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WWE: Does a Ziggler heel turn open doors for others? by Marc Madison

On Tuesday January 3rd, on the first Smackdown Live of the new year, DolphZiggler completely snapped. He said he didn’t need anyone and showed it on this evening. After his match against Baron Corbin,Ziggler completely came unhinged. Preventing what appeared to be an anticipated beat down at the hands of the Lone Wolf, long-time Corbin rival Kalisto came out to the aid of his fallen ‘friend’. What happened next couldn’t have been anticipated. Chair in hand, Kalisto warded off Corbin, but he didn’t expect to walk right into a superkick from Ziggler.Ziggler’s defeat wasn’t what appeared to set him off, but rather the support he received from someone that was supposed to be an ally.

The heel turn is something fans have long wanted to see. Whether that meant having him beat down a long time favorite or not, it is hoped that it will elevate him to a new level. With that said, it was somewhat surprising to see him take out Kalisto when a more profound impact would have been made taking out a bigger name on the roster. However, considering those bigger names are tied to other programs, this ultimately was the next best thing.

What this heel turn could possibly do is open the door to other opportunities for talent on the roster to be elevated. More importantly, it could help to elevate the likes of someone a number of fans have long wanted to see used in a more meaningful role, Apollo Crews. Crews is a perplexing case in that he has all the talent to achieve, but simply isn’t getting the air time to do so. Whether that means producers don’t have faith in him as a character isn’t certain, but he has all the tools to be a top face of the brand in years to come. However, a new feud could be on the horizon between Ziggler and Crews. On the aforementioned Smackdown Live episode, Crews confronted The Showoff when he entered the dressing room and threw things around in frustration. Crews said Kalisto is his friend, and at that point a brawl between Crews and Ziggler ensued, and they had to be pulled apart.

Fans can maybe think of a handful of matches where Crews was booked well and ultimately came out victorious. Other than his brief feud with Sheamus on Raw, can we think of anything that made us think he was going to be used for something more meaningful? Sure, there was the tease of him in the #1 contenders match and winning the battle royal, but other than that if felt as though his push had vanished. He faced The Miz for the Intercontinental title and lost, simply another booking setback for him.

Crews was simply appearing in kickoff matches, or being used to make others around him look better, when in fact he was the one that should be pushed because of his ability. With no disrespect to Curt Hawkins, Crews lost to him on Smackdown Live in what would be considered something of a squash. That is disheartening because Hawkins himself has rarely appeared on television, which is also perplexing considering the manner in which his long awaited return was promoted. We could go into a long-winded Raven-esqe whine what about him? What about Apollo Crews? However, it seems that it isn’t necessary, and the wheels are in motion to have Crews in a bigger role with the Smackdown Live brand.

The one thing that Smackdown Live has been adamant about is that they are trying to keep things fresh and looking to create new matches and feuds. This potential feud for Crews does just that. Previosuly,Corbin appeared to be sitting on the periphery until he was used in a feud with Kalisto. And during their chairs match against each other, despite putting in his best efforts and losing, Kalisto was still notable in the match. That feud helped to propel Corbin forward ,and led to what the Smackdown Live team called a ‘career defining match’ against AJ Styles and DolphZiggler.Corbin is being booked now as the young upstart that walks with confidence and is using his size to back it up.

It is interesting how two young wrestlers that have been pegged as part of the ‘new era’ both appear to be entrenched in meaningful booking and feuds tied to other key talent. When we consider that the men at the top of the roster are Styles, Cena,Ziggler The Miz and Orton, weaving younger talent such as Wyatt, Crews, Corbin and Kalisto into storylines with those top guys creates the balance that is clearly missing on Raw. We could even include Styles in the ‘new era’ of talent, despite his age, as he is clearly part of a brand push for higher calibre match ups.

The gap has needed to be bridged, as the talent pool is rich on the Smackdown Live brand. What they have essentially done is brought together the least use talent and propelled them into more prominent storylines that fans will care about. Although Ziggler’s turn isn’t the sole reason for doors being opened, it symbolizes the continued idea of opportunities being given to the entire roster. It is also a fresh outlook for Ziggler who has been viewed as the loveable loser, when he is capable of being so much more. During the earlier part of his tenure with the company, Ziggler was the heel whose brash arrogance and confidence was what fans were drawn to more than anything else.

As time passed, awareness of Ziggler’s in-ring ability was focused on by fans more than how confident and brash he was. However, fans want to see a blend of the two once again. His time as a face became stale and he was in need of revitalizing. The question had become who on the roster could Ziggler have high caliber matches against and while still remaining a face? The answer was no one. The well appeared to have run dry with whom he could face on the heel side. His feud against The Miz in 2016 was a feud of the year contender, as fans on social media outlets clamoured to see them face each other on countless occasions.

Who on the roster hadn’t been pushed yet, and used to his fullest potential on a consistent basis? Apollo Crews is at the head of that line. For anyone that had seen his work on the independent circuit, his strength and speed were an asset that clearly needed to be tapped into, and he is more than deserving of this opportunity. When he first debuted in NXT as part of the first ever NXT Takeover: Brooklyn event, the idea was that big things were set to come his way. He was big, agile, had a great look, and was strong. Fans could easily make comparisons to Bobby Lashley, Tony Atlas or Rocky Johnson with his look and ability, but only greater! That segment where he ‘stood up for his friend’ was foreshadowing of him actually standing up for himself. Why wouldn’t he in retrospect? Crews has had to sit idly while the booking has seen him look weak when anyone that see‘s him realizes he is anything but! Crews isn’t simply fighting for Kalisto, even though the storylines suggests that. He is fighting to be elevated and used to best of his ability. To be pitted against top tiered talent where he can consistently put on good to great matches.

For all the good that this feud could provide the roster, it is difficult not to have some reservations about it as well. This feud could go one of two ways. It could be Kalisto and Dolph facing off against one another until Dolph leaves the former United States champion laying, or Crews is once again softened up, as Ziggler undergoes a character metamorphosis. We are wary that Crews may in fact simply be used not for his own benefit, but Ziggler’s. The last time Ziggler was booked against someone bigger than him he was left lying. He faced the wrath of Baron Corbin and Dolph was the lamb sent to slaughter. Could Ziggler seek underhanded methods to regain his dominance? It is without question that he is capable of doing so as he kicked Corbin low during a ‘wrestling match’ within their feud. If he is looking out for himself, then it shouldn’t matter how he wins as long as he wins. In the case of Crews, if he loses clean in only a few minutes it makes having him stand up to Ziggler meaningless. It would mean that, although opportunities are given to all, they are only meant for a select few.

The trickle-down effect of Ziggler’s turn could be felt by the likes of Curt Hawkins and a returning Shelton Benjamin, who should re-emerge this year. The chain of events that can be tied to one character’s turn may be coincidental, but then maybe not. A Ziggler heel turn has appeared to work in conjunction with a Baron Corbin push, a Miz in-ring and on the mic elevation, and potentially the utilizing of both Apollo Crews and Kalisto in a greater capacity. It would be easy to question why it took as long as it did, but then maybe that was part of the plan all along. Why show your hand all at once when fans could easily be enticed to want to watch again and again to see what happens next?

To DolphZiggler, we should say thank you for being pushed as far as you could before refusing to take it anymore. More importantly than the fans thanking you, the rest of the less used talent on the roster thanks you as well.

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