I’ve been asking myself something for months now: Why do I keep watching Dolph Ziggler get his ass kicked? More recently I’ve been asking: Why do I keep watching Dolph Ziggler get his ass kicked when I know he can’t lose?
It wasn’t always this way. For a while I watched matches between Ziggler and Cesaro, Ziggler and the Miz — with one of the three typically holding the Intercontinental title — and assumed the bleach blonde was to serve as punching bag for ubermensch Cesaro and bombastic Miz and his up-and-coming usurper Mizdow. Over some months I realized I really enjoyed watching matches with the acrobatic, agile and perpetually sunburnt Ziggler; until late fall he remained a consistently entertaining mid-card contender with an impressive Intercontinental reign.
Then came the November lead-up to Survivor Series, and with it the draft for Team Cena.
Since Roman Reigns’ sudden injury before Night of Champions, I’ve suspected the Cena vs. Authority plot was a slapdash replacement for what was supposed to be a Reigns/Authority feud that lasted through Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series. (The corollary to this theory is the Ambrose-Wyatt feud would’ve begun earlier and led up to a high stakes match at Hell in a Cell, leaving Rollins to feud with Reigns, rather than Ambrose, leading up to the MainStage pay-per-view match.) Cena mutating his feud with Lesnar into a feud with the Authority wasn’t much of a stretch, assuming you ignore all facts and reality — and as always considering the WWE, you must. That’s kind of it’s shtick.
Ignoring the reality wherein John Cena makes the WWE a fortune greater than some nations’ yearly GDPs and could only be fired for doing a line of blow off a police car while stabbing a (white) child in the heart, yes, the main plot surrounding Survivor Series was compelling. Team Cena loses and they’re all fired (except, at the last minute, Cena,) or Team Authority loses and Triple H and Steph are fired from RAW forever, barring John Cena’s command to bring them back, like Lazarus from the grave. As the Team Cena of Survivor Series continues to battle Team Authority-without-the-Authority in both RAW and Smackdown main events, I’m reminded of the parable of Christ Ziggler, because it just keeps happening.
The “Dolph Ziggler as scrappy champion who just won’t quit” narrative began with his Intercontinental Championship win and was the first sign that Ziggler may be destined for something greater than mid-card purgatory. While his (and everyone but Erick Rowan’s) aligning with John Cena didn’t make sense, Ziggler became a target for joining up with Cena first.
Every week leading up to survivor series featured Ziggler being teamed up on by two, three, four men intent on (appearing to) break his spirit and bones. Curiously, Cena rarely appeared to back him up during these routs until a more robust Team Cena was assembled. Until then it was the Passion of the Show-Off; a forsaken Ziggler taking Cena’s beatings, refusing to deny he who refused to show himself and defend his only ally. Yet it wasn’t that dramatic; rather, it was a slow grind of consistent, brutal losses so efficient they restricted showcasing Ziggler’s electric ring presence. What redemption could exist for those months of unanswered defeats?
At Survivor Series Ziggler was reborn.
Once the Authority had three against one, the already outrageously battered Ziggler, it was time to check the clock — the match couldn’t be over that quickly. Ziggler’s miraculous comeback (and an out of place dues ex machina featuring Sting) to become the sole survivor and win it for Team Cena broke even the loosest WWE in-show rules of what constitutes a down-and-out beating, and it was awesome. Cena’s sacrificial lamb won the match through a blood sacrifice, and since Survivor Series has been winning that way since.
Take last Friday’s Smackdown — Ziggler began the show with a match against Luke Harper for a shot at winning back his Intercontinental title. He wins the match — but not the title — The real title match will be fought at TLC — due to a disqualifying boot to the genitals from Harper.
Perhaps it says something about the current state of the WWE that the hero of their last Pay-Per-View wins matches by essentially losing them; Dolph gets the pin in the end, but if you were to analyze his matches as you might a football game, taking into consideration factors like “time of possession” roughly equating in this case to “time spent hurting the other guy more than he’s hurting you,”) Ziggler consistently fails to spend considerably more time “winning” during a match than his opponent.
Hopefully TLC holds a Ziggler-Harper match with a definitive, crucifixion-less title win, and the start of a plot that extracts these talented characters from the epilogue of an apparently completed story arc — and with it, releasing Ziggler from his Team Cena blood pact. Maybe he can enjoy a winning streak that feels like winning for a change.