WWE Classic of the Week: John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler from TLC 2012

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

The 2014 Survivor Series saw Dolph Ziggler rise to the occasion, becoming the sole survivor of the Team Cena vs. Team Authority main event and turning in one of the finest performances of his critically acclaimed career.

It was the latest instance of The Showoff benefiting from a significant push by management, but it was not the first.

In 2012, fans witnessed Ziggler's first real run atop World Wrestling Entertainment. Beginning in November at Survivor Series and running well into the new year, The Showoff would battle the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton, scoring wins over the top two stars of a generation.

The rivalry with Cena in particular led to Ziggler's rapid ascension up the ranks of the company and led to a hotly anticipated bout between the two Superstars at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view that December.

But first, their story.

The Background

The October 22 episode of Raw featured the genesis of the rivalry between Cena and Ziggler, which actually began as an intense dislike between AJ Lee and Vickie Guerrero.

Guerrero, determined to remove Lee from her position as Raw general manager, revealed that the young woman had been fraternizing with the Superstars of WWE, engaging one of them in an affair. The claims struck a nerve with the WWE Board of Directors, and as a result Lee took to the ring to resign her position.

But Guerrero was not satisfied simply with forcing her rival out of power. WWE's resident cougar produced video and audio, mostly in the form of voice messages from Lee, that seemingly confirmed her claims.

At the Survivor Series in November, Cena competed against Ryback and CM Punk in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship. The leader of the Cenation dropped that match to Punk, while Ziggler enjoyed a monumental night, defeating Randy Orton in a traditional Elimination tag match to become the sole survivor of the Team Foley vs. Team Ziggler contest.

One night after the event, Lee and Cena engaged in a passionate kiss, much to the dismay and anger of Guerrero.

Later in the evening, Lee approached Ziggler in the locker room and fell prey to a verbal tongue-lashing in which Mr. Money in the Bank referred to her as "sad, weak and pathetic." It lit a fire under Lee, who attacked Ziggler. When Cena arrived to pull them apart, Ziggler caught Cena with a cheap shot to the knee.

Days later on SmackDown, Cena and Lee appeared on Miz TV.

With momentum on his side, Ziggler had no trouble approaching Cena on the November 26 episode of Raw, and the two Superstars engaged in a heated exchange. Later in the evening, they battled it out in singles competition.

Cena scored the win and for the second time in as many weeks kissed the very woman he once claimed to have no romantic association with.

At the not-so-subtle suggestion of the returning Vince McMahon, Guerrero announced a Ladder match for the TLC pay-per-view in which Ziggler would put the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against Cena in the latest chapter of their intensifying rivalry.

The Match

Analysis

One of the strongest aspects of both Cena's and Ziggler's in-ring work is their ability to create drama, thanks in large part to tremendous sequencing. They string together moves and spots that elicit the desired reaction better than anyone and as a result often have the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands.

That was the case at TLC in December 2012, as they coupled that ability with the Ladder match stipulation to deliver an outstanding match that was second only to the outstanding bout between Ryback, Team Hell No and The Shield from earlier in the evening.

The finish was outstanding as Lee skipped to the ring in her Cena gear then suddenly shoved over the ladder her on-screen beau was climbing, sending him crashing to the mat below. The passionate fans in Brooklyn erupted, and Ziggler scaled the ladder seconds later and scored the biggest victory of his entire career.

The Aftermath

Lee and Ziggler began an on-screen relationship that would last longer than any other pairing she was involved in.

Just one night after betraying Cena, Lee skipped onto the stage during the WWE Slammy Awards episode of Raw and planted a kiss on Ziggler right in front of Guerrero, who saw her relationship with the Money in the Bank winner disintegrate in front of her very eyes.

With the image of her now ex-boyfriend locking lips with her top rival, Guerrero booked a mixed tag match pitting her and Cena against Ziggler and Lee. It was by the end of that contest that Big E Langston would make his main roster debut, running over Cena like a freight train and establishing himself as both Ziggler's associate and Lee's friend. 

After spending the holidays making out under mistletoe, Ziggler and Lee would return to television on New Year's Eve for a very special toast with the WWE Universe.

Unfortunately for them, Cena arrived and ensured that they had a very crappy New Year.

Making matters worse was the fact that every time Cena and Ziggler wrestled from there on out, Cena scored the victory. Eventually, the feud ran out of steam, and the Superstars went their separate ways.

That is until November 2014, when they aligned with each other to battle Team Authority at the Survivor Series.

On the heels of their victory at the fall classic, they partnered once again to battle Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury on the November 24 episode of Raw. They would win that match and celebrate accordingly, proving once and for all that hatred in today's WWE is momentary.

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