With almost four months having passed since he was last seen by the WWE Universe, Dolph Ziggler shocked audiences on Tuesday night’s episode of SmackDown Live, rushing into the ring and viciously attacking WWE Champion Kofi Kingston off a distraction from Paul Heyman.
As recapped by Figure Four Weekly, Ziggler’s return took place after Kingston defeated Sami Zayn in non-title action, as Heyman appeared following the match to tease a Money in the Bank cash-in from his client, Brock Lesnar. As Heyman was taunting Kingston from outside the ring, Ziggler ran in and jumped the WWE Champion from behind, beating him up so badly that he had to be taken backstage on a stretcher. This marked the 38-year-old former World Heavyweight Champion’s first appearance on WWE programming since he competed in the 2019 Royal Rumble pay-per-view in January.
Later in the show, Ziggler explained his motivation for attacking Kingston, saying that he feels he should have been the one who became an “overnight success” after over a decade with WWE, much like Kofi did in the lead-up to WrestleMania 35. He then promised to defeat Kingston at WWE’s Super ShowDown pay-per-view in Saudi Arabia next month, effectively setting him up as the first-time WWE Champion’s next challenger for the title.
Dolph Ziggler’s WWE return took place just one day after Wrestling Observer Newsletter founder and editor Dave Meltzer offered an update on his status in the company.
“He’s doing stand-up comedy. He’s still under contract [with WWE],” Meltzer said on Monday’s edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, as quoted by 411Mania.
“The thing is, they wanted to make him an agent, they wanted to take him out of the ring, they didn’t have any more ideas for him. He wanted to be a wrestler, he didn’t want to be an agent. So they kind of met in the middle where he’s still under contract and he’s using the time that he’s under contract to go around the country touring as a stand-up guy.”
— WrestlingINC.com (@WrestlingInc) May 22, 2019
As noted by Wrestling Inc., Ziggler competed in a few non-televised matches at WWE live events in January, though he has not taken part in a televised singles match since he lost a Steel Cage Match to Drew McIntyre on the December 31, 2018, episode of Monday Night Raw. At that time, he was booked as a newly turned babyface who had just fallen out with the villainous McIntyre. However, his beatdown on Kofi Kingston seems to establish him once again as a heel, much like he was for most of last year.
Per Wrestling World, Dolph Ziggler has held numerous championships in close to 15 years with WWE, including two runs with the now-defunct World Heavyweight title. However, he has yet to win the WWE Championship currently being held by the fan-favorite Kingston, who won the title from Daniel Bryan last month at WrestleMania 35.