Quite often when I put together these PPV Spotlights I talk about a match that I think will prove to be a quality show. Usually it’s a pairing that on paper looks like the competitors will mesh really well, sometimes it’s the passion within the story that could bring something special out of the bell to bell action. It can even be a match that I think has flown under the radar and could surprise people. But it’s rare that I can talk about the potential of a match and have as much concrete evidence to support that as I can this time round.
That’s because I’m writing about the always-reliable Dolph Ziggler defending his Intercontinental Championship against WWE’s MVP of 2018 so far, Seth Rollins.
The roll that Rollins has been on is incredible by WWE’s standards. He has almost single-handedly proven that if WWE lets their talent shine in the ring, they can prove their worth to everyone watching. He hasn’t been involved in these intricate stories, it’s pure and simply been about competing for a championship.
The key is that he’s been given time. Rollins’ story isn’t one of personal grudges, it’s that he always found a way to make it through gruelling matches and come out on top. He’s been given time to tell that story within matches, and that kept adding up when he kept defending the title. By the time he lost, he was way more over than when he won the championship (and he was already over), but at the same time it almost felt like it had been a long time coming. It was just a match too far for Rollins.
Something just clicked for Rollins about this time last year when he reunited with Dean Ambrose. I don’t know if it was a confidence issue after he suffered two knee injuries that threatened to keep him out of successive Wrestlemanias. I don’t know if it was just him trying to work out how to connect as a face after so long as a heel with The Shield and The Authority. But whatever it was, he has reached another level in the last year, peaking to this point with his Intercontinental Title run.
And then he lost the title.
Dolph Ziggler is someone who for the last few years has never quite seemed to get the fans on board – whether that was their support as a face or vice versa as a heel. Going back a few years the fans were all in with him, but aside from a couple of months towards the end of 2016 (appropriately once again when he was feuding over the IC strap against The Miz) he has cooled off massively. He has always been capable, putting on some really good matches with the likes of AJ Styles.
Even with he was paired with Drew McIntyre in the aftermath of Wrestlemania this year, it took a while for them to get going. They were there, but not really a focus point. And then Ziggler won the Intercontinental Championship after answering Rollins’ weekly open challenge.
But now the duo has a real chance to build momentum. With the work The Miz and Rollins have done for the Intercontinental Title, there’s a prestige around it that Ziggler can capitalise on. Boasting the belt, and with McIntyre by his side, there’s no reason for the Show Off to lose the title anytime soon – and he can absolutely take over the mantle of having great matches all the time. If there’s one thing that you can depend on Ziggler for, it’s his performance level in the ring.
Maybe the only surprise is that it was Ziggler who won the title and not McIntyre. Vince is reportedly a big fan of McIntyre, and with him having only just returned to the main roster he arguably would have needed the boost more. Certainly if you’re looking long term, it feels unlikely that Ziggler is going to move past this point again any time soon, whereas it could have been a stepping stone for McIntyre to reach main event level.
So with the Scotsman being the bodyguard type figure with the higher potential, it is inevitable that questions are going to be asked about when he will split away from Ziggler. Knowing WWE, it could be literally any time from tonight. But I really hope that, if that’s where this story is going, that WWE can hold off until Wrestlemania.
It would be a story a year in the making. McIntyre would be able to claim that Ziggler used him. Ziggler would be able to take credit for bringing McIntyre back to prominence on Raw and making him relevant again. McIntyre could retort by saying the only reason Ziggler is finally getting his singles Wrestlemania match is because of McIntyre. There’s too much of an in-built natural long term storyline here to waste it on a B-PPV like Extreme Rules.
Plus, if they really do look at McIntyre as having a big upside, then it’s the smart thing to do. On Raw, he’s behind Reigns, Lashley, Balor, Strowman, Kevin Owens and even Seth Rollins in the pecking order. He’s not going to be at a main event level before Wrestlemania, especially with Brock Lesnar being the absent champion for now.
So putting him in this storyline with Ziggler until Mania would keep him occupied without being hurt, and also give him a landmark singles title win on the biggest show of the year.
As for Rollins, you have to believe that the only reason to take the IC Title off him with the run he was on would be to push him to bigger and better things. With the likelihood of Lesnar finally losing the Universal Championship fairly soon, Raw will need title contenders. Rollins has the most momentum out of anyone on the roster, so he would be right up there in the mix.
Personally, I would have Rollins dethrone Lesnar. But the way WWE has been going lately it’s probably still going to be Roman Reigns. Whoever becomes the new champion though, it feels like a lock that Rollins is going to be in the upper echelon of Monday Night Raw.
Bringing things back to the match tonight, I harken back to a phrase I used earlier – the key is that Ziggler and Rollins will get time. Based on how their last two matches went, it should really only be decided by a single fall, if there even is that. But with McIntyre on the outside, you never know how things are going to pan out.
Maybe McIntyre will get involved early, giving Rollins a fall but delivering more damage to allow Ziggler to break out in front. Maybe he’s saved until the very end, with the scores level to get Rollins disqualified and help Ziggler win through nefarious means. I’d be surprised if McIntyre doesn’t get involved, but considering how good Ziggler and Rollins are it shouldn’t take away from the quality of the match.
In fact, if the story is told right, this could be the best match you will see from WWE’s main roster this year.