Five years ago this week, Dolph Ziggler made his initial appearance on WWE television. Although he appeared on programming in the past as under other monikers, it was on the September 15 edition of Raw in 2008 that the Ziggler character officially made its debut.
On that night, Ziggler introduced himself to Kelly Kelly and then-Raw General Manager Mike Adamle during a backstage segment. The bleached-blonde Superstar has since risen through the ranks in WWE and has become a two-time World Heavyweight Champion as well as a former Money in the Bank Ladder match winner.
From shaking hands with fellow Superstars to headlining pay-per-views, Ziggler has proven many naysayers wrong. He's been built up perfectly over the course of his career and has a long list of accolades to his credit.
However, Ziggler still has a lot left to achieve in the business and is undoubtedly a future face of the company. With that in mind, I'm sure it won't be long before the former United States Champion is put back in the chase for the prestigious prize.
Here, I will rank the top 10 best matches of Dolph Ziggler's illustrious career up to this point. Of course, these are all based off of my opinion alone, so be sure to keep an open mind while reading.
During the summer of 2010, Dolph Ziggler set his sights on Kofi Kingston's Intercontinental Championship. He defeated Kingston on two separate occasions in late July and finally captured the title from Kingston on the August 6 edition of SmackDown.
Kingston attempted to regain the gold from Ziggler in the weeks that followed, but was unsuccessful after Ziggler got himself intentionally counted-out and disqualified in various matches. A match was made between the two at Night of Champions, where the bleached-blonde Superstar had to win via pin-fall or submission in order to retain the strap.
Anyone who has seen a series of matches involving Ziggler and Kingston is well aware that they are simply incapable of having a bad bout together. Their clash at the event was no different, as both competitors put it all on the line in order to emerge victorious.
In the end, Ziggler received help from his client Vickie Guerrero at ringside, allowing him to nail the Ghana native with the Zig-Zag for the win.
Similar to his matches with Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler has faced Sheamus what has felt like a million times, but their best bout together came at 2012's No Way Out pay-per-view.
Originally, Sheamus was set to defend his World Heavyweight Championship at the event against Alberto Del Rio. However, due to Del Rio sustaining an injury prior to the pay-per-view, he was ultimately replaced by Ziggler, who won a Fatal 4-Way on the June 11 edition of Raw to become the new No. 1 contender to the title.
Fans didn't believe that Ziggler had much of a chance of winning the strap, but the bleached-blonde Superstar still took Sheamus to his absolute limit. Although Ziggler was unsuccessful in regaining the gold, their excellent contest kicked off the show and managed to set the tone for the remainder of the evening.
Dolph Ziggler spent the summer of 2009 pursuing the Intercontinental Championship. He came up short of winning the title from Rey Mysterio at Night of Champions, but that didn't stop him from becoming No. 1 contender for the strap yet again a few short weeks later.
As they say, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Needless to say, they had tremendous chemistry with each other during their initial encounter, so it was no surprise that their rematch at SummerSlam was equally (if not more) entertaining. He came close to finally capturing the title from Mysterio, but the Ultimate Underdog managed to hit a huge hurricanranna off the top rope for the valiant victory.
It wouldn't be until a year later that Ziggler would be wearing Intercontinental Championship gold around his waist.
For the latter half of 2011, Dolph Ziggler reigned as the United States Champion, having successfully defended his title against the likes of Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder and Alex Riley. It was quite apparent that Ziggler was ready for the limelight on Monday Night Raw, but the strap he was wearing around his waist seemed to be hindering him more than it was helping him.
One night removed from 2011's Survivor Series pay-per-view, Ziggler was set to go one-on-one with then-WWE Champion CM Punk for the first time ever in a Champion vs. Champion match. The expectations were high, and these two definitely didn't disappoint.
Some argue that the U.S. title has always been beneath the WWE title, but Ziggler was made to look like Punk's equal on this cold November night. Punk may have walked out the victor, but the bad blood between the two was far from over.
This match was only a small preview of what was to come, as they went on to engage in a bitter rivalry over the prestigious prize only one month later.
Dolph Ziggler scored a handful of high profile victories during his time as Mr. Money in the Bank, with one of them coming against Randy Orton on last year's Labor Day edition of Raw. That evened the score between the two, so a rubber match was made at the Night of Champions pay-per-view.
Although Ziggler's blue briefcase wasn't on the line in this contest, he still gave Orton the fight of his life. The exciting action spilled outside the ring as well, where each competitor nailed the other with excruciating maneuvers that nearly earned them the win.
However, it was Ziggler who ultimately came up short of slaying The Viper when he fell victim to the RKO. The rivalry resumed that November, where Ziggler pinned Orton clean in a traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match at Survivor Series.
After nine months of lugging around the blue briefcase, Dolph Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank contact on Alberto Del Rio to become the World Heavyweight Champion on the April 8 edition of Raw. Unfortunately, Ziggler was put on the shelf shortly thereafter after suffering a concussion at the hands (or feet, rather) of Jack Swagger.
Ziggler's first title defense would occur at WWE Payback, where he was set to defend the strap against Del Rio. In a shocking turn of events, Del Rio resorted to underhanded tactics and took advantage of Ziggler's head trauma to regain the gold.
The bleached-blonde Superstar invoked his rematch clause for the title at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, where the two warriors went to war over the prestigious prize. Ziggler had the Philadelphia crowd in his palm of his hands, hitting Del Rio with every move in his arsenal.
The crowd was red hot for all of the near-falls down the stretch and were on the edge of their seats for the final few minutes of the bout. As Ziggler was closing in on the world title, Divas Champion AJ Lee interfered on her boyfriend's behalf and essentially cost him the belt.
These heated rivals have had well over a dozen matches this past year, but I found this particular contest to be the best of the bunch.
No more than 24 hours removed from his victory at 2012's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Dolph Ziggler decided to show off (no pun intended) his newly won blue briefcase during Chris Jericho's promo on Raw. Moments after Ziggler claimed Jericho had "lost his touch", Y2J nailed Ziggler with a Codebreaker and jump-started a bitter rivalry in the process.
The two were on a collision course towards SummerSlam, where they would face off in singles action for the first time ever. Ziggler had gotten the better of Jericho at every turn leading up to the event, so the odds were definitely stacked in his favor.
Jericho had little to lose and everything to gain, as he was on a mission to prove to Ziggler that he "still had it". They provided an excellent back-and-forth match that saw Jericho lock in the Walls of Jericho on the former two-time World Heavyweight Champion for the victory.
The next night, though, Ziggler defeated Jericho in a rematch that saw the inaugural Undisputed Champion fired from WWE, but as they say, nothing lasts forever.
Dolph Ziggler's five month reign as Intercontinental Champion came to an abrupt end on the premiere edition of SmackDown of 2011, but he went on to become the new No. 1 contender to the World Heavyweight Champion by winning a Fatal 4-Way that same night.
The story going into this match was that Edge was banned from using his Spear finishing maneuver to finish off Ziggler. However, that didn't stop Edge from manipulating the system and attempting to work around the stipulation.
This was Ziggler's first match for the world title, and he certainly raised some eyebrows at the Royal Rumble. If there was anyone doubting Ziggler's potential as a main event player before this bout, they were undoubtedly proved wrong once it concluded.
In the end, Edge utilized his best friend Christian's finisher, the Killswitch, to put Ziggler down for the three count. Sure, the former Spirit Squad member didn't emerge victorious with the title held high, but he proved to the higher ups in that match that it he was more than capable of hanging in the ring with WWE's biggest names.
Interestingly enough, Ziggler has gone on record in the past and has stated that this is/was his favorite match to date, for no other reason than he and Edge were traveling buddies before facing off for the golden prize.
Despite being the Intercontinental Champion at the time, Dolph Ziggler was without a match at 2010's Bragging Rights pay-per-view. However, mere days before the event, Ziggler was challenged to a Champion vs. Champion match by Daniel Bryan, which Ziggler accepted.
Prior to this pay-per-view, Bryan and Ziggler had never battled in one-on-one competition, so fans weren't sure what to expect from the two. However, given the fact that they were two of the best in-ring wrestlers in the company at the time, fans were sure they were in for a treat.
Neither the Intercontinental nor the United States Championship were on the line in this match, but that didn't matter in the slightest. Ziggler and Bryan went out to the ring and lit the world on fire with their exciting, fast-paced action and amazing chemistry.
Following the 15 minute mark, Bryan secured the LaBelle Lock on Ziggler and forced the bleached-blonde Superstar to tap out. The two received a standing ovation for their efforts, and their match was named one of the best of 2010 by WWE.com.
After Vickie Guerrero cost AJ Lee her job as Raw General Manager last October, John Cena came to the aid of the former NXT rookie and engaged in a feud with Vickie's client Dolph Ziggler. Since Cena had defeated Ziggler once before, then-Manaing Supervisor of Raw Vickie Guerrero made a Ladder match between the two at WWE TLC, but this time with the former United States Champion's Money in the Bank briefcase on the line.
On paper, Ziggler had virtually no chance of defeating Cena, especially since he had never scored a win over him in the past. Regardless, that didn't prevent the match from being any less awesome.
Despite the fact that it was initially billed a Ladder match, Cena and Ziggler utilized chairs and tables as well. They went all out in this brutal brawl that saw carnage and chaos ensue all over the squared circle.
As Cena ascended the ladder to take hold of the blue briefcase, AJ pushed the steel structure over and sent the leader of the Cenation spiraling to ringside. This allowed Ziggler to recuperate and prove all the naysayers wrong by maintaining possession of his opportunistic contract.
Remember, this win came against the company's biggest face in the main event of a major pay-per-view. Needless to say, it was the biggest win of Ziggler's career and one of the most memorable matches of 2012.
Graham Mirmina, a.k.a. Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.