The WWE finally took the next step with Dolph Ziggler by having him cash in to become the World Heavyweight champion on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.
But that was just one of many steps in a process that will ultimately transform “The Showoff” into one of the biggest stars in all of pro wrestling.
The next step? Let Ziggler’s career stand on its own.
Over the past several years, many fans have been wondering why Ziggler never really flies solo and have spent a lot of time preaching that he needs to in order to reach the next level. It’s easy to see why so many think that, too.
After all, Ziggler has had some sort of sidekick for almost three years now. He joined forces with Vickie Guerrero in June 2010 and stayed with her until late 2012. After they parted ways, he would immediately transition into yet another manager/wrestler relationship—this time with both AJ Lee and the debuting Big E Langston.
In other words, Ziggler hasn’t truly flown solo in a very long time, which has made many fans wonder if he ever will.
While it’s crazy to even consider the possibility that Ziggler will always have a manager, it’s even crazier to think that he’s spent so much time with a manager by his side without ever being given a substantial chance to shine on his own.
It’s not hard to understand why Ziggler was paired with a manager in the first place. Vickie is and was one of the WWE’s most hated heels, so it certainly makes sense that the WWE would want to have her help Ziggler get over as a heel.
It’s even understandable that the creative team would want to pair Ziggler with AJ Lee. Everyone hates the guy who has a hot girlfriend. As someone who brags about “stealing the show and your girlfriend,” a relationship with AJ was a natural fit.
But just because Ziggler’s pairings with both AJ and Vickie have made sense, that doesn’t make them right or necessary.
In fact, the WWE has been and continues to put Ziggler’s long-term future at risk by consistently giving him a manager. It’s begun to create this notion that—even though most of us can see that Ziggler is ready to stand on his own—we don’t really know how he’ll perform in that role because it’s been so long since he’s done so.
After all, Ziggler has never gone solo since becoming one of the best stars in the company. He’s always had someone by his side. Whether by design or default, it’s created this doubt that he’ll never be able to truly succeed by himself.
Why? Because as long as he’s associated with AJ, Langston or any other manager, he’s always going to struggle to stand out as a solo star.
This is something that has plagued many of the WWE’s superstars who have been paired with managers that become bigger parts of their characters than the superstars themselves. In turn, it’s resulted in the superstars being overshadowed by the guys who are supposed to be supplementing their characters rather than overtaking them.
Two great examples of this are Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger.
Swagger has perhaps one of the deepest characters in all of the WWE, but do people pay more attention to Swagger or his mouthpiece Zeb Colter? You could argue that Colter is, far and away, the most entertaining aspect of their pairing and seems to be the one with the brighter future.
Similarly, what allowed Alberto Del Rio to become a babyface World champion? Was it ADR himself or his friend Ricardo Rodriguez? Again, you could argue it’s Rodriguez that made ADR a babyface in the first place and that it’s Rodriguez who is truly the shining star of that duo.
While Ziggler is the one of the most talented stars in the WWE and is definitely the headliner of his group that includes AJ and Langston, the bottom line is that—like Colter does for Swagger and Rodriguez does for Del Rio—AJ and Langston will always take something away from Ziggler’s character.
Mainly, they’re taking away the spotlight that should be Ziggler’s and Ziggler’s only.
“The Showoff” has worked his tail off to get to the level he’s at today. Not to take anything away from AJ and/or Langston, but it seems like they’re just kind of along for the ride when Ziggler should be traveling alone.
As long as Ziggler is associated with either of these two, the spotlight is never truly going to be only on Ziggler, and that’s a problem. While some stars need managers at certain points of their careers, Ziggler passed that point long ago.
The longer he sticks with any sort of manager or sidekick, the longer he goes without getting the opportunity to prove that he can stay at the top of the WWE without anyone by his side.
Although there are, of course, certain benefits to Ziggler’s partnership with both AJ and Ziggler, we have to wonder if those pros outweigh the cons. Right now, they don’t.
It’s time for Ziggler to go solo. After all, he can’t have a manager forever.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!