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Dolph Ziggler ready to drop in for Pittsburgh bash

| Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010

Dolph Ziggler is a fairly confident guy -- cocky even. You sort of have to be when you're a muscle-bound professional wrestler with a blond mullet, and go by the name Dolph Ziggler.

Being bashful wouldn't really work. Bashing other people, however, is simply another day at the office for the Cleveland-born WWE wrestling superstar and Intercontinental Championship title holder.

For a Cleveland boy, coming to Pittsburgh as part of the SmackDown World Tour this Monday night is kind of like going right into the lion's den.

"Oh, yeah," Ziggler says. "Hopefully, I can get my old Bernie Kosar jersey out."

This is a gig he's been training for since he was 5 years old.

"That year, when I was in first grade, I actually started wrestling, hoping to become a WWE superstar," says Ziggler (whose non-wrestling name is Nick Nemeth). "I didn't know how realistic it was. In high school, I started putting on some pounds and became really good at what I did. I wrestled throughout high school and college, and thought if I could break some records in college, I'd have a chance to put my foot in the door at WWE. And that's what I did -- I became the all-time-winningest wrestler at Kent State University. That got my foot in the door, got me a tryout, and I've been working for them ever since."

Though he's a solidly-built 6 feet 2 inches, 221 pounds and definitely looks the part, Ziggler realizes that being able to entertain a crowd is just as, if not more, important.

"You have to differentiate yourself from other people," he says. "There's a million guys out there who are athletic. There's a million 6-foot-8 guys who played football. It's (about) being able to relate to the fans."

However, amateur wrestling experience does keep coming in handy.

"In high school and college, I worked hard as hell to be in great shape, to be good at what I did. A lot of that translates over, or at least helps with the mindset -- constantly wanting to be better," he says. "Also, because of my wrestling background, I've been able to apply a lot of moves that a lot of people haven't seen in a long time -- stuff I've actually used in college to win matches.

"I used to do this 'crucifix pin,' where you get a guy's arm between your legs and another arm between your arms and you roll him on his back. I used to use that as a finishing move in high school and college. Now I actually use it almost every match. It's really comfortable for me to go to place like that really quickly."

Ziggler will face Kofi Kingston, whom he defeated to win the Intercontinental Championship, in a rematch Monday night. Other matches that night include Rey Mysterio against Alberto Del Rio in a SmackDown Challenge Match, and Kane defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Edge and The Big Show in a Triple Threat Match.

Ziggler is still an undercard, but the Intercontinental Championship is considered to be an essential stepping stone to becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. He's aware that this is a fairly tall mountain to climb.

"Right now, the world champion is Kane, who's a 6-foot-10 monster of a man -- who's actually athletic, which is interesting," Ziggler says.

When guys are this big, it doesn't take much for things to go wrong, and people to get hurt.

"You're putting your life in someone else's hands every time you step in there," Ziggler says.

The upside, of course, is obvious to any 5-year-old.

"You forget sometimes," Ziggler says. "You're going to work, you're busy and you go, 'Wow, I have an action figure.' It blows my mind sometimes."

Additional Information:

WWE SmackDown World Tour

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Admission: $20-$75

Where: Consol Energy Center, Uptown

Details: 800-745-3000

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