Ziggler did about as well as a wrestler can do last week for going 0-2 in his two big matches. He showed fire and a real chance to win against Rusev and Randy Orton. Even though he ultimately lost to both of them, he probably came out of the week stronger than he was going into it. Scott wrote in his Smackdown review that Ziggler is at risk of being an Intercontinental Champion who loses so often that it devalues the title. I fully agree with that concern and hate to see a title with a great deal of potential devalued. On the other hand, the belt is currently positioned somewhere clearly below the top tier of the WWE main event. As long as Ziggler hangs in against guys who are positioned as main event wrestlers, he will do the title justice within the storyline.
It was hard to identify standout in-ring performances on Smackdown. The 15th Anniversary show was a fun celebration with lots of flashback highlight packages, some surprise appearances, and a really enjoyable verbal sparring match between HHH and The Rock. Most of the wrestlers, though, were stuck in a 15-man tag match (or 14-man and two little people, to be precise). That meant that there were scarce opportunities to look good in the ring. Seth Rollins got a convincing win over Kofi Kingston, but his overall performance was no better than the high standard he has set for himself this year. Ziggler took on the unenviable task of making what is basically a squash match against Rusev look competitive. Despite his size disadvantage, he came up with creative counters and moves that utilized his speed to stay in the match. He avoided the brunt of many of Rusev’s moves by sliding away from the contact. He ultimately took a superkick and submitted to The Accolade, but he managed to make a match with an obvious result appear fun and interesting.
Ziggler was even more impressive in another difficult match on Raw. He went up against Randy Orton and had to make sure both came out of the match looking strong. Despite his recent travails, Orton remains one of the top stars in WWE and can wrestle great matches under the right circumstances. With extra time and a great opponent in Ziggler, Raw was one of those situations. Orton dominated the early part of the match and gloated over his success. Ziggler eventually fought back and came extremely close to winning several times. Orton finally countered a famouser into an RKO for an impressive win. Ziggler put up such a good fight against someone clearly above him in the WWE pecking order that it once again helped his status rather than hurting it.
Outside of his two matches this week, Ziggler is in the opening phases of a program over the Intercontinental Title with Cesaro. The first stanza of their rivalry has shown that they can work together extremely well and it will be fun to see the heights they can reach if given the proper opportunity to work great matches. In the meantime, it would help Ziggler to win a match or two cleanly, even against a lesser opponent, just to get the taste out of fans’ mouths of the losses he suffered this week. Even if that does not happen, the quality of the losses and Ziggler’s consistently outstanding wrestling ability will keep everyone interested in him as long as he wrestles for WWE. It’s easy to lose track of the accomplishments of mid-card wrestlers at times, but there is no doubt that Ziggler is a crucial part of WWE’s success.