How Dolph Ziggler Just Prevented Another 'Attitude Era'

Dolph Ziggler re-upping his WWE contract just reinforced the already impenetrable walls of Vince McMahon's castle. Anyone waiting to declare a wrestling war will have to wait a little longer.

A lot of people want to know if there will ever be another wrestling boom like the mid-1990’s — a time charged by insatiable competition between WWE and WCW. The short answer is no, mainly because WWE has a billion dollar headstart on its wrestling contemporaries. However, that doesn't mean the plains of professional wrestling aren’t currently shifting. One trip down wrestling Twitter will let you know that a lot of cool things are happening in wrestling rings across the globe.

While Ring of Honor has made plenty of noise, it’s still in the process of digging out an exclusive niche. Luca Underground is a fantastic novelty to point to, but not enough to captivate long term. There’s Impact Wrestling, but they seem to only benefit from tertiary news like Jeff Jarrett going into WWE’s Hall of Fame. And that leaves New Japan Wrestling.

Now backed by a comparable eccentric billionaire, Mark Cuban, and his satellite network AXS TV, New Japan has firepower that at least resembles WWE’s. Wrestle Kingdom proves this, as NJPW can match WWE’s larger than life feel made possible by pageantry and massive arenas.

For those that have missed the last few installments of Wrestle Kingdom, they've been intoxicating. But none broke the pop culture threshold like 2018’s Wrestle Kingdom 12. Chris Jericho, who’s gone from WWE Hall of Famer to all-time great in 24 months, headlined the show with whom some to believe the greatest wrestler on the planet, Kenny Omega. There's really no use in detailing their match here, just make sure you at least check the highlights.

Classic main events at gargantuan shows are nothing new to WWE. However, New Japan offers something that WWE never will: R-Rated programming.

Vulgar press conferences, expletive-ridden promos, and bloody foreheads make New Japan feel like a Guy Ritchie movie.

The ability to operate under this adult umbrella with a sizable bankroll makes New Japan Wrestling the closest thing WWE has to competition. But the element they're lacking? Former World Champions.

Look no further than the Jericho example. As a made man, Jericho’s name garners attention no matter where he wrestles. That's why Vince McMahon made him a 6-time WWE Champion. So when such a gaudy aura was allowed to make a few cameos across the Pacific our eyes couldn’t help but follow.

Dolph Ziggler if a former World Champion. In fact, he’s won it twice.

Ziggler recently re-signed with WWE after teasing his departure for months. Rumors have his new contract ben a sweetheart deal that allowed Ziggler freedom that other Superstars do not have. Justin Barrasso from Sports Illustrated asserts that WWE decided to overpay Ziggler for fear that he would hop to New Japan, and join the highly fashionable Bullet Club.

Given the success of Cody Rhodes, we’d have to assume Ziggler would reach at least equal standing as a wrestling mercenary. Rhodes plainly said that he makes more money working the independent circuit than he did in WWE, and that siren song has to have the WWE locker room asking questions.

Let’s say Ziggler did leave. He goes to Japan, makes tons of money, becomes the top guy of the company while making sure to toss jabs at WWE when he can. Well, how hard it is to imagine Neville joining the cause? Or what about other WWE Superstars who can’t seem the break the main event glass ceiling? Cesaro, Rusev, Finn Balor, and (maybe) Daniel Bryan all are conceivable names who could do bigger things outside of WWE.

A trickling of talent from WWE to WCW is how the Monday Night Wars began. Sure, it started off with guys like Haku and Hacksaw Jim Dugan, but word spread quickly that WCW was offering guaranteed contracts - a luxury that WWE at that time was not sharing.

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And in 2018, WWE is once again stingy, but now it’s hoarding creativity, not money. As a public traded company, WWE is playing by a different set of rules than it was in 1996. Their TV-PG dome keeps their program in a safe perimeter, and being boxed in like that was literally causing Superstars to make irrational decisions.

However, it’s places like New Japan who offer freedom for wrestlers to tell the stories they want in the ring. I’d be willing to guess that the WWE locker room is keenly aware of that opportunity and if Ziggler had jumped, that could have started a chain reaction of sorts — the same kind of domino effect that brought Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to WCW.