America has thing for prison. I’m not talking about the link between capitalism and the Prison Industrial Complex, or the fact that our prisons house more inmates than anything other country a few times over. I’m referring to our culture’s viewing habits. Shows like Oz, Prison Break, and recently Orange is the New Black have all received rave reviews from critics and loyal followings from respective audiences. It’s a perplexing paradox as most who watch those shows would rarely find themselves in that situation where they would facing federal jail time. I say that because one of the best wrestlers in the WWE is metaphorically doing time. A few days ago, Dolph Ziggler mentioned that he’s neither where he’d like to be, nor has he competed in the usual manner that made crowds like him. This is no surprise (we wrote about it) to most wrestling fans who understand that he’s being punished, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Ziggler said in a scripted WWE.com interview that the cream rises to the top, channeling this guy. He picked up a clean win over Dean Ambrose on Raw. Barring a defeat suffered at the hands of Daniel Bryan (one of the company’s top faces) back on the September 9th episode of Raw, Ambrose hasn’t suffered a pinfall loss in a one on one match, since becoming US Champion. Then in the Smackdown Gauntlet, he lost by countout and not pinfall. Looking at the future, let’s look at Ziggler’s punishment in a different light and examine the potential aftermath.
Fortunately, Ziggler steered clear of the punishment that befell Mr. Kennedy. After a wellness violation that ruined a potentially career-defining angle and an incident in a match that involved Randy Orton, (botched back suplex) Mr. Kennedy was released from the WWE. His release was heavily influenced by certain wrestlers, but still his punishment for his offense was the ultimate one, and he hasn’t been back in the WWE since. He’s since become a mainstay in TNA and spoken out about why he was released.
Still, hopes are that Ziggler’s punishment doesn’t resemble the one that stifled the career of Kofi Kingston. The eternally-middling character, Kofi Kingston should have been a player in either Main Event scene by now with his up-tempo wrestling style, fan-friendly gimmick, and well-rounded disposition as a wrestler. However, a key mistake may destine Kofi for endless mid-card matches and importance. After a match in 2010, with a certain wrestler, during the push that many had been waiting for Kofi was repeated shouted at and put down in a way that seemed to veer of course from the script. After doing some digging, the IWC realized that the heat was real. As a result of that episode, Kofi’s push fizzled and he hasn’t been pushed since. We can only hope that Ziggler’s punishment is transient, and that any designs on the US title are scrapped or end in an Ambrose victory so as to keep Ziggler available for a run at the WHC.
The ideal situation for Ziggler, the WWE, and the viewing public in the aftermath of the punishment is the follow the career trajectory set out by Triple H. All wrestling fans over the age of 21 know about the MSG incident, which caused Triple H to take a backseat for a number of months after he, HBK, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash all broke character at a time when such actions were anathema. Triple H was the only wrestler who could afford to suffer for kayfabe break and he did. But after he served his punishment, he was put back on the path to lasting success, being a part of the DX, ascending to leader, and then being a crucial part of the McMahon-Helmsley Era. The rest is history. Ziggler needs to be put back on the path back to stardom after finishing out whatever punishment has been metted out for him, because he’s the type of wrestler who can be the popular, memorable, go-to guy when it comes to angles, feuds, and title hunts. His charisma is conspicuous, his ring work is excellent, and the crowd loves him.
In the endless search for new stars, Ziggler was making a name for himself before he was sidelined with a concussion and then subsequently punished for something he said. But Ziggler has the deep commitment, passion for the business, and “it” factor that it takes to become a mainstay in the industry. He’s already frequently discussed as one of the best in the WWE along with Punk, Bryan, and Cesaro and in this climate wrestlers who speak their minds tend to actually gain more support from the audience. Ziggler’s post-punishment rise has a precedent, so let’s hope that the E allows him to get back on track to becoming the Main Event player that he should be.