Heading into Extreme Rules last May, Dolph Ziggler was the WWE World Heavyweight champion and scheduled to defend that title in a Triple Threat match at the pay-per-view. Unfortunately for him, that match never took place.
On Monday Night Raw following WrestleMania 29, Ziggler had found the perfect moment to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
Alberto Del Rio had just survived a hard-fought match with Jack Swagger, but he sustained a knee injury in the process. Moments later, Ziggler emerged with A.J. Lee and Big E in tow.
Del Rio fought hard against his new challenger, but Ziggler was able to overcome him and get the victory. The crowd that night in New Jersey went wild.
It seemed like all of the great performances that Ziggler had put on over the years were finally paying off, his hard work being rewarded. But it ended up being very short-lived.
Ziggler would suffer a concussion in a match with Swagger shortly after winning the title. As a result, Ziggler would be forced to take a month off, and the Triple Threat match at Extreme Rules became a No. 1 contender's match between Del Rio and Swagger contested under "I Quit" rules.
Del Rio would go on to win that match, earning a rematch with Ziggler that took place at June's pay-per-view event, Payback.
The match between the two was well done and featured Del Rio taking advantage of Ziggler's concussion by focusing his attack on the head.
The match also featured a rare double turn, the crowd turning on Del Rio and supporting Ziggler before it was over. This was WWE's chance to have Ziggler overcome all these odds and prove he was a worthy and deserving champion. Instead, it chose to go the other route.
After a vicious kick to the head, Del Rio pinned Ziggler to regain his title. Ziggler sold his injuries very well after the match and A.J. was even shown shedding tears on the ring apron.
But Ziggler had suffered a legitimate injury prior to this match, and WWE lost confidence in him because of it.
Ziggler's reign as world champion lasted just over two months with no successful title defenses. Since that time, he hasn't sniffed the main event. In fact, Ziggler built up quite a losing streak not long after.
The historical impact of Ziggler's run as champion centers more around what could have been rather than what was.
The concussion he suffered against Swagger was the beginning of the end, which is just a shame. How different would WWE history be had that never happened?
WWE chose to unify the World and WWE Heavyweight Championships at the end of 2013. Del Rio dropped the title to John Cena in October, something Ziggler likely would have done as well.
However, if WWE showed more confidence in Ziggler as its champion and allowed him to go out and do what he does, perhaps he could have found himself in that title unification match. Perhaps he would have been the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
That's all speculation, of course, but being forced out of the ring right after he won the title due to a concussion was one of the most unfortunate set of circumstances dealt a WWE Superstar in recent years.
Many fans recognize Ziggler as one of WWE's best performers. He rarely ever has a bad match. Hopefully, WWE affords him the opportunity to become its champion again down the road, though that seems increasingly unlikely at this point.
Going back and watching the footage of Ziggler becoming champion by cashing in Money in the Bank shows what a strong moment that was for WWE. But in just over a year since it happened, WWE has found a way to make it nearly meaningless.