#RicFlairWeek: Watch & Learn – Dolph Ziggler, Mick Foley and The Man

For every #RicFlair worthy of his own Week, there is a Dolph Ziggler: A young performer hoping to make his mark in the business. Thankfully, we’re here to help them same way we would any other athlete: give him tape He Should Watch. And we have some tape You Should Watch of the work that reminds us of his, because what’s more fun than old wrestling videos?

He Should Watch

When it comes to Dolph Ziggler, there are a thousand comparisons to be made, but the one I’ve loved the most — and it’s on that I believe was introduced by JBL of all people — is Mick Foley. The parallels between Foley, a former #WrestleroftheWeek and Ziggler go beyond their shared love of stand-up comedy. Like Dolph, Mick’s entire raison d’etre is to make others look good, and with that comes a healthy ego. In order to sacrifice so willingly to make your co-workers look good, you need to bring to the entire enterprise a strong sense of self that far outstretches your ability to make yourself look like you’re in pain.

But, while Foley’s ego is something that anyone who has ever read one of his books is fully aware of, it’s not something that is ever addressed publicly. Because of this, it’s allowed Foley to connect with the crowd as the Everyman. And, of course, with bleach blond hair and a look that screams “Rick Martel meets Ric Flair”, Dolph Ziggler will never be an “everyman”, but he can certainly be the “people’s champion” that The Rock claimed to be and Foley actually was.

While self-deprecating humor may seem counterintuitive for a guy named “the Show Off”, a little bit can go along way, and so can that you don’t think you are too cool for the room, which was perhaps Foley’s greatest charm: he always seemed to be happy to be wherever he was.

But it’s because Foley EXPLAINED TO US how he was feeling and why he was doing the things he did. He made sure we understood why he was allowing himself to be thrown off the top of a cage or into barbed wire.

And, to his credit, Ziggler has started to embrace the comparison, at least with how much fun he seems to have for the fans when he’s working. Things like his series of hardcore matches with Damien Sandow have helped him recapture some of the heat  he loses every time he tips the Ziggler scale.

It’s because while it’s clear Ziggler is performing his magic for us — as opposed to in front of us — to those who spend enough time watching the sport, for those who don’t understand that when someone takes bumps like Dolph does, it’s for our (and the other guy in the ring’s) benefit, those who watch wrestling on a less intense level desperately need to feel like he cares as much as they do. Otherwise, he’s just another glorified stuntman.

You Should Watch

You thought we’d write more than 300 words about Dolph Ziggler & his antecedents and not mention Ric Flair? We should start by saying that no matter how hard he tries, Dolph will never be the “Nature Boy”. He’s a talented young worker with the world ahead of him — especially if can keep his brains from smashing against his skull — but he’s never going to be on Flair’s level, and not just because he — like so many others — is so clearly defined relative to him.

Ziggler’s isn’t just filling the role of “bump machine”, he’s defining it for an entire generation. But, while Flair did his fair share of bumping, it was never at the expense of him being able to get himself over. The Flair Flop, both in theory and execution, is the avatar for this:

The notion that not only would he have a specific sell that was noticeable, but that it would become perhaps the most iconic thing about his performances outside of the Flair Chop tells you literally everything you need to know how important the totality of the spectacle was to Flair and his legacy.

And while it’s entirely possible Ziggler is a better seller than Flair with/regards/to the all-important “make the other guy look good” metric, he doesn’t seem to understand the key is to make yourself look the best. Some of that is booking — and perhaps nobody was ever booked better than Flair in his prime — but most of it seems to be that Ziggler needs to understand that the goal is to get over with the crowd for yourself, and that when you’ve done that, THAT’S when you sell out completely for the crowd and the other fellow in the ring.

You do it through promos, and you do it through the type of emotional connection that we spoke of above with Mick Foley. But most importantly, it comes from a confidence that’s hard to pinpoint.

Flair sold the way he did because he knew he was going over at the end of the match. With no fear of who would be the more popular and appreciated worker — both with the crowd and the booking committee — when everything was finished, Flair was able to make the selling part of his character, but not the only part. He also lived in a world past Bret Hart’s “he takes a licking and keeps on ticking” persona, to one based not just on durability and resilience, but the idea that the guy on the other side of the ring just wasn’t as tough as he was no matter how many times he begged off.

Ziggler sells like he hopes that someone will realize it’s a trait worth rooting for as a fan and  buy into him as a performer. Flair sold like he — as a man, a performer and a character — knew that “Ric Flair” was something worth spending money on, and that by making the other guy look good, it would make him look even better when he finally overcame the impossible odds of a babyface in a redemption storyline.

Hopefully, Dolph may learn what Ric seemed to know from the time he entered the business: in order to be The Man, you don’t have to beat The Man, you just have be able to make everyone else look just a little bit less like him than you.