I missed most of Raw this week. It was mostly intentional but I turned it on in time to see the aftermath of the Brock Lesnar/CM Punk confrontation. I immediately started texting my friend Erik, asking him to please tell me why my favorite wrestler (person) in the world was bleeding.
Once I calmed down, I was happy to see that I hadn’t missed the match between Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston that had been scheduled. Even though Dolph lost after Kaitlyn and AJ Lee distracted him (they came brawling through the ring, giving Big E the opening to set up his Big Ending finisher), I realized how happy I was just to have 3 of the 4 wrestlers onscreen.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is my love letter to Dolph Ziggler, the man who should be king of the WWE right now. And I’ll include Big E and AJ by extension.
Dolph Ziggler should be the WWE Champion.
Not the World Heavyweight Champ, not the Intercontinental, not a Tag Team champ. The WWE Champion.
I’ve attempted to chronicle my love for all things Zig in other articles but none have done him justice. And as time has passed and I’ve become a weekly watcher of WWE again, my memory is slipping. So while I can’t remember the exact first time I saw Dolph onscreen, let’s journey back to a time when he was toiling in the midcard. Well, at least unnoticed back then.
I’d say it was 2009 at least the first time I paid attention to Dolph Ziggler in a match and it was probably due to Vickie Guerrero screaming her head off. Even though she’s easily one of the most annoying characters in wrestling history, I have a lot of respect for Vickie for the work she’s put in since Eddie’s death. But Dolph was routinely losing matches or winning dirty thanks to Vickie somehow and it hurt his character. It also didn’t help that he had little to no mic skills. So while he won the IC Title in 2010 and the World Title (for 11+ minutes) in 2011, he was no closer to being a true WWE Superstar.
By mid-2011, things were changing. CM Punk dropped his pipebomb promo in June and WWE Creative seemed to let the reigns go a little bit. Out of this, Dolph found his voice once he won his first US Title. He had a mini feud with Raw Guest Host Hugh Jackman (who was pro Zack Ryder that night) but more importantly, he and Ryder started a long feud that they spent months curating. If they weren’t facing off in non-title and tag team matches on TV, Ziggler was “hacking” into Ryder’s weekly Z! Long Island True Story YouTube show. He lost the US Belt to Ryder in December but received multiple WWE Title shots against Punk. In the 2012 Royal Rumble, he turned in a memorable 19+ minute performance. It was during this Rumble that I began to notice something for sure:
“Dolph sure does take some ridiculous bumps.”
He followed this performance with February’s Elimination Chamber where he escaped with multiple minor injuries after a few more ridiculous spots. Even though I was happy to see Punk retain the Belt, Dolph had gotten over with me. Like Punk had with his brashness a few months before, Dolph Ziggler had truly earned my respect.
Ziggler got to lay low for a few months before receiving a World Title shot against Sheamus in June. Even though he lost, this led directly to his winning the blue Money In The Bank briefcase a few weeks later. Finally, Dolph Ziggler was getting a fair shot at a prime position in the company. Chris Jericho even put him over by dropping a career threatening match to him the night after SummerSlam. But the true co-sign that he was on the precipice of greatness came from our boy John Cena. His fall/early winter feud with Cena led to his retaining the MITB briefcase and started his partnership with newcomer Big E Langston and his relationship with resident crazy Diva AJ.1
Moving away from Ziggy’s climb to the top, AJ Lee’s body of work since WrestleMania XXVIII cannot be ignored. She went disgraced ex-girlfriend of Daniel Bryan to Raw GM in a matter of 3 months. But more importantly for business, AJ is the most popular Diva the WWE has seen since…I don’t know, I would guess since Mickie James left? While Kelly Kelly and Eve were great to look at and Beth Phoenix provided the wrestling I like to see out of the Divas division, they never felt popular with fans to me. She’s nowhere near a Trish or Lita or Sable or Torrie or Stacy but for the current product, she’s over with the fans.
It amuses me that WWE pushed this Total Divas show through E! without including AJ. While The Bellas are the resident hottest Divas, the idea of not including AJ and expanding the fan base further is just…well, asinine.
And for months, the only knock I had against AJ was that apparently, she wasn’t cut out for actual wrestling, since she rarely got a chance to. Her current reign with the Divas Championship changed all of my perceptions there. While she still isn’t wrestling a lot (the Divas slots are going to the Divas that are on the E! show…go figure.), her feud with Kaitlyn has been one of the best Divas storylines since Kharma was coming out and wrecking the whole division for fun. In the matches AJ does have, she has shown solid skills and has held her own well. And not only has it been good for AJ’s character, it’s also given Kaitlyn some much needed shine that she had been lacking since winning the Divas Title from a departing Eve in January.
The real star of the Dolph/AJ union has to be Big E Langston. When he debuted in WWE by taking out John Cena for Ziggler, I thought he was just another huge muscle head that Vince was in love with. But much to my surprise, Langston has shown range. He’s delivered in multiple backstage segments, sold his “crush” on Kaitlyn to perfection in June (which led to AJ’s win at Payback), and showed his in-ring prowess in a series of five great matches with Alberto Del Rio while Dolph was out with a concussion. And did I mention that he held the NXT Championship for 5 months?
So why is Dolph Ziggler the man who should be the WWE Champion? He’s earned it. The crowd went nuts when he cashed in on Del Rio in April and remember, Dolph was the heel; ADR was the face. If it wasn’t for his concussion, he might still be World Champion. Now it looks as though Sandow (or Cody) are being groomed for a future cash in. The fact is, Dolph is one of the few homegrown Superstars that WWE has. Our boy Cena was homegrown but his time was 8 years ago. ADR is always a stop-gap Champion, always holding the Belt until someone better is scheduled to have it. Sheamus’ gimmick has put Creative in a hole and his labrum tear will have any plans for him shelved for 4 to 6 months. Punk held the Title for 434 (wonderful) days but he was the indie darling that nobody (meaning me) paid attention to until he was t h i s close to leaving the WWE in June 2011. And WWE Creative seems like they’re trusting Randy again enough to give him the red MITB briefcase but unless a heel turn is in his future, I don’t see a long reign for him with all the momentum Daniel Bryan has. That being said, Dolph Ziggler needs to be the WWE Champ and it has to be soon. If he doesn’t get some form of run with the Belt before January, I don’t know what I’ll do. Any other company would give Ziggy their #1 Title in a heartbeat. And if the WWE wants to shake their image of always going back to the older talent (Hi RVD!), they need a major move like this to shut up the naysayers. I don’t care if he gets it as a heel or a face; just make him the WWE Champ. He has the in-ring skills, the mic skills, the character, the total package.
I’d like to see Creative string the AJ/Kaitlyn feud out for as long as they can. After Raw, it looks like Layla is set for a heel turn and while she and AJ might not form a new Lay-Cool, a strong heel Diva is nothing to sneeze at. Hopefully, Natalya’s upped profile from Total Divas will allow her to factor into the Divas Title down the road as well. And yes, at this rate Kaitlyn will regain the Title from AJ again, unless they’re planning to give her some time off. But all the stories that could be told before that point would be fun to see. Plus, I really don’t think they should stick AJ back in the crazy girlfriend/crazy ex-girlfriend role; she and Big E can go around torturing people for a few more months and I’d be fine with it. Just make sure she gets to wrestle a bit more and is still involving herself with the Divas Belt when she can.
As for Mr. Langston, give him the cursed IC Title and let him bring some respectability back to it. It was great that Curtis Axel got it but all his momentum has been shut down by the Punk/Brock/Paul Heyman feud. Keep him a heel, have him win it thanks to AJ’s interference, and then give him a nice, long, meaningful reign with the belt. And I like the idea of him and Dolph always having problems. It could be a slow burning feud where they leave each other alone for a month or so, then they cost each other a few matches, then they have some matches, but nothing gets resolved. Hell (Vince will like this), you could even set Big E for being a potential main Belt champion himself this way.
Now that I’ve gotten those spiels out of the way, in reality, I don’t see Dolph getting the WWE Champion co-sign until next year. Daniel Bryan has been on fire (I’ve said this before) and he’s getting his first WWE Title shot in a year at SummerSlam. Randy has the red MITB briefcase and could cash in on a triumphant Cena or Bryan; but there has to be a heel turn somewhere. No way that Creative will allow three faces to have a feud going into the fall. At best, expect Bryan to win, Randy to cash in, and then a triple threat match at Night of Champions.
King Dolph will probably be stuck in the midcard for the rest of the year but I wouldn’t mind him taking the US Title off of Dean Ambrose. Hopefully AJ and Big E will remain a duo because we really don’t need to see her in another relationship. She’s earned the right to be single. But if it were up to me, Ziggler would be WWE Champion by Survivor Series.
Early SummerSlam predictions:
Bryan over Cena; Randy cashes in successfully
Lesnar over Punk (Man, it hurts to write that.)
Christian over ADR (placeholder champion remember?)
Sandow over Cody (really needs the briefcase stipulation)
Bray Wyatt over Kane
Ziggler & Kaitlyn over AJ & Big E
- Ziggler also turned in a 49 minute, 47 second performance in this year’s Rumble. ↩