Dolph Ziggler's concussion ailments have persisted this week, causing the rising superstar to miss promoted matches at WWE house shows this weekend. His match against Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio that was booked for this past month's Extreme Rules PPV was redrawn and it looks as though his return against Del Rio at Payback will also be delayed.
In light of these unfortunate circumstances, it's my opinion that Ziggler be forced to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship. While many may decry this action, it's in the best interest of the title, the WWE and, ultimately, for Dolph Ziggler's career.
Ziggler is teetering on that fine line that Daniel Bryan balanced heading into WrestleMania 28. He was a heel champion, but he had been so effective in his role that the fans began to support him. Both men are among the best in-ring and all-around performers in the WWE and the fans have embraced their talents.
At WrestleMania 28, Bryan lost in the infamously short match to Sheamus, dropping the World Heavyweight Championship. Much to the WWE's surprise, this caused a massive groundswell of support for Bryan. I was in attendance two weeks later at Monday Night Raw and the "Yes" chants were deafening.
Ziggler's Money in the Bank cash-in this year, the night after WrestleMania, drew the biggest pop of the night. Sure, this could be written off as a "smark" crowd, filled with the biggest wrestling fans from around the world. They were, after all, the ones that kicked off the Fandango-ing fad.
Don't be deceived, though. Ziggler's babyface potential reaches far beyond the online community and those fans back in New Jersey.
When he returns, Ziggler is going to get a babyface pop. This is for a number of reasons. He was already getting fan support before he left. Every returning star gets cheered when he or she comes back from an injury. And he'll be facing Alberto Del Rio, who has yet to really catch on as a fan favorite aside from the John Cena/Sheamus cheering gallery.
Rather than rush Ziggler back and attempt to force him into a heel role that will be rejected by the fans, let him play to the crowd and soak in their cheers.
Scrap the World Heavyweight Championship match at Payback. Last week, Del Rio won the rubber match against Big E Langston, but that doesn't mean the feud is necessarily over. Have Langston attack Del Rio out of anger for having lost to him and book a stipulation match between the two at Payback where Langston goes over.
Vickie Guerrero, having long looked to get vengeance on her former boyfriend Ziggler, announces while cackling that he's been stripped of the title for being unable to defend the belt. At Money in the Bank, scrap one of the briefcase matches and hang the belt above the ring.
This would harken back to when the WWF Title was vacated heading to the Royal Rumble and the belt was put on the line instead of a title shot. Ric Flair won his first WWF Title in this manner.
In the ladder match, Langston retrieves the belt and wins the title. Ziggler comes back, congratulates Langston on winning the title, but reminds him that he should never have lost it in the first place. He demands a shot at the belt, and Langston takes him out with AJ Lee's help.
This leads to a returning, fully healthy Ziggler ready to take on Langston at SummerSlam, after his former friend and sidekick has taken his belt and his girl.
Langston isn't ready for a main event run, but a short, one-month run that gives Ziggler a chance to re-capture the belt on a grand stage at SummerSlam with a hot storyline would catapult him as a fan favorite and a draw.
Ziggler doesn't deserve to lose the belt, but it's better for the show and for him were the belt to be vacated.
Ultimately, this is a TV program and based on story lines. As long as one of the company's most reliable plot devices, the World Heavyweight Championship, is unavailable due to injury, the more damage it does to the quality of the program. Ziggler will be a main eventer for a long time and his time will come.
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