WWE has received its fair share of negative attention since the Royal Rumble took place two weeks ago.
A quick recap: WWE omitted Daniel Bryan from its 30-man, free-for-all event, the same man that won the fan vote for 2013 Wrestler of the Year. Fans expressed their discontent by booing when the final entrant, Rey Mysterio—a company man who has been wrestling as long as this 25-year-old can remember—entered the ring, closing the possibility that Bryan would appear.
This came after chanting Bryan’s name not only throughout the Rumble, but also during the championship match between Randy Orton and John Cena.
The Cena-Orton match was also greeted with a “this is awful” chant. Oh, and CM Punk, one of the company’s biggest stars and the man that held the WWE title through all of 2012, quit the WWE the following day.
All this has been discussed at length, though. What went overlooked behind all the negativity was the surprisingly strong fan reaction for Dolph Ziggler.
Going into the event, there were questions as to whether he’d even be able to participate. Less than three weeks before the Rumble, he’d suffered his second concussion in the previous six months. In the pre-show, Jim Duggan may have tipped WWE’s hand by picking Ziggler as the event’s dark-horse winner.
When Ziggler did enter the match, he was met with a resounding “let’s go, Ziggler” chant. What would otherwise have been a small gesture caught my eye, though, because Ziggler’s entrance elicited one of the few positive reactions from the Pittsburgh fans in attendance.
Again, WWE has caught a ton of heat over the past few weeks, most notably for its misuse of fan favorite Bryan. On a smaller scale, WWE is underutilizing Ziggler as well.
In 2012, Dolph was participating in Raw and SmackDown main events against the likes of CM Punk, John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus. He had title fights at pay-per-views against Punk and Sheamus. He won Money in the Bank. He drew what in my opinion was the most animated crowd in 2013 when he cashed in his title contract as a heel.
Since then? WWE has used him as a stepping stone. A guy for perpetual underachievers like Damien Sandow and Fandango to beat en route to Intercontinental Championship matches that they would then lose.
Most recently, he was used as the man Antonio Cesaro beat to earn a spot in Elimination Chamber.
Despite all this, Dolph still maintains an unbridled passion for the business. His mic ability is unmatched. He is widely considered one of WWE’s two best athletes, along with Kofi Kingston.
As evidenced by his Twitter account, he relishes opportunities to interact with the fans. The feeling is mutual. The fans love him so much that WWE was effectively forced to turn him face after his match against Alberto Del Rio at Payback.
This begs the question, why was Ziggler pushed so hard in 2012-13 only to be forgotten in the last seven months? One theory is that WWE is burying him so that when he finally does resurface, the payoff is that much greater.
With Punk’s departure, Wrestling-News.net reporting that Cena was hurt at a house show, Ziggler’s contract expiring in July and, most importantly, WWE’s goodwill with its fans waning, now is the time to push Ziggler back to the forefront.