Dolph Ziggler hasn’t lost his passion for wrestling since the first he entered the WWE ring. Even in 2005 when he came up to the main Roster as Nick Nemeth and part of the Spirit Squad, his confidence never wavered. Through the times even though he was a part of a group he always looked at himself as an individual identity. Fast forward to 2015 and it’s the turnaround he has been imploring for. Ziggler has shown that he has a huge support from the WWE Universe and he expects more when he steps into the ring at WrestleMania 32. He took time to talk to Fansided about his time as a cheerleader, his thoughts on the Ladder Match and a lot more.
FanSided: Looking back at your time as a Spirit Squad member, what were those experiences like for you getting your first taste of the WWE roster?
DZ: “It didn’t really progress my career but behind the scenes it really did. For about 12 months straight, being some one who was relatively new, less than a year into learning how to wrestle and the business, I got a chance to be in there with Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair almost on a nightly basis for about six months. That was a dream come true and a crash course in learning how to react and how to listen. At the end of the day, I left that year with zero credibility and back to square one, in the minors.”
FanSided: Looking back at the way you debuted on the main roster, would it be something that you would have liked to change?
DZ: “No. I’m glad I had a chance to do it. Thinking about it now, it was years before the Nicky chants ever went away. I feel like they pushed me to go I am going to make my own identity here, be awesome at wrestling, outdo everybody, and then you’re going to forget that I was a stupid cheerleader for a year. You’re going to remember that I am the guy who set the bar on how good you have to be in this ring.”
FanSided: You were a three time All-Mid-American wrestler at Kent State University. How hard was it for you to adjust from collegiate wrestling to professional wrestling?
DZ: “Well if I wasn’t a fan of professional wrestling, transitioning for most collegiate wrestlers is very difficult. If you are hurt you can’t let anyone know about it, you can’t show any emotion. You got out there as a machine to win. Luckily, since I was 5 years old I have been a fan, so I had fun with it. My whole reason for doing collegiate wrestling was just to break records in college so I would have a chance to get my foot in the door with the WWE. Since I became the all time winningest wrestler at Kent State, that was one of the reasons I got a try out. I didn’t know anything, but I was a fan and I knew there was all this showmanship and entertainment to it and I loved that part. I kind of thrive on it.”
FanSided: The WWE Universe has been very vocally supportive of you over the last year, yet the WWE hasn’t given you the push many fans expect for you to get. Does that bother you that you are very over with the audience yet management has yet to move you to that next level?
DZ: “Of course it bothers me, it pisses me off, but it also drives me to be that much better. Listen, everybody’s favorite can’t always be champion, can’t always be on top, can’t be in the main event, and can’t be in the main story of the show. But if you stick around long enough, killing it with an A+ every single night, there’s a chance you can sneak in through the cracks and break that glass and become the guy. A couple of different times I’ve been pretty close and just missed out. The reason I’m in the position I am, it’s not just hard work, it is because the fans know that if there is a tiny chance, he can pull it off and he can be our guy. They live by that every single Monday and every single Thursday and that’s what drives me to keep going. I don’t care about the money, I don’t care about the fame, I love doing this job and having the respect of the fans going ‘this one day could be our guy. One little inch and nudge in the right direction and he could be the man.’”
FanSided: There has been a sway of the way the audience reacts to heel or face wrestlers in today’s WWE. Do you think the push from management depends on if you are a good or bad guy?
DZ: “With me it doesn’t matter. Since I was trained by Lance Storm my first day, I was trained as a heel, I wrestled as a cocky bad guy, who was really good at wrestling from day one and I’ve used it all the way. For about a year now I’ve been a good guy, I’ve changed nothing, it’s just my opponents have changed a little. For the last three years of being a bad guy, I was cheered on a nightly basis because I was so good at what I dot. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s fun to be the bad guy but it’s pretty cool in this day and age to be the bad guy and you’re still getting cheered. The position that I am in it doesn’t matter. Being a guy my size, it’s a little easier to to believe that I’m getting beat up a lot, so okay, with them behind me I can take over. But I love being the bad guy, I love being the jerk and kicking everyone’s ass.”
FanSided: At WrestleMania you are participating in the Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title Match. The title has slowly becoming more and more relevant in the WWE over the last year. What does this match and this title mean to you and your career?
DZ: “I was a big fan of that white belt, I grew up loving those matches with Mr. Perfect, Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, all those guys. I loved that title, not only did it stand out, it meant that you were the next guy in next in line to be a huge star. This ladder match coming up has a bunch of hungry guys who are all one step away, one nudge in the right direction away from not only bringing prestige back to the title, making it mean what it used to, but also becoming a force in the WWE. Becoming that next top guy. This is going to define somebody’s career at WrestleMania and damnit, I hope it’s mine.”
FanSided: You did mention that the title did stand out in the past and this ladder match can rejuvenate what the history and past title holders meant. Does this give you any extra motivation to make this match something extra special?
DZ: “I don’t need the motivation for anything. I do love that the title is on the line, having it mean that much more in a ladder match where guys are going to be throwing themselves and putting their bodies on the line just to have a chance to grab at it. It’s going to mean something, hopefully one day it means to the WWE Universe, what it means to me. These guys are going to pull out all the stops. Me being the guy who has to show up and set the bar, it’s going to be hard for me to keep it up there. But I promise you, I promise you, that match everyone knows is going to steal the show. That doesn’t matter to me, I need to come out as the champion, and come out the next day and let everyone know this is where you set the bar in sports entertainment.”
FanSided: You and Daniel Bryan were teasing a possible match a few weeks back with a little Twitter banter back in forth. Was that something that would have been just as special if you weren’t included in the ladder match?
DZ: “Absolutely. I was just pissed that I wasn’t in the Royal Rumble for a long time. I was very disappointed in my performance and I know he was. I know he had his sights set on winning that match, I did too. And I went: ‘You know what? Two guys with chips on their shoulders, with the entire crowd behind them… I want to go out there and not steal the show and shake hands and be your buddy. I want to go out there and beat the living hell out of each other and show people what the real main event can mean, without the story, without everyone behind it.’ Just showing you two guys that love it and the fans love them back, will beat the hell out of each other, and someone comes out on top. And I sure as hell wasn’t going out there to lose.”
FanSided: Social Media is a big part of professional wrestling and keeps growing each and every year. Many wrestlers like to stay in character and keep it going through social media. Do you think social media should be used as another tool to keep storylines going or is it something that you look at as place you can be yourself?
DZ: “Since that fourth wall has been broken open, we know it’s entertainment, we know it’s a show, we know guys are playing characters. It’s still wresting still some people still live their life as that character. I’m someone who has a life outside, who loves to throw jokes out there. I also think when I was a kid, if there was a chance to reach out to Shawn Michaels and say ‘hell of a match’ or ‘hey Ric Flair, I’m a big fan of yours’ and two seconds later they could write something back to me, that blows my mind. There is good and there is bad. You got to be careful, people get in trouble on there because we are a publicly traded company, we are a PG company and you got to watch yourself and protect yourself. But also, any chance I can give back to these fans who have helped make my career, I do it. Also, it’s about having fun and trying out a joke, and if people aren’t going to talk about something, I’ll make sure I talk about it.”
FanSided: Comedy is kind of your forte on Twitter and your jokes get a lot positive response. When will we see a Dolph Ziggler Comedy Tour?
DZ: “Every couple of weeks I find a way to get four of five minutes on an open mic or show. Every show I’ve done, so far, has led to other shows and other bookings because not only they are surprised and say ‘oh, you’re good at it.’ I have worked at this for 20 years, I’ve been writing stuff, trying things out, running things by my writing partner, everything you can imagine. I’ve done the homework, just like in the WWE except I haven’t had the TV time comedically. Slowly but surely that’s building up. This last year has been building relationships, being able to get on shows and having a nice back and forth to were they go, ‘oh, we can trust this guy with a couple of minutes.’ This year will define where I go with it.”