Survivor Series 2014 looked like the start of Dolph Ziggler‘s push into WWE’s main event, but all momentum he had after the event was ruined by one man – Vince McMahon.
He was a two-time World Champion before his starring role in the five-versus-five tag team match, but had never truly been presented as a world-class competitor in the WWE (his first title reign didn’t even last for an entire episode of Smackdown, after all).
WWE bosses valued his ability to put on a great match, and utilized his incredible “selling ability” to make their hand-picked superstars look much better than they actually were, far more than making him one of the top wrestlers in the company.
Dolph Ziggler was released by the WWE in September 2023, ending a nearly two-decade relationship with the company. He never won the WWE Championship or became a main event star, even though he had all the talent to be.
Survivor Series 2014 showed up what could have been.
Dolph Ziggler Should’ve Been A Huge Star In The WWE
He walked into the show as part of “Team Cena”, and was to be a small part of a match that fans hoped would signal the end of “The Authority” in the WWE.
Dolph Ziggler had long been the fans choice to be the next big star in the WWE. He had everything they wanted in a top star – he was great in the ring, good on the mic and had the star quality to carry the company on his back, like John Cena had before him.
His fantastic matches over the years had quickly made Dolph Ziggler a huge fan-favorite. In an era dominated by the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton wrestling in the same boring match every week, he brought something new and fresh to the WWE.
This is why, when Dolph Ziggler won the Money In The Bank briefcase in 2012, it looked like the start of a huge push for the young star. He was set to become the next World Champion in the WWE, and had all the skills to be the next face of the WWE.
Sadly, Vince McMahon didn’t agree with the fans. Despite him getting some of the biggest reactions every week, putting on the best matches and selling some of the most merchandise in the entire company, the WWE Chairman never saw what everyone could plainly see about Dolph Ziggler.
At Money In The Bank 2012, Dolph Ziggler battled seven of the top stars in the WWE for a chance to hold the Money in the Bank briefcase, in a huge eight-an ladder match. These eight wrestlers in the match were:
- Dolph Ziggler
- Cody Rhodes
- Damien Sandow
- Santino Marella
- Sin Cara
- Tyson Kidd
After he climbed the ladder and won the briefcase, Vince McMahon had Dolph Ziggler continue to lose, and lose, and lose. This is not uncommon for Money in the Bank winners – they can be used to put other wrestlers over, with the knowledge that a world title win is in their future.
However, the WWE still had no intention of booking Ziggler as a top star. He cashed his contract on Alberto Del Rio on the Raw after WrestleMania 29, winning the World Heavyweight Championship with one of the biggest pops of all time.
Despite this, when revealing their intention backstage, Vince McMahon reportedly told producers that “this is not the start of a push for Ziggler”, and was merely done to placate fans who wouldn ot stop cheering for “The Show Off”.
Sadly, soon after winning the title, Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion which put an end to his run. This further eroded Vince’s trust in him, and he slowly pushed Ziggler further and further down the card (even booking him to lose to Fandango in a “Christmas Present on a Pole match”).
That was, until one night at Survivor Series 2014 gave Dolph Ziggler fans hope.
Dolph Ziggler at Survivor Series 2014
Survivor Series 2014 was Dolph Ziggler’s greatest ever performance, and a true testament of what could have been in the WWE.
While he excelled as a heel throughout his early run in the company, his work as the babyface-in-peril truly captivated the audience in an all-time great performance at WWE’s fourth “Big Four” pay per view in 2014.
The match was a classic Survivor Series elimination match – John Cena and four of his friends made up “Team Cena”, while Triple H hand-picked five of his top stars to represent “The Authority”.
- John Cena
- Dolph Ziggler
- Erick Rowan
- Big Show
- Seth Rollins
- Mark Henry
- Luke Harper
It was a star-studded affair, with some of the biggest stakes in years involved. If Team Cena won, then the Authority would cease being in control of the WWE. This would rid the company of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s grip on proceedings, and stop them booking shows (in Kayfabe) that fans absolutely detested.
Meanwhile, if it was Team Authority that picked up the win, then four of the five members of Team Cena would be fired (they had the intelligence to state that John Cena wouldn’t be fired, as everyone knows they’d be crazy to fire their biggest moneymaker).
While the consequences of the match may seem trivial, at the time they were not. The Authority were the surge of the WWE at the time. Intent on trying to recreate the magic of Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon, the WWE inadvertently trained the fans to hate the company, and interpreted the boredom and frustration by the fans as “heat” for the storylines.
So, all of the fans hopes rested on the shoulders of Team Cena. Of course, everybody expected John Cena to be the man to come out on top, leading his team to victory in the face of adversity and proving that “Super Cena” was alive and well.
However, nobody expected Dolph Ziggler to be the man to lead the charge against tyranny.
Team Cena fell apart early in the match. Despite Big Show eliminating Mark Henry in just minutes, Ryback and Erick Rowan were both soon taken out of the match (as was The Authority’s Rusev).
However, The Big Show turned on his team to join The Authority (ignoring his storyline with Daniel Bryan the year prior), by hitting John Cena with his knockout punch and forcing him out of the match.
This left just Dolph Ziggler to take on Kane, Luke Harper and Seth Rollins – three of the biggest stars in the WWE. He took incredible punishment, but never gave up in his fight against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Against all the odds, and after half an hour of wrestling, Ziggler managed to eliminate Harper and Kane. He was thrown around the ring like a rag doll, being destroyed from all angles as The Authority looked to end this match once and for all.
He and Seth Rollins wrestled for 15 more minutes before Triple H decided to get involved. Ziggler came close but looked set to lose after Triple H hit him with the pedigree and laid Rollins on top of him.
Then Sting appeared, debuting in the company after 20-years of rumors, and helped Ziggler to take out Triple H and win the match – ridding himself and the fans of The Authority.
This should have been the greatest night of Ziggler’s wrestling career, and the start of an incredible push toward the WWE Championship – so, what went wrong?
What Went Wrong?
After Survivor Series 2014, the WWE seemed to do everything they could to cool off Dolph Ziggler. He lost his title, was fired from his job and lost seemingly every match just weeks following the biggest win of his career (at least, it should have been).
The reason for WWE completely abandoning the Dolph Ziggler push was a ridiculous one, but its true – they never wanted him to win the match in the first place.
Dolph Ziggler’s place was supposed to be taken by Roman Reigns. He wasn’t supposed to be the man to win the match for Team Cena, and it is disputable that Vince McMahon wanted him in the match in the first place.
Roman Reigns was clearly the WWE’s pick as the next big star of the company, following the break-up of The Shield earlier in 2014. He was immediately pushed as a singles star, and booked in huge matches with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins.
However, he missed out on wrestling at Survivor Series 2014 due to injury. Reigns was meant to take on Seth Rollins at Night of Champions months prior, but was forced to undergo emergency hernia surgery that took him out of action for months.
While Dolph Ziggler had an incredible showing at Survivor Series, and was arguably at the peak of his popularity after his incredible victory, the push following was short, explosive and disappointing.
He immediately won his Intercontinental Championship back from Luke Harper at TLC 2014 – in what was one of Luke Harper’s finest matches in his career – although his reprieve from The Authority would not last long. John Cena would be forced to bring them back to power, under threat of the murder of Edge by Seth Rollins.
This made Ziggler’s struggle utterly meaningless. After Triple H was put back into power, he immediately put him in a match against Bad-News Barrett, employing Kane to make sure he lost his Intercontinental Championship against his English opponent.
He was “fired” later that night (alongside Ryback and Erick Rowan), although Cena won their jobs back for them the following week. His incredible performance at Survivor Series 2014 ended in Dolph Ziggler being fired, and he had John Cena to thank for even being employed.
The three men would lose to The Authority at Fastlane in 2015, after a disappointing show in the Royal Rumble. Ziggler moved back down into the Intercontinental Championship feud, competing in a seven-man ladder match that was eventually won by Daniel Bryan.
For all his momentum after single-handedly ending The Authority (with interference from Sting), albeit briefly, Dolph Ziggler was not even involved with the storyline going forward. Seth Rollins won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, while Reigns continued to feud with The Authority for the next year (culminating in a terrible match with Triple H at WrestleMania 32).
Ziggler went on to a soap-opera storyline rivalry with Rusev and Lana (Featuring Summer Rae), and never even sniffed the level he could have been after Survivor Series 2014. He had a WWE Championship feud with Dean Ambrose for Summerslam 2016, but it was not even close to being the main event match that he deserved at his peak.
With The Show Off‘s WWE career now at an end following his WWE release, it is sad to say that the company will never see him at the level that they should have.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.