Dolph Ziggler has seen his fair share of high and lows throughout his decade long career in WWE. With several title runs and marquee feuds to his name, it’s hard to deny that he has become one of the most decorated superstars of the modern era.
Despite his long-standing success, Ziggler never quite reached his full potential. Occasionally he’d manage to make it into the main event scene, but unfortunately for him, it always resulted in him being second best. It’s easy to criticise Ziggler for becoming too complacent or for thinking too highly of himself, but when a guy was once the most over character in the company, it’s not difficult to empathise.
‘The Show Off’ consistently performed at the top of his game, wrestling like he had something to prove to the world. Ziggler quickly became a fan favourite, destined for championship fame. Throughout the years, Dolph competed against some of the best of the modern era, putting on some of the greatest technical matches you’ll watch this side of the 2010s. In this list, we’re going to run down his 5 best matches from his run in the mainstream. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Ziggler, but if so, what a legacy he’s left behind. A true game-changer.
5. Dolph Ziggler vs Luke Harper (TLC 2014)
In my humble opinion, one of the best Intercontinental Championship matches of the past decade. Harper and Ziggler had an undeniable chemistry that lent itself nicely to their ladder match at TLC 2014. Ziggler was riding a huge of wave of momentum following his career-saving performance at Survivor Series, and came into this match with the goal of carrying that over into the new year and that’s exactly what he did.
He and Harper made this a match to remember, leaving absolutely everything in the ring with some pretty innovative spots for a PG-era ladder match. Credit to both men for stealing the show in the curtain jerker spot, Harper and Dolph set the precedent for ladder matches going forward and proved that occasionally, WWE can still put together a classic IC title match.
4. Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan (Bragging Rights, 2010)
Prior to the hype of Ziggler’s Money in the Bank run were his numerous United States Championship reigns. During this time in mid-card limbo, Ziggler excelled in matches against Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. To single out just one of those matches is a difficult task, but none stands out more than his champion vs. champion match against Daniel Bryan at Bragging Rights.
The Bragging Rights pay-per-view was a short lived tradition that pitted the best of Raw against the best of SmackDown. This annual event saw the United States Champion and the Intercontinental Champion be given a solid 15 minute slot to put on a fantastic wrestling match. Bryan and Ziggler were the absolute best choices to do this in 2010, two budding athletes who were looking for a chance to prove themselves as future world champions. The two had instant chemistry in the ring, bringing together exciting mat wrestling with some high-flying drama.
Give this match a watch if you want to remind yourself of a time when Dolph Ziggler actually enjoyed wrestling.
3. Dolph Ziggler vs Triple H (Raw, 14/3/16)
The match that should have happened after the excellent traditional Survivor Series match in 2014. Ziggler took on the role of sole survivor against Team Authority, making himself an underdog star for the masses who wanted to see Triple H and his band of goons get their comeuppance.
In the midst of Triple H’s championship feud with Roman Reigns, Ziggler found himself chosen as the guy to give Trip a chance to shake off some ring rust. Naturally, Ziggler wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to prove to the world that he was one of the best workers on the roster. It took WWE two years to bring Ziggler and Trip together in the ring, but at this point it was way too late for them to pick up the storyline.
This match was one that could have easily been put onto a pay-per-view. It had a bit of everything that made an exciting babyface/heel dynamic, the drama was high and there were several points in the match where you stopped and actually considered the possibility of Triple H losing his WWE title. Ziggler was essentially rebooted in this match, proving to WWE that he was still a prospect worth investing in.
As the year went on, Dolph found himself involved in SmackDown Live’s first WWE Championship feud against Dean Ambrose. It was a career resurgence that all started with this match against Triple H.
2. Dolph Ziggler vs Zack Ryder (TLC 2011)
This feud really sticks out in my mind as one of my favourites. Zack Ryder built an empire of fans through his popular YouTube channel – Z True Long Island Story. As the year rolled on and the subscribers started to become more vocal, Ryder eventually found himself featured on television again. He was the true underdog hero, the original fan favourite of the modern era.
Coming from a similar background (minus the cheesy YouTube channel), Ziggler jumped on his friend’s plight and teased a feud with him through the occasional cameo. Fans were dying to see these two settle their online antics in the ring, and what better time than during one of Ziggler’s pivotal United States title runs.
The pay-off was scheduled for TLC, pitting the dominant champion against the hometown upstart. Even though this was one of Ziggler’s biggest PPV losses, there’s not enough credit that can be given to him for making Ryder look like a megastar. The match itself was incredible and should be used as a future case study on how to put together a long-term feud. For something that started completely separate from the goings on of Raw and SmackDown, it was insane to see just how invested the fans were and how it was the match that was talked about the following night.
It almost seemed like we were getting a glimpse into the future of the main event scene, seeing two young lions who were potentially on their path to the pinnacle of mainstream wrestling.
1. Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz (No Mercy 2016)
Easily the number one pick for Ziggler’s best match, his main event Intercontinental title fight against The Miz should forever be remembered as the peak of his wrestling career. After failing to capture the WWE Championship from Dean Ambrose, Ziggler quickly set his sights on The Miz and his IC title. The feud was built around the idea of restoring prestige to the age-old championship, pitting two of the most synonymous mid-carders against one another at a time where they were both performing at their best.
Ziggler and Miz always had a great chemistry, having several title feuds in the past. None were as heated as their 2016 rendition that climaxed in this title vs career match that took the main event spot over a pretty stacked WWE Championship triple threat. This match goes to show that when two performer are given ample time to create an exciting match, that’s exactly what they’ll do. Ziggler and Miz absolutely killed it.
This match, along with the rise of AJ Styles, made SmackDown Live the place to watch exciting, well-booked mainstream wrestling. Ziggler walked out of this match with what was probably his proudest IC title win, he looked like a champion worth putting your faith in.
His tag title run with Drew McIntyre aside, this match and feud was Dolph Ziggler’s swansong. Enjoy.
Have we missed out your favourite Dolph Ziggler match? Let us know in the comments below.