Dolph Ziggler has managed to survive twelve grueling years in the WWE — fourteen when including his stint as a member of the Spirit Squad. To say that his booking over the years has gone through a series of highs and lows would be an understatement. Last year, he challenged Kofi Kingston for the WWE championship at Super Showdown that was fueled by his impassioned “It should have been me!” promo. Now, he’s facing a tag-team wrestler in the middle of a bizarre love-triangle storyline with Mandy Rose at WrestleMania.
While Ziggler getting a match this low down the card may be beneath him, it’s still going to be a huge milestone in his career. The milestone? It’s Dolph Ziggler’s first singles match at WrestleMania. The man who will go in the record books as a multi-time World Heavyweight Champion — and probable WWE Hall of Famer — had to wait twelve years for his WrestleMania singles debut.
This isn’t to say that he’s had a bad resume at WrestleMania, per se. He’s competed in several multi-man ladder matches, mixed-tag team matches, and Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royals, but that’s it for him. The only match he’s won at WWE’s biggest event of the year was at WrestleMania XXVIII, as a member of Team Johnny in the John Laurinaitis vs. Teddy Long twelve man tag team match.
One WrestleMania singles match that he probably should have had was one that was never formally placed on the card. On the night after WrestleMania 29, Ziggler finally cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Alberto Del Rio and won the World Heavyweight Championship. The RAW crowd roared for the fan-favorite finally getting his moment, but it would have even better if he had cashed in the night before at WrestleMania. The crowd had even been booing and chanting for Ziggler to cash-in after Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger’s lackluster title match at Metlife stadium. While in the long run, it was the right choice because it set up the shock of Seth Rollins cashing in during the main event of WrestleMania 31 two years later, it still robbed Ziggler of the chance to get his first big WrestleMania moment.
When he finally became World Heavyweight champion in 2013, it looked like Ziggler was ready for the main event spotlight. He briefly won the World Heavyweight Champion in 2011 in a fluke, but this was his first real World Title reign.
But then he got concussed and had to sit for a few weeks. And then he lost the belt in a double-turn at the next Pay-Per-View because the WWE recognized that he was too popular with the crowd to be a heel and made him into a sympathetic babyface. It would’ve worked if that face turn had pushed him into the main event picture, but it didn’t.
Ziggler has had occasional moments in the sun, like being the sole survivor in the Team Cena vs. Team Authority match in the main event of the 2014 Survivor Series Pay-Per-View, or challenging Dean Ambrose for the WWE title at SummerSlam 2016. But he’s been mostly stuck in mid-card Hell ever since his last world title reign.
Ziggler might be yet another victim of the same curse that hamstrung Mr. Perfect and Owen Hart’s careers: he’s just too good at selling. His masterful ability to take bumps might have extended his career, but it’s also made him more valuable as enhancement talent than as a box-office draw. His longevity and accomplishments should be enough to land him in the WWE Hall of Fame someday, but it’s likely he’ll always be viewed as a big ‘What if?’
Dolph Ziggler is a perfect example of a great wrestler who couldn’t quite manage to claim the brass ring in WWE and needed to go elsewhere to really thrive. Unfortunately, there was no AEW for him to jump ship to during his prime and Ziggler has been stubbornly loyal to the WWE despite the little they’ve done for him. While it’s likely too late for him to become a main eventer in WWE now that he’s nearing the age of forty, it’s still possible for him to achieve greater success if he were ever to leave for AEW. After all, Jon Moxley revitalized his career and shot to the top of the card in AEW after stagnating in the mid-card in WWE, and Chris Jericho is thriving as AEW’s top Heel in his early fifties.
But for now, he’s set to wrestle Otis one-on-one in his ninth WrestleMania match. Considering what Ziggler’s career could have been, it’s kind of disappointing he’s found himself relegated this type of goofy lower card match at WrestleMania. But, the fact that he’s finally getting a singles match at all is still a big deal for Ziggler, regardless of the opponent or the storyline.
Dolph Ziggler's WrestleMania match with Otis will be the first singles match of his WrestleMania career. It sums up how WWE has treated him.