As former World Heavyweight champion Dolph Ziggler made his way to the ring for his matchup on Raw with Jinder Mahal Monday night, something was obviously missing.
True, the World title was no longer around Ziggler’s waist, but that was not the glaring omission.
Conspicuous by their absence were Divas champion AJ Lee and Ziggler’s “heavy” Big E. Langston.
The pair were also absent during the post-match beatdown attempt by all three members of 3MB and during Ziggler’s surprise appearance at the end of Raw when he showed up to distract World champion Alberto Del Rio.
They were also missing on SmackDown when Ziggler showed up to ruin Del Rio’s celebration over his title win.
Could the company be distancing Ziggler from the pair to give his apparent face turn more legitimacy? Are the seemingly still-heel pair detrimental to Ziggler’s growing popularity?
And their absence cannot simply be attributed to them missing SmackDown or Raw since they both appeared on the shows. Both are still being prominently featured in the current storyline regarding AJ’s Divas title confrontation with Kaitlyn.
For some time now, Ziggler’s popularity has been on the rise, with each passing week showing more of a favorable reaction for the 32-year-old Superstar. His status as a fan favorite seemed to be firmly cemented at payback when Del Rio brutally attacked Ziggler’s head area, exploiting his earlier issues with a concussion.
The crowd seemed livid at the supposedly face Del Rio while showing genuine sympathy for the apparently heel Ziggler. In the days directly after that, the company seemed to play up this change, allowing Ziggler to exact his revenge on the new World Heavyweight champion while also letting the WWE Universe embrace him as a new hero.
Ziggler has long been full of limitless potential, with something always holding him back.
And while the crowds seemed to embrace AJ as somewhat of a kooky sidekick, they were slow to welcome Langston as anything more than hired muscle, which may be much of the reason why the trio seems to be splitting up. While Langston stills serves as protection for AJ, it has now been some time since he has even accompanied Ziggler to the ring on WWE programming.
Were the pair holding Ziggler back? Probably not. But if WWE wants to get Ziggler over as a legitimate face, distancing him from AJ and Langston is a good idea.
It would be slightly confusing to have Ziggler fighting the good fight against the evil elements of the company while at the same time his companions were doing everything in their collective power to perpetuate those negative aspects.
And while AJ is seen as the stereotypical “crazy chick,” something about her makes her a must-see component every week on WWE programming. And in an age where the Divas division is not viewed as a great asset to the company, having a champion who fans are genuinely interested in is certainly advantageous.
Or maybe Ziggler simply doesn’t need them any longer.
Perhaps his new persona, while still incredibly cocky and aggressive, will allow “the Show-Off” to reach a new level in his career, one where we may one day be seeing him in highlight reels involving the greatest champions of all time, much like the ones that were run during Raw this week.