and first successful title defense of his first real reign as World Heavyweight Champion. He needs that now, and he needs it more than ever.
Ziggler needs it in order to shed the label that the creative team has stupidly saddled him with: That he’s a loser.
The WWE can try to paint this picture that Ziggler is a winner because he’s holding the World title all it wants. But anyone who’s watched the WWE at all over the last couple of years knows that that simply isn’t true.
“The Showoff” loses, he loses and then he loses some more.
Until that changes, he’s always going to be viewed as a loser, and as a result, a weak champion. After all, weak champions lose, and weak champions lose their first title defenses—just like Alberto Del Rio did in 2011 when he held the WWE title for less than a month and had exactly zero successful title defenses during that reign.
What happened to Del Rio after that? No one cared about him. Everyone thought he was a stale, boring loser. Even a six-month long World title feud with Sheamus couldn’t change that.
Does the WWE really want to risk that with Ziggler? Because—make no mistake about it—that’s exactly what will happen if Ziggler loses at Extreme Rules.
He’s facing two superstars who aren’t in his class, at least right now. While Ziggler and Del Rio are both great in-ring performers, ADR is struggling to excel as a babyface while the fans are still having a hard time buying into Swagger as a top-level heel.
Ziggler is the guy in this match, and if he can’t emerge from it victorious, the WWE is sending the message that he’s just another superstar on a roster that has more than 50 of them.
If that’s what it wants to happen, then go ahead and do it. But if it wants Ziggler to truly evolve into a long-term top guy, then having him lose at Extreme Rules shouldn’t even be an option at this point.
Ziggler should win cleanly and in epic fashion, and in that case, the WWE will send the right message: “The Showoff” will not be a weak World Heavyweight Champion.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!