Dolph Ziggler blew the roof off the building when he stormed to the ring and defeated Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship. The night after WrestleMania seemed like the perfect time to begin a summer-long march for The Show-Off.
Now it looks like it may be cut short.
After sustaining what has been reported to be a severe concussion, the decision should be simple. Ziggler should not compete in the scheduled ladder match at Extreme Rules. He's too young, too talented and bumps too hard on a regular basis to risk the long-term ramifications of a severe head injury.
Last week it was reported that Ziggler was suffering from amnesia. He had trouble remembering Monday night's Raw and Tuesday's SmackDown tapings. Considering that he's scheduled for a hard-hitting, brutal match at Extreme Rules, it's best to keep him on the sidelines.
It's WWE's responsibility to sustain the health of its employees.
They may be independent contractors by law, but Vince McMahon, Triple H and the WWE leadership must consider the welfare of their most valuable assets when making these decisions. In an industry where creative direction is as fluid as the WWE, it's vital to adjust plans for the current storyline and move forward.
The World Heavyweight Championship match is the fourth match on the card, by my estimate. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar in a cage will be the main event. Ryback and John Cena for the WWE Title will also draw a lot of PPV eyes. Whatever match or matches result from The Shield's interactions with Kane, Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston will be next on this tier. Then comes the ladder match.
It's placement on the card gives the creative staff greater leeway. It also gives them a chance to actually be creative.
My preferred course is to elevate Big E. Langston.
Is he ready yet? Probably not. But he fits this role at the moment and it could be the break he needs to reach a new level. They could accidentally stumble into something marketable.
With Ziggler down, Vickie Guerrero enters to strip him of the belt and stick it to him and AJ for all they've done to her over the last year. At that point, though, Teddy Long steps in. He says that head injuries are serious business and that Ziggler, regardless of all his faults, should not lose the belt due to injury. However, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger have each earned a shot at Ziggler's title at Extreme Rules, and that match will happen.
After a discussion with the Board of Directors, Long is here to offer Ziggler the chance to name a proxy for the match—a stand-in who will defend the belt in his place. Langston steps up, but Ziggler isn't sure. He finally relents and gives Langston the chance.
Ziggler is ringside for the match, but taken out by Swagger. Ziggler is helped to the back. AJ, though, gets involved and helps Langston win the match. With Ziggler still not medically cleared to return, Langston begins appearing at shows carrying the title as if it's his. He's competing in and winning matches with AJ in his corner.
AJ begins hanging on Langston's arm, looking at him longingly. Ziggler is announced to return two weeks before Payback to address the status of his health, but he's found unconscious backstage. AJ and Langston come to the ring without Ziggler and feign sadness. They say it's awful what's happened to Ziggler and that he must have lost consciousness backstage and is clearly not ready to compete.
That's when Ziggler's music hits. He storms to the ring to a huge babyface pop and attacks Langston. He picks up the belt and levels Langston, knocking him out of the ring. Ziggler, hanging over the top rope with the belt, barks at AJ and Langston.
The next week, Ziggler cuts a promo with backstage video footage of AJ and Langston together. He says that he knows it was Langston that took him out the week before. He tells Langston that he can have that trash bag nutcase AJ, but if he thinks he can take his title, he can meet him at Payback.
This storyline elevates Langston to a new level, gives the belt a storyline that people will invest in and positions Ziggler as a face the fans will want to cheer for.
Concussions are not something to overlook and it would be good business to give Ziggler the appropriate time to mend. WWE is able to set a standard, and by establishing concern over the health of one of its performers, can present an expectation throughout the wrestling industry.