By Jeffrey Lutz
In sports, making comparisons is the foundation of every great debate. Brady and Montana. Woods and Nicklaus. Who is the next Michael Jordan?
In wrestling, it’s just as easy and enjoyable to compare current stars to legends from the past. Sometimes we can’t stop ourselves. Lately, Dolph Ziggler has been compared to several all-time greats, including Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mr. Perfect.
One name is missing from that list, however, and it might be the wrestler with whom Ziggler compares most favorably – Ric Flair. It seems to be almost taboo to say that a wrestler could be the next Ric Flair, and of course Flair has earned such reverence. But respect and admiration for Flair shouldn’t keep us from pointing out the obvious traits other performers share with him, and Ziggler has several.
My belief is that Ziggler shouldn’t be judged against the all-time greats. Not because he hasn’t earned those comparisons, but because it keeps him from making his own path. Since the comparisons to others isn’t going to end, though, there’s no reason not to see how he stacks up against the very best the business has produced, Flair.
Ziggler falls short of Flair in one area – promo ability. It’s likely that no one will ever give as good of an interview as Flair because Flair didn’t have to channel another side of his personality to give one. He lived and is still living his gimmick. He was virtually the same person on-screen as he was off of it, and that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ziggler.
I only know Ziggler from his Twitter account, and 140 characters at a time isn’t the best way to gain insight on someone’s personality. Ziggler seems laid-back, funny, and engaging. He has to toss away those traits to give a good promo, and he can do it, but it’s more work for him than it is for Flair. Ziggler has improved greatly on the microphone over the last year, and his intensity is better than ever, but he’ll never be Ric Flair on the mic. No one will.
I’m comfortable throwing out that analysis because the comparisons between Ziggler and wrestlers such as Austin, Michaels and Curt Hennig (Perfect) aren’t based on their promo skills. They’re based on in-ring style and ability, and although Ziggler can be just as good as all of them, he wrestles differently and possesses varying strengths.
Austin, even in his Stunning Steve days, was more methodical than Ziggler and owned a greater psychology. Michaels was more of a high flyer, whereas the heel Ziggler has to be more ground-based in order to quell the cheers he’s already earning. I would love to see Ziggler work as a babyface to see what elements he could add to his offense. As a heel, he mostly just works to make his opponent look good.
Then there’s Mr. Perfect. The bleached-blond hair, the cockiness, the excellent selling skills – the comparisons to Ziggler take little effort. Hennig is no Ziggler, though. Ziggler is better now than Hennig ever was. Not by a lot, but he is. Yes, Ziggler can bump with the best of them, but that seemed to be 80 percent of Hennig’s in-ring value. A lot of Ziggler’s talents seem untapped, but he’s more than just a bump guy.
That leaves Flair. If booked correctly, Ziggler could be everything Flair was – a heel who is often overmatched by babyface opponents and who ekes out narrow victories, making fans want to see him get his comeuppance that much more. Of course, Ziggler’s character isn’t a finished product. Once he stops worrying about stealing the show and starts cultivating an edge to his character that all of the most hated heels posses, his potential will be realized.
The upcoming 2013 should be The Year of Dolph. Ziggler should successfully cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and get a meaningful and lengthy run with the World Heavyweight Championship. A WWE title stint should be in his near future, too. We need to see everything Ziggler has. We need to see if he can draw money and carry the company as the champion. We need to see if we’re right or wrong for thinking he’s the industry’s next major star.
We need those things to happen so comparisons are no longer necessary. For now, that’s all we have while we wait to see how big Ziggler becomes. If we’re going to compare him to anybody, it might as well be the greatest of all-time.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lutz's Blog: In comparing Ziggler to past greats, why not go all the way?
Dec 24, 2012 - 10:07 AM
Dec 24, 2012 - 10:07 AM
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