Dolph Ziggler has become a statistic, and not in a good way. North American Wrestling Rankings (h/t WrestlingInc.com for finding this) is a blog tracking the win/loss records of wrestlers to come up with a purely mathematical ranking system, and on Monday, Ziggler hit a unique milestone.
With a record of 100 wins, 105 losses, and 25 draws, he's the 12th wrestler they've tracked to hit 100 televised wins. He's the first to hit 100 televised losses, also making him the first wrestler to hit triple digits for both wins AND losses.
It's not necessarily surprising, but it points to a number of problems with how WWE has handled Ziggler and their creative process in general...
The most obvious one is that, wow, he fell fast this year. His Money in the Bank cash-in the night after WrestleMania seemed like a huge moment at the time, with a raucous crowd exploding for his title win. If you told me at the end of WrestleMania weekend that six months later, it wouldn't even be one of the most memorable moments of the year anymore, I'd have said you were nuts.
Ziggler's initial loss of momentum wasn't anybody's fault. A few weeks into his reign as World Heavyweight Champion, he suffered a concussion, taking him out of action and off TV for a month. A week later at Payback, he lost the title back to Alberto Del Rio in a match where they did a double turn. It made sense: Fan sentiment was moving in that direction anyway, and that night was the best chance for it to work knowing how Chicago fans react.
It worked that night, but it wasn't followed through on beyond the first couple weeks, and Ziggler moved back down the card. I'm honestly not sure if you can blame the double turn: It was done well and for the right reasons, but not nearly enough was done to keep him at the right level. That could very well be because of the ever-present rumors about him being buried, but nobody can think of a good reason why it would be happening.
It's kind of amazing that he still had any momentum left when he cashed in, as he was losing constantly. WWE has made a pattern out of the Money in the Bank winners losing constantly with the idea being that it'll be undone (possibly with ready-made contenders in line) when he successfully cashes in and becomes champion.
You can't just abandon all booking protection of someone you're going to make your champion. This is the same company where the head of talent development/long-time top heel/on-screen figurehead constantly preaches that you can't expect the belt to make the man—it's the man who has to make the belt. Yet the company constantly works in the opposite direction.
Which is the bigger problem?
It's a backwards way of doing things. You can have someone lose before a title win to set up challengers. That's fine, but it's a lot different from what was effectively a nine-month losing streak.
There's one more systemic problem that becomes even more glaring: WWE's parity booking for all but the very top stars, often referred to by a number of nicknames like 50/50 booking, even-Steven booking and so on. Seemingly every champion loses non-title matches to set up title matches. With the secondary champions, it feels like they lose more than they win, especially when Curtis Axel was feuding with CM Punk.
If everyone's as good as everyone else, nobody stands out as being superior. If a wrestler hasn't broken through to the top level yet, how can he break through if he's always trading wins with his rivals? There's a huge glut of guys all at the same level in the middle of the card. Everyone who's not a main eventer or a glorified job guy is just...there.
Even someone like Ziggler's former bodyguard Big E. Langston is caught in the middle of this. He's theoretically a rising star, a protected powerhouse who WWE is carefully grooming. His televised record according to the same blog is 13-11-3. Even a wrestler who is perceived as being on the rise with real momentum is batting .500, more or less.
These are not difficult problems to solve. Just book everyone in ways appropriate to their slots on the card. Don't make them trade wins, and don't job them into oblivion when you're dangling a carrot in front of them.
If the WWE doesn't change course, there will be a lot more Dolph Zigglers.