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Dolph Ziggler © vs Alberto del Rio
WWE World Title Match
Dolph Ziggler and Alberto del Rio are two of the most maligned members of the WWE roster in recent years. Both of them had the potential to achieve great things in the ring, but whether it was booking, attitude problems or sheer laziness, they often didn’t quite reach the heights that they should have done. A match between the two wasn’t one that was likely to excite much interest from the fans either; a collection of matches repeated ad nauseum on television and Pay-Per-View saw to that.
However, this was possibly the ultimate time in which these two could meet and still engender some sense of fan engagement. A motivated Alberto del Rio, fresh from a fairly recent face turn, meeting a Ziggler who was in his second reign with the belt. It was del Rio that Ziggler won the gold from, cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase, which was only going to add sizzle to the steak. A legitimate concussion had kept Ziggler out of the ring for five weeks, so this had a sense of anticipation behind it. With Ricardo Rodriguez, AJ Lee and Big E Langston all in tow, the least this match promised was something watchable.
Indeed, it is odd to watch this back now and see how over Alberto is with the fans. Cheers of support are where groans of apathy ended up, whilst even Ziggler would get a lot of love from the crowd in his heel guise. The introduction from Ricardo saw many join in and the opening bell was met to duelling chants for and against the champion.
Twice in the early going, Ziggler would head to the outside to attempt to halt the initial momentum of the challenger, but he ended up down on the mat early by a headbutt that looked to target the injury that had kept the champion out for five weeks. Del Rio, rather than give his opponent a chance to recover, sensed an opportunity to try and force the pace with strikes and kicks to the head, but Ziggler fired back with a dropkick of his own. A charge into the corner was misguided though and Ziggler would be launched by del Rio over the top rope.
With both men at ringside, Big E Langston’s attempts to get involved saw him removed from ringside by the referee. The distraction at least allowed Ziggler a chance to fight back himself, bouncing del Rio’s head off of the announce table, but he entered the ring straight into another kick to the head. Indeed, del Rio was almost wrestling like the heel, targeting the head with a level of viciousness that bordered on the uncomfortable for a legitimate injury. The offense from the Mexican would even begin to draw the ire of the crowd as he sought to punish Ziggler with a suplex, only for the champion to slip out of the hold and lock on a sleeper. Unfortunately, the injury once again played into the challenger’s hands as he sent Ziggler head first into the turnbuckle to break the hold.
The fans were beginning to turn on their challenger as he continued to work over an injured Ziggler. A reverse superplex earned del Rio a two count, but it was a kick to the head whilst Ziggler was outside the ring that had the doctor checking to see if he was fine to continue. Ziggler had one last ace up his sleeve, using del Rio’s timewasting to celebrate to recuperate enough to hit the Zig Zag. This was the very definition of a false dawn. The next offensive move was a del Rio superkick to a kneeling Ziggler, losing the champion the title in the process.
It was clear that this match was booked to turn both men, and it succeeded in its purpose. Del Rio explained away his attack on Ziggler’s head by comparing it to Ziggler taking advantage of del Rio’s leg injury when cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase, but the fans had made their choice and decided to award the guts of Ziggler with their admiration and support. The two would meet many, many more times over the course of the next few years, but few had the intensity, as well as the crowd reaction, that this match had.