10 Defining Moments of Dolph Ziggler's WWE Career
I have recently decided to start a series of articles that will focus on the career-defining moments of individual wrestlers.
For every main-event star that has made their mark in the wrestling business, there are moments that, when you look back, define the directions that their career has taken.
I am talking about moments like the iconic "Austin 3:16" promo or Shawn Michaels kicking Marty Jannetty through the "Barber Shop" window, turning points in the respective careers of two icons.
The first article focused on the career of the Miz and his rise from reality-TV reject to WWE champion.
In this article, I will take you on a chronological journey through the career of our current United States champion, Dolph Ziggler.
Many have called for a main-event push for Ziggler who has come an incredibly long way since his days as Chavo Guerrero's assistant or as a cheerleader in the Spirit Squad.
It often takes two or three gimmicks before wrestlers find their niche in the WWE and despite the outlandish name given to him, Nick Nemeth has really made it work as a modern-day version of "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig.
1. Debut as Dolph Ziggler: 2008
Ziggler was never a standout performer in the Spirit Squad and a cheerleader gimmick would never have advanced him beyond the lower card.
So it must have been a relief when he was handed a new gimmick in which his natural personality could shine through more.
This was far from the finished article and his constant habit of introducing himself was more annoying than anything else, but his journey to becoming a respected WWE superstar had begun.
The fact that his in-ring debut on Raw was against the "Animal" Batista, against whom he put in a credible performance, was an early sign that creative had faith.
2. Defeating the Great Khali at the Bash: 2009
Ziggler's first real feud as a singles star was against the Great Khali and he played the classic heel role of consistently finding cheap ways to win.
He won via count-out and disqualification until finally he was put in his first pay-per-view match with Khali at the Bash.
Ziggler went over after serious interference from Kane but the fact that he had got one up on a former World champion showed that his career was on the right track.
Interestingly the despised Great Khali probably did more than anyone to help get Ziggler over in the early days.
3. Challenges Rey Mysterio for the IC Title at Two Consecutive PPVs: 2009
The first title that Ziggler challenged for in the WWE was the Intercontinental title in the summer of 2009 and, if things had gone to plan, he should have won the prestigious mid-card title.
The controversy surrounding Rey Mysterio's unwillingness to drop the belt to Ziggler still resounds today.
The reality, however, was that Ziggler came extremely close to winning the Intercontinental Championship with two big pay-per-view matches against the future Hall of Famer.
These battles resembled the classic IC title bouts of old with Ziggler and Mysterio going some way to restore the Intercontinental Championship's reputation as the "workhorse title."
His match with Rey Mysterio at SummerSlam really made the fans sit up and take notice of what he could achieve.
4. Starts Using the Sleeper Hold as a Finishing Move: 2009
Dolph Ziggler's debut of the Sleeper Hold as a finishing move gave him a credibility that he had not possessed before.
Not only was this a classic move used by legends such as Roddy Piper, this was a legitimate way of choking someone to the point of unconsciousness.
The move was put over strongly by the WWE after Ziggler first adopted it, as he was able to put both Kane and the Great Khali to sleep in consecutive weeks.
The fact that he was given multiple finishing moves as well as a submission finisher gave him an added threat as an opponent.
5. Starts a Romantic Relationship with Vickie Guerrero: 2010
Ziggler had used the valet gimmick before with Maria but she was not able to attain the heel heat that he so desperately needed.
However when the WWE paired him up with their resident heat magnet, Vickie Guerrero, there was instant chemistry.
Dolph began a romantic relationship with Vickie that has since warped into a business partnership but has still seen the most successful period of his career.
Vickie was able give him the nudge in the right direction that he needed to break into the upper mid-card and then the main-event scene.
Guerrero still plays a big part in his career but it could be argued now that he has outgrown her and it would be better for all concerned if they were to sever ties.
6. Wins the Intercontinental Title from Kofi Kingston: 2010
Almost a year after originally scheduled, Dolph Ziggler finally won the Intercontinental title, his first singles accolade in WWE.
He defeated Kofi Kingston on SmackDown to spark a feud that would last for the duration of the summer in 2010.
With Vickie by his side, Ziggler's reign as champion forced him to improve his game and he had some very memorable matches with Kingston and Kaval.
This mid-card title reign gave him valuable experience and it was at this point that comparisons started to be made between him and Curt Hennig.
He would finally drop the title back to Kingston after a respectable five-month reign, but he was about to move on to bigger and better things.
7. Steals the Show with Daniel Bryan at Bragging Rights: 2010
One of the matches that really stood out during his Intercontinental reign was an Interpromotional match against the United States champion from Raw, Daniel Bryan.
This match would go down as the best of the night and was widely considered to be one of the matches of the year.
Bryan's renown as a great in-ring worker is legendary but Ziggler showed in this match that he could keep up with the best in a show-stealing effort at Bragging Rights.
This was yet another example of Ziggler putting in a losing effort but still coming out of the match looking stronger.
8. Challenges Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship at Royal Rumble: 2011
The WWE generally uses the Royal Rumble as an opportunity to give fresh faces the chance to challenge for the two World titles.
2011 was Dolph Ziggler's chance to shine in the main event and his opponent was the World heavyweight champion, Edge.
The story was that Vickie had taken over SmackDown in Teddy Long's absence and had banned the use of the Spear in this match.
The wife of the late, great Eddie Guerrero was playing exactly the same role that she had done for Edge just a few years ago and her influence was working wonders for Ziggler.
Ziggler was not able to win the World title on this occasion but his match with Edge demonstrated that the former Spirit Squad member belonged in the main event after a highly entertaining bout.
9. Becomes the World Heavyweight Champion
One of the results of Ziggler's feud with Edge was an extremely short and controversial World Heavyweight Championship reign.
Edge's illegal use of the Spear cost him the prestigious championship and Ziggler took advantage of Vickie's biased reign as stand-in GM for Teddy Long.
But it was finally revealed that Ziggler had attacked Long in the first place and the return of the "Mack Militant" resulted in Edge regaining the title and Dolph was subsequently fired.
He later returned on Raw but he could now boast about being a former World champion to add to his list of his achievements.
10. US Title Reign and Use of Twitter and YouTube To Establish His Heel Persona
Dolph Ziggler came very close to getting lost in the shuffle on the flagship show, taking part in a throwaway WrestleMania match and using his unique look after bizarrely dying his hair.
That mistake was soon rectified and Ziggler eventually became the United States champion, making him relevant once again.
Ziggler has since challenged for the tag team championships with his partner, Jack Swagger, and the two of them represent the clientele of the WWE's heel manager, Vickie Guerrero.
Dolph pulled double duty at the Vengeance PPV and is set to do so again at the 25th annual Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden.
But it is the development of his mic skills that has really defined the latest chapter in his career.
He used appearances on Zack Ryder's YouTube show as well as his Twitter account to establish a new persona for himself.
Dolph Ziggler now refers to himself as the Show-Stealer, the Natural or the Heel which is brilliant in its originality and controversial treatment of kayfabe.
With the social media revolution currently taking place in the WWE, this recent online activity regarding his on-screen character can only mean good things for Dolph Ziggler.
In a relatively short singles career in WWE, Dolph Ziggler has made a very good impression and at the tender age of 31, he has a bright future ahead of him.
I am almost certain that his forgettable World heavyweight title reign will not be the only time he wins gold at the main-event level.
This man is constantly improving on the microphone and in the ring and could very well represent the future of the business!
Thanks for reading, and the next career-defining moments feature will be on CM Punk!
Previous Career-Defining Moments Features