EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – I’m talking to Dolph Ziggler, the athlete who I consider the single best performer in WWE today, when wrestling legend-turned-author-turned-stand-up comedian Mick Foley yells out from across the room: “Hey Dolph, tell him about our show. Dolph’s going to do a set for me.”
“I’m doing my first standup routine,” Ziggler says as we meet early Friday morning inside the IZOD Center. Turns out, Ziggler will be one of the opening acts in Foley’s comedy tour next Thursday in Arizona.
“I’ve been writing material, but I’ve never performed before. I’m already so nervous,” he said.
“Dolph will wrestle in front of 75,000 people Sunday and he’ll be fine, but get him in front of 200 people and he’ll be terrified,” laughs Foley.
“I’m sweating just thinking about it,” says Ziggler. “This might be a two- or three-minute routine, we’ll see. It’s very nerve-racking. I’ve been writing for about two years now, so it’s finally time to put some of it out there for people to see.”
Until then, look for Dolph to do what he does best, and that’s wowing millions inside the ring with his array of high-flying moves mixed in with a push-up or two just so the “showoff” can live up to his well-deserved nickname.
ESPN Playbook: Look ahead one year for me. Is Dolph Ziggler in the main event of WrestleMania 30?
Dolph Ziggler: I feel like as hard as I’ve worked and as far as I’ve come, nothing has been handed to me to where it was an instant thing, so I think going from a tag match to the main event might be a stretch because I’m smart and I get this. I think next year, I’ll be in a very significant singles match that has a lot of meaning and a story behind it, then in 31, I’m in the main event of WrestleMania.
Is there resentment in the locker room that out of the three main events, four of the performers are part-timers?
Yeah, of course there is, but that’s how it goes. When somebody is getting a lot of time on TV, a lot of people will start to resent them or think they’re better. But that’s how it goes. And you know what, I hate it, I hate that part-timers have to come back in order for us to have the biggest WrestleMania there is, but it’s also smart business. The biggest movie star in the entire world just happens to have come from WWE, so who wouldn’t want to see the biggest movie star go up against the biggest WWE superstar we have, the face of the organization, the franchise? That match just has the glitz and glamour, that’s the main event and we get that. The guys who resent it 100 percent just don’t understand the business because there’s money to be made, there’s eyes to be brought to a WrestleMania. Say it was me and Daniel Bryan headlining, we’re not going to get those people who pay to see a movie star. Our job is, we get the people who pay to see Rock and John Cena, and you leave an impression that you stole the show. You do something to make them come back and see you the next day. That is my goal every time we do this, and of course, on Sunday, all those people tune in to see The Rock and Cena, but I’m going to leave them thinking I stole the show and now they have to tune in on Monday to see what I’m going to do next. That’s how I’ve been able to build my entire career. I’ve found a way to stand out and steal the show.
You’ve held the Money in the Bank briefcase longer than anyone I can remember. Do you keep anything in it when you travel? Do you ever get stopped in security because of it?
I usually have a book in there or something. [laughs] When you travel, you get a carry-on and a small bag or briefcase, so I carry that and my gear, and I need them both. I will not check either one of those, but it does cause a lot of questions in security. Everyone always wants to look inside and see it. I have had the briefcase for a very long time, and I resent that I’ve had it for so long, but perhaps on the biggest stage of them all … I think I’m the only person to ever have this contract going into WrestleMania, so we’ll see. Maybe Sunday is the day I cash this baby in.
You could end up walking out of Mania with two belts. Talk about causing a stir in security.
Yeah, then I’d have a whole new problem.
You have Fandango and Big E. Langston making their debuts, which should be interesting.
I know, and that’s pretty cool. For someone like Fandango, who wasn’t doing too much but has been around for awhile and is really good at what he does … and that’s another thing, the “You can’t wrestle!” chants are getting really loud every Monday, and not just for Cena, like they should be, but for Fandango. This guy has been busting his butt for years, and he’s good, and I think he’s going to have a great match against Chris Jericho. I didn’t see that happening a couple of weeks ago, I never could’ve guessed these two guys would be fighting each other, but it’s just so cool that they voiced their opinion, and now he’s debuting and we get to see what else he can do besides jump off the top rope. And Big E. is also debuting, but in a slightly more protected role because I’ll be out there with him. I’ve been a mentor to him, we’ve had a lot of talks, and we’ve had some strategy sessions, and he’s ready. He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever seen in the gym. He pushes crazy weight, and I think he’s someone who can throw Kane around if given the chance.
I like Big E.’s personality. He seems to be a pretty funny guy.
Yeah, and he is funny, and that’s what’s cool about WWE. Eventually you get to know these guys, not just as a performer in the ring, but as a character. Hopefully you’ll get to know more about me than just wrestling every night.
It’s crazy because on Zack Ryder’s show and on your YouTube show, you cut some pretty awesome promos, and I kept waiting for you to do the same thing on Raw, but they never let you show that side of your character.
They approached me for that show saying, “We love how entertaining you are, we love how funny you are, we love you talking on the mike, here’s a show.” And I was like, “But what about the main show? What about the five million people?” So I went out and I wanted to show them. I wanted to write the best material, I wanted to be the best at improv, and I’m going to have it be so good that if they happened to watch it once, they would hand me the mic in the ring. Just give me the chance to sink or swim. I think that’s fair.
I interviewed CM Punk earlier this week and he said he’d like to form a tag team with Brock Lesnar and take on the winner of your title match Sunday. How do you think Ziggy and Big E. would match-up against Punk and Lesnar?
Yeah, I heard about this. That would be great. First of all, that would mean that Lesnar was hanging around, and secondly, it would be great to get in the ring with those guys. I’d love to be the champs, and those guys are a little more established than Big E., but between me, Big E., and A.J., I think we could make it work. We’d be a great team and I think it would be a blast. I’d love to try it out.
You told me before how Edge was a huge influence on you and how he used to text you advice after your matches. Does he still do this?
Yeah, I’m still in contact with Lance Storm and Edge. I’m also still in contact with a bunch of guys I used to drive with like Tommy Dreamer and Christian. As we’d ride together, I’d be like: “Yell at me, fill me in with what I’m doing,” and they did and they still help me to this day. Edge will text me at least a kind word back and forth helping me out with some stuff. We got to do a couple of months, just me and him at the live events, and that was such an enormous help. One of my favorite matches of all time was me and Edge at the Rumble a couple of years ago. It was like 25 minutes, and every near fall, the crowd thought it was the end of the match. Man, what a great match. It was so fun to do.
When you were a kid, was there a match you remember that made you become a wrestling fan or made you want to become a wrestler?
As a kid, the first ever show that I went to, the main event was Harley Race versus Hulk Hogan, and it’s funny because I just saw Harley yesterday, which is really cool. It was in the Richfield Coliseum because Cleveland didn’t have an arena to have a wrestling show in, so we drove out to it, and I was hooked from that day forward. I saw the Hart Foundation versus the British Bulldogs in a cage match, and then there was Hogan and Race in the main event. I’ve been hooked since then.