Every discussion on the biggest pops in WWE history has to include one moment.
The night after WrestleMania 29 has a moment that will forever be a part of WWE’s history. When Dolph Ziggler’s music hit and then successfully cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase, the crowd popped just as hard as when Brock Lesnar returned or Mankind won the WWE title on Raw years ago.
Ziggler won the world heavyweight title for the second time on that night and what followed was a bumpy road. His career before that night had gone as well as he could have hoped it would. He had grown from developmental wrestler, to a strong midcard act, to a budding star in the making. That night after WrestleMania should have been his coronation, but soon after that he was put out of action by a concussion.
For the rest of 2013 and into 2014, Ziggler continually put on great performances in the time he had. For him, “steal the show” was more than just a catchphrase or slogan. He proved time after time this was his way of doing things. So much so, that he was named Rolling Stone’s 2014 Superstar of the Year.
All signs were pointing up for Dolph Ziggler. At Survivor Series in 2014 he was the sole survivor in the main event. With some help from Sting, of course, but Ziggler recorded the pin on Seth Rollins. It looked like it was finally time for him to receive what he deserved and become a main eventer. Ziggler was the personification of grabbing the “brass ring” that is always talked about in WWE.
Ever since the start of 2015 Ziggler has toiled in the midcard and has struggled to remain relevant. He was involved in the worst storyline in recent memory with Rusev, Lana and Summer Rae. He had meaningless feuds with two NXT call-ups, Tyler Breeze and Baron Corbin. Not once did Ziggler phone it in or appear to be giving less than 100 percent. He has always been the best seller in WWE, and maybe that helped keep him in the position of putting people over.
Now that SmackDown Live has made Ziggler No. 1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, it seems he will be able to continue the path to greatness that he seemed destined for two years ago. SmackDown had to make a splash and make a new star with that roster, and Ziggler was the perfect candidate. Dean Ambrose may be the favorite to retain at SummerSlam, but if you did a tale of the tape and compared resumes, Ambrose should be the underdog. Ziggler is a two-time world champion, four-time Intercontinental Champion, one-time U.S. Champion and a Money in the Bank winner.
He will do whatever it takes to have a great match at SummerSlam. “The Showoff” will no doubt bring out the best in Dean Ambrose. In a warm-up match on the road to WrestleMania, Ziggler took Triple H to the limit. In a match no one believed he could win, every near fall at the end of that match was compelling. It showed that Ziggler still has all the talent that has not been utilized.
He deserves this opportunity as much as any Superstar on the roster. This new era is looking to get rid of the glass ceiling that has plagued so many talented people. Ziggler has earned the respect of the WWE Universe, now he finally has the opportunity that has been a long time coming.