WWE didn’t waste any time this week in establishing a brand new WWE World Heavyweight Championship rivalry ahead of Backlash, but for one man on the blue team, that means his day in the sun could be coming to a close if he’s not lucky.
Since SmackDown went live on Tuesday nights, Dolph Ziggler has presented us each week with a brand new aggression and intensity with both his mic skills and his ring work, which has been tweaked to further resemble that of the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
But as good as he’s been, it just wasn’t enough for the company to strap a rocket to him and light the fuse. Now, A.J. Styles is next in line to face Ziggler for the title, and in contrast to Dolph’s opportunity at SummerSlam, the majority of fans think that “The Phenomenal One” may actually be in with a shot on the first of the brand-exclusive WWE Network specials following the draft.
It actually came as a surprise to see that Styles would be facing Dean Ambrose one-on-one as opposed to a triple threat match featuring Ziggler, but despite not being afforded another championship opportunity, this moment of uncertainty could be huge for Dolph Ziggler’s career.
Okay, so a chance to claim the Holy Grail in sports entertainment is never something you want to turn down, but making Backlash a triple threat would have been the easy option for WWE.
Heck, it could still happen, but for now it’s a smart idea to keep Ziggler as far away from Styles and Ambrose as possible, because unless they swerved us entirely, Ziggler would instantly become the fall guy of the match. Following their big victories at SummerSlam – Styles against John Cena and Ambrose against Ziggler – neither of these men are really in the ideal position to get pinned clean.
They could probably bounce back well enough if they were, but the match is instantly made far more interesting with the implication that one of them is getting pinned or submitted. And let’s face it, the last thing Dolph Ziggler needs is to be included in a feud solely as background talent.
Even if he won, you want him going in there with an equal shot, not to fluke a victory and win just because the fans didn’t expect it. Instead, Ziggler needs something to hold him over until the next clear opportunity to capture the grand prize. What that is, however, is hard to decide.
With Ziggler’s last rival, Bray Wyatt, now locked into something with Randy Orton, that takes him out of the equation, and it doesn’t look like John Cena will be back for a while, because holding off for a while only serves to magnify the impact of A.J. Styles’ monumental win in Brooklyn.
The issue with having a much more condensed roster on SmackDown is that when a guy like Ziggler comes down from the main event picture, there’s not a whole lot for him to work with in terms of equally established stars. Which is why it seems WWE could end up going down the route of having Dolph Ziggler face off against The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship at Backlash.
The Miz hasn’t been the most relevant guy on WWE programming in recent years, but after his outburst towards Daniel Bryan on the latest Talking Smack, the man is the topic of all conversation. For once, a passion inside him has been sparked and he’s ready to go out there and prove that working a less reckless style in the ring is not a dishonorable way to wrestle.
The fact that he is upset about not being featured means he’s open to face the most worthy of competition, and right now, the former No. 1 contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is the only top guy on the roster without a date for Backlash.
It would be the most understandable avenue for Ziggler to go down, but in all honesty, the WWE has done the story of Dolph Ziggler as Intercontinental Champion to death. If they could devise a way to maintain Ziggler’s current level of relevance while also preserving the buzz surrounding the greatest promo of The Miz’s career, perhaps in a similar vein to how Roman Reigns handled Rusev at SummerSlam without taking the title, it would be the best option.
The Miz is just starting to get interesting, and Dolph Ziggler is in desperate need to prove that a loss at SummerSlam isn’t going to hold him back, so if the two could find a way to come up with something that benefits both parties, they could deliver an extraordinary program together.
Either way, whether it’s The Miz, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews or even the recently abandoned Erick Rowan, this is a pivotal moment for Dolph Ziggler to find a new opponent and keep the hope alive for a title reign somewhere in the near future. Otherwise, WWE will have failed once again to prove that things have changed. If a star loses a big-time contest, he doesn’t just fall off the face of the planet.
In fact, his booking going forward is actually far more important than that of the victor, and WWE needs to put the work into keeping Dolph Ziggler’s name in the conversation on Tuesday nights.