Nemeth signed a development contract with WWE in 2004, and was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). He was brought up to the Raw brand in 2005 as Kerwin White's sidekick. He was, however, sent back to OVW shortly afterwards, where he joined the Spirit Squad. They debuted on Raw in January 2006, and won the World Tag Team Championship once before returning to OVW that November.
He wrestled collegiately at Kent State University, eventually setting what was then the record for most career wins in the team's history. Nemeth's record was passed in 2006, and as of 2010 he stands second all-time in career victories at Kent State. He had 121 career wins between 2000 and 2003. He was a three-time All-Mid-American Conference champion, winning the 165 lb (75 kg) tournament in 2000, 2002, and 2003, and as of 2010 is the last wrestler from Kent State University to have won three amateur wrestling championships.
Professional wrestling career
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE (2004–present)
Ziggler as Nicky (left) with Johnny and Kenny as part of The Spirit Squad in 2006.
Nemeth became a part of the Spirit Squad faction, a group of five wrestlers who used the in-ring personas of male cheerleaders, and adopted the name Nicky in OVW during late 2005. The Spirit Squad members trained with real cheerleaders and gymnasts to ensure their characters were believable. On January 23, 2006, they had their WWE television debut as a group, appearing on Raw and helping Jonathan Coachman win a Royal Rumble qualifying match against Jerry "The King" Lawler by performing cheers for Coachman and distracting Lawler. They later became a part of the on-going scripted feud between WWE chairman Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. The heel (villainous) McMahon brought in the Squad to attack Michaels on numerous occasions, including placing them in multiple handicap matches.
They also wrestled in the tag team division, and on April 3, on Raw, won the World Tag Team Championship when Kenny and Mikey, with outside help from the other three Squad members, defeated Big Show and Kane. After winning the championship, all five members of the Spirit Squad were recognized as the champions, allowing any combination of them to defend the championship.
In May, McMahon signed another Handicap match, with the Spirit Squad facing Michaels. The match never started, however; instead the Spirit Squad attacked Michaels, and, as part of the storyline, shattered his knee with a steel chair. McMahon brought Triple H to the ring to attack Michaels with a sledgehammer; however, after Triple H felt that the Squad had disrespected him, he attacked the group. This led to Triple H and Michaels reforming D-Generation X (DX) and they began a feud with the Spirit Squad. DX played various sophomoricjokes on the Squad and the McMahons, as well as defeating the Spirit Squad in handicap tag team matches at Vengeance and a clean sweep in an elimination handicap match at Saturday Night's Main Event.
At the same time as their feud with DX and their alignment with McMahon, the Squad also wrestled other teams in Raw's tag division over their World Tag Team Championship, successfully defending the championship against the teams of Jim Duggan and Eugene, Charlie Haas and Viscera, and Snitsky and Val Venis. They then entered a lengthy feud with The Highlanders, whom they eventually defeated to retain the championship at the Unforgivenpay-per-view in September. The Squad as a whole later began a losing streak with separate members losing singles matches to Ric Flair on consecutive episodes of Raw, until Kenny managed to defeat him on the October 23 episode. It was then announced that Flair and a WWE legend, selected by interactive voting, would wrestle the team for the World Tag Team Championship at the Cyber Sunday pay-per-view in early November. The fans chose Roddy Piper, and he and Flair defeated Kenny and Mikey to win the championship.
The group disbanded on the November 27 episode of Raw, when they were defeated in a five-on-three handicap match by DX and Flair. In a backstage segment later that night, DX placed all members into a crate stamped "OVW, Louisville, Kentucky", a reference to the developmental territory from which the Squad had come.
Brand switches (2007–2009)
Ziggler in September 2008.
Nemeth returned to OVW on January 17, 2007, at the television tapings, again using his Nick Nemeth ring name, along with Mike Mondo, formerly Mikey in the Spirit Squad, as the "Frat Pack". The pair teamed with Mike Kruel in a match against Seth Skyfire, Shawn Spears, and Cody Runnels. The team disbanded in the early parts of 2007. Nemeth then competed in several dark matches before the OVW television tapings, competing against several wrestlers including Chris Cage, Bradley Jay and Jake Hager, before he began teaming with Mondo again in August.
On September 15, 2008, Nemeth re-debuted on Raw, introducing himself in a backstage segment under the name "Dolph Ziggler". On October 10, 2008, Nemeth was suspended for 30 days for a violation of WWE's Wellness Program policy. He returned to Raw on November 17 in a backstage segment with Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels. In his first match on Raw under the Ziggler name, he lost to Batista on the December 1 episode. The following week he got his first victory as Ziggler, by countout, against R-Truth. The next week on Raw, he picked up his first televised pinfall victory, when he defeated Charlie Haas.
Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Champion (2009–2011)
On April 15, 2009, Ziggler was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2009 Supplemental Draft. He made his debut on the April 17 episode of SmackDown, defeating the United States Champion, Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) in a non-title match, and, as a result, the following week he demanded a match for the championship. On the May 1 episode of SmackDown, however, he failed to win the championship, after he was pinned by MVP. Ziggler then started a rivalry with The Great Khali, losing to him by disqualification after attacking Khali with a steel chair. As a result, Khali began coming out to the ring during and after Ziggler's matches, in attempt to gain revenge and to stop Ziggler from cheating. Over the next few weeks, Ziggler defeated Khali by countout and disqualification after making it look like Khali had struck him with a steel chair. At The Bash pay-per-view, Ziggler defeated Khali by pinfall, after Kane interfered and attacked Khali.
In June he began a romantic storyline with Vickie Guerrero, who began accompanying him to the ring. On the July 9 episode of SmackDown, Ziggler defeated Chavo Guerrero and Montel Vontavious Porter in a triple threat match to qualify for the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, where he once again failed to win the match. On July 28 at the tapings of the August 6 episode of SmackDown Ziggler defeated Kofi Kingston to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship for the first time. In his first title defense at SummerSlam, he retained the championship against Kingston when the match ended in a no contest due to interference from The Nexus. Ziggler was able to make a successful title defense against Kingston at the Night of Champions pay-per-view, and against Kaval at Survivor Series.
At the SmackDown tapings on January 4, Ziggler lost the Intercontinental Championship to Kingston after a five-month reign. That same night, Ziggler won a four-way match against Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre, and The Big Show to become the number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship. Ziggler received his match for the championship at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view against Edge, but was unsuccessful. On February 4, Ziggler's girlfriend Vickie Guerrero, who was the Acting General Manager of SmackDown, announced that she had banned the spear – Edge's finishing move – and if Edge used it during the rematch between the two, Ziggler would be automatically awarded the championship. In the interim, Ziggler's second rookie, Byron Saxton, was also voted off of NXT. On the February 11 episode of SmackDown, Ziggler received a rematch for the championship, only to lose after being speared. On the February 14 episode of Raw, Guerrero announced that Edge had lost the championship due to using the spear and that Ziggler would be crowned the new champion. On SmackDown on February 18, Guerrero fired Edge, claiming that he had attacked SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long several weeks prior, and awarded Ziggler the championship during a coronation ceremony later that night. Long returned during the ceremony however, and Guerrero revealed Ziggler as the attacker after being accused of orchestrating the attack by Long. Long rehired Edge and gave him his rematch, in which Edge regained the championship. Ziggler's first World Championship reign lasted only 11 minutes and 23 seconds. After the match, Long fired Ziggler in storyline.
On the March 7 episode of Raw, Ziggler was introduced as the newest member of the Raw roster, and defeated John Morrison in a singles match. Ziggler was accompanied by Guerrero, who had also been fired from SmackDown, but she was forced to earn her spot on the Raw roster. Ziggler, along with Guerrero, and LayCool then feuded with Morrison, Trish Stratus and Jersey Shore guest star Snooki, culminating in a mixed tag team match at WrestleMania XXVII which Ziggler and his team lost. On the April 18 episode of Raw, Vickie introduced the "new and improved" Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler came out with his hair cut short and brown and went on to defeat Evan Bourne in a singles match. He had re-bleached his hair by the May 23 episode of Raw.
Ziggler beat United States Champion Kofi Kingston in a non-title match on the May 30 episode of Raw, leading to a championship match at WWE Capitol Punishment which Ziggler won to earn his first United States Championship. The next night on Raw, Kingston invoked his rematch clause in a two out of three falls match and won via disqualification, allowing Ziggler to retain. After Jack Swagger suggested to Guerrero that she should manage him in addition to Ziggler, a jealous Ziggler teased tension with Swagger. This, coupled with Ziggler's concurrent feud with Alex Riley, led to Ziggler to defend and retain his United States Championship in a fatal four-way match against Swagger, Riley, and John Morrison at Night of Champions. On the September 19 episode of Raw, Ziggler lost a non-title match to Zack Ryder when guest star Hugh Jackman helped Ryder by punching Ziggler in the face. Although Ziggler later claimed to have a broken jaw due to Jackman's punch, it was reported that the supposed injury was fake. Later that night, Guerrero officially began managing Swagger, and Swagger began interfering in Ziggler's matches to help him win. Ziggler and Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Air Boom for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Hell in a Cell and at Vengeance, where Ziggler also successfully defended the United States Championship against Ryder. He went on to successfully defend the championship against Morrison at Survivor Series. At Tables, Ladders & Chairs, Ziggler lost the United States Championship to Ryder.
On the December 26 episode of Raw, Ziggler defeated WWE Champion CM Punk in a gauntlet match for a championship opportunity following interference from John Laurinaitis. The following Raw, Ziggler defeated Punk by countout after Laurinaitis interfered again; as a result, Ziggler did not win the championship. At the 2012 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Ziggler failed to capture the WWE Championship from CM Punk. At the Elimination Chamber, Ziggler failed again to capture the WWE Championship after being eliminated second by Chris Jericho. Nemeth noted to Arda Ocal in an interview for The Score Television Network that the Elimination Chamber left him with multiple minor injuries and it is a match he least looks forward to working.
On the February 27 Raw, Ziggler and Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Primo & Epico for the WWE Tag Team Championship in a Triple Threat tag team match, also involving Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. On the March 19 Raw, Ziggler and Swagger were announced as the newest members of Team Johnny for the 12 man tag team match at WrestleMania XXVIII. On the April 2 Raw, Ziggler and Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Santino Marella for the United States Championship in a triple threat match. After the match, Ziggler began a feud with Brodus Clay, who headbutted Ziggler after he and Swagger tried to attack Marella. On the following episode of Raw, Ziggler and Swagger were defeated by Clay and Marella in a tag team match. In the following weeks, Ziggler and Swagger lost to Clay and Hornswoggle in singles and tag matches. At Extreme Rules, Ziggler was again defeated by Clay. In May, Ziggler and Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Kofi Kingston and R-Truth for WWE Tag Team Championship, first at Over the Limit and second on the May 28 episode of Raw, resulting in Ziggler showing signs of wanting to break away from Guerrero and Swagger.
On the June 11 episode of Raw, Ziggler pinned The Great Khali, Swagger and Christian in a fatal four way elimination match to become the number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, but at No Way Out, Ziggler lost the title match to champion Sheamus. On the following Raw, Guerrero, finally tired of the bickering between Ziggler and Swagger, arranged for a match between them; Ziggler won the match and Guerrero's affections. Ziggler received another shot at the World title on the June 29 SmackDown, but was again defeated by Sheamus in a triple threat match, also involving Alberto Del Rio.
Money in the Bank and World Heavyweight Champion (2012–2013)
On the July 3 SmackDown, Ziggler defeated Alex Riley to qualify for a spot in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match. On July 13, Ziggler, Zack Ryder and Justin Roberts were involved in a car accident in San Diego while driving from Comic-Con; none of them suffered severe injuries. Two days later at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Ziggler won the Money in The Bank ladder match to guarantee him the opportunity to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at a time of his choosing within the next year. Later that night, Ziggler attempted to cash in the briefcase on Sheamus after Alberto Del Rio attacked him after their match, but Del Rio stopped Ziggler from cashing in. On the following episode of SmackDown, Ziggler again attempted to cash in the briefcase on Sheamus following a tag team match with Alberto Del Rio, but was laid out by Rey Mysterio and Sheamus before he could do so. During this time, Ziggler began a feud with Chris Jericho after claiming he had lost his touch, which resulted in Jericho attacking him on two occasions, and defeating him in a singles match at SummerSlam. The night after SummerSlam, Ziggler defeated Jericho in a rematch; as a result Ziggler retained his Money in the Bank contract and Jericho's WWE contract was terminated. Following this, Ziggler began feuding with Randy Orton on SmackDown four days later, after Orton RKOd him when trying to cash his Money in the Bank contract on a vulnerable Sheamus. The following week on SmackDown, Ziggler faced Orton in a match that was won by Orton. Three days later on Raw, Ziggler defeated Orton in a rematch, pinning him while holding his tights. Ziggler faced Orton again at Night of Champions where he lost again, ending the feud. On November 18 at Survivor Series, Ziggler captained the traditional 5-on-5 elimination tag team match opposite Mick Foley. Ziggler won the match by last pinning Orton, making him the sole survivor of the match.
Once allies when Ziggler was World Champion, AJ Lee & Big E Langston turned on him when Ziggler lost the title.
Ziggler then began feuding with John Cena after he sided with Vickie Guerrero to help defame Cena and AJ Lee by alleging they had a romantic relationship. On December 16 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, Ziggler retained his Money in the Bank briefcase in a ladder match after AJ interfered and turned on Cena. The following night on Raw, while trying to diffuse an argument between Vickie and AJ, AJ unexpectedly kissed Ziggler, leaving him confused. Ziggler then attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Big Show after Show was assaulted by Sheamus, but he was attacked by Cena before the match could start. Later, Ziggler teamed with AJ to face Cena and Vickie Guerrero, however, the match ended in a disqualification after the debuting Big E Langston attacked Cena, also starting an on-screen relationship between Dolph and AJ. Ziggler ended 2012 having wrestled the second most TV/PPV matches that year with 90, however he had the most TV/PPV losses with 57. Ziggler ended his feud with Cena after losing to him on the January 7, 2013, episode of Raw, in a singles match and in steel cage match the following week, despite outside interference from AJ and Langston in both matches. On the January 21 episode of Raw, Ziggler won a Beat the Clock Challenge to earn the right to choose what number he can enter in the Royal Rumble match, first or second. Six days later at the Royal Rumble, Ziggler entered at number one and lasted nearly fifty minutes before being eliminated by Sheamus. During the match, Ziggler resumed his feud with the returning Chris Jericho, who Ziggler managed to eliminate. The following night on Raw, Ziggler and Jericho were placed in a "Strange Bedfellows" match against WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane). The match ended with Ziggler being chokeslammed and pinned by Kane after Jericho framed him for pushing Kane. On the February 18 episode of Raw, Ziggler was defeated by World Heavweight Champion Alberto Del Rio via submission in a non-title match. Afterwards, Langston attacked Del Rio and then Ziggler made a failed attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase after Del Rio's ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez ran off with it. After defeating WWE Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan and Kane in singles matches due interference from Langston, Ziggler and Langston were given a shot at their titles. The title match took place on April 7 at Wrestlemania 29, where Ziggler and Langston unsuccessfully challenged Bryan and Kane for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
The following night on Raw, Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on an injured Alberto Del Rio to win his second World Heavyweight Championship. After gaining the World Heavyweight Championship, Ziggler began feuding with Del Rio and Jack Swagger over the title. Ziggler was originally booked to face Del Rio and Swagger in a three-way ladder match at Extreme Rules, however, Ziggler suffered a legitimate concussion at a SmackDown taping, thus removing their match from the pay-per-view and resulting in Ziggler being absent from television for a month. On June 16 at WWE Payback, Ziggler faced Del Rio in his first title defense of the World Heavyweight Championship and during the match, a double turn took place; Ziggler turned face by displaying a never-say-die attitude when Del Rio repeatedly and ruthlessly targeted his head to take advantage of his concussion, win the match, and end Ziggler's reign at 69 days. On July 14 at Money in the Bank, AJ cost Ziggler his title rematch against Alberto Del Rio, after she prematurely snuck into the ring and hit Del Rio with her own title, prompting a disqualification. On the following Raw, Ziggler ended his relationship with AJ due to her actions the previous night, so AJ exacted revenge by costing Ziggler a non-title match against Del Rio, then she attacked Ziggler and unleashed Langston on him. On the July 29 Raw, Ziggler defeated Langston via disqualification after AJ attacked Ziggler. In a rematch on the following week's Raw, Ziggler was defeated by Langston after a distraction by AJ and Kaitlyn. On August 18 at SummerSlam, Ziggler and Kaitlyn defeated Langston and AJ in a mixed tag team match.
After SummerSlam, Ziggler lost two title matches against United States Champion Dean Ambrose, at Night of Champions and on the October 16 Main Event. Ziggler also failed to defeat defending champion Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Championship on the November 11 Raw. In December 2013, Ziggler lost two #1 contender matches for the Intercontinental Championship to Damien Sandow and Fandango.
On February 1, 2012, Nemeth debuted WWEFanNation's WWE Download and was the host of the YouTube series. The official WWE Download playlist on YouTube described the series as "Dolph Ziggler's sarcastic wit vs. your videos" and each episode consisted of Ziggler reviewing both viral and WWE videos. A new episode of WWE Download was uploaded every Monday until the show ended on 28 January 2013, after 53 episodes. In August 2013, Nemeth was casted by Max Landis to star is his upcoming film called "Me Him Her".
Nemeth has been a fan of professional wrestling since he was five years old, when he attended a wrestling event at the Richfield Coliseum and decided to become a professional wrestler at age twelve. His younger brother, Ryan, is also a professional wrestler who previously worked with WWE and wrestled in NXT under the ring name of Briley Pierce.
Nemeth is also fluent in American Sign Language. Nemeth later revealed in Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling Podcast that he chose the name "Dolph" because that was his great grandfather's name and he said that his friend suggested the name "Ziggler".