“Pinfalls from Grace” is a column I started back when I was still cutting my teeth at Bleacher Report, which isn’t a bad place at all to earn your chops, except for the don’t-seem-to-know-much-about-wrestling copy editors who wouldn’t leave my championship names capitalized. It’s wrestling convention, jerks.
The column’s my way of revisiting a wrestler’s rise in the company, his subsequent fall (or “pinfall,” haha, I’m so punny), and his outlook in the company, whether good or bad. Dolph Ziggler was actually the subject of the column’s inaugural edition, so it’s with a heavy heart that I present his latest pinfall from grace.
The Second Rise Before the Fall
My first column covered everything up to May 2012, so I’ll briefly summarize his career before then: OVW, “NICKY!”, OVW again, “Hi, I’m Dolph,” Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, match with Kofi, first sort-of world title run, relationship with Vickie, tag team with Swagger.
During the outlook part of the original column, I wrote the following about how I’d book Dolph Ziggler during the summer of 2012:
What WWE should do is either move him to SmackDown right now where he can challenge Sheamus after Alberto Del Rio has lost two or three challenges; or they should give him Money in the Bank.
A month later, Dolph Ziggler competed with Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Champion (although without an official move to SmackDown, which was becoming less of an issue around that time), and then again in a Triple Threat that also included Alberto Del Rio. So I was right on that account, although the division couldn’t shake The Mexican Aristocrat. Still can’t.
Another month into the summer, Dolph Ziggler won the SmackDown Money in the Bank Briefcase, much to the delight of the smark-heavy crowd. I was correct there, too.
However, in wrapping up my outlook for Dolph Ziggler, I might have been a bit naïve:
[The briefcase] would help keep him [relevant] up until he finally cashes in, which would finally put him over the edge and solidify him as a permanent main-eventer. That is, unless he suffers the same fate as his stablemate Jack Swagger, but let's not think about [that].
I guess I was right not wanting to think about that.
As it would turn out, Dolph Ziggler was smacked back down the card, perhaps worse than before, even after carrying the World Heavyweight Championship with riotous support across various cities.
Before Ziggler could even wear in his strap, he suffered a concussion thanks to an errant boot from, coincidentally enough, former stablemate Jack Swagger, soon thereafter dropping the title to none other than Alberto Del Rio.
All wasn’t lost for Dolph Ziggler, however, because at least he still had a follow-up feud with AJ (admittedly at the time a very over addition to the roster as a whole, not just for a Diva) and Big E Langston, which ended at SummerSlam when Ziggler and Kaitlyn gave AJ and Langston their comeuppance in a Mixed Tag Team Match.
At that point, I didn’t realize the hot water in which Dolph Ziggler would soon find himself. I was confident they’d eventually insert him back into the World Heavyweight Championship picture, that The Showoff would soon get the chance to gyrate on the stage wearing the belt Nigel McGuinness-style.
The Showoff Can’t Turn It Off
Early last month, we had just inklings of why Dolph Ziggler was suddenly losing matches to people like Antonio Cesaro (who’s suffered turbulent booking in his own right) and others who were lower on the ladder than you’d think a recent World Heavyweight Champion would be. Even Bryan Alvarez in the first (subscribers only) F4W Newsletter of September couldn’t offer much clarity:
The feeling is it stems from an interview he did around the time of SummerSlam. The problem is he did tons of interviews around SummerSlam, some big and some small, and in all of them I've checked I haven't seen anything that one would deem particularly offensive. The problem is also that with WWE and the decision-makers at the top, sometimes the things that set them off are things that a normal human being wouldn't even think twice about. But it is believed he is paying the price for something he said.
More recently, Mike Johnson of PWInsider wrote in response to a reader question:
Whether it's fair or not, he has a reputation for carrying himself with attitude backstage and that has worked against him. There is also a feeling that he doesn't "fall in line" and even when he's making appearances for the media, he has a way to stating how he feels about his place in the card, although he does so in a way that plays into the company storylines.
Similar to the recent Ryback situation (although maybe less severe), it sounds like he is simply rubbing creative and the other higher-ups the wrong way. Administration is known for tolerating a degree of rowdiness from select Superstars, such as Randy Orton with his wellness policy violations and reportedly insubordinate behavior. Even CM Punk’s proven to be somewhat of a loose cannon in social media, but that’s also how WWE’s been selling CM Punk, who’s become a tremendous asset for the company.
Dolph Ziggler, on the other hand, was an up-and-comer who didn’t have such solid ground to stand on. He could argue, as Mike Johnson mentioned in the PWInsider article, that he’s maintaining kayfabe, but if he’s still rubbing management the wrong way then clearly something is off.
Whatever the case, over the past two months Dolph Ziggler has plummeted down the ladder, losing multiple times in an inconsequential rivalry with Dean Ambrose. And this past Sunday, he was relegated to “Expert Panel” duty for Hell in a Cell, a far cry away from the adulation and gold he’d enjoyed over the summer.
Will The Showoff Ever Show Off Again?
Like millions of people, I’m a fan of Dolph Ziggler. I love the way he sells with reckless abandonment, I love his dropkick, I love his promos (at least the short-and-sweet ones), and above all else, I love when he gets the chance to deliver the goods, which he’s done on plenty of occasions with opponents like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. Just like those millions, I want Dolph Ziggler to succeed.
If we take these reports as true, Ziggler’s mouth might be getting in the way of eating his bread. The simple suggestion is that he takes his punishment, shapes up backstage and saves the attitude for the show. Ideally, management would recognize that he’s paid his debt and grant him another opportunity, assuming something shinier hasn’t already caught their eyes. We’ll know when they forgive him if they ever give him another push.
The difference between this fall from grace and his last is that I didn’t know of any reason to point fingers at Dolph. Back in 2012, he, like many mid-carders, was the victim of WrestleMania season, when lower-priority Superstars find their onscreen development derailed as creative brushes aside the non-essential storylines to make way for the Road to WrestleMania. This time, however, it’s Dolph Ziggler who’s gotten in the way of his own success. So I guess the question becomes, do I personally think Dolph Ziggler deserves another opportunity? And also, would it even be in the WWE’s best interests?
On the first question I’m less certain. Part of me wants to be a little irritated with Dolph, though at the same time it’s not like he’s the first disgruntled employee. His situation reminds me of Punk’s before the infamous Pipebomb promo, where he’s a talented wrestler (though I wouldn’t say Ziggler’s as talented) with a couple world title reigns under his belt, but still can’t manage to maintain the attention of creative, especially when it comes to the WWE Championship scene. Considering Punk’s indignation ended up advancing his career, it must conflate Ziggler’s frustration that his is being punished. Hell, maybe even pushing Punk under those terms has set the precedent – at least in Ziggler’s eyes – that insubordination can be rewarded so long as it’s backed up by quality performances, something Ziggler’s more than capable of. In that light, I can sympathize with Ziggler and think so long as he improves his attitude, he definitely deserves another chance, or at least better booking than he’s receiving now.
I’m much more confident that pushing Ziggler would be good for the company. WWE’s had too many flavors of the month over the past few years, especially when it comes to the World Heavyweight Championship division. Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger – these are just a few guys WWE’s tested the waters with before inexplicably backpedaling on their decisions. To be fair, if a guy’s not working out (as I don’t think Swagger was), it makes sense to pull the plug on his push. However, there have been plenty of guys WWE’s tried out and given up on before exhausting the performer’s limits. I’d love to have some consistency in who the WWE pushes, something they’ve done well recently in the WWE Championship division, but almost nowhere else.
Dolph Ziggler doesn’t need to be a regular in the main event scene. However, it helps the roster look stronger when there are established upper mid-carders who can be depended upon to deliver in non-title storylines or in feuds over secondary titles. Instead, the mid-card’s in a constant state of flux. It’s a division where arbitrary decisions reign, hence why so many mid-card pay-per-view matches are announced mid-show or without much development. At the very least, Ziggler could serve this role, rather than wasting his talents on the “Expert Panel.”
Let me know what you guys think about the column. In particular, I’m curious what you all thought of the journalistic style in the second section. Are reading quotes a drag? Is it good to give some media context? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Also, since I spent so much time discussing these questions myself, let me pose them to you: Do you think Ziggler deserves to be pushed again? If so, to what extent? Also, do you think it would even be in the company’s interests?
I look forward to hearing from you guys.
Nicholas LeVack is a double major in English creative writing and journalism whose interests include writing, wrestling, video games and occasional outdoorsy things. You can follow him on Twitter, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and take part in his first venture into video game journalism at doublejump.co.