Dolph Ziggler: Will This Be His Time in WWE? – by Mike Sanchez

I’ve sometimes neglected Smackdown Live when writing on this site, but over the last month or so, I’ve begun to take more notice of the blue brand. I used to prefer it in years gone by purely due to the shorter run time and the story-lines that played out well with a smaller roster. Although Raw has been improving (with the wonderful Braun Strowman, Elias etc.) one simply cannot ignore the bright points on Smackdown such as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Rusev and now a returning (and hopefully rejuvenated) Dolph Ziggler.

I’ve always liked Dolph and his persona. He’s rarely deviated from his character, once he’d dropped the cheerleader gimmick – remember the Spirit Squad? He’s been a mainstay on WWE TV for a good while now and can be confidently classed as a veteran in the business, even at the young(ish) age of 37. His accolades include United States Champion (twice), Intercontinental Champion (five times), World Heavyweight Champion (twice) and even a Tag Title as part of the afore-mentioned Spirit Squad. To say he hasn’t had a successful career would be doing him an injustice, so why do I hope this latest push will be the pinnacle of his time in wrestling?

To put it bluntly, I think Dolph has suffered from a combination of bad booking and terrible luck in WWE. To give you an example, do you recall his first capture of the WWE Heavyweight Championship? February 18th, 2011? No? Well, allow me to remind you. He was awarded the vacant title by then Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero. He then promptly had it taken from him in an impromptu match with Edge. The Rated R Superstar would then hold the belt for almost two months. Some title reign, eh?

I rarely ‘mark out’ for wrestling anymore and I hate that. I want WWE to surprise me and make me excited and one of the few times I genuinely marked out was when Dolph won his second WWE Heavyweight Championship. You’ll probably remember he came out on a Raw (after Wrestlemania) show and cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase against a stricken Alberto Del Rio. The pop that greeted his entrance took the roof off the building. The subsequent cash in was also no mere formality, as Del Rio didn’t roll over and for a moment we believed Dolph was going to tap out of his title opportunity. I still class that moment as one of my favorites in WWE.

With Dolph top of the wrestling pyramid, I fully expected a lengthy run because he really gave off the desire to be the best and also, as he stated in a brief promo after the match “It was about damn time”. Unfortunately, in the next few weeks, Dolph suffered a concussion when an innocuous kick in a match managed to strike him firmly in the head. The resulting diagnosis was to keep Dolph out of the ring for the foreseeable future while he recovered and whatever momentum he was building at the time was quickly extinguished. Dolph would drop the title back to Del Rio at Payback, 69 days after his win.

Since then, Dolph has been on the periphery of any sort of title opportunity, especially in the main events. I felt bad for the guy at that time because all that effort and hard work he’d put in up to that point was undone by an injury that wasn’t his fault, so any plans management had for his title run must’ve been derailed and thoughts switched to the previous champ going forward. Unfortunately, Dolph wouldn’t see an opportunity like that again for a good while. So where does my renewed sense of optimism come in? Why now do I believe this could be his time?

I don’t think it’s escaped many WWE fans’ notice that of late that the company seems to be placing its faith in the older or more experienced talent on the roster. Both AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar are 40 years old. Bobby Roode, the current United States Champion, is also 40. The Miz is a younger 37, while the tag champs are around his age too; The Usos are 33, Cesaro is 37 and Sheamus is 40. From that, it’s fair to say that although WWE may have a conveyor belt of young talent coming through NXT onto the main roster, anyone in their twenties isn’t going to get a look in on a major title. Is that because they don’t have faith in their younger talent, or is it purely down to the current age of the most popular stars on their books, and the talent that they have? That’s not to say WWE have a fixation on older performers in favor of young talent. It’s not as if they’re pushing Stephanie McMahon in favor of the Women’s Div… oh. Let’s forget I said that.

It’s here where Dolph should fit in and become a bankable asset for WWE. His last reign saw him capture the title aged 33, the time before that, he was 31. Looking at the ages of those above, he doesn’t fit. Now that he’s 37, more experienced, a great worker and reportedly re-signed with the company, perhaps now will be Dolph’s time once more. He’s one of the best sellers I’ve seen in a wrestling ring, he’s an intense guy who can talk well and is a consistent performer. Perhaps he was given his first title win too early, or more likely, it was part of a grander story. His second win should’ve been the beginning of something great, but was cut short. Perhaps now is time for Dolph to climb the mountain one more time. Perhaps now WWE management will want to push him up the card. Perhaps, just perhaps it’ll be about damn time, again.