Dolph Ziggler’s WWE career has been marked by a plethora of fantastic matches, but what’s been missing is an epic rivalry to truly define it.
Truth be told, Ziggler has probably had less than a handful of rivalries fans will remember 10 years from now. His lengthy rivalry with Kofi Kingston, his 2011 U.S. Championship feud with Zack Ryder and his late 2012 feud with John Cena are the only ones that really stick out.
That’s something that the WWE must change.
Ziggler can have all the great matches he wants to have. But what fans are going to remember most—and what would make those already great matches even better—are great rivalries.
Quite simply, that’s something Ziggler just hasn’t had yet. He’s had some good ones (the ones mentioned above), but great? Nah, not really.
Newsflash, WWE: Ziggler needs a compelling rivalry, and he needs one now.
If he doesn’t get one soon—or even worse, ever—the WWE runs the risk of wasting a tremendous talent by failing to put him in a storyline that could ultimately take him to the next level.
Looking back throughout history, great storylines have given great Superstars huge momentum boosts.
Think, for example, back to 2008 when Chris Jericho turned heel by turning on Shawn Michaels. After returning in 2007, Y2J struggled somewhat as a face, but a fantastically executed heel turn and an amazingly booked feud afterward turned things completely around for him.
Y2J and HBK had what was, far and away, the best feud of 2008, and the tremendous amount of emotion involved in that rivalry led to one of the best ladder matches ever at No Mercy later that year.
The bottom line is that, although in-ring action is certainly a big reason fans watch wrestling today, quality in-ring action means absolutely nothing in the long run if it isn’t part of a bigger story that sucks the audience in.
That’s what Ziggler desperately needs right now, and it looks like the WWE might be trying to give it to him.
Judging by what happened at Payback and on Raw the next night, it certainly appears as if the WWE is turning Ziggler face for the first time in his career. Thanks to his concussion and his highly emotional response to losing the World Heavyweight Championship at Payback, he’s being given his first real chance to be portrayed as a sympathetic character and to have the fans emotionally invest themselves in one of his feuds.
Whether Ziggler’s budding rivalry with Alberto Del Rio is the compelling rivalry that takes him over the top remains to be seen. Regardless, the fact remains that he needs one now more than ever.
Ziggler has had a rough go-round as of late, missing more than a month with a concussion and losing his World Heavyweight Championship almost immediately upon his return.
That marks the second failed world title reign of Ziggler’s career, which will be what fans remember most about him.
Forget the classic matches. Forget the crazy bumps. Forget the amazing selling.
If Ziggler never has a rivalry that generates a genuine, emotional reaction from the fans, he won’t be remembered for all the great things he’s done throughout his career. Instead, he’ll be remembered for two failed world titles and a career without any sort of rivalry that ultimately mattered in the long run.
That just can’t happen.
Ziggler is a great talent and someone who deserves to be at the top. Let’s hope he finally gets a must-see rivalry that takes him there.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!