Features

The Elephant Room: Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler by Howie Mandella

This article has been officially three weeks in the making; however, it’s a subject that’s been on my mind for months. People like Dolph Ziggler and it’s not hard to see why. Someone who didn’t seem like he’d amount to much when he first debuted, developed into one of the most exciting performers the roster has today. Personally, I’ve seen better Ziggler days than what we’ve been getting for the past two years. However, you can’t deny that a good majority of fans still care about him and want him to succeed. The problem I have are the comparisons to the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. I just don’t see it. I see how he’s trying, but it isn’t connecting with me.

At least not the way Tyler Breeze does. Both guys have similar looks, mean streaks and a knack for getting underneath people’s skin. But for all of Dolph’s great (and sometimes over) selling, there still seems to be something about him missing. That “it” that everyone in the business talks about. The ultimate intangible that separates plain ol’ good workers from larger-than-life superstars. “It” seems to be missing from Dolph Ziggler, but “it” isn’t missing from Breeze. When Tyler Breeze comes on my TV screen, I know I’m in for an experience and not just a good match. His athleticism is accompanied by those nuances that get fans truly involved in a match.

A great example of this was a NXT house show I went to in September, where Tyler Breeze was having a match with Baron Corbin. In the match, there was a fun spot where Breeze ran from Corbin and hid under the ring. Soon everyone including the referee was under the ring and hilarity ensued. However, both Breeze and Corbin still gave fans a competitive match at the end of the night. That’s really what it’s all about. In an old column, I claimed how fans pay more attention to the mechanics within a match when no story is being told. If there’s one thing Tyler Breeze edges Ziggler (and a good portion of the main roster) on, it is storytelling. I don’t know if it’s just because Breeze is at the stage of his career where he’s hungry and working his ass off, but Tyler doesn’t seem like a superstar who will fall into a pattern of complacency…much like Ziggler has. He’s always trying something fresh, peeling back new layers to his character and giving fans yet another reason to tune in.

I’ll welcome the hate mail for this statement, but Dolph Ziggler is becoming a lot of the same ol’ same ol’. His promos were never very enticing from the jump, but now they seem more scripted than ever before (it’s sometimes cringe-worthy when you can tell he’s just setting up to say his catchphrase). His matches are becoming increasingly formulaic, with him selling immensely for 75 percent of the match before hitting a Fame-asser and starting the comeback of never-ending near falls. Aside from the aforementioned, what really sours me on Dolph is his dead end booking, and his inability to maintain excitement despite the hand he’s dealt.

For some reason, Ziggler always goes from promising main event level program to getting involved in a stupid love angle that tarnishes his momentum. That’s not to say Tyler Breeze’s booking down in NXT has been hot either. Fans have watched every new marquee signee, no pun intended, breeze by Tyler on the ladder so to speak. Guys like Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Apollo Crews and Kevin Owens (just to name a few) have come in and pushed Breeze down the pecking order. However, as displayed in the battle royal recently on NXT, people just won’t cool down on Tyler Breeze. Just like Dolph though, Breeze hasn’t lost fans along the way (only gained) and has always given people hope that his time will soon come.

The difference is Tyler Breeze is 27 and Dolph Ziggler is 35. If his health is maintained, Tyler’s shelf life as a performer will outlast Ziggler’s. Dolph’s time may be coming to an end even more abruptly than it seemed like before Breeze got the call up. If he was having a hard time breaking the glass ceiling and cementing himself as a future Hall of Famer, he’s going to have an even harder time now.

With Tyler Breeze on the main roster, the entire WWE Universe will witness a polarizing figure that gives them everything Dolph Ziggler does, with just a little bit more style and pizzazz. This is part of the reason I held out on writing this article. After hearing about Breeze possibly being called up, I wanted to see how it would play out, if it would play out and who would be his first feud. Part of me dreaded any chance of any interaction between Breeze and Ziggler out of me not having confidence in WWE to effectively discern the two personalities. As of right now, they’re proving me wrong and I’m loving it.

We know these two will put on amazing matches, but what’s really going to be telling is who goes over in the end and where that leaves both competitors moving forward. In my personal opinion, Dolph Ziggler is in that always awkward job situation where he may, in fact, be training his replacement.

More Features