Dolph Ziggler competed in the main event of the last pay-per-view of 2012, and if WWE officials are smart, he’ll continue to headline in 2013.
In recent years, the WWE has elevated a number of superstars to the status of PPV-headliner, such as CM Punk, Ryback, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan.
Some of those major pushes—like those of Punk and Bryan—happened more organically, a direct result of the fans’ desire to see those guys succeed.
In the cases of Ryback, Sheamus and Del Rio, however, their pushes weren’t quite as organic. Whether or not we wanted to buy into them as top stars, the WWE was going to shove them down our throats until we did.
While all three are great performers who deserve to be top guys, they didn’t have the natural elevation that many others have had.
Guys like Dolph Ziggler.
Since debuting back in 2008, Ziggler has slowly risen to his current position as one of the WWE’s top heels, and he did so despite the odds being stacked against him.
You look at a guy like Ryback, and it was clear that the WWE immediately got behind him because of his impressive physique and his “Feed me more” catchphrase that has become a favorite of the crowd.
In the case of someone like Sheamus, he randomly turned face, and then someone somewhere in the WWE wanted him to succeed so much that he was booked to be the most dominant superstar in the company over the last year-plus.
It didn’t happen that easily for Ziggler.
He’s been around under the Ziggler character for five years now, and he’s had to scratch and claw his way to his current position in the company. He didn’t debut, instantly get a massive push and immediately find himself winning World titles.
No, it took a while for the WWE to see his talents and get behind him with a major push.
He started off by winning the Intercontinental Championship, worked random main event PPV matches here and there (at the 2011 and 2012 Royal Rumbles), won the US title and then won the Money in the Bank match.
As you can see, that’s a slow and deliberate step-by-step process, taking Ziggler from one level to the next rather than instantly catapulting him to the main event scene.
Ziggler has worked his tail off along each of those steps, both to get himself over and to evolve into one of the top in-ring performers in the entire company.
His incredible in-ring skills are what’s gotten him to his current position on the card, but it’s his constantly developing promo abilities that are going to keep him there.
And make no mistake about it, headlining at the top of the card is exactly where Ziggler belongs.
He didn’t get there because he’s 6’5” and 280 pounds. He didn’t get there because he’s got a great catchphrase. He didn’t get there because he’s a pet project of someone in the company.
Ziggler got to where he’s at today, the main event picture, because of all the hard work he’s put in over the years.
Of all the superstars to rise to the World title or main event scene over the last several years, only a few of those did so despite not having the look or size of your prototypical WWE main eventer.
Bryan did it, Punk did it and Ziggler looks poised to be the next World champion who worked his way up the ranks over time to reach the pinnacle of the WWE.
It’s a true testament to Ziggler’s incredible work ethic, which doesn’t always matter as much as it should in the WWE and is often overshadowed by size and favoritism.
But in a world where giants usually reign supreme, the 6'0" tall Ziggler has shown that not every top WWE star has to look like a monster and/or be booked like a superhero.
Sometimes, hard work truly does pay off, and a superstar can succeed in the WWE based on his skills and his ability to improve those skills so much that he can’t help but be noticed.
Ziggler didn’t get noticed because someone in the WWE loved him or because he was a larger-than-life figure. He got himself noticed by evolving into a main event level star over time.
And as a hard worker who just so happens to also be incredibly talented, no one deserves to headline in 2013 more than “The Showoff.”
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!