Wrestling before politics

Wrestling before politics
Wrestler Dolph Ziggler.

Dolph Ziggler has a political science degree, but wrestling is and always will be his first love

A career in competitive sport was never on the cards for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star Dolph Ziggler, who was a record- breaking champion wrestler in his high school and college days.

The 34-year-old American had always wanted to be more of an entertainer.

"I've always seen myself as more of a performer than an athlete," says Ziggler, whose real name is Nick Nemeth.

"From young, I had always wanted to be telling jokes and have people laughing and looking at me."

In fact, his instincts for show business extend beyond the wrestling ring - he is also a part-time stand-up comedian.

He was in town to promote WWE Live Singapore at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on July 2. The show will feature Ziggler and the likes of John Cena, Rusev and Chris Jericho.

As much as he claims to enjoy the spotlight being on him, the blond, blue-eyed native of Arizona is a far cry from his brash and attention-seeking wrestling ring persona as The Showoff.

When he joined WWE in 2004, his trainer told him he had the makings of a natural "bad guy" before he knew that there were such roles.

He was WWE's heavyweight champion between 2012 and 2013, and is now learning to be a "good guy" after defeating The Authority, a villainous group on the show under the wrestler Triple H.

Given all these good-guy-bad-guy narratives, not to mention predetermined winners and rehearsed stunts, the WWE matches are obviously not meant to be taken as serious athletic competition.

But he maintains that there is an element of unpredictability because of the risks involved. "It's a show, but not all a show," he says. "People get hurt every day and some go away for 10 months to get major surgery done. That's a very normal thing in our business. The risk is very great."

He recently had 12 stiches removed from a scar on his forehead, the result of an attempted headbutt on fellow wrestler Sheamus Farrelly earlier this month.

"I've had some scars. My teeth have been knocked out and nose broken a couple of times, but other than that, I've been very fortunate with injuries," says the 1.82m-tall, 100kg wrestler, who will meet fans at Shaw House tonight at 7pm.

Another thing that is real: rivalries.

Ziggler, Rolling Stone magazine's Wrestler of the Year last year, does not deny that there are wrestlers he is not chummy with.

"You've got to have one or two enemies, not everyone is friendly with each other. But even when we don't like each other, when we get into the ring, we are 100 per cent professional.

"We are out to put on a great show and leave personal differences behind."

With more than 300 WWE live shows a year, he is on the road most of the time and spends about 40 to 50 days at home in a year.

Hence, family time is the main sacrifice the bachelor has had to make for his career.

"You've got to find a way to not just keep enjoying what you do, but to stay in shape and pay your bills with mail piling up at home," he says.

What keeps him going despite the demanding schedule and toil on his personal life is his love of wrestling and desire to put on a good show.

"It's a challenge. But if I didn't love doing it, I wouldn't do it. Five minutes before the show, I can be just chilling around, but when it's time to get going, I get focused, wake my body up, get out there and try to outdo everyone else out there performing.

"I always wanted to be the guy whose match people are talking about. It has always been a chip on my shoulder to want to be the best, no matter what. So when you're not billed as the main event and the next day, everyone is talking about you, that's the part I like."

While Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels were his wrestling idols when he was growing up, he actually might follow in the footsteps of another wrestler: Jesse Ventura, who was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998.

With a degree in political science and a minor in law, Ziggler admits to having a dream of becoming a politician some day.

"When I was about 10 years old, I was hoping to be a WWE superstar and then go on to be the governor of Ohio or something - it's not impossible.

"But wrestling is and always will be my first love and I would not miss a (WWE) show for anything else."

This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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