Photo Credit: WWE.com

So, Here’s The Thing About Dolph Ziggler

by Jameel Raeburn (@MeelzTV on Twitter)

I don’t hate Dolph Ziggler, I really don’t.

I understand that’s somewhat of an insincere way to start a piece, and you can probably assume that I’m going to be really critical of him (which I am), but I truly don’t hate him. My wrestling-related hate is reserved for the never-ending battles between Sheamus and Randy Orton, distraction finishes, and soul-draining three-hour RAWs that make me question my priorities in life. Dolph Ziggler, despite my criticism of him (and I’m sure in spite of criticism by others), is still insanely athletic, an above average in-ring talent, and has reached the stage of his career where he can pull pay per-view quality matches on any televised program he’s featured on. With that said, his promos and wrestling persona have grown more and more groan-inducing as he continues within this stage of his career.

Last week WWE’s YouTube Channel uploaded a “RAW Fallout” backstage interview with Dolph Ziggler in regards to his loss against the League of Nations and his controversial tweets aimed at The Authority (watch here). Before I even clicked the thumbnail, I had a feeling of what kind of promo it would be. Ten seconds into letting the clip play, my suspicions were confirmed and I promptly asked myself “Why?”

Not why to myself for playing this clip (even though Ziggler’s promos have made me audibly groan over the last couple of years), but why does he continue to do this? Granted, it’s a passionate promo. It’s passionate because he’s passionate. But why is it the same “passioned promo” every night? Whether it’s RAW, Smackdown, Superstars, Main Event or maybe even on the Network, why does he believe that once the camera light turns red, THIS is what needs to happen and he does THIS EVERY SINGLE NIGHT TO ENTERTAIN and HE’LL ALWAYS CONTINUE FIGHTING FOR THE GUYS IN THE BACK. The volume of his voice fluctuates throughout the clip and at one point he’s screaming at the top of his lungs (maybe less of a scream and more of an exclaim). It’s clear he believes that he’s good and every night it’s a fight to convince the higher ups that he’s the guy that deserves to be on top. I still ask, “why?”

Admittedly, I championed Ziggler at the turn of the decade. Not so much when he was the “handsome, arrogant, muscular” heel (like the other Randy Orton genotypes that emerged during WWE’s aught years), but when he won Money in the Bank. When he was putting on great matches without the goal to “entertain”, but because he was a wrestler who knew that in order to be the best he had to beat the best. When he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, we all lost our shit because we were invested in him finally achieving his goal. Unfortunately, shortly after he was sidelined by a concussion and now the narrative of his career surrounds him never receiving the opportunity to become great again.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

It bothers me so much because it feels as if there’s little context for the passion. It’s just there. It bothers me that he will cut the same promo the night of winning the World Heavyweight Championship as he will after a chump loss against The League of Nations. It bothers me that for the last five years, even transitioning from the heel scumbag who sleazed it up with women (Vickie Guerrero, AJ Lee) for status to the crowd sympathizing with his grit & determination upon becoming champion and pushing the company’s hand to turn him face, his character hasn’t matured. In a sense, he’s still a disgruntled-yet-entitled talent who believes that he should be at the top because he puts on good matches and isn’t afraid to tell you so.

Considering everything, maybe he deserves to be where he’s at. Stephanie McMahon echoed my sentiments on Monday Night RAW last week during an in-ring segment with a direct, scathing line telling Ziggler, “You’re good, but not that good.” WithSpandex writer David D has also been critical of Ziggler, calling him “a guy who thinks he’s 5x better at anything he does than he actually is.” While Daniel Bryan’s storyline with The Authority stemmed from them calling him a B+ player at best (when clearly he was A+), maybe it’s really Ziggler who personifies the B+ player. Even Shawn Michaels, who Ziggler has borrowed inspiration from in some aspects, was critical of him on The Stone Cold Podcast:

“The only thing I worry about is, like a Ziggler who goes a little too far into my pattern. People compared me to Flair; but, as soon as I heard comparisons to Flair I went off the radar and did something of my own. One thing I’d encourage these guys to do is to let people influence you to the point where they make that comparison in the beginning; but, then you need to set yourself apart. The only problem I see with this generation is they continue to go down ….like I saw Dolph Ziggler and I said, ‘Thank you man. Every Monday night my Twitter numbers go up because I can count on you to remind everyone of me.’ He’s a nice kid; but, for his career stand point now is the time to differentiate yourself.”

I don’t hate Dolph Ziggler. I just want something new and something more from him at this point of his career. He’s still tremendously talented, but my idea of being entertained isn’t someone telling me that they’re the best at entertaining me. Last Monday night Dolph Ziggler proved that he can stand toe to toe in the ring with a veteran like Triple H, but he still hasn’t obtained the sympathy that you have to to through to be truly embraced. It’s more than simply being the antithesis of the antagonist, it’s about providing depth as a character through a variety of emotions to allow personal investment from the audience.

I challenge Dolph Ziggler to challenge himself. Forget stealing the show, steal the scene and give people a reason to chant your name forever.

If you’re a lovable mark like me, want the best for Dolph Ziggler, like what you’ve read, or want more wrestling-related writing. Please click on the little Recommend heart. Thank you!

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