On paper, Ziggler has many of the tools that would qualify someone as being an elite wrestler. He is excellent in the ring, combining solid technical and mat skills with a ton of speed and athleticism. His true calling card is bump taking, and not only does he take a lot of bumps, but he takes them so perfectly. I have watched a lot of wrestling, new and old, and I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone sell moves like Ziggler does. There is no one who makes getting the stuffing beat out of him more entertaining than Ziggler. On the microphone, he is very good, even if he is often underutilized. Some may doubt it, but look back on some of his promos where he has really been allowed to speak, and it is some of the best promos WWE has done in the last few years. Physically he isn't the biggest guy, but he is obviously in great physical shape, is a great athlete, and his amateur background more than offset what he lacks in the height department.
I didn't always feel this way about Ziggler. When he first went solo, like many of you, I wasn't enthusiastic about him. This was Nicky from the Spirit Squad, and he wasn't even the leader of that group, Kenny Dykstra was. He worked in some mid-card feuds on Smackdown and not a lot of people cared. Then he began to feud with Edge over the World Heavyweight Championship. I had tickets to the Royal Rumble in Boston that year and I was disappointed that out of all the guys Edge could have faced, it ended up being Ziggler. However, he blew me away in that match against Edge, really showcasing how he was one of the best workers in the company.
Even after that performance, I still doubted his future as a big star. Sure he was a great worker, but he didn't have any personality. Then he started appearing in Zack Ryder's web series Z! True Long Island Story and began playing the perpetrator in the feuds that took place there. He would always pop up in his "Ask the Heel" segment and cut a classic heel promo. He would eventually end up beating Zack's friend Mike Chiapetta into a comatose state to further their feud. After seeing all of that, I was all in on Ziggler, whatever he was going to do in the future I was going to support because the guy clearly had talent that what above and beyond what WWE typically required of its top talents.
Slowly, things began to come together for Ziggler. He won the MITB match, pretty much guaranteeing him a future world title run. With AJ Lee at his side now, he had a prolific run while holding onto the briefcase. He was the sole survivor at Survivor Series 2012, pinning Randy Orton to win the match for his team. He then went onto feud with John Cena, retaining his briefcase in a ladder match, getting a victory over Cena. Sure, AJ helped him win, but it was still a huge moment for him when you consider the fact that Cena was 164-14 in 2012.
His feud with Cena also marked the turning point for Ziggler as a character. He had cut good promos on Z!TLIS, but that was still only known to a limited audience. On Raw, he cut perhaps the meanest promo of 2012 on AJ Lee, then promptly beat up John Cena in a bathroom:
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