After what felt like forever, Dolph Ziggler finally successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and pinned Alberto Del Rio last Monday to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. For a lot of fans, it felt like something that was long overdue, a reward for a worker who had been busting his tail for over 4 years in the mid-card and who had been doing a ton of jobs as of late. Seeing him finally succeed was a great feeling for a lot of fans who had felt that Dolph was not getting his due in the WWE.
While the WWE Championship may represent more flash and sizzle, the WHC has begun to garner a reputation as more of a workers belt. Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger may not be the most entertaining individuals, but they are far superior workers to The Rock and John Cena. Ziggler, in my opinion, is one of the most well-rounded performers currently lacing them up. His mic skills are impressive if underutilized, and his combination of amateur mat skills and athleticism are rarely matched on the pro-circuit. With Ziggler at the helm, Smackdown just got a lot more entertaining.
Despite his recent string of losses, the WWE has actually done a fairly good job at making Ziggler as powerful as a heel as possible. They saddled him with AJ, who is by far the most popular female in the WWE, turning her heel and aligning him with a manager-of-sorts. Big E Langston was also brought up from NXT to serve as an outside enforcer. With a strong core group surrounding him, the WWE has opened the door for a lot of different things to flow through Dolph, especially that he is champion now.
Ziggler's championship win on Raw was the most excitement I have ever felt during an episode of Raw since CM Punk's pipebomb promo almost two years ago. After what was really a lackluster Wrestlemania where the WHC match was completed swiftly and free of any real drama, the WWE hit it out of the park with Ziggler's cash in the following night.
The golden touch with Ziggler's cash in was that instead of having Ziggler quickly pin Del Rio, they made an actual match out of it. When Del Rio locked in the cross-armbreaker, it was entirely conceivable that Ziggler might actually lose the match. The WWE had booked Ziggler so bad in his matches in the past few months that of course they would have him fail to cash in the money in the bank. That extra drama made it that much sweeter when Ziggler escaped and hit the Zig-Zag on ADR to win the WHC.
In addition, the WWE made a very smart move in having Ziggler cash in on the night after Wrestlemania, when the crowd was going to be at its hottest. Ziggler getting the three count will easily be one of the five biggest pops of 2013. By having a crowd be red hot for Ziggler, it shows people watching at home that may not be sold on Dolph just how popular and important he really is.
A lot of people predict that Ziggler will soon go from being the darling of the hardcore fans to attracting a large group of detractors similar to the way CM Punk did, however Ziggler has several things going for him that Punk did not.
First, when Punk became a top-flight competitor in the WWE, he was often chasing the WWE Championship on Raw. Punk was always on Raw, getting a ton of exposure to the point that some people got sick of him and his whiny character. Ziggler is taking on a smaller role with the WHC and Smackdown than Punk did, so perhaps he will not suffer some of the same exposure problems.
Secondly, a lot of Punk "haters" detest his look as a main eventer. Part of the wonder and the weakness of Punk is that he looks like someone that could be pumping your gas at the local Exxon station. Ziggler has a more traditional look to him. Like Punk, he is not overwhelmingly large or muscular, but between his toned physique and beach blond hair, he at least looks the part.
An issue facing Ziggler down the road might be that he might become too over as a heel and he will start getting too many cheers. If that happens, the WWE may consider turning him face, especially because they are currently very desperate for faces for the future. This could lead to a situation similar to Randy Orton's, where the man himself is popular enough as a face, but his character is best suited to be a heel. Orton began to get so many cheers during the end of 2009 that he basically turned face despite not really changing his character all that much. This lead to an extended run as a face where Orton appears to be limited in his abilities, truly proving that he really is at his best as a heel.
Another issue he faces is that his run on top could be very short-lived. Like The Miz or Jack Swagger, a world title victory no longer means that you are in the main event for life. Ziggler probably has more staying power than either Swagger or the Miz, but the WWE has shown in the past that they are shaky in trusting Ziggler with anything significant. A miniscule slip-up could be enough to pull the rug from underneath Dolph's legs and revert him back to the mid-card.
Lastly, if in the next year or so Ziggler proves that he does indeed have the staying power in order to stay in the world title scene for a long time, there is still the chance that injuries could prevent him from going to the full distance. No one in wrestling currently sells as well as Ziggler does, and it has been reported and demonstrated that he is always up to take a big bump in even the most rudimentary of matches. Unfortunately, all that bump taking comes at price, and similar to Edge, Ziggler may be looking at a premature retirement. Ziggler will be 33 in July and already has a slew of matches on his odometer. When someone gets the World Title at 32, the WWE can usually count on getting about 8-10 years out of that guy as a main-event level guy. With Ziggler, they may only get 5-7 years.
Dolph Ziggler has shown that he is someone with the drive and the passion for wrestling that could make him one of the top guys in the WWE for a long time. Although he possess a great skill set and has some advantages to staying on top, there are still a lot of things that have to go right for him to secure his spot at the top of the card for years to come.