SevenVenues is proud to announce WWE’s first ever Friday Night SmackDown in the Hampton Roads area will emanate live for the whole world to see, November 12th from the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. Such stars as: The Man Becky Lynch, Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman, the Usos, Dolph Ziggler, Edge, Sasha Banks, Big E, Seth Rollins, Bianca Belair, Ray Mysterio and many more will be there.

Tickets go on sale this Friday, September 17th at 10:00 a.m. Be the first to get your tickets, go to https://www.sevenvenues.com/events/detail/wwe-friday-night-smackdown to join the SevenVenues mailing list or follow SevenVenues on social media for the presale password and details.

We were fortunate recently to talk to WWE SmackDown Superstar Dolph Ziggler who will see action November 12th.

Yiorgo: Why should people come to see a live WWE show, and why should they come to SmackDown on November 12th at the Norfolk Scope?

Dolph Ziggler: For our fans, it’s an opportunity to see us live after all this time and allow us to entertain you the best way we know how. It’s an awesome show, even if you don’t know what we do or what our product is, because it is so much fun. It’s live, sports theatrics, pyrotechnics, different kinds of superstars doing unbelievable feats of strength and athleticism. It is such a blast for us to perform these matches and it’s really fun for me to beat people up in front of a crowd. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

Y: You wanted to become a wrestler from a very young age, tell us the who, what, and where.

DZ: No joke, when I was five years old, a young for my age first grader, my dad took me to a WWF show at the time. We sat in the nosebleeds seats far away. There were no big screens back then, just a ring far away that looked so small, and I remember saying, I want to do this. My dad said ok and he got me a singlet, shoes, and I had my gear. I remember he took me to a wrestling tournament that year and at five years old I remember saying to him, Dad there is no ring and no ropes. That genuinely happened, and he said, “It’s different but you start here”. And I busted my butt from that point on to get better.

Y: Who did you idolize, as a kid?

DZ: My uncle got me very early into Ric Flair when I was like seven or eight years old and I am not supposed to know how cool and good Ric Flair is or the Four Horsemen and I have been following him my whole life. Like Ric, I wanted to be that guy that could go an hour with anybody at some random city, at any point, at any time. Strut into the place, strut out with a suit and sunglasses and go to the next town. So I always wanted not just to be the best or ‘The Man’ but the guy who delivered every night and jumped on a plane or helicopter and went onto the next state. And Yiorgo, you’ve told me before how much you love and respect Ric Flair. That’s the right guy to look up to and emulate down the line, not just looking and being the part, but actually delivering that part for 35 years in a row and into today.

Y: They say it’s better not to meet your idols. How did your friendship develop with Ric and can you share a cool Ric Flair story?

DZ: Ric did not have to be but he was really nice to me when we met. Very early on in my career I was in the Spirit Squad 16 years ago, and we were in there wrestling Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Sargent Slaughter, Roddy Piper and not only is that just learning for you, they did not have to be as kind as they were before and after, telling us what we did wrong, helping us out. As we discussed, I wanted to be the Ric Flair of our generation so I would ask for his help, what I should do and how to do it. We both also have this love for amateur wrestling so that and the work in the ring, started at some point to stand out to him and he said ok this kid is not just saying these things, he is backing them up. We got closer and closer. Anytime he was at RAW he would push for me to do bigger and better things. One time we did a segment on the show where he was giving me a pep talk to go fight Miz, and I remember thinking to myself, well I did that, I had a segment with Ric Flair, that’s pretty great, I got the nod from Ric. And it just got better and better from there. It was pretty cool. A couple of nights afterwards we would hang out. Those are stories that I probably can’t tell but those are my favorite stories, just hanging out with Ric after the shows.

Y: You were at Ric’s 70th birthday party a few years ago and what I think is so incredible is when Ric married Wendy, you walked Wendy down the aisle. That is such a great honor. How did that happen?

DZ: The party was amazing. As far as the wedding goes, after all these years of bonding, a tradition we would have is when Ric would go into the WWE Hall of Fame or presenting at the Hall of Fame, Wendy needed someone to escort her down the Red Carpet and into her seat. So since we were all hanging out I said, I’ll do it. It happened two years in a row so it like became our thing. And Wendy would say, “See you at WrestleMania”. We would hang out, I would either get dinner or drinks for those guys. So first of all, Wendy thought it would be a good surprise for Ric so we did not say anything.

I assumed Wendy told Ric and I remember we are walking down the aisle and Ric is saying, “What the h*** are you doing?” It was so great because I became so close with these two. They are family. Whenever we get a chance to hang out we do. We love wrestling, having a good time, everything just works out.

Y: Let’s reminisce a little bit. At 24 years of age you are signed by WWE. Can you talk about that experience and your time at then WWE’s developmental territories of Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) and Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).

DZ: I had gotten a tryout and they told me that I was too small. So I started mixing powdered milk with 2% milk and drinking it every two hours. It was not going to make me taller but I was trying to pack five or six pounds and I was walking around with a gut full of milk. So that didn’t work. Six to eight months later I got another tryout and I had read Mick Foley’s book so I was jumping over the hood of my parents car and landing on my back on the lawn, jumping up as fast as I could so I could jump up faster than the other guys trying out, hoping that I would stand out at the tryout camp. First of all, I had like 12 golf size balls on my back from doing this, but it worked. When we did the knockdowns I was jumping up and standing up faster from the other 6 guys that were there.

OVW was great. Dr. Tom Prichard and Rip Rogers helped me a lot and I learned a lot from them in the ring but also about outside the ring, behind the scenes, backstage, what you are supposed to do and how to represent yourself and make the matches great. We had practice three days a week, but I practiced six days a week so I can stand out. At FCW I had Dr. Tom again and Steve Kern to teach me the ins and outs of a match and what you can do between the moves that makes you to start and stand out. Also big time, they really helped me behind the scenes on how to represent yourself, what to do in real life to make yourself standout. That is such a huge, huge part of the business.

Y: Can you share some wow, pinch me type moments for you in wrestling.

DZ: I have a couple of those. Even the little battles backstage that I’ve overcome, where I’ve been told you will never have a tee shirt or when I was told I would never be World’s Champion. And I was like, I can deal with that, trying to change their minds for the next few years and I became World Champion. I mean there was a very clear moment where I cashed in my “Money In The Bank” contract, I had the crowd behind me, it was a crazy moment. For me becoming world champion was an unreal thing because I was told to my face this will never happen and I made it happen. It was above and beyond very cool for me.

Y: Was that told to you by Vince McMahon?

DZ: Sometimes it was second hand by other people but not in a condescending way. “Hey man Vince doesn’t see it in you”. A few times it was pretty close to the top. “Hey man, we just don’t see it. It just doesn’t work for you”. Everyday it was like I can take it but if I can get just 30 seconds let me try to prove them wrong. So for the next couple of years something would happen, somebody would get hurt, they would put me in that spot, and I would go out and if they could put me into that spot a little more, after that if I could just win a few times and after that maybe I could just retain. So it was baby steps, little goals all the way through. Somehow the timing worked out and sometimes it happens.

I’ve been around WWE for a long time, so I learned to never believe anything until you see it or do it. So even after being told I was going to cash in and become champion, I didn’t believe it until it happened. I never had so many texts in my life afterwards. It was so real because as a group, the fans and myself made it happen in spite of being told it would never happen. Sadly, immediately after I was told, I was more of a placeholder for 2 months. I said, Well I guess that means I have two months to change your mind.

Y: Besides winning the WWE World title, what three-four moments would you put on your personal highlight reel?

DZ: Getting my first action figure and having a young fan come up and ask me to sign it. Being told I would never be world champion and becoming champion. The match I had against Del Rio when I lost the title on my first defense where we changed roles throughout the match and told an amazing story. And getting a pink tee shirt at a time when everyone else had black ones and I was told it would never sell. It was my highest selling shirt ever. Always stand out and stick to your guns.

Y: As a 17 year vet, what advice do you give the young talent?

DZ: I say the same thing to everybody whether they are my younger brothers, fans or those in the wrestling business or starting school: To be the first one in and the last one out even if it does not work out. No matter what happens, you gave it everything you had in any kind of work that you do in life.

Y: Are you still doing stand-up comedy?

DZ: Yes, we just started back up SummerSlam weekend in Las Vegas. The fans were great and we had a sold out show, so we are setting up 20-30 more shows a year and I’m doing a couple of shows with Mick Foley.

For more info on Dolph’s standup shows, follow him on Twitter @heelziggler and at realmickfoley.com

Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.

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