Dolph Ziggler appears to have salvaged what has been a forgettable 2014.
Following a 2013 that saw Ziggler's biggest moment in WWE to date, his momentum fell off a cliff after he suffered an untimely concussion.
A fan favorite with one of WWE's premiere cult followings, he enjoyed only a brief World Heavyweight Championship run before dropping the title back to Alberto Del Rio. It wasn't long before Ziggler fell out of the world heavyweight title picture for good prior to the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships being unified.
Ziggler's Intercontinental Championship victory last week at SummerSlam was a nice consolation prize. But with a stacked main event picture and only one world title, Ziggler's current midcard feud with The Miz is his ceiling for the remainder of 2014—and possibly beyond.
A one-title system means fewer opportunities for WWE Superstars, especially with WWE slowly putting the pieces of the WrestleMania puzzle together.
Even promising young star and 2014 Money in the Bank winner Seth Rollins is light-years away from the top title. According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com), long-term plans call for Roman Reigns to unseat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31.
The current world heavyweight champion is currently on an unprecedented tear across WWE's roster. After ending Undertaker's WrestleMania streak, Lesnar's current win streak is just as important to ongoing WWE programing as Undertaker's streak was to selling WrestleMania pay-per-views.
Given what it will mean to the Superstar who beats Lesnar, Lesnar's next loss must be carefully mapped out, most likely over a course of months.
Many of WWE's resources are currently being dedicated to Reigns, who is being groomed to one day become a top star like John Cena.
WWE Network's recent Countdown to SummerSlam special (subscription required) featured commentary from John Cena and Michael "P.S." Hayes, both of whom have significant influence in the WWE ranks. Each noted Reigns has a big future as a potential main eventer.
Through The Shield, the Countdown to SummerSlam special made it clear that WWE has moved on to its next generation. "We're going to own this business," a smug Dean Ambrose said before the documentary went off the air.
With WWE in transition, Ziggler currently finds himself as a tweener, still in his prime yet mired in a bygone era linked to an outdated WWE developmental model.
Star-making WWE developmental promotion NXT produced the aforementioned Shield in addition to top act The Wyatt Family. NXT also houses proven independent wrestling talents such as Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Fergal "Prince" Devitt and Kevin Steen. These stars appeal to the same hardcore fans who currently support Ziggler.
WWE is currently in the midst of its latest evolution. Ziggler is no longer fighting his way up the main event ladder; he's staving off extinction.
Facing historic financial losses, per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com), in conjunction with an ambitious network, WWE cannot afford to fool around with second and third chances. Fresh stars are necessary to complement a new era that was recently christened with the launch of an altered WWE logo.
As a result, Ziggler's role will be limited to that of a supporting cast member.
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