Dolph Ziggler has come a long way since starting in WWE. His first gimmick was a caddy for Charvo Guerrero Jr's "Kerwin White" character. He was then repackaged into a member of a troupe of male cheerleaders.
Before The Spirit Squad became a reality, Ziggler was told WWE had a much more exciting plan for him. He discussed this turn in his career's path during Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia. Zigger joked about being frustrated with WWE "twelve of the thirteen years I've been here," before going into one early instance where the company's creative decisions didn't go to his liking.
"A little before I got called up to do the Spirit Squad I was told by the in-between when you're hearing you're gonna get called up to WWE, the main roster. They were like, 'hey they really like that you have an amateur wrestling background' and I had my crew cut, my military haircut. They go, 'it's great that you have no tattoos, we're kinda looking at you as Kurt Angle's protegee or something.'
"If Kurt Angle hadn't won that gold medal and came to WWE I might not have even got a chance. But because he was so good and he did so well when he got here they're like, 'maybe we can give some smaller guys a try and because of him I got a chance to work here. And they go, hey maybe we consider you as his protegee and I go, 'what? This is the craziest thing ever!' Cut to four weeks later and I'm a cheerleader with four other guys, but still the thought was there that maybe that was gonna happen."
The Spirit Squad was a heel faction that drew a massive amount of heat from the fans. Their run consisted of working with top names in pro wrestling which helped them along immensely. Ziggler continued to discuss how The Spirit Squad was seen as a joke, yet they were still in the main event.
"It just became a rotating cast of legends. It was like Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and it never ended and it was like, 'Woah.' We were learning stuff that other people didn't get a chance to learn like on a regular basis we were very spoiled. We were kinda seen as jokes but also we were fighting DX in the main event of a pay-per-view in a cage or something."
Ziggler knew The Spirit Squad couldn't last forever. He saw it as a second chance with WWE after being fired as White's caddy. All the while, Ziggler knew he had to step it up and give WWE a reason to keep him around.
"When we finished the Caddy I go, 'aw I'm fired, okay... oh I get a second chance I'm gonna try to do everything I can if this is it,' even being a cheerleader bummed me out, but I go: 'if this is it I'm gonna give them every opportunity to go we need this guy on the roster.' So we did the year, I tried to learn everything I could. I was still okay but at a year-and-a-half in, two years... you can be okay but not great you know.
"Then that came to an end and they go, 'don't worry we have plans for you guys. One of you guys doesn't really know what you're doing yet we'll worry about him later but we have some plans' and next week we were not at TV. Then travel is canceled and I go, 'okay if I get fired now I did everything I could, we did a year run where I listened to everybody I tried to have psychology, tired to learn everything.
"I go, 'but if I get a chance to get called back I wanna be the best wrestler they have that there's no reason for me to ever get taken off the roster again or fired or anything. So I went from the three practices a day I was doing to five practices a day and going to OVW shows and going there early and having a practice match in the ring before the show started.
"I just wanted to have every -- if they give me a chance I don't want them to have a reason to send me back. That's what drove me to be better than I should be. It was half the time we were a joke but half the time we were in main events of pay-per-views and with five of us we could make up for it."
After DX and Ric Flair defeated The Spirit Squad in a five-on-three handicap match on November 27th, 2006, the faction of male cheerleaders was disbanded. Triple H and Shawn Michaels placed The Spirit Squad in a crate stamped with "OVW, Louisville, Kentucky" and the group was off WWE television after that. He went on to discuss why WWE decided to break up the faction and what they were told beforehand.
"For months they go, 'any day this could be over' and then when they said that we'd go win the Tag Titles and go do something else so you never know," Ziggler said when he was asked if he was told why the Spirit Squad was broken up. "It was to get another team some heat in a third-teir for a story on the main event of the show and then that was the end of us. I said, 'that didn't really help us, but you know we had a year run.'"
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit Chasing Glory With Lilian Garcia with a H/T to Wrestling Inc for the transcription