Dolph Ziggler has had a pretty unorthodox couple of months as a WWE Superstar. Towards the end of 2017 his gimmick shifted slightly to one of a disgruntled wrestler who was sick of fans loving his colleagues for what he viewed as all the wrong reasons and him not getting opportunities because of it. Ironically that run culminated in The Showoff competing for the United States Championship and actually winning the title at Clash Of Champions. Just 48 hours after the momentous win Ziggler cut a promo on SmackDown Live declaring that the fans didn't deserve him as a champion and left his newly won title in the middle of the ring.
SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan had no choice but to assume that the US Title had been vacated and thus arranged a tournament to crown a new champion. It was assumed by most that once a new champion had been crowned Ziggler would return and claim that he is still the true champion as he never actually said that he had relinquished the championship. The veteran star has since returned but he inexplicably has no interest in the US Title or who is currently holding it.
Instead the next time we saw Ziggler following his confusing walk out was in the Royal Rumble match. The two time World Champion entered the match at number 30, naturally the most sought after slot in the bout, but didn't last long at all. Fans were left scratching their heads wondering what exactly the thought process has been behind Ziggler's absence and his unannounced return. His time away hasn't really been addressed on SmackDown Live, his entry into the Rumble wasn't announced, and on his first night back on Tuesdays he has managed to win his way into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane.
The only thing that is clear about Ziggler's time away is that The Showoff apparently intended it to be the end of his current chapter with WWE. Reports have emerged that Dolph was pretty much out of the proverbial WWE door ready to seek out a new challenge when his current employers made him an offer that he simply couldn't refuse. That offer apparently not only includes $1.5 million a year for Ziggler but also permits him to leave arenas as soon as his matches are over and allows him to continue pursuing his comedy career away from WWE. Evidently Vince McMahon wanted to keep hold of the long tenured Superstar judging by all that.
Ziggler has been trying to crack in to the stand up comedy scene for a while now but if he had left WWE it's highly unlikely that he would have hung up his wrestling boots. Wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega are currently proving that you don't necessarily need WWE to make a name for yourself in the industry and to make a good living. Rhodes in particular will have caught the eye of Ziggler since he left WWE and it's highly likely that The Showoff would enjoy similar success if he were ever to venture away from the company that he has called home for the past 14 years.
WWE clearly didn't want that though and threw money at Ziggler as well as gave him everything he wanted in order to stop him taking his talents elsewhere. Dolph would have had no trouble at all getting himself booked in companies like New Japan and Ring Of Honor and WWE's successful attempts to stop that from happening might very well be a sign that they are starting to get a little worried. New Japan has never been more popular in America and the rest of the western hemisphere than it is right now and the success of Wrestle Kingdom 12 and even Chris Jericho's desire to compete for the promotion will have not gone unnoticed, despite what they might want you to believe.
Although there is currently no pro wrestling promotion that can go head to head with WWE, this is likely the closest we have been since the days of WCW and the Monday Night War. Impact Wrestling tried and failed to reach their level by mimicking them and New Japan are having some success where they didn't by giving fans a product completely different to WWE's. There is more wrestling out there than ever before and one day some of these promotions may be able to compete with WWE. As has been demonstrated by their contract negotiations with Dolph Ziggler though, WWE will do all they can to postpone that day from potentially coming.