Listen to Dolph Ziggler

Wrestling news spreaders have been speculating that after giving some “candid” interviews, Dolph Ziggler has gotten himself into the bad books of WWE management.

That statement is full of disclaimers because we will never know for sure if he is being punished, and if so, if it’s because of the interviews, or if the company would even consider his interviews overly candid. What we fans might interpret as punishment might simply be the whims of WWE Creative.

Fact: his stock has fallen. Not even the sparkly-trunked ass wiggle can rescue Dolph’s lone entrances these days, especially when they’re not televised. His win column, his briefcase-holdin’ hand, and his waist are all empty. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I have to admit that these are lean times for the Show Off. If Dolph Ziggler is even giving the illusion of speaking off the record, we need to listen, and here is why.

He's Always On

Dolph is like a Charm-bot who only operates in Bullshit Mode. He’s slick. He looks like a walking pick-up line, always smirking with some empty banter at the ready. He is confident, and he is also unapologetically insincere.

The Show-Off gimmick is a double-edged sword. It gets him noticed, but it’s very one-dimensional. He’s got a big smile but it’s hard to care about him when he’s always joking. On the rare occasion that he takes a serious tone, it’s like the Night At The Roxbury record scratches to a halt. Suddenly the smarmy curtain is pulled back just enough to see that there’s a regular person behind it. That’s what intrigues me. 

One of the interviews that may have come under scrutiny happened mid-August: Arda Ocal spoke to Dolph during a WWE 2K14 video game press event. Dolph starts off with his usual schtick, implying that he lives the same lifestyle as a young Ric Flair, and making references to crude jokes. It’s almost as if Ocal disarmed him by asking him about comedy first, and not wrestling. When he does press Dolph about his recent re-positioning on the card, Ziggler says that not being in the main event “keeps [him] awake at night”. He doesn’t cock his eyebrow or call anyone babe, and he’s got my attention.

He’s Been Censored

Dolph has been accompanied by a spokesperson or at least a distraction for the better part of his time in WWE. First Maria, then Vickie Guerrero, then AJ and Big E. That initial strength in numbers was a smart strategy. Not only does it have a visual impact, but it also protects wrestlers who may not be ready to lone-wolf it on the microphone.

But perhaps Dolph should have ditched the posse sooner. He has spent years earning the fans’ respect for his work in the ring, but he hasn’t had much opportunity to develop his personality. He is always with a sidekick, and never the Miss Elizabeth type who prefers to fret silently in the shadows. It’s not that Dolph has even had to compete with anyone for mic time, it’s that very little wit has been required of him.

“Show… OFF.”

“Show? Off.”

“SHOW! OFF!”

He has it mastered. For someone who makes it his business to execute such sweet standing drop kicks, and idolizes improv comedians, Ziggler’s promos have mystified me. He comes off as witty on twitter and on YouTube, but on SmackDown he’s just a wink and a tagline. I’m not the only one who’s noticed, and I was happy to hear Arda Ocal express his desire to see Dolph’s YouTube-style promos on WWE TV. “You and me both,” said Dolph, without a moment of hesitation. He said it so quickly and so gravely that you just know it’s another thing keeping Ziggler awake at night.

He’s Proven

How many Pay-Per-View shows has Dolph opened? Sometimes he’s even wrestled twice. That’s just how damn good he is, because they trust him to ignite the crowd AND consistently perform at a high level. Ziggler has worked incredibly hard to become a good wrestler, and in my mind, that gives him a lot of credibility when he’s talking about the business. Once the bell rings, he’s much more than a one-dimensional gimmick. When he decides to drop that infomercial voice - or perhaps more tellingly, when his emotions betray him into doing so – he really knows what he’s talking about.

I don’t want to review all of the goofy shit that Dolph has suffered through in his efforts to be recognized as a legit wrestler (ironic given his impressive amateur record). But once he got past the hazing process, he proved himself to be a resilient, reliable performer. To further build his credibility, he counts Lance Storm as one of his trainers. Lance is not only a respected ring technician, but he is also a no-bull kind of guy. His stamp of approval carries a lot of weight, because he uses it so sparingly.

In that same interview, Dolph tells Arda that “you find your spot and make it yours”. He’s made reactionary wrestling his spot, and no one bumps like Dolph Ziggler. He seems to be a people pleaser, and make the best of whatever he’s being asked to do. After years of showing off, and looking good by virtue of making his opponents look good, I wonder if his patience is wearing thin.

If you ask people what the best moment was from WrestleMania 29, most will say, “When Dolph Ziggler cashed in the next night on RAW”. The guy with essentially a two-word promo held the entire arena in the palm of his hand. Everyone wanted him – a heel, no less - to win it so badly, because of his passion and his skill. Credit also to the company for building the anticipation to a frenzied climax, but it was Dolph who had to convince everyone that he was worthy.

He’s Not Wrong

Yes, it was a total momentum-killer when Ziggler suffered a concussion shortly thereafter. These things happen, and thankfully due diligence was taken to protect him, instead of rushing him back for the sake of the story. Did the fickle hand of Vince McMahon pluck Dolph’s title away? Did the next sparkly item divert Vince’s attention, in one Daniel Bryan? At the 2K14 panel, Ziggler makes a thinly-veiled reference to Bryan being the new chosen one. He pretends to understand, because that’s showbiz, kid.

We know WWE isn’t an ensemble cast, but a hierarchy of stars, wannabes and has-beens. Dolph is not interested in being anything but a star, and his recent relegation to mixed tag matches and story-less losses have left fans baffled. If we’re confused, imagine how he feels. I’d say all things considered, he is being quite restrained in the media. We’ve all turned into Pipe Bomb Chasers, hoping to witness the next disgruntled rant so that we’ll have something to talk about.

I wouldn’t say that Dolph Ziggler is attention whoring or publicly airing his grievances. He has gotten this far by activating Schmooze Sequence and wrestling his heart out. He’s maturing as a sports entertainer, and finding his voice in challenging times. This is a guy who once had a match with a broom. Then they had a re-match. Now it’s his turn to enjoy some well-earned main event glory. He deems it “unfortunate” that his current role requires being a selfless leader to the new talent. I agree with him. It’s wasted time for a man who so recently stole the show. Maybe it’s not the wisest move politically to express your disappointment to the media, but Dolph is right.

Because he so rarely lets his guard down. Because he made a terrible gimmick not matter once he got in the ring. Because he’s got a point. We need to listen.

----------------------------------------

Am I being a conspiracy theorist? Should we be worried about Dolph? Should we care? Please comment on all things Dolph (or not Dolph!) using our neat-o comment system. You can follow me on twitter @kickyhick and send me email at heatherhickey@live.ca. I had a really fun night at RAW in Toronto this week, which I spoke about on the Briggs Brothers’ Sharpshooter podcast right here on TJRWrestling. I’m really looking forward to another dose of wrestling this weekend at Night of Champions.

Here is the interview (which may or may not contain damning evidence!) with Arda Ocal, who you should also follow on twitter @arda_ocal and facebook (where he has a Vine posted of Ziggler’s re-match with the broom).