Dolph Ziggler: An entertainer at heart

Jason Merritt
With his signature peroxide hair and wrestling team mates AJ Lee and Big E Langston, Dolph Ziggler will be wowing South African audiences in this year’s WWE SA Tour coming in July. He has been a World Heavyweight, World Tag Team, Intercontinental and United States title holder, and was ranked #6 in the top 500 wrestlers in 2012 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Channel24 made a long-distance call to the States to chat to The Show-Off about the tour, titles and Justin Gabriel, SA-bred WWE wrestler.

Are you looking forward to coming to South Africa?
Got that straight, I have never been there before. Justin Gabriel is one of my favourite superstars to watch, although I haven’t been in the ring with him yet.

What can South Africans expect from the World Heavyweight Championship Match against Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo?
Well here’s the deal. Every single time I get to compete, I have this chip on my shoulder. I am very excited, not only to put on the best possible entertaining match and be a part of the best possible show that WWE offers, but to achieve my goal to go out there and steal the show, and I’ve done it every single night that I have ever wrestled. As excited as I am to be in South Africa for the very first time, to be defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio, someone who has beaten me on several different occasions, I still want to step up my game, prove to the world and prove to South Africa how good I am at this. I will not be surprised that, even as a bad guy, people will be cheering for me.

Do you think this match will bring the feud to a head or will it continue?
Honestly I don’t know. That’s one of the cool things about the WWE – you never know what’s going to happen. On Monday Night RAW I don’t know who my opponent’s going to be, I don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s what keeps the fans coming back every time. So what’s really cool about this feud per say is that I had about five weeks off due to the concussion that I suffered.

How has the recovery been from that injury?
It’s going well now. I am finally back in action and I’m medically cleared. I took several different steps to make sure I was safe and that the WWE was on top of every step of the way. I’m really looking forward to be back in the ring, I’ve been drooling to get back in the ring and prove how good I am, to go out there, get back to the fans and put on a great show.

Do you think the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) still has the interest and prestige it had with Triple H?

Honestly, no, I don’t think so. Here’s the deal. As a titleholder of a championship, you are the representatives of the company. You are the champion, you are the face of either Raw or Smackdown, and for some reason in the past couple of years the WHC has gone down in value from the fans’ standpoint and perhaps from an administrative standpoint. As we understand it the WWE Championship is the title of Monday Night Raw and that is the flagship of WWE. But my goal, every single time I’ve touched anything, I found a way to bring prestige back to something that used to be a stepping stone. To me, the WHC is one of the biggest prizes in the game of all time, because I grew up as a huge fan of it. So now, my goal is to have this become the premiere title in sports entertainment. Whether that can happen, I don’t know, but I am just getting started. I’m a couple weeks into it, and I promise if it has anything to do with me, then it will become the prize that it was.

Any predictions on the Intercontinental Championship match between Randy Orton, Justin Gabriel, Big Show and Wade Barrett?
It’s gonna be a really cool match. Man, it’s hard to go against Randy, there are so many different pointers here. Wade is an up and coming guy who has just been one step away from the next level for the last couple of years now, and I’m a big fan of his, especially his voice, I love his voice. And secondly, let’s go Big Show next. Big Show, wow, it’s hard for anybody to beat Big Show at any point, especially with three other guys in the ring. Randy Orton... The cheers and responses he gets every time he steps in the ring is amazing. And he does seem to win a lot, the RKO. But last and not least, one of my favourites, Justin Gabriel, is an up-and-coming kid who does the coolest stuff – almost a mixture of Ray Mysterio and some other Sin Carra kind of –esque. Plus, he can still give you those power kicks and things like that so, I know you’re rooting for Justin Gabriel, and I think with the crowd behind him, that totally changes everything. If this match was in Chicago, I would say Randy Orton. But in this case, there’s a chance that Justin Gabriel could bring it home.

How big a part does AJ and Big E play in your success?
Huge! I don’t win without them. And even with them I lose a lot. Those guys are great, they’re so great and they are fun to be around and the last couple of months we’ve actually really really bonded, all three of us. We travel together, and we wanted to make this work and we’ve become really close, and the closer we become outside the ring, the more in the ring we can just give each other a look and we know we are on a certain page or we know where we are going or if I am in trouble, which is just about every second of the day. By the way, while I was out, those two have gone on to do even better while I was gone. AJ is now in the Diva’s title picture for this weekend in Payback. By the time we get there she could be the Divas Champion, and honestly, bias aside, I believe she deserves to be the Diva’s Champion. And while I was out, Big E Langston was still in it, he was wearing down Alberto Del Rio for me every single week, sometimes twice a week.

Who is your wrestling hero?
Stone Cold Steve Austin, because he had a great rivalry with The Rock. As a fan growing up, every Monday night I looked forward to the glass breaking and Stone Cold coming out, whether he was in a match or just talking I didn’t care, I just wanted to see him because he was that good at what he does. And I want some day for kids to hear my music and go ‘Here we go, it’s gonna be the best part of the show’ and I think I have been working and working and working and one day we’re gonna get that.

Will you be doing any sight-seeing in South Africa?
I better be! I am not going over there just to be locked in an arena. It always depends on our schedule, the different cities and the different days. Some days me and AJ and Big E will probably have some autograph sessions and different things like that and one or two of the days we would be too busy to actually get out enough and check it out. But I will make sure that we get out there and you know what? I’ll probably hit up Justin Gabriel to see what the great spots to go to are. I have been all around the world a bunch of times, but I’ve never been to South Africa, so this is really cool for me.

Do you have a favourite quote?
This is something someone told me a long time ago. No matter what you do, whether you’re a garbage man or a business man or a wrestler or whatever, as long as you work harder than everyone else, at the end of the day you will be satisfied with what you do. And that’s what I take in, whether when I was a janitor for a few years, I worked in construction, all I wanted to do was be the best, because I have this chip on my shoulder that makes me wanna be the best at whatever I do and that’s why when I end my career, I would love to be known as the best entertainer that we ever had.

Disclaimer: Please note that this interview was done on 13 June. Since then Dolph Ziggler lost the WHC to Alberto Del Rio at WWE Payback, and AJ Lee also became the new Divas Champion.

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