Dolph Ziggler will step into the ring with WWE Champion Drew McIntyre this Sunday at WWE's The Horror Show at Extreme Rules. It is the first time Ziggler has wrestled for the WWE Championship on television since his battle with Kofi Kingston at last year's June PPV event, Stomping Grounds. Of course, Ziggler is no stranger to titles, having held WWE's World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions in the past along with a litany of other titles. However, the WWE Championship has eluded him during his 16 years with the company.
ComicBook.com had the chance to talk with Ziggler on Thursday in advance of his big match with his former tag team partner on Sunday evening. We asked if the fact that he and McIntyre have only worked against each other in six singles matches ever (including house shows) adds to the excitement he has for the match.
"A WWE title match where only I know the stipulation is pretty wild," Ziggler said. "That part makes me excited. That makes it really cool. The fact that I know that he's (McIntyre) at the top of his game, that part makes me excited because I go, if I'm not at the top of my game and he's not at the top of the game, everyone's going to see through this. And I don't know a time in my life, in 15 years that I've ever walked back through a curtain and someone said, 'Hey, you didn't leave it out there tonight.' That's never happened, and it never will. And if it ever does at some point then I have to walk away. That has never happened. But when I know in advance that I'm building up to a WWE title match, something you dream of having when you're a kid, there's no way. That's the excitement. The excitement is I have a secret stipulation in my back pocket, and I'm fighting for the WWE title on Sunday."
McIntyre and Ziggler's time together in the company has overlapped for a number of years, and when McIntyre returned to WWE in 2018, the two were put together in a tag team where they won the Raw Tag Team Championship.
"It was pretty cool (teaming with McIntyre) because a lot of times you show up at work and you find out what's going on, and you go, okay, how do I make this work? What can I do better? What can I do different? How can I add my two cents here and make it great? When I last saw Drew before this he was walking away from WWE. So, when I saw him there and saw the laser focus in his eyes, heard what he'd been up to, heard he'd been crushing the gym, crushing laser focus of wanting to be the best. I said, "We can really do something special here because we can introduce you to the Raw and SmackDown audience," reintroduce him, but also show him as this unstoppable terminator who can carry people, three guys on his shoulders, and walk out of the ring," Ziggler said.
He continued, "It gave me something different to do other than just...walking around having some random matches. I would now be taken a little bit more seriously in the world title picture, but also we'd become, if it all works out longterm, we become this unstoppable tag team, and we're beating up The Shield, and we're doing things every week to where we're throwing people around and letting them know if they're not with us, they're against us. And that mentality came out in the ring, which made it pretty cool."
The two had some really good matches too. In particular, Ziggler recalled the pair's match at the Hell In A Cell PPV in 2018 against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
"Oh, we had some friggin' awesome ones (matches)," Ziggler said. "I have a bad memory, but man, we had a tag match at a pay-per-view (Hell In A Cell 2018) against, I want to say Seth and Dean, two thirds of The Shield, and we tore the place down...we beat the hell out of each other, and there was chemistry there, and we had a long ongoing thing off and on with The Shield. I found that to be some of our most fun times, just get in their faces and then backing it up in the ring every single night. That was some of the most fun I ever had."
After the split of their tag team, Ziggler and McIntyre wrestled three times on Raw throughout December of 2018. The big blowoff to the feud was a steel cage match on the December 31st, 2018 edition of Raw where McIntyre emerged victorious following a grueling 20:00 contest.
Since that time, McIntyre has continued to grow as a singles star, right up until WrestleMania this past spring where he won the WWE Championship. We asked Ziggler what he has seen in regards to McIntyre's personal growth as a performer over the last two years.
"A huge factor, it's not moves...I mean, the gym sure, that's part of it, but the focus which leads to the gym, which leads to the hard work, which leads to the laser focus is the mindset," Ziggler explained. "And he had a completely different mindset. Like any of us, where you might have one chance to make something special happen with WWE. You might be out of here, gone, because there's a thousand people who want your spot the next day. So I feel like he found out he had a second chance and he said, 'this is going to be an unstoppable time for me.' And 'they're going to be begging me to tone it down or slow down.' Because you don't get a third chance. And I noticed that right away, which part of it was the focus, the psychology. It's like, oh, I'm doing this today. Cool, let's go get ready to have a match. It was, here's how I'm going to make this better. Here's how this match is going to stand out tonight. Here's how everyone's going to be talking about it afterwards. And people are going to be wondering how the hell we're so good at this."
There will be a stipulation for Ziggler's match with McIntyre on Sunday, but it won't be revealed until the match is ready to begin. We asked Ziggler for a hint about what it might be.
"Why would the Patriots give out their plays on Saturday before they played on Sunday? Every single match, 99% of matches of all times you know what the stipulation is and you talk about it leading up to it," Ziggler explained. "Why would I ever tell him when he's at the top of his game? 'Here, here's the thing that I was hiding from you, prepare for it.' I think I would be stupid to get it out when I don't have to. He signed the paperwork before I picked it. So he's the dumb one for me not saying it. I'm not going to say it till the match starts.
"And I'm telling you right now, I'm not kidding when I say, if I get the paperwork to go through, this is something that has never been done before and I would be stupid to go, oh, it's a chair's match. And then he just swings chairs at me like a Terminator and knocks me out. That's stupid. That's been done. I need something that's more psychological, more of my way. And if I get this approved by WWE's lawyers, it's going to be, I'll be disappointed if I don't walk out a WWE champion. And this is on him. He let me pick this. And he assumed I would just pick some random stipulation that's been done before. Why the hell would I? I've been around 15 years. It's not because I'm an idiot."
You can catch WWE's The Horror Show at Extreme Rules this Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the WWE Network. We also spoke with Ziggler about his favorite super hero, his love for horror films, and his projects outside of WWE. Check back with ComicBook.com in the coming days for more from our discussion with Dolph Ziggler.