HUNTINGTON -- When Dolph Ziggler made it back to WWE's Raw last September, he counted on a one-line sales pitch to let the superstars and divas in the locker room area and fans in the arenas know just who he was.
"Hi, I'm Dolph Ziggler," the man with the slicked-back blond hair, impressive physique and quite the attitude would declare.
"That's not just an introduction. I wanted to get my name out there," Ziggler said in a telephone interview last Wednesday. "I want to be on the fast track with the fans."
That one-liner has served Ziggler well. Take away one bump in the road and Ziggler has charged up the ladder among his fellow Smackdown superstars.
Ziggler has gone from Ohio Valley Wrestling, when he signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2004, all the way to a title shot (fourth overall) at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view last Sunday in Newark, N.J. He met Intercontinental Champion John Morrison, who won by pinfall to keep the belt.
"I've gotten a lot of opportunities," Ziggler said in the interview that came three days before Hell in a Cell. "My goal is to go above and beyond and not disappoint myself."
Ziggler will be in Huntington on Sunday, Oct. 11, for a Smackdown/ECW Live show at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Bell time is 5 p.m. Tickets are $62, $42, $27 and $17 (includes facility fee). They're available at all Ticketmaster outlets or call the arena at 304-696-5990.
"You have more liberty, more time with fans," Ziggler said of house shows. "I like the crowd interaction. We're there to entertain. It's a great atmosphere."
In high school, Ziggler (then named Nick Nemeth) wrestled for St. Edward High School in Cleveland and holds the school record for pins (81). He then went to Kent State and starred on the mat for the Flashes. He was a three-time All-Mid American Conference selection and is No. 2 in career wins with 121 (2000-2003).
Long before Ziggler got to St. Edward, he said he had a passion for wrestling.
"At 5 I was a big fan," he said. "At 12, I decided I wanted to become a pro."
Nemeth got the break in 2004 when he signed with WWE.
"A lot guys go to different schools. I was very fortunate to start in the WWE system with the best," Ziggler said. "You get the training you need. I'm a hard worker. I tried to catch up as fast as possible. I worked out two or three times a day."
Ziggler went up to Raw in 2006 as part of the Spirit Squad (under the name "Nicky"). He got sent back to OVW in 2007 and starting in 2008 he tweaked his name to "Nic Nemeth" and began teaming with Brad Allen and Taryn Terrell as their valet. In March, they won the FCW Florida Tag Team championship.
In September, Ziggler got promoted back to Raw where he introduced himself as Dolph Ziggler. About a month later, Ziggler was suspended for 30 days for his first violation of WWE's Wellness Program policy.
"That was a worse case scenario," Ziggler admitted. "Be careful what you get into and who you are associated with. It can easily be taken away. I had month to think it over. I said I won't make that mistake again."
Ziggler got the call back to Raw in November and got drafted by Smackdown in April. He lost a U.S. Title match to MVP in May. Later he started a rivalry with the Great Khali and beat him at The Bash pay-per-vew. His next rival was then Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio, who went 2-0 against Ziggler in two pay-per-views.
"I was that close," Ziggler said in reliving the championship matches against Mysterio. "I know I was on the verge of becoming one of those guys (champion). They were good learning experiences. I knew I was getting a little closer."
Right before Hell In A Cell, Ziggler and The Miz met Morrison and Kofi Kingston in a tag match on Friday Night Smackdown. Ziggler pinned Morrison to win it for his team.
"That was huge for me. It gives me confidence I can beat him," Ziggler said.
Ziggler said getting a championship belt around his waist is one of his many goals.
"I get a tryout, a contract, a callup, a win," he said. "The Intercontinental Championship is the goal now. I want to become the best IC champion ever and move on."
What's down the road for Ziggler, who is just 29?
"A lot of guys are in their mid-30s," he said. "I need to get more solid. In the future I look to be one of the leaders in the locker room."
If you go
WHAT: WWE SMACKDOWN / ECW LIVE with Rey Mysterio faces CM Punk in a No. 1 Contender's Match, ECW Champion Christian teams up with Tommy Dreamer to go against William Regal and Sheamus and John Morrison and Chris Jericho battle in a Smackdown Challenge Match.
WHERE: Big Sandy Superstore Arena
WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11
HOW MUCH: Tickets are: $62, $42, $27, $17.
GET TIX: Tickets are available at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena box office, www.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, or charge-by-phone at 800-745-3000.
ALSO THIS WEEKEND: Friday through Sunday, Anime Convention at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center. Saturday night, national-act comic Ron White.
ON DECK: Oct. 18-20, Create WV Conference; Oct. 31, The Herald-Dispatch Health Fair; Nov. 5, REO Speedwagon and Styx and Night Ranger; Nov. 14, Daughtry, Theory of a Deadman and Cavo; Nov. 20, Gary Allan; Nov. 22, Imagination Movers; Nov. 28, Indoor Demolition Turkey Derby and Dec. 11, Gaither Homecoming: The Christmas Tour 2009.