411mania Interviews: Dolph Ziggler
After an award laden high school and college wrestling career, Dolph Ziggler is now in his 8th year in the professional ranks, with a WWE resume that includes stints as the Intercontinental Champion, US Champion, and the World Heavyweight Champion. He won a Money in the Bank match in July and has promised to cash in that title shot at this Sunday’s Hell in the Cell pay-per-view.
Al Norton: Is the briefcase with you at all time?
Dolph Ziggler: It actually is.
Al Norton: Are you responsible for bringing it around the country?
Dolph Ziggler: I am. It’s my carry-on when I go through the airport and when I’m not on the road it’s right next to me at my house.
Al Norton: Congratulations on a great match on Monday night; that was something.
Dolph Ziggler: Thank you. Every once in a while I get more than a two-or-three minute match and I get to go out there and do my stuff. When that happens I get congratulated for having one of the best matches of the night.
Al Norton: Not that all your opponents aren’t highly skilled but when you step in the ring with someone as talented as Daniel Bryan, can you feel the difference?
Dolph Ziggler: Yes. He’s good at what he does and I can’t fault that but, to be fair, but I pride myself at being better than everybody else at this job so when anyone steps in the ring with me, sometimes they tend to get a little bit more respect, or the crowd cares a bit more because I am out there. But yeah, he’s good. Every time we get in the ring together, it’s something people are talking about the next day. I appreciate the fact that every once in a while I get to go out there with someone who’s almost as good as me.
Al Norton: When fans hear about new programming, whether it’s a third hour of Raw or a new show like ION’s Main Event, some worry about the product getting watered down and if there will be enough material to fill all that time, but my assumption is when you guys hear about that you look at it as pure opportunity.
Dolph Ziggler: Yes, and I can’t stress that enough. I don’t know who would think watered down because the first thing I thought was, “there are 20 guys here who are sometimes on the show or not on the show at all and now they’re going to get the chance to show the world that they are great entertainers and superstars who are chomping at the bit.” And for me I think, “with an extra hour there’s no way I’m getting two minutes today, I’m going to have some time to show the world how good I am and what kind of a story I can tell out there.” I mean, an extra hour, maybe I will be able to cut a promo for the third time this year, how cool would that be.
Al Norton: Were you a big pro wrestling fan growing up?
Dolph Ziggler: When I was five year old my Dad took me to my first ever WWE live event and I was hooked. On that day I told him I wanted to be a wrestler and a month later I started wrestling at 5 years old and I’ve never stopped.
Al Norton: Do you remember any of that card?
Dolph Ziggler: There was a cage match with the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation, and the main event was Hulk Hogan versus Harley Race.
Al Norton: Who were your favorites when you were young?
Dolph Ziggler: Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan were really big with kids my age but I kind of leaned towards Rowdy Roddy Piper. I had an Uncle who would show me beta tapes of Ric Flair matches and even at the age I would try to understand the story. I could tell he was a guy who was calling the shots in the ring and out of the ring and that’s who I wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to be like him; not necessarily his style but to be able to be the guy who can go out there with anyone and have the main event match.
Al Norton: You had a very impressive high school and college career as a wrestler; at what point in there did the idea of doing this for a living go from being a dream in your mind to a serious possibility?
Dolph Ziggler: Honestly, my freshman year of high school that I was wrestling because I loved doing it and because I wanted to be a WWE superstar. Even though I was a smaller kid, no one was ever like, “good luck” with a laugh, they all thought I was a born entertainer and could do it. The better I did in high school, the more records I broke in college, it would just get me the chance to get my foot in the door. At the time Kurt Angle was doing great in WWE and I became the all-time winningest wrestler in Kent State history, and I thought, “this would be my chance.
Al Norton: I’m sure you would have preferred to stay in the WWE the whole time but are a better performer now because of the time you spent in OVW and FCW?
Dolph Ziggler: I would never say a negative thing about OVW and FCW. I had great times there, met a lot of great people. I was trained by some awesome people, too; Lance Storm was a trainer, also Rip Rogers, and even Doctor Tom Pritchard, and I loved my time there.
You learn the basics and you learn how to tell a story and everybody learns differently; I’ve always appreciated the entertainment aspect of the WWE and no matter what anyone else was doing, I always wanted to do something different, to stand out. I always wanted the match of the night, the promo of the night. I wanted to have a match that wasn’t the same as everyone else. I spent a lot of time studying old tapes, taking things from TV shows and movies, people who are famous, looking at footage and asking, “how did they make this work?” I studied entertainment, studied comedy, to see why people were getting the reactions they were getting, and I had a great time at those schools. I had nothing but great teachers but a lot of what I learned was outside the ring.
Al Norton: Who are some of your biggest influences, both on your in-ring style and also on our outside the ring work?
Dolph Ziggler: In the ring for sure Flair and Shawn Michaels. Those were the two top guys; you could tell they were dictating the pace, they were the generals in the ring. They made sure the matches were great every single time. Outside the ring I kind of lean more towards entertainment people in general. Every day I write comedy, write some jokes, and try to find ways to entertain people. Outside of the ring Flair was always the man, wearing a giant fur coat and getting out of a limo. It’s a different day and age but you always want to be the guy that can be the face of the company, be the franchise player, going to do some charity work and visit a children’s hospital but also be a movie star and do a crossover with another TV show and bring in that audience to WWE.
I’ve always thought that I’m in great shape, I look like a movie star, I’m one of the best in-ring technicians we have, and I’m hilariously entertaining on Twitter and interviews, so you name it, I can do it.
Al Norton: Who have you not wrestled that you would like to, both from the current roster and also from wresting history?
Dolph Ziggler: On the current roster there’s not too many that I haven’t been in there with. From anyone in history It’d be Shawn Michaels in an Iron Man match. It’d have to be 97-98 Shawn Michaels so he could keep up with me in the ring. It’d be us two dudes in the ring for a 60 minute Iron Man match, competing with each other to put on the best match possible.
Al Norton: You took a pretty major beating from Ryback on Wednesday’s Main Event; is there a way for you to describe how sore you are the morning after a match?
Dolph Ziggler: My back’s been hurting for five or six years now; normal wear and tear is every day. Someone like a Ryback, where you’re thrown into walls and thrown out of the ring…wow. What we do, I am trained to do, but even if everything goes right, you still get hurt a little bit, and most of the time not everything goes right. You land funny on your shoulder or your neck. There’s so many different ways to hurt yourself, which is why we tell kids to not try this, that we’ve been training for years and years and we still get hurt. It takes me a little bit longer to get out of bed every day.
Al Norton: Who would you pay to see wrestle?
Dolph Ziggler: Honestly, in the last couple of weeks, and as bitter as I am that Ryback is going right to a main event spot where I’ve been here for seven years doing better than everyone else and getting passed over once again, I’m very curious to see what’s going to happen with him. I see him right now as a draw for that pay-per-view and I could understand why they would go with him; he’s new and he’s different and I want to see what happens.
Who would I pay to see…besides myself? Kofi Kingston does a lot of very cool things in the ring, I’ve always been a fan of his work. Another guy who doesn’t get a lot of airtime but I’m a big fan of is Tyson Kidd. He’s great at what he does and he can also do a lot of high flying stuff. He goes out there to steal the show every night and I’ve got to appreciate and respect that.
Al Norton: As a wrestler who’s held titles, how much better is life on a daily basis when you’ve got a belt?
Dolph Ziggler: When you’ve got a title with you it’s a different world. You’re carrying it through the airport, you pull it out of your bag to check in, and people who don’t happen to know who you are all of a sudden start paying attention. Not only are you a champion, you are representing the WWE outside of the ring even more than usual. You’re not just one of the superstars, you’re one of the champions, and that’s a huge honor.
Al Norton: Why might someone who is more of a casual fan want to tune into the new series WWE Main Event on ION?
Dolph Ziggler: I am a wrestling fan so anytime we’ve got a new show I want to see what we’re going to do with it and this show is set up differently. It’s on Wednesdays at 8pm so it’s in prime time and it’s another opportunity to check out different superstars. The cool thing about it is the WWE is second to none to make packages and promo/sizzle reels, so they can let everyone know who your character is, and they tell a story even before you get into the ring so the audience knows it’s a main event match. They do a great tale of the tape kind of thing with the opening, too. I watched this week’s episode and before I saw myself get destroyed by Ryback I had a really good time watching all the effort they put into the production of the show and how great they made everyone look.
Al Norton: Are you going to cash in the brief case on Sunday night?
Dolph Ziggler: Normally I wouldn’t answer but I’ve made it very clear that I’m going to. Sunday, after Big Show and Sheamus beat the hell out of each other, and I don’t care which one wins – I almost hope Big Show wins since Sheamus has kicked me in the face so many damn times it’s almost stupid – but they’re going to beat the hell out of each other since they’re two of the hardest hitters in the WWE, and when they’re done that will be my time to shine. I’ll slide in that ring and since it’s not an official match until I cash in the brief case, I may beat the living hell out of one of them with the briefcase until it becomes nothing but a handle and then I’ll hand that handle to the ref, turn around, and become the World Heavyweight Champion. If I have to slide in the back door to do it, that’s what I’ll do as I’ve waited way too long to be champion.
Hell in the Cell is available on Pay-Per-View this Sunday.