Ever since he unceremoniously fell down the card after losing the World Heavyweight Championship last year, fans have wondered exactly what happened with Dolph Ziggler. How did he go from one of the hottest rising stars in the company to having no push, no promo time, and losing a ridiculous number of matches?
There were vague reports of an attitude problem and problematic answers in media interviews, but nobody ever really gave a specific example of something he said that caused a problem. Well, until now.
Yesterday, in a thread at the F4WOnline.com subscribers' forum, someone asked Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher Dave Meltzer if he now had a better idea of what happened. His reply? "He said he could beat up Randy Orton in a real fight and he didn't see why it was such a big deal that Orton was taller than him." The interview in question was posted by Eric Lacy on MLive.com in early September, and this is the section Meltzer was talking about:
I've made it clear; I'm not patient at all - several times. I've been very vocal about my position on the card and in the company. I'm not trying to say "Hey, everybody sucks and I'm great!" But I love doing this, and at some point you go 'OK, It's not my time right now and I got to figure something out' And when it's time, that's when I must go out there and make as huge of an impact as I can and let everyone know "I dare you to follow that, I dare you try something better."
And when they don't (counter or match what I'm doing in the ring) I'm very outspoken about it and it can get me into very hot water (with the company). Then you never know where we're going. Everybody can be just so outspoken about taller guys, and guys like Randy Orton being the face of the WWE, the WWE Championship. I dare you to put me in a back alley with Randy Orton or someone like that. I guarantee I'm not afraid of someone taller.
While there's an argument that he could have toned it down a little, it would be a little ridiculous to punish him for that if true. His gimmick is that he's a cocky, braggadocious guy who's constantly showing off and running his mouth. Why wouldn't he be confident he could take out Randy Orton?
In addition, his real life amateur wrestling accomplishments, which are often referenced on TV, were stellar. At one point, he held the record for the most career wins in the history of Kent State University, and only one other wrestler has passed him since. The assertion that he could handle Randy Orton in a street fight is valid, and it makes sense that his character would say it.
If Ziggler was buried for those comments, though, it wouldn't even be among the most petty burials in wrestling history. A personal favorite of mine involves Bret Hart's first feud in WCW. He was the hottest wrestler in the business coming off of the Montreal Screwjob when he was put into a feud with Ric Flair. Their pay-per-view match at Souled Out 1998, which was pushed as the main event with Hulk Hogan not wrestling, did as well as many shows Hogan headlined, as chronicled in Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds' book, The Death of WCW.
Their reward? The feud ended abruptly, they became a tag team, and then Flair was taken off TV before they could actually team up. Bret soon turned heel to align with Hogan and would go months without wrestling a match, as WCW wasted one of the biggest opportunities of the Monday Night War.
The oddest build-up in the history of WrestleMania main event level matches was for Chris Jericho's Undisputed WWE Championship defense against Triple H in 2002. Jericho was peaking as a character, in addition to having his best run of WWE matches to date. In the run up to the match, Jericho aligned himself with Triple H's "ex-wife" Stephanie McMahon and quickly became secondary to her, most memorably, walking her dog. It destroyed all of the momentum he built up.
Speaking of Triple H, his next WrestleMania feud was with Booker T, who had also built up a lot of momentum. The feud was filled was racially coded insults from Triple H, which were really uncomfortable in 2003. Still, nobody was too worried because why would there be a racial component if Booker T wasn't winning? We never got an answer (most likely it would be "because Ric Flair used to do it"). Triple H pinned him about 30 seconds after hitting the Pedigree, taking a power nap on the mat in the interim.
I wonder what Triple H thinks of Dolph Ziggler...