2013 should prove to be a huge year with WWE for Dolph Ziggler, an up-and-down 2012 now behind him.
It was a year of transition, of growth and of Ziggler nearing ever closer to superstardom. Vickie Guerrero's uber-athletic love interest ventured away from her, Money in the Bank briefcase in hand, to, perhaps, a World Heavyweight Championship reign and a spot atop WWE's hierarchy.
He ditched Guerrero in favor of AJ Lee, an upgrade that's like switching from a Huffy to a Harley Davidson. He ended the year entangled in a feud with John Cena.
Though he lost a number of times against Cena, that feud should prove to serve as a springboard for Ziggler.
His performances in those matches made him look every bit the part of a main-event star. It also birthed one of Ziggler's most compelling verbal performances yet.
A knock on Ziggler has been that he's a great athlete, but not interesting enough in terms of talking to be a top star. That verbal disemboweling of Lee proved that, with the right story, Ziggler can handle his business on the mic.
Being the host of the WWE Download show displayed a funny, charming side of The Show Off. He won't replace Daniel Tosh anytime soon, but he proved he certainly has enough of comic timing to earn a top spot.
Before Ziggler and Cena's feud began, before Ziggler's big Money in the Bank win, he had to shed both Guerrero and Jack Swagger.
Much of the first half of Ziggler's 2012 was about his dissolving relationship with Guerrero as well as tag team partner and fellow Guerrero client, Swagger.
Ziggler and Swagger
Losses created tension and ultimately broke up this pairing of former United States champs.
Ziggler and Swagger challenged for the tag team titles in a triple-threat match against Primo and Epico and Kofi Kingston and R-Truth on the Feb. 27 episode of Raw. Epico scored the pin on Swagger after a backstabber. Ziggler then suffered a chokeslam from Kane on top of that.
2012 teemed with losses for Ziggler and Swagger.
They lost to Kingston and R-Truth at Over the Limit in a fun, well-worked match. On April 9, they lost to the team of Santino Marella and Brodus Clay.
Ziggler made the most of this bout, making it as entertaining as possible with his over-the-top selling. Ziggler took the loss, courtesy of a big splash from Clay.
At WrestleMania 28, as part of Team Johnny, Ziggler and Swagger did get a relatively big win by defeating Team Teddy. The win gave John Laurinaitis control over both Raw and SmackDown. The highlight of the action had to be how fantastic Ziggler made Zack Ryder's monkey flip look.
If anything, Ziggler's talent of making other guys look good by reacting so dramatically to their moves makes him the ideal loser. It must make it tempting for WWE to position him as prey for much of his career.
On June 18, Ziggler and Swagger fought on Raw. Their bickering led to fighting which led to their split. Swagger went one way, to jobber status and an exit from WWE and Ziggler began his ascent.
Perhaps, WWE thought it best for Ziggler to suffer more losses than the Cleveland Browns before climbing up the proverbial mountain top.
For Ziggler, 2012 was marked with plenty of time on his back at WWE's pay-per-views.
He began the year with a knee to the face at the Royal Rumble. CM Punk beat Ziggler and retained the WWE title in the process.
In the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, Chris Jericho eliminated Ziggler early on. The Show Off would go on to rack up losses against Brodus Clay at Extreme Rules, Sheamus at No Way Out and Randy Orton at Night of Champions.
Alberto Del Rio's concussion gave Ziggler the shot at Sheamus' World Heavyweight Championship.
Aside from Clay, Ziggler's pay-per-view defeats were against big stars and champions in some cases. He was certainly in the upper-card mix, but not booked as good enough to get many victories.
Mr. Money in the Bank
Ziggler pushed aside Christian and wrapped his hands around the swinging briefcase to win the Money in the Bank ladder match and earn a nearly assured world title reign.
He tried to cash in that same night on Sheamus, only to have Alberto Del Rio get in his way.
Championship denial would be the running theme for Ziggler for much of the year. He tried to cash in again in December on Raw, this time on The Big Show, but John Cena denied him the chance. Ziggler failed again on SmackDown.
The longer Ziggler has to wait before he actually cashes in only adds emotion to that eventual moment.
The Money in the Bank contract was also used as a means to raise the stakes of his matches.
He twice put it on the line in 2012, once against Chris Jericho on Raw and later against John Cena at TLC 2012.
Both wins were among Ziggler's biggest moments.
Jericho had his WWE contract on the line. The loss sent him out of WWE (for now) and back on the road with his band. The win over Cena capped a thrilling match and gave Ziggler the look of a legitimate championship threat.
Ziggler took Cena's best, and though he did get an assist from Lee, came out the victor against WWE's biggest star.
Other Big Wins
In a Fatal 4-Way on Raw in June, Ziggler beat out Jack Swagger, Christian and The Great Khali for a shot at the World Heavyweight title. He also had a victory over Randy Orton on Raw and superkicked Orton cold to earn the win for his team at Survivor Series.
With Orton's impressive previous showings at Survivor Series, Ziggler pinning him means even more.
Should Ziggler win the world title in 2013 or should he become a major player for WWE down the road, we will likely look back on 2012 and most remember these wins, his claiming of Money in the Bank briefcase and a big stage in his transformation.
Ziggler has already gone from Nicky of the Spirit Squad to the heel whom fans love to cheer. 2012 was about him soaring upward, turbulence be damned, to see just how high his ceiling is.
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