WWE would like you to believe that Dolph Ziggler is on a remote island sipping pina
According to Cagesideseats, Ziggler will make his prodigal return to WWE either at the Royal Rumble or the subsequent episode of SmackDown after the January 28th pay-per-view. From here, we can deduce that the finale of the US Championship tournament will likely take place at the Rumble, and Ziggler will interrupt the new champion's coronation - either in the moments after the win or during a promo on that SmackDown.
Thanks to the ravenous market for inside information, WWE's plans for the US Championship were leaked a few days ago revealing that they're going to make a strong allusion to WrestleMania 10's dispute over the Intercontinental Championship. After Shawn Michaels "left" the company, Razor Ramon assumed the role at the Intercontinental prince. However, Michaels would return with the original belt, claiming that he was always the rightful champion. The subsequent dispute leads to arguably the greatest ladder match of all time.
WWE appears to be eyeing a similar if not identical set up with Ziggler and the next US Champion. Rumors have Bobby Roode as the early favorite to win the tournament, but it's possible that this story will be monopolized by Ziggler and whomever he faces at WrestleMania will be playing the proverbial second fiddle.
However, like WrestleMania 10, this could be a star-making moment and would be an ideal launching point for someone like Roode, Mojo Rawley or even Xavier Woods. If all of this proves to be true, WWE will elevate the US Championship and the mid-card to levels it hasn't seen since John Cena revitalized the ranks in 2015.