It was a moment that had been brewing for years, a feat that was well-deserved and a step forward for the future of the WWE. When Dolph Ziggler climbed the ladder at WrestleMania and retrieved the Money in the Bank briefcase, only the Showoff's staunchest detractors were disappointed. After the Spirit Squad's Nicky returned completely repackaged as an arrogant, overly confident, chiseled heel, few things were more evident than his passion for wrestling and his ability to captivate a crowd. He was, just like his wrestling briefs proudly declare, "born to be a star." These briefs, in fact, were the ones that Ziggler wore when he won the contract at WrestleMania, and in the eight long months since then, the WWE Universe has been waiting patiently for the moment when Ziggler would cash in, and enter the upper echelons of the wrestling world as a true main-eventer. The summer came and went, and former World Champion Sheamus was escaping each month's pay-per-view with the gold still around his waist. Sheamus then entered into a stale, lengthy, and personal feud with The Big Show, and after every one of their title matches, the crowd would be on their feet, chanting maniacally for Ziggler. Yet, staring down the last pay-per-view of 2012, Dolph Ziggler is not only still Mr. Money in the Bank, but he is now faced with a horrible stipulation that could either make him a bigger star, or undo years of hard work.
Last night on Raw, an intimidated Vickie Guerrero was encouraged by Mr. McMahon to book Ziggler vs. John Cena at TLC, with Ziggler's contract and briefcase on the line. While the Cena / Ziggler rivalry has been brewing for weeks and a PPV match is a natural next step, having to defend a contract that he has won and held onto is completely unjust. Although this won't be the first time Ziggler has had to defend his contract, fans knew he would win his match against Chris Jericho because Jericho made it clear he would be taking a hiatus from wrestling to focus on his music. The match with Cena provides much more uncertainty. Cena himself squandered his own Money in the Bank briefcase by facing a fresh CM Punk and giving him a week to prepare. After his inability to beat Punk in matches, certainly Cena will sacrifice it all at TLC in an attempt to get another shot at the WWE title.
A win at TLC with his back against the wall will be quite an achievement for Ziggler, possibly more so than winning the Money in the Bank match. He will have overcome adversity and proven yet again that he has the talent, the charisma, and the ambition to be a World champion. Should he require assistance, one would have to believe that with The Shield circling the ring and disrupting matches, that they may make themselves available to aid Ziggler if Cena proves to be too tough of an opponent. An assisted win, though unsolicited, would serve to exacerbate Ziggler's heel persona, especially against the company's biggest babyface. If Ziggler wins the bout, he may find his prime opportunity for a celebration later on in the night, by cashing in after the Sheamus vs. Big Show chair match, which promises to be physically exhausting. After months of Show and Sheamus battling all over the world and in different types of matches, there isn't anything left to be done in their rivalry. The extended nature of their feud has caused the World title to become an afterthought; Dolph Ziggler as the new champion would breathe fresh life into the title picture, particularly if he is still the champion going into WrestleMania.
Even if Ziggler doesn't end up cashing in at TLC, losing his briefcase to Cena will be disastrous for his career. Only one other man has defended his Money in the Bank contract and lost: Mr. Kennedy. Although fans have never been privy to the politics involved behind the decision for Kennedy to drop his briefcase to Edge, Kennedy was sidelined with an injury after the match, which may have been a factor in the loss. However, even if Kennedy had not been injured, having him booked to lose the briefcase was a bad idea. Edge, much like Cena, did not need the contract to enhance his main event status. He was already a star. Kennedy, like Ziggler, would have benefited more from a guaranteed title shot. After the loss of his briefcase, Kennedy's WWE career never reached the potential many fans believed it would. After a Wellness Program violation and several injuries, Kennedy was unceremoniously released. Though it is doubtful that Ziggler's career will take the same path as Kennedy's, dropping the briefcase to Cena is non-sensical both from a business standpoint and a fan's standpoint. Cena is already a 10-time heavyweight champion and doesn't have much left to prove in his career. He is the poster child for wrestling's modern era, and even if he wasn't, why should he be the first man to get TWO Money in the Bank contracts in the same year? The stipulation at TLC should be utilized solely to generate more interest in the match, and nothing more. Any talk of Cena coming away the victor should be immediately scrapped. Has the WWE lost faith in Ziggler? Do they no longer trust him to hold a championship? Or is Cena once again being used as the "safe" choice? This mentality has backfired on the WWE before, when Cena's elbow injury caused him to miss his title match at Hell in a Cell, with a very green, very unproven Ryback taking his place. Stars need to be made for exactly those situations in the future, and the WWE has a very bright star in Dolph Ziggler. Depriving him of the opportunity of a guaranteed title shot, particularly after eight months, will not only destroy Ziggler's morale, but will cause his fans to worry and wonder why he is being deprived to begin with. Will he ever get another chance of this magnitude?
In one night, TLC has gone from just another pay-per-view to a massive turning point for Dolph Ziggler. The term "must-win" has been thrown around so often in sports that it has almost become cliche, but a victory at TLC is truly necessary for Ziggler. A loss would cause an insurmountable setback, while a win against a man who has become the face of the company would be monumental. With two weeks to go until TLC, Ziggler has time to prepare for what is arguably the most important match of his career. He cannot let his opportunity slip away; if this means having The Shield in his corner, ready to strike at any moment, then so be it. After all, The Shield claims that they declare no allegiance to anyone, they simply defend those who they feel have been treated unjustly. If this is true, then The Shield should certainly concern themselves with this match at TLC, because Ziggler's obligation to defend his Money in the Bank briefcase again is the biggest injustice of all.