There's a vast number of current WWE Superstars who can be labeled as "underutilized," but no one is more deserving of a main event slot than Dolph Ziggler. He's established himself as one of the most popular talents on the roster in recent years simply by excelling at everything he does, but with his career at a standstill, it's high time he returns to his villainous roots.
Ziggler has all the tools to be a main event player in WWE, but whether it's because of politics or another unknown reason, backstage officials refuse to push him at that level. While they've presented him with countless opportunities in the past, they pulled the rug from underneath him right as he gained momentum.
Aside from a short-lived run as World Heavyweight champion in 2013, the closest he came to achieving superstardom was when he won the main event of Survivor Series last fall, subsequently putting The Authority out of power. Unfortunately, that victory was later tarnished by their return to TV a mere six weeks later, and he hasn't been the same since.
In 2015, he's contested several solid matches with the likes of Daniel Bryan and Sheamus, but there's no denying he's lost quite a bit of steam over the past several months. His character reached an all-new low when he was paired up with Lana to feud with Rusev and Summer Rae, which resulted in some of the worst segments we've seen on WWE TV all year.
Truth be told, the "injury" he suffered at the hands of Rusev on the July 6 edition of Raw was the best thing that could have happened to him. It was confirmed (h/t PWInsider) that he's taken time off to film a new movie for WWE Studios and will be absent from programming for the foreseeable future.
After spending the first eight years of his WWE tenure as a heel, WWE finally flipped the switch with Ziggler in June 2013. It was only inevitable before he turned babyface considering the immense reaction he received upon winning the world title on the April 8 Raw.
Although he was primed to be a breakout babyface, he changed next to nothing about his gimmick and showed very little signs of character development. He was still the same old "Show-off" he had been for years and didn't do much to endear himself to the audience.
Ziggler has always worked better as a bad guy than as a conquering hero because he's naturally cocky and full of himself. However, he struggled to garner heat during his initial heel run and always needed a manager (i.e. Vickie Guerrero and AJ Lee) to help him do so because rarely did he do anything despicable.
While fans appreciate his exceptional in-ring abilities, there isn't anything about the Ziggler character that makes him likable. He was meant to be a heel, with now being a perfect time to capitalize off his waning popularity by having him turn.
Similarly, CM Punk was beloved by fans despite what side of the fence he was on, but he put forth an effort to ensure the audience hated him. Ziggler needs that extra edge to elicit the right kind of negative reaction and not play the role of "cool heel."
The bleached-blonde has been the center of controversy as of late with his WWE contract set to expire soon. Although it was noted in the aforementioned report from PWInsider that he has re-signed, it's logical to assume that he wouldn't have stuck around if he is going to be relegated to midcard purgatory for the next five years.
The last time we saw him on Raw, he was viciously attacked by Rusev and put on the shelf indefinitely. Of course, it'd make sense from a storyline standpoint to book a match between the two for SummerSlam, but WWE would be wise to drop the atrocious angle altogether.
It's clear the couple of Ziggler and Lana have zero chemistry, and their storyline has done nothing but significantly hinder their momentum. Upon his return to TV, they should be split up immediately so both can focus on other endeavors and move on to bigger and brighter things.
It's highly improbable he will reach his full potential as a babyface with so many other fan favorites higher than him on the card, but as a heel, the possibilities are endless as far as whom he can feud with. It also allows him to take his rightful place among the elite in the upper-midcard and cement his spot as a world-championship-caliber performer.
Ziggler is too talented to be wasted the way he has been, and a heel turn could be exactly what he needs to get his career back on track.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.