Interview: Dolph Ziggler, former WWE Heavyweight Champion

Interview: Dolph Ziggler, former WWE Heavyweight Champion

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LOS ANGELES, January 28, 2014 — Former two-time World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler has been wrestling since 2004. While known as a Bad Guy or Heel, Ziggler has managed gain a huge fan base. Back in December, Dolph Ziggler spoke to Gorilla Position regarding his career as a professional wrestler.

James Ryan: How old were you when you knew you wanted to pursue professional wrestling as a career?

Dolph Ziggler: Honestly the first time was five years old. I went to my first ever WWE live event, and I was hooked. I asked my dad if I could wrestle. It was something I really wanted to do in high school. I felt if I can keep getting better at wrestling and break some records in high school and college, then I have my chance to get my foot in the door, and that’s exactly what happened.

JR: Who were some of your favorite wrestlers when you were growing up?

DZ: Ric Flair. Shawn Michaels. Mr. Perfect. Just a few of my favorites off the top of my head.

JR: Jump into the Delorean, go back in time, if you could wrestle any one of those or someone else in their prime, who would you wrestle?

DZ: ‘96 or ’97 Shawn Michaels, for sure. I feel like both of us going sixty minutes, trying to outdo each other would be the greatest match I could ever possibly imagine in my brain.

JR: Do you think the Internet would explode if that happened?

DZ: I don’t know if that’s the Internet exploding match, but that is the “Good Luck Ever Topping that Match with Anything Ever.”

JR: Is there anyone in the past you would want as a tag partner?

DZ: I think it would have been cool to have been in the Horsemen and tagging with Flair or Arn Anderson. Rotate in with those guys. Living that lifestyle and traveling around being in there would be one of the coolest things that could ever be.

JR: Speaking of Arn Anderson, what legends, either the ones who worked backstage or you’ve encountered, have imparted the most wisdom on you?

DZ: Absolutely Arn. He’s taken a liking to me because of my work ethic. I’m the guy who doesn’t necessarily win all the time, always out there giving a great match, [and] making someone else look better. He crushed for so many years like that, so I feel like he relates to me sometimes. He pulls me aside and gives me a lot of pointers. [WWE Hall of Famer] Pat Paterson is another one. Guys who are so good and so smart with the business, loving the business, and [when] they see someone else loving it, they try to pass on their wisdom.

JR: Let’s talk cashing in your Money in the Bank title shot. You win the title, get a concussion, and your push is basically derailed.

DZ: I’m sitting at home with a pounding headache, and I’m thinking I’m going to lose this one opportunity that I was basically never supposed to have. Then slowly over the next two or three weeks, my headaches weren’t going away, and then I’m, “Wow, let’s put that on the back burner, I need to see if I can ever wrestle again.” At week three, [still] a consistent 24-hour headache, I may never be able to get in to the ring again. If I do, I don’t know if I could fall down, be as crisp as I was, and I’m nervous about hitting my head or anything like that. Luckily, very slowly but surely, everything came back into order. I picked up right where I left off, and unfortunately the title was very shortly out of my hands. Even though you love this business, it doesn’t always love you back. It’s always about timing, [and] that was my one shot to prove to the world that I could actually be a Heavyweight Champion.

JR: Creatively, do you enjoy being a Face or a Heel more?

DZ: No joke, my opponents have changed, a different side of the roster is now my opponents, but I haven’t changed one bit. I love to feel the crowd out there, go off them, base it out there, change things on the fly, and I call the shots out there, because I’m good at what I do. Nothing’s really changed that much, I’ve had a lot more experience as a bad guy. I did it for eight straight years. I feel like I’m a little more comfortable in that role. I’m still watching tape back, and seeing myself not in the best position where I should be [during matches]. There’s always tiny things that you need to hone and refine.

JR: Speaking of heel, specifically “#HEEL”, did you think that hashtag would ever skyrocket on Twitter like it did?

DZ: Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool. When you can sometimes use a little bit of [Pro-Wrestling] lingo and break that fourth wall, where we can actually let the fans know what’s going on, on the internet one way or another to add some fun things to actually embrace the term that we use. I actually first learned about that term when I watched my favorite movie, Fletch, where he said it during the country club scene. Nevertheless, the fact that I use it all the time, and I’m a good guy now, it still goes along with my attitude and my behavior. I still am a bad guy, it’s just you’re laughing with me now, not so much anymore that I’m laughing at you.

JR: You seem to have a lot fun with your Twitter account. Do you consider yourself a poster boy for the WWE social media, or do you consider yourself to be someone who marches to the beat of his own drum?

DZ: I’m going have to say I’m not really a poster boy for them. There are a lot of things the WWE is involved with social media, and there’s always something going. I don’t just go, “Hey, guys, we’re selling DVDs, come check it out, here’s where you can buy.” I’m going tweet some fun jokes, maybe pull out of something topical, something along the lines of a late night show humor. Make my own jokes, and then go, “By the way, you think that was funny, then check out the 5o Funniest Things in” It’s so much fun that way when you’re not selling people. You’re having them enjoy themselves and they want to be a part of it. I love doing it in my own brand of humor. 99% of the people who are following me probably have no idea what I’m talking about. That makes me feel good. I like smart. I like witty. I don’t go for the bottom common denominator where everyone can retweet me. I don’t care about that crap. I like to challenge myself to be funny in a PG-esque way.

JR: What do you do in your spare time when you’re not wrestling or traveling to the next event?

DZ: I’m usually in my back yard, sitting in my pool, writing comedy material. Writing and reading are two of my favorite things. If I watch anything on TV, [it’s] some Adult Swim cartoons and Comedy Central. Studying other comedians to see how they do it, and how I can apply my own comedic material. I’m constantly trying to make my character better, find a way to evolve, and constantly push the envelope and make other people try to catch up to me.

JR: How many times have you been on stage for stand-up comedy thus far?

DZ: Stage, doing stand-up comedy, only three or four times. I did a couple open mics on my own, and anytime I have more than 36 hours at home, which is very rare, no joke. On those weird [rare] weekends where I have two days or three days off, I’ll take a quick flight over to LA and run over to a couple of open mics. I have a couple of friends in comedy so they can sneak me in on a real show where I can do like five or six minutes.

JR: How does stand-up compare to performing wrestling in front of thousand people and doing a stand-up in front of maybe a hundred people if you are lucky?

DZ: My first ever match that I had in front of a crowd of 50 people, it was scary as hell. I was sitting there, it was a tag match, waiting to get tagged in, going, “Oh my god, don’t screw up, oh my god, don’t screw up!” With WrestleMania, I was in front of 75-80 thousand people, I was laughing, having a time of time, being so comfortable and relaxed. When you’re having fun out there, they’re [the fans] having fun. So compared to doing the WrestleMania match, and then in front of 70 people I was like, “Okay pull the mic off, don’t drop it, okay relax.” It was scary, and once I said the first line, probably the longest second went by, and then I heard some laughter. Then I went, ‘Ok, ok, we can do this’, and then it started rolling.

JR: I have heard you talk about Fletch numerous times. Is that your favorite movie?

DZ: Yeah. It’s up there with other couple of Chevy Chase movies. The Vacation movies. Caddyshack is another great one. I’m rereading, for the fifth time, the original Fletch book. I enjoy how he’s quick on the fly and witty, but still saves the day. That’s how I’d like to see myself as.

JR: I know you’ve been cast in Max Landis’ film, “Me, Him, and Her”.

DZ: Oh yeah, I stopped by the set [recently], and talked to Max. He’s is a buddy of mine. He loves wrestling, and he’s got a great mind. Whenever I’m in LA, we try and hang out for an hour or two. He’s making an incredible movie and he’s really gifted.

JR: Obviously his father is John Landis. Is that kind of a mind trip? He did Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Trading Places, Coming to America, and this is his son that you’re working with now.

DZ: Honestly, that part is good. I don’t even think about it anymore, but when I first met him, “Holy cow! Everything that your dad has done is amazing!” Now I see where he gets it from. He can explain my trials and tribulations as a character better than I can. It blows my mind. That’s how good he is.

JR: Who’s a better kisser, AJ or Vicky?

DZ: Vicky has more experience, but to be fair, I did kiss AJ way more. So, when it comes down to it, I’m going to give the nod to experience. Vicky still gives me the eye when I see her back stage. You know what I mean?

JR: I read in your bio that you are actually fluent in American Sign Language.

DZ: I used to be fluent in American Language. I took six semesters in Kent State, and loved it. I had great teachers, made a lot of deaf friends, and it was such a blast to be able to use it. I wasn’t great in Spanish, and I feel like it just happened to work. I started using it all the time and was progressing really well. It was a lot of fun to be in that community. I’m a little out of practice, but it’s really cool to do at a signing somewhere or at the [WWE Fan] Axxess, and there are some deaf fans. They don’t have to write something down, they don’t have to gesture, and we can just sign. It’s kind of a cool moment when we can do that.

JR: Can you do a little bit for me right now?

DZ: Yeah…I just did the last two questions and answers. You missed it.

JR: Your choice, this is the hardest question I’m probably going to ask you all day long: A Heavyweight Championship run in the not too distant future OR a night on the town, and maybe a promise of more, with Britney Spears?

DZ: [laughs] In this day and age, where I can be somebody without the World Title, lose almost all the time, yet go out there and put on great shows, still have the respect of my co-workers and fans, and since I already ‘had’ the World Title run… I’m going to have to go with me and Brit on the town. We’ll have a good time, do a little dancing. We won’t even bring up her music. We’ll get to that later, there’s plenty of time for that. I feel like, me and her, we might just be soul mates, you never know.

JR: What is your end game with wrestling? Do you see yourself going into entertainment?

DZ: Absolutely. I feel like I have too much fun and too much to offer in different areas. I’m not just a good guy at wrestling, or good at talking, or good at falling down, or good at being in shape. I’m all of those things. I was very lucky enough to be part of the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in LA, the night before SummerSlam this year. I got to be a part of their Tournament of Nerds, as a judge. When you get that [feeling], you know, ‘Wow, if they can do this, I can do this.’ It drives you to want to be better. So there are a million options out there for me. I’ve made a lot of really cool, fun connections through comedy and through wrestling, and I think, one day there are several more things to come after this.

JR: In your current theme, there’s a lyric that says, ‘They broke the mold when they made me.’ Do you fully believe that?

DZ: Eight years ago when I started here, I got lucky, and I was probably meant to be the guy who goes out first match, gets a couple of dropkicks in, and then gets beat up by somebody. I feel like I was built for this business. Whether the business loves me back or not, that’s fine. I have that chip on my shoulder, and I love going out there. I feel like I’m one of the few people in this world who are made literally for this business. So, for once, I’m going to agree with a song lyric, yeah, that’s pretty accurate.

You can follow Dolph Ziggler on Twitter @HEELZiggler.

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