Dolph Ziggler says his early experiences on the main roster of WWE were pivotal in making him the enduring competitor he is today.
Ziggler made his WWE debut as Nicky, one-fifth of the male cheerleading group, The Spirit Squad. Alongside Kenny, Johnny, Mikey, and Mitch the group debuted on Raw in January 2006. They soon became an integral part of the ongoing feud at the time between Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels.
Using their significant numbers advantage they helped the villainous WWE Chairman in his vendetta against Michaels, and later his DX teammate Triple H. One night after WrestleMania 22, the group became World Tag Team Champions when they defeated Big Show and Kane for the gold.
The Spirit Squad then had the longest tag team title reign in WWE for ten years before they lost the belts to Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper.
It was being in the ring with these legends and WWE Hall Of Famers that Ziggler says helped his development as a wrestler immensely.
Speaking on the Out Of Character podcast, Ziggler explained:
“Being in the ring with Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, Triple H, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes – anyone you can imagine – getting those few minutes on TV, that juicy TV time, is amazing, and you learn.
“But our live events on the weekends, where we got Ric and Shawn and Hunter rotating in and out, tagging against us three, four nights a week, and the main event of the show, that is where you learn so much.”
“Because of that Spirit Squad one year, I am 10 times better than I should’ve been, no matter how hard I try, because of that experience with all those legends. There’s no way you can ever replicate that in a school or even on television.”
The Spirit Squad group came to an end when they were packaged up and posted back to ‘OVW, Louisville, Kentucky’ which was WWE’s developmental territory at the time.
Ziggler became the stand out of the group, re-debuting under his new name and character in 2008. Since then Dolph Ziggler has captured the Intercontinental six times and is a two-time World Champion. His second of those wins came as a result of cashing in his Money In The Bank contract the night after WrestleMania 29.