Dolph Ziggler, one of WWE's most athletic performers, has potential in surplus.
Monday's Raw delivered two moments that we may look back on as catalysts for his jump from the heel fans love to hate to one of the company's biggest stars.
Ziggler asked for a match against John Cena at the TLC pay-per-view. He got it in the form of a ladder match with his Money in the Bank briefcase hanging over the ring.
The episode also saw The Show Off apparently break away from Vickie Guerrero.
For a moment, these two moments may get lost in the shadow of CM Punk's truncated lie detector test and The Shield's most recent actions. Eventually though, fans will remember this Raw as the night that Ziggler went it alone and found a fitting foe.
Vince McMahon coerced Vickie Guerrero into turning Ziggler vs. Cena into a ladder match with the Money in the Bank briefcase as the prize in the balance.
Ziggler approached her backstage, furious.
He not only questioned her decision, Ziggler called her a "power-hungry amateur" and seemingly ended their relationship. He and his manager/lady friend had been slowly been drifting apart and now Ziggler has all but made the split official.
Vickie's presence had taken the pressure off Ziggler to perform on the mic. Her absence will allow him to flourish.
The cougar's cloying "Excuse me!" shtick gone, Ziggler can show fans how charismatic and compelling he can be. He's been developing those attributes as host of WWE Download.
For WWE to have him part ways with Vickie is another sign that the company trusts in him.
No longer will Ziggler need a manager to speak for him. No longer will he need Vickie to generate heat for him.
The Show Off must go it alone, and TLC 2012 offers up the ultimate challenge.
A Warrior Against Whom to Prove Himself
Not only will Ziggler face WWE's most famous face at TLC 2012, he's going to enter the match with everything to lose.
His chance at a world title shot will hang above the ring as the two men fight.
WWE is making sure Ziggler looks like a deserved World Heavyweight Champion. It looks as if they are setting things up so that Ziggler can beat John Cena on his way to a championship run.
Putting Ziggler in the unenviable position of possibly losing his Money in the Bank contract will only make him look stronger.
He'll have to survive Cena's power, the impact of ladders against his flesh and somehow make it out of Brooklyn with his briefcase still in his possession.
If he does that, he'll be ready to cash in his contract and become World Heavyweight champ for real.
This scenario offers a chance for Ziggler to cement his main-event status. Few wins are more valuable to a wrestler's career today than one over Cena.
That victory, coupled with his new independence, is the latest leg of Ziggler's journey to the WWE mountaintop.
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