Not quite sure where I read it but it was brought up recently that in the wake of Daniel Bryan vacating the WWE Intercontinental Championship, loud in the chatter on who might succeed him are Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus. The Intercontinental belt has got a lot more attention from a lot better competition since the WWE World Heavyweight title unification. What we got to open WWE Payback wasn’t a title match, but don’t be surprised if it is one in the next few months.
When I started following wrestling closely again, I was weaned on Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling NOAH (I’m sure you’re surprised). In those fan scenes there’s a strong notion of paying dues when people come on the scene. If you don’t you sort of don’t deserve respect. Not a totally justified attitude coming from a fan, I get that, but it’s how it was. I’m saying all this to say that when Sheamus came onto the scene I resented him. Hotshotted to the top, I said. Who’d he ever beat? I think it took about a year and then he was one of my favorite guys on the roster. What’s important are the performances, not how long you’ve spent in the spotlight. I’m a huge fan of solid, hard-hitting heavyweight wrestling and that’s what Sheamus will deliver every night. From the get go Sheamus showed that he could battle the best and come out on top.
The complete opposite was Dolph Ziggler. Of course I liked it when guys from the indies made it up (CM Punk, Bryan), but as far as you could get a been-in-the-wars wrestler from the WWE system, Ziggler is it. Stuck it through the laughable Spirit Squad, got saddled with a ridiculous name, worked his ass off to convince people that he was the man and succeeded. On top of that his body is apparently made of rubber so everything he gets hit with looks devastating, and he’s one of the most agile and athletic wrestlers on the roster. Dolph Ziggler’s been in a lot of things I’ve enjoyed but no real classics, and perhaps that’s because he’s never had the stakes behind him. Every big match I can remember him in was mitigated somehow; his first Real World title win was immediately stripped, second came off of Money in the Bank and he never successfully defended it. I think he can get there but perhaps there’s an element that he needs to get onto before he hits that next level. Perhaps he just needs the rocket.
I haven’t watched too much of the show recently so I’m not sure how far back the issue between Sheamus and Ziggler goes, but there’s definite heat walking into this one. The clip they showed of Ziggler ekeing out a win in the Kiss Me Arse match, only to be double-crossed and humiliated by Sheamus, is really all the set-up you’ll need.
Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus
When you put Sheamus and Ziggler in the ring across from each other you know the basic story: the big bad bully’s going to try and squash the sneaky speedster. Dolph starts it off hot, though, trying to overwhelm Sheamus with offense. It doesn’t take long before Sheamus slows the pace right back down and we settle into a war of attrition. Sheamus’s wrenching headlock is a nice move, especially on someone who can be dragged around like Ziggler. Jerry Lawler suggests that Ziggler makes his fatal mistake later, but I think it was when he stops to make Sheamus kiss he arse. It’s not just that Sheamus gets crazy mad, it’s that Ziggler totally loses focus. He doesn’t try and hit Sheamus while he’s freaking out. He doesn’t do anything to capitalize. Dolph assumes at that point he’s got him beat. Sheamus then summons all his powers and hits Ziggler with a human blitzkrieg. Ziggler lands a desperate headbutt (King says the mistake’s here but Ziggler’s way done by this point) and a superkick for two. Sheamus just gets up — he just ∙ gets ∙ up — and levels Ziggler with a Brogue Kick to send him home.
Good athletic performances from both guys here and they definitely pulled out everything in their arsenals to rock their competition. However, like I said above, this was just attrition. When you strip away the differing movesets both guys had the exact same philosophy: keep on hitting him. Sheamus did a little bit of legwork early on but not enough to exploit or even really slow Ziggler down. For his part, Ziggler probably wasn’t going to have the leverage to worry a limb, but he didn’t try anything to keep Sheamus off-balance. There was no distancing, no especial dodges, no sense that he was working hard to Sheamus’s attack (like, if he knows the Brogue Kick is coming, maybe Ziggler still dodges the second one and Sheamus puts him down with something else). While the conflict between power and speed was there, it never really got built upon. Ultimately, from a strategic/tactical sense, Ziggler’s issue was that he tried to face a power guy with a frontal assault, which everything should tell you is a terrible idea. His hubris played a role and undid what might have ended up in a lucky win, but I think even without that Sheamus would have just battered him down. Should be telling that last month Ziggler just barely scratched out a win and even that got turned over.
Contrasting Dolph Ziggler against a guy like Daniel Bryan, a small guy who has achieved a lot, I think the sense of strategy is a key difference. Bryan won’t wrestle the same way against a guy who is three times his size as he would against a guy only twice his size. He’ll use his tools in order to break theirs down. I think that’s where his success as a performer comes from; he may be small but he doesn’t just fling himself wildly at his opponents. Ziggler wrestles Sheamus the exact same way he’d wrestle anyone else. He doesn’t adapt to the challenge as much as take it by the seat of his pants. That’ll give you a lot of great, gutsy performances, but it will never make you a top flight competitor. No one’s denying Ziggler’s athleticism, least of all me. However, to hit that next level I think Ziggler needs to figure out how a warrior like Sheamus can actually be defeated. As for Sheamus, I think he shows a lot of adaptability. If he needs to he can hit a high speed, but most of all, he constantly evolves his weaponry. I can’t lie that it’s a bit easier for a power wrestler who can usually count on having a strength advantage. That doesn’t mean Ziggler ought to slack in his thinking. Ziggler needs to show that he’s not just gutsy, he’s smart enough to overcome whatever he lacks in size.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a roller coaster, this will probably do you. However there’s no glue to hold it together and really make it strong.
Final Thought: Dolph Ziggler should give Mike Mondo a call. This is in no way a dig at Ziggler. Mondo’s legitimately one of the most inventive guys I’ve seen as far as changing his matches up.