Dolph Ziggler has long since been a substandard heel, with his in-ring work shining brighter than any character development could.
Ziggler's personality was never conducive to creating a villain that jumped through the television screen and made fans want to see him lose. In fact, fans just want to see him wrestle. Easily the best bumper in recent memory, Ziggler's hyper athletic workrate had a cannibalizing effect on his underwhelming heel persona.
Dolph Ziggler finally turned face organically following last month's world championship match against Alberto Del Rio. The stage had been set for Ziggler to operate in his natural working condition as a hero with a smooth move set that was easy to cheer.
So where the heck are all the cheers?
Ziggler doesn't feel comfortable as a fan favorite. The pressures of posturing for cheers is an art form much more intricate than simple agitation.
He seems lost.
As vivid as WWE Payback's double-turn was, fans still seem conflicted about reacting to Ziggler. In limited opportunities to garner support on the mic, the long-time heel has floundered.
This was never clearer than this past Monday on Raw during an awkward promo that came in the midst of Del Rio's match against Sin Cara. Ziggler would be laid out shortly after the distraction.
Ziggler's continued romance with heel AJ may also be a contributing factor to his sudden face-heel ambiguity. Sure, WWE has already planted the seeds for an eventual split, but one can't blame fans for being apprehensive about supporting Dolph Ziggler as he retains so many similarities to his heel character.
Apparently it will take more than a post-match cat-and-mouse with the 3MB to win fans over. Ziggler's two-week tension with Chris Jericho certainly didn't help.
An impassioned promo from Ziggler outlining Del Rio's cowardice could have done the trick. Instead, WWE opted for gimmickry on SmackDown as Ziggler caught Del Rio off guard, attacking the world champion while dressed as Sin Cara. That's far from the noble, white-hat cowboy heroics one would expect from the good guy, but at least it was halfway entertaining.
The current feud between Ziggler and Del Rio would lead to a subdued reaction in most markets come Sunday, with fans unsure of who to root for. Sure, Del Rio scored a cheap victory last month, but Dolph Ziggler pounced on a wounded Del Rio back in April. Let's call it a wash.
Fortunately, a pro-Ziggler Philadelphia crowd will make it very clear who the favorite is, with "let's go Ziggler" chants expected to dominate the match.
The not-so-bizarro reaction could serve as the jump start Ziggler needs in order to get over his growing pains as a babyface.