The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
April 6, 2023

Dolph Ziggler Is SO Underrated, The Best MITB Cash-In, Spirit Squad, Becoming NXT Champion, Stand Up Comedy

Dolph Ziggler Is SO Underrated, The Best MITB Cash-In, Spirit Squad, Becoming NXT Champion, Stand Up Comedy

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Nic Nemeth (@HeelZiggler) is a professional wrestler better known as Dolph Ziggler in WWE. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about being called "underrated" his whole WWE career, his debut match against Batista, the emotions he felt when he cashed in the Money In The Bank briefcase on Alberto Del Rio, his love for standup comedy, his brother Ryan Nemeth crushing it in AEW as the Hollywood Hunk, becoming NXT Champion, why he ended up becoming the most successful Spirit Squad member and more!


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On never being the WWE Champion:

“So this will, I don't know, maybe it'll sound not bitter, whatever. The rest of the interview is bitter, we will take a little break. But I feel I was never in their conversation to be their guy. I understand that. But I go every day I can try and whittle them down and maybe in five years, they'll go hey, we got to let this guy go over. Or hey, in five years, this guy is ready. I know he's not our top guy. But when this guy has knee surgery, he can slide right in there and I go that'll be my chance, so just always be ready for that. And that happened a couple of times, I got put into I just thought of something, I got put into a world title match against Sheamus. Man I want to say is like northeast somewhere a long time ago. I'm basically wrestling on Superstars or getting beat by somebody in a couple minutes. Sheamus is World Heavyweight Champion and crushing everybody, and I don't really talk on the show, anything. I get, who is it Del Rio or Khali? Somebody gets taken out. And they go you're gonna wrestle him and we get one week build and it's like, I don't even know what the goal is just like I'll see you, I don't know. So I go this might be really bad, no one might care, I don't know. If you check the footage 19,000 People are chanting my name against the established World Heavyweight Champion. I'm a bad guy who doesn't talk and loses every single match. And I go whoa, there's a clip of Lawler he goes do you hear these fans saying let's go Sheamus? I go, is that what they're saying? But it was and it was like a fun match. Sheamus is fun, and we do crazy stuff anyway, so it's like, that was really cool. But I was nervous that they weren't gonna give one damn, because I don't, I mean, I deserve to be there. But on a television show this character did not deserve to be fighting for the title. Story wise, it didn't make sense. So I was very nervous. I go man, they're gonna hate me. But let's steal the show, we start, we kicked off the show. Let's tear it down, make them follow us. I go. And then hopefully, maybe I won't get booed on the building. I don't know. But it was one of the hottest crowds other than like working Cena in New York or something. But like, it was amazing. And we had fun and we beat the hell out of each other and we didn't steal the show, but we kicked some ass and kicked it off, right? And I go man, maybe this will be the thing, and the next Monday, right back to business as usual. So that happens sometimes, I try and fight it, but I can only do so much. But I fight it screaming and yelling every single Monday, just so you know.”

On having the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in:

“A bunch of people make other arguments, but here's why mine's different than if you want to say Seth’s at WrestleMania, or like the first ever one or whatever. I mean, the first one was pretty cool. I didn't understand the idea, it was Edge, right? And Vince is there and like, it's, whoa, you know. But here's why mine is better, because of what I just said. I lost every single match. Vickie talked for me, I got Vickie, and then we go on to AJ and Big E. So I now have a group of three. And I'm losing every single match, except for the ladder match, which was so fun. There's a great gif of Tensai throwing me into the chairs and I fly around on my head. I win, and I win that and I go how are we going to build on this? Because I can't just lose 900 matches in a row when this one and then lose 900 in a row again, and the boss goes now you're gonna lose even more, and not in a devious way, he goes because you have this briefcase, and when that contract gets cashed in, everything is erased. And I go, Okay, that's a fair point.”

On what the cash-in felt like:

“I have never witnessed even watching Attitude Era Stone Cold come out on TV, I'm sure it was louder. But me witnessing that in person and feeling like the prickles up my body, not me getting goosebumps, this rush of noise hitting my body. I was like man, I again, I go, I hope they get into this. Again, a good guy is injured and he's laying on the mat. And a bad guy who loses all the time is going to come down and become world champion maybe. And I'm like, Are they gonna buy it? I don't know. But I go, I was really proud, I go early in the day like he's hurt you come down, you hit him with the briefcase bah, bah, bah, 123 new champ, the place is going to lose it! I go, this is me. I almost get the big prize for nine years in a row, let's make them feel like Dolph is getting Dolphed one more time. So I had, I wanted like, I almost orchestrated it exactly how I wanted it, but I wanted one more little thing. But I go let's have that, I'll beat him up, with the thing, I'll stomp on his ankle, hit a Fameasser to a corpse, 1, 2,  kick out. And you can just see the crowd go, they're doing it again. They got us, they teased us, we thought he was gonna be the guy and they are rubbing it in our face. And then we get one more little false finish. I go, I'll have him just come kick me in the head, kicks me in the head. I go down and they're like, no, he's rolling me over. I'm like, it was one of the most beautiful Shakespearean three minute movies I could ever create, other than when we gave it back with him kicking me in the head 500 times and like, putting me out. We did a double turn, that was really fun. But we do that we have one more false and then he gives me that kick. I kick out, I go for something, and he puts on his finisher, the armbar. So I'm locked in, I'm scrambling around. I wanted to scramble for like another minute, but I go, let's not push it, they've gone up and down 3 times in 90 seconds, like more than you could ever imagine. And I'm like good, I'm good at that. And then again, storytelling. He has a hurt ankle. I go back to that ankle, and I go, we sometimes forget it in that moment you don't always need that story, but I wanted the story. Yeah, here it comes. He's got it. No, they're screwing him. Oh my God, you're gonna make them tap out. He's gonna win. And as I'm selling up and he's coming up with his back, everybody starts to realize oh my god, it's going to happen but then I'd like to have think that like 10 or 20% on the Zigzag one two, [pauses] they're like three okay, okay. Okay, like you never know like, and if I had my way I would have had him kick out of that Zigzag and why I would have went with something else. I'll never have that WrestleMania hot crowd, hot moment, right place, right time. I'm the guy that they want it to be the guy whether the office wanted it or not, yeah that I just I was so spoiled. It's like three and a half minutes and I am so proud of Del Rio was great in that too, and great in that double turn but that three and a half minutes is so beautiful for the business that I'm very proud that I was a part of it.”

On Dolph Ziggler’s WWE longevity:

“I mean, I love like, if we're joking around, like, Oh, I'm somehow built to do this, meant to do this, love comedy, love theatre, love acting, love sports, fighting, athleticism, all these things, and it just perfectly worked out for me. But also that group was for Kenny and it hurt, but it was like, I'm [new], I don't know how to do anything. I’m six months, eight months in and I go, I don't know what to do. I love being in this group, because Kenny is really good. And he’s like 19, it's so funny. And he's teaching me stuff that you wouldn't learn behind the scenes for 10 years. And I go, man, this guy's way ahead of me, he's got it figured out. But then you get to a point where it's like, you're six months into the Spirit Squad and it's like, everybody can get pinned except for Kenny and you're like, I gotta get pinned again. And like this kind of and we're kind of getting beat up. And then it's a bummer. But those guys embraced it, loved it. I loved what we had, my math is probably a little bit off, I want to say it's right around 12 months, like exactly a one year run. And we had tons of ups and downs. But man, we friggin [faced] Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, every weekend for five months a different version of DX on a live event match to where you can do 20-30 minutes. And so, say I'm coming from six months of training, and even me going in early on off days and coming out late. I got 20 years of experience in five months from some of the greatest of all time. It was Shawn, Hunter and Flair and they rotated like two of the three each weekend, and it was the coolest thing in the world. Like whether we were dorks and losers booed out of the building, like almost like how they booed Vickie Guerrero, just as they hated us. And then they have two of the greatest of all time still wrestling in tags. And we're and we're having a like, I'm scared to death. And I'm like, I don't want to like mess up and like hurt Shawn Michaels while I'm doing a neckbreaker or something. But I'm scared to death, but we're doing great. And we're listening to what they say. And we get to a point where we're like comfortable with them. But I got so much training from those three guys in a couple of months that it was all of us, not just me. But I don't know there's a school in the world. You can go to Shawn Michaels’ wrestling school and have him teach you, but it's not Shawn Michaels Triple H and Ric Flair live in front of a crowd. So I don't know what better training anybody could have. And I was just very lucky.”

On winning the NXT Championship:

“That was really cool. One, because I thought it was going there to do what I do, help a young guy out. But also they go hey, you get a little more creative to just kind of do what you want, talking wise. And I go, that's been a problem for me for 15 years. It's like you have to say it like this and I go well if I just do it, [they’re] like no. Okay. So some people get leeway, some people don't. Once in a while I do but I wasn't getting it on important ones and I was like man I really wish I could be more me. So they go in NXT like you got a little leeway with what you want to do. And I was like cool, I'll be me. What I wish I had been doing 15 years ago is like just saying and being me, a jerk, not even turned up to 10, that's just me right now. But I walked in there, and it was so fun because a lot of people didn't know I was doing it. And I thought it was for like four weeks, work with Steiner, help him out and see if he's ready for the main roster. Oh, okay, cool.”

On the WWE debut:

“I want to say I wrestle R-Truth as Dolph Ziggler. I shake a bunch of hands. And then I think I have like a double count out or roll in and beat Truth. And then I'm not on TV for a month, month and a half and then I come back and it's against Batista and I go oh this is my last day at work. If you're a new young guy you don't know what's going on. I'm not a legacy, I don't have friends in the meeting. And you're like man, I don't know what I'm doing, they gave me this weird name that I've tried to fight them on, and my debut was a count out win against R-Truth, who is beloved, especially by me. If you're debuting and you're fighting Triple H and winning, they got plans for you. When you're debuting against R-Truth who wasn't doing anything on TV at the time, and you're barely scraping by, and then you go away for a month, and then they go, it's you and Batista and it's one seg, and you go, okay, I got it. Luckily for me, Batista is not just a sweetheart, he's great and wanted to have a good match. I'm like oh hell yeah. So it was, I just saw that and I go oh, this is it. And instead, we have a really fun match. And, and they're like, you never know, like, some established guys might be like, here's what we're doing, and what do you think, and you give some pointers. But he was like it'd be cool if we did this, like, what about this? I go, this is great. So it ends up being, I'm making this up, maybe it was two segs, but it's like eight or 10 minutes, and it's kind of a good match. But he's going on to a pay-per-view world title match. So he definitively beats me, I totally get that. But I go oh, I don't, I don't have to like, check the wanted ads next Monday. Like okay, I'm still here. And then I come back. And I feel like it was very positive with everybody. Okay, he needed a match. And I was back like, okay, great. I feel a little bit better now.”

On the similarities between stand-up comedy and professional wrestling:

“So many. Every time I talk with somebody, whether it's a comic or not, we have the same grievances, the same complaints. We all fly into a city, we don't know anybody. I'll bounce around to four different cities 300 miles away, they'll do four shows in the same town and they do, it's the same process. There's no offseason, you go wherever you go. And I was explaining this to someone else. The first time I ever did an open mic it was just Nick with a black hat in the back room, Silverlake coffee shop. And it was just an open mic. And so everyone is just on their phone, they're not even listening to you, they’re just waiting to go and go over their stuff. But there's a handful of people that were like getting coffee and sat down to listen. I'm so nervous. My friend Lauren Greenberg [and] I wrote like a five minute Chipotle story or something. And I'd gone over it like nonstop, just tightening it down for a week or two. And then that day is like 12 hours straight just getting it and switching words and trying not to just memorise it but have this little story, and I'm freaking out. I get to this little coffee shop, it's in the backroom, it's smaller than this area, it's so funny. But Sean O'Connor, he's a wrestling fan and we just made jokes. And he was like, Hey man, I can get you on this show. I was like, whoa, what? And he goes, Well, since you don't really belong on this show, and you don't know what you're doing, it's all open mic guys and a couple of pros. But we got Andy Kindler going up and everyone's doing like five minutes. And they don't know, you know, [know what they are doing, they are] bombing and whatever. He goes, but he's [Andy Kindler] gonna crush it for 25 minutes, because he's a killer. And he's been around for 45 years doing his stuff. And he goes, so we're gonna put you after him, because that's where, you know, we need to have a better in-between. Okay, all right, I get it, I don't deserve to be here. And they go, he's gonna do a set and he says 25 [minutes], but he'll just go and when he's done, he's done. So he does about 25 and he walks off, I'm shaking. I go up, grabbed the mic, don't drop this, I'm so scared. I don't know why no one's even paying attention, it's just so nerve racking. And I say this first sentence, it's kind of like a little just like, I don't even remember what it was, but it's supposed to be a little joke and I just pause and it feels like two minutes goes by but it's 1/1000th. People are like on their phones like ha, all right. I look to the left, Andy Kindler who I thought left, is laughing. He goes haha, I’m like what okay, and then I totally forget the other three and a half minutes that I have. I get back into it, I rushed through it, I think I do it in like two and a half minutes, like I just run through it. I don't pause, I don’t even know what I'm doing. Like, man, I'm so scared. Once it's over, I got like two more chuckles from people not paying attention. I'm scared to death, I can't wait to do this again, this feels so great. And then their locker room is just like our locker room. I come to the back, Andy Kindler is like the veteran, he's sitting and everyone's standing around him asking him questions, and he's giving pointers. And they're bitching, just like we are, this guy, this comic doesn't deserve this push, he's getting the show, he’s getting the LA show, we should have it. I go you guys are exactly like us, it's mind boggling. And he's telling them to settle down and don't worry, if you know, if you're good, you'll get it. It's identical in so many ways. And it's like, it's also getting the reps in, being comfortable talking, all those things like that. You just take for granted, but the more you do it, the better you get.”

Does Dolph Ziggler feel like a comic?

No No, I’m a wrestler that does comedy. I think I have so much respect for it because I'm such a fan that I don't want to be like, Yeah, I'm a comic. I say that on social media, just to make wrestling fans mad, and it's funny. But in real life, you need something along the lines of like, 3, 4 or 5 thousand reps. And then you figure out what your voice is and what you're really doing. Because for the longest time, I'm like, I write this joke. I'm like, oh, that's like, I think I just stole an [Anthony] Jeselnik joke, subconsciously. And then you write some stuff down, like, Oh, David Spade just did a bit like this. And like ah, so you got to figure out what your voice is. And make sure you're not stealing people's stuff. And you're just constantly grinding down. And it's just, I'm not a comic, you need 5000 reps. I'm at like, 60 or 50, or something like maybe, maybe way less. It seems like I've done a bunch of shows. But I've just done a couple of shows a year for eight years. You know what I mean? So I think it's like, I'm at like, 50 ish.”