Examining Dolph Ziggler's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential

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Examining Dolph Ziggler's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential
Photo: WWE.com

One man sees a stone, another sees a diamond; that is the story of Dolph Ziggler.

Ziggler is a captivating athlete who broke through the glass ceiling only to have it cut him on the way up. He won the World Heavyweight Championship but a concussion soon derailed his momentum. Instead of building on his triumph, he was forced to sit on the bench and recover.

After losing the title to Alberto Del Rio, Ziggler has slid down the WWE hierarchy, suffering losses and lacking a story to keep the focus on him. 

His feud with Dean Ambrose over the United States Championship has been pushed aside, and Ziggler faces Damien Sandow at Battleground instead.

Ziggler defended the World Heavyweight Championship at Payback and now, four months later, he is performing on the preshow. Depending on whom you ask, both spots are right where he should be.

WWE appears to be as indecisive as the fans about how they feel about "The Show Off."

The company had him win the world title, battle CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble 2012 and feud with John Cena.

Ziggler has suffered 100 televised losses.

Ziggler's supporters see a megastar, a world champ and a face of the franchise. Those in charge at WWE reportedly see otherwise. Per Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via WrestlingInc.com, "officials don't believe he will ever be a guy who draws money."

Perhaps he'll forever be known as a wrestler's wrestler and unappreciated by casual fans and WWE creatives. However, WWE alumni, including two Hall of Famers, are in Ziggler's corner.

 

Specialness

Bob Holly had high praise for Ziggler, singling him out as one of the Superstars in the company today.

In an interview with NOLA Defender, Booker T envisioned that the main event for WrestleMania 40 would be "Dean Ambrose versus Dolph Ziggler."

Ambrose is often talked about as the future of the company by fans, and WWE clearly believes in him, involving him and The Shield in high-profile matches against Undertaker, Cena and Randy Orton. Booker T, who runs a wrestling promotion out of Houston, certainly sees top-level talent in Ziggler as well.

The men Jim Ross compared Ziggler to are names one hears in discussion about Ziggler often, but hearing them from such a respected source carries a lot of weight.

The key word in Ross' evaluation is "special."

Every Superstar on the roster is talented. Athleticism and charisma aren't rare qualities in the wrestling world, but being special is. It's easy to agree with Ross on that description when one sees Ziggler step into the ring.

 

Showing Off 

Add the wrestling ability and mental toughness that it takes to win three amateur championships at Kent State University to uninhibited flamboyance and elite athletic skill and you create an impressive in-ring performer named Ziggler.

The battle for WWE's best dropkick is a two man race: Orton and Ziggler.

Ziggler's version is a fluid masterpiece where he leaps impressively high, seemingly with little effort. That move is a microcosm of what he does in the ring.

His crispness and mat wrestling ability is the reason for comparisons to Mr. Perfect, and the feel for showmanship he's shown throughout his career is why his name is placed next to Shawn Michaels' so often.

WWE can put him in the ring with brawlers, acrobats, giants or underdogs and be confident that the results will be entertaining.

Take Ziggler's bout against Sheamus on WWE Main Event in early 2013 for example.

He was equally engrossing as the aggressor and the victim here. He sped around the ring, frantically stomped on Sheamus and made every blow from "The Celtic Warrior" look destructive.

Selling his opponents' offense so well is one of the skills that has earned him a vocal fanbase, but may convince WWE to keep him losing and making his foes look better.

If he makes Orton's finisher, for example, look so incredible, WWE may always be tempted to have him end his matches in defeat.

Alternatively, WWE can view Ziggler's selling acumen as a means to create drama in marquee matches. Michaels' ability to make his foes' offense look so good helped him compose a multitude of masterpieces.

Ziggler can create an impressive greatest hits collection as well.

His resume already has standout clashes such as his match against Orton at Night of Champions 2012, against Daniel Bryan at Bragging Rights 2010 and against John Cena at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2012.

This was Ziggler's measuring stick.

He faced the biggest megastar in the company in the last match of the evening and in terms of his performance, he nailed it. It was an outstanding, dramatic match that felt like the main event.

It's the financial numbers that didn't look as stunning as his superkick. The pay-per-view earned 175, 000 buys, which was down slightly from the same event in 2011, but significantly lower than both 2009 and 2010's TLC events.

Does one blame the low buy rate on Ziggler, the overexposure to Cena or the buildup to the match itself? Cena has long since proved that he can draw. WWE officials were likely to look at this as evidence of Ziggler's lack of star power.

 

Star Components

When the crowd crescendoed as Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank contract one night after WrestleMania 29, he certainly felt like a star then.

The question then becomes: Is Ziggler just a favorite of the kind of diehard fans who travel the world to see WrestleMania or can he appeal to casual fans as well?

The components that make up the two-time world champ seem to point to "it factor" and the kind of presence needed to be a top Superstar. Ziggler is charming, funny and just as good as being likable as he is at needling the crowd.

During his run as host of WWE Download, Ziggler showed off all those traits.

He's also one of the more entertaining Superstars on Twitter, but how does that translate to wrestling promos?

There haven't been a surplus of opportunities, but he's had a number of powerful performances. Tearing AJ Lee apart in the locker room and ripping The Miz on Main Event are among them.

There are times where his promos feel more acted than natural, though.

He seems to hurry through his lines here and isn't the same charismatic Ziggler we've seen at other times. While there are certainly tweaks to be made, Ziggler's mic work is passionate, emotive and plenty good enough for the spotlight to shine his way.

If Ziggler can wrestle, can entertain and tell stories via the microphone, what's missing?

All "The Show Off" truly needs is buy in, buy in from the fans who haven't yet been convinced by his work and by WWE officials who don't yet think Ziggler is worthy of the upper rungs.

 

Ceiling

How that battle for support plays out will determine Ziggler's ceiling.

His career is capable of paralleling any of the men he's been compared to, but opportunity will dictate whether Ziggler ends up being more like Hennig, a midcard title winner with a following among diehards and folks in the industry or Michaels, a major player at the top of the card.

Ziggler has all the tools to be the latter.

Michaels heard the same criticism of not being a big-time money maker. The list of elite draws in wrestling is short and not being a part of it isn't grounds for exclusion from the greats.

Ziggler can entertain; his resume shows that.

He puts on too many great performances to not get another shot at the World Heavyweight Championship and an eventual run as WWE champ.

Should WWE continue to hesitate with him, Ziggler will be remembered as a talented workhorse, more appreciated by purist fans than casual ones. Allowed a platform to showcase everything he can do and Ziggler will make Ross look smart for comparing him to two Hall of Famers.

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