Last month, online reports of Dolph Ziggler’s demise funneled through the internet wrestling stratosphere.
According to PWInsider (h/t WrestlingInc), Ric Flair—who has long since been rumored to return to WWE—pitched the idea of working with Ziggler. The idea was reportedly shot down, as Flair was told WWE wasn’t doing anything with the former World Heavyweight champion.
Flair has even publicly campaigned to work with Ziggler, telling Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post and Courier, "I think he's awesome. He'd be a great guy to manage. He looks like a million bucks. He just can't find his gimmick. He needs to work on his entrance. I could help him with that."
PWInsider (h/t WrestlingInc) later expanded on the Dolph Ziggler problem when it noted WWE can’t push Ziggler because the promotion views him as injury prone and he has a history of taking time off.
Still, chants of “We want Ziggler!” dominated the briefcase Money in the Bank match. This, despite Ziggler being booked a notch above a stagehand during that Ladder Match—maybe even because of it.
Yes, WWE officials have deemed Ziggler, an organically popular star whom fans refuse to give up on, a liability. But in the reality era, this couldn’t be better news for a meta babyface.
WWE’s fear of so-called “snakebitten” talents has manifested itself through Daniel Bryan. Bryan’s neck injury forced WWE to swiftly change course shortly after the improbable superstar captured the WWE World Heavyweight championship at WrestleMania XXX.
The similarities between Ziggler and Bryan don’t end there, and they will only become more apparent in Bryan’s absence.
Most stars who are booked to lose the majority of their matches [Ziggler has now joined the unenviable 100-loss club, according to North American Wrestling Rankings (h/t WrestlingInc)] don’t maintain the fervent support of the oft-fickle hardcore wrestling audience.
Zack Ryder, who is as good of a case study of the sympathetic wrestler as any, quickly lost the support of his grassroots following a one-sided feud with Kane.
Ryder had created his own brand through the self-produced YouTube show Z! True Long Island Story, which basically served as a precursor to WWE launching its own YouTube channel.
After losing the lightning he had captured in a bottle, Ryder has since been booked as an enhancement talent, with only sporadic appearances on Raw and SmackDown.
What is Dolph Ziggler's ceiling for WrestleMania XXXI?
Yet those same fans refuse to give up on Ziggler and Bryan, both of whom enjoyed brief world title runs before dropping them due to circumstances out of their control.
Like Bryan, every negative opinion muttered by a WWE official seems to find its way onto a dirtsheet, thereby feeding a frenetic, do-good fanbase desperate to see Ziggler succeed.
The more lukewarm WWE officials grow on Ziggler, the hotter he will get.
At this point, all he has is fan support (and maybe Ric Flair). The support will need to be overwhelming (read: hijacking) to force WWE’s hand, but fans will be up to the challenge.
WWE may have its plans set in stone, but this era doesn’t mesh with pig-headed long-term booking.
This is the era of free social media, which has given way to overnight revolutions and permeating YouTube sensations.
As quickly as a giggling kitten can go viral, plans can change because of a fan-led revolt. We saw it with the Yes Movement, and history is liable to repeat itself through the Dolph War, which once again pits the Internet Wrestling Community against front-office politics.
Following his failed attempt to capture a second Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday, Ziggler tweeted the following:
Fortunately for Ziggler, if Daniel Bryan is any indication, the more things change, the more they stay the same. If it’s going to take an uprising for Ziggler to regain a world championship, reports of his demise aren’t exaggerated. They’re encouraging.