WWE's Dolph Ziggler on Comedy, Living in Phoenix, and Ex-Girlfriend Amy Schumer's Movie

WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler is a man of many talents. Besides being one of the more gifted professional wrestlers currently on the WWE’s roster (and a two-time world heavyweight champion to boot), the 35-year-old is also a stand-up comedian and actor.

The common trait with all of these pursuits is, of course, performing, which is something that Ziggler told New Times during a recent interview that he loves to do, whether he's doing battle on such WWE television shows as Raw and Smackdown or showing off his comedy skills. 

“I think I'm a born entertainer who likes being on the stage at all times,” he says.

Ziggler’s definitely talented at whatever pursuit he’s engaged in at the moment and he knows it, too. Hence his catchphrase, “You only wish you could pull this off.”

If you hit up Talking Stick Resort Arena on Tuesday night, you can watch Ziggler entertain a packed house during the taping of this week’s episode of WWE Smackdown, which will air two nights later on the Syfy channel. And if you happen to be at an open mic night at one of the various comedy clubs around the Valley in the middle of the week, there’s a chance you might get to experience some of his hilarious quips.

That’s because Ziggler, a part-time resident of Phoenix who spends one or two days a week here, is constantly performing as a stand-up comedian when he isn’t in a WWE ring, including an occasional appearance at local clubs now and again.

Ziggler, a native of Ohio, originally moved to Phoenix in the early aughts with the intent of going to law school at Arizona State University after graduating with a degree in political science from Kent State. He received a tryout with WWE before ever spending a day in class, however, and went on to become one of its most spectacular and attention-grabbing superstars.

Needless to say, Ziggler’s never regretted his decision to eschew the legal world for both wrestling and comedy, which is something we discussed during our interview with the superstar. We also asked Ziggler about what he enjoys about living in Phoenix and his feelings on working with WWE newcomer Tyler Breeze. Plus, we were also curious about Ziggler's opinion of Trainwreck, the blockbuster comedy flick starring his ex-girlfriend Amy Schumer, and whether or not he was originally supposed to be her boyfriend in the movie (a role played by fellow WWE superstar John Cena).

What do you dig about living in Phoenix when you're not on the road with WWE?

It's cool that when I come home one day a week or one day every other week that I get to see palm trees, sit in my backyard with awesome weather. And it's almost getting to be the time right now, maybe in the next week or two, when you actually turn the fans on and open the doors and have some nice breeze blowing through. I live to sit in my backyard and just read a book on my day off.

You originally came to the Valley to go to ASU's law school. Do you ever regret not becoming a lawyer?
No, I don't regret it at all. I moved out there maybe 12 years ago or so and was going to go to law school there and go to wrestling school at night, which now, looking back, never would've worked out. That would've been way too strenuous of a schedule. But the first [goal] was to become a wrestler first and I enjoyed politics and law, so that didn't work out and I still get to talk about it and discuss some things and I'm still really interested in some it, but I focus mostly on my work or get face time somewhere.

Do you ever see fellow WWE superstar [and Valley resident] Daniel Bryan around town?
We have completely different schedules and also completely different lives that we lead. I don't know if I'm going to bump into him at an organic quilters convention or something because I'll be out getting sushi somewhere or having a drink.

Are there any particular spots around the Valley that you enjoy hitting up?
Oh yeah. Like I said, more often I'll sit in my backyard and just relax and order a pizza or something, but there's so many places. You can go to Old Town Scottsdale and just kind of grab some sushi and walk around and just people-watch and it’s such a good time.

You're billed from Hollywood, Florida, and were born in Cleveland. Is it widely known you live in Phoenix and do you get big [reactions] from local crowds when you perform here?
Nah. I mean, literally I'm a man without a real birthplace, I guess. In Cleveland, a handful of friends and family will know I'm from Cleveland. In Hollywood, [Florida] there's a handful people that know my character's from Hollywood. And then, in Phoenix, most people don't know I live there. So, I don't make it a big deal, but I do live there and I love it. Usually, Los Angeles is my home away from home, so then a lot of people kind of get that when I'm out here. It's kind of cool.

You like to do comedy gigs whenever possible when you're traveling, right?
Yes. It's like 300 days a year I'm gone doing wrestling shows, but I don't get a chance to hit those open mics 20 or 30 times before you can perfect a joke or perfect a couple minutes. So a lot of times my open mic time is trying out jokes on my friends or on Twitter or something. But I get up [onstage] any chance I get.

Do you ever pop into the local comedy clubs on the days you're in Phoenix?

Absolutely. There's a couple different ones that have open mics and there's some on Wednesday nights and I usually sneak in there, at least to watch or get up and do two or three minutes.

You've opened for Mick Foley whenever he's been in town, right?
Yeah. I actually got to do a sketch and a couple minutes of stand-up with Mick before and he kind of left me an open-door invite anytime I'm [free] or when we don't have a show and in town I'm always welcome to do a couple of minutes with him. It's cool. Very nice of him. And right now I'm out in L.A. I'm actually working on getting a couple shows done before Hell in the Cell, before we actually get back to Phoenix.

Where in the Valley have you performed comedy?
There's actually like five clubs now [in Phoenix] and I've gone to the Tempe Improv before a couple of different times. I bounce around to anything that has a show or an open mic going on as long as I'm in town.
What do you dig about comedy?
I mean, it's entertainment, so it’s about not just putting smiles on faces. Everyone's looking at you, so you have a chance to take something that you've created, whether it’s a wrestling match or a movie script or a book or a couple minutes of jokes and see if they work. With everybody watching you and the pressure's on it’s like such a rush being on stage doing something, because it's fun.

I think I'm a born entertainer who likes being on the stage at all times. So [when] it's stand-up, I just want to get a laugh, I want to entertain, I want everyone to know that I'm good at this, that I've written something that you're gonna like, that it's funny, and it's all about entertainment. It's just like WWE. If you have a good match, everyone's watching and you know you did well. If you didn't, you got to get back to it and start over again.

On last week's episode of Smackdown, Tyler Breeze laid you out after he made his debut on the WWE’s main roster.

Are you looking forward to working a program with him?
I look forward to anything, any kind of challenge, anybody new coming to the roster, anybody that wants to say, "Hey, I'm better than you" or younger or faster. Well, let's see what you got and let's see if you can hang with me. I'm someone who's very open to new challenges, down to do whatever. And it seems like he's pretty good, good head on his shoulders, seems like he knows what he's doing and he's been working really hard for a long time. He used to pick my brain, actually. So I gave him a couple pointers and I hope he can hang in the ring with me, and if he can, he'll be on his way to a hell of a start.

Both you and Tyler Breeze kind of do the young, gorgeous male thing. I mean, is this going to be a battle of the pretty boys?
I feel like I don't do anything young or gorgeous or [a] model kind of thing. I think that's his thing. I'm way older than him, which is fine. I think that's his thing, mine is just "guy who doesn't stop getting beat up 'til he tries to win a match." So I don't really have a gorgeous guy thing. I just happen to be around a couple of girls all the time at work.

Are you guys going to square off during the Smackdown here in Phoenix on Tuesday?
I honestly have no idea. When it comes to pay-per-views, it's hugely booked matches and things you've been watching for weeks and months. But when it comes to Raw and Smackdown, you have no idea. I have no idea who my opponent's going to be. I have no idea what situation I'll be in — if there's a Miz TV [segment], if there's a match, if there's a tag match. That's the cool thing about it, you get to be there live and figure it out. Sometimes you're in the ring and you hear someone's music and you're [like], "Oh, here we go. This is it."

I'm curious about something. You used to date Amy Schumer...
You're curious about that? Yeah, it happened. It definitely happened.

…and was wondering if you were originally cast to play the role of her boyfriend that was played by John Cena in Trainwreck?

Was that role inspired by your and Amy Schumer's relationship?
I honestly don't know. You'd have to ask her. She was writing some stuff a long time ago. She was always working really hard at it and really good at it and funny, so... maybe it was.

Did you see Trainwreck?
I have not, but I haven't any movies in a really long time. I hit up Redbox every once in awhile.

Did John ask advice about Amy before he went and played that role?
John ask advice? No, he didn't.

So why did you quote “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row on Twitter a couple of weeks ago?
Uh, I really like their music.

Some people were confused by that tweet and were wondering what you were referring to specifically.
I kind of throw their lyrics up there [on Twitter] a lot sometimes.

Is your character turning heel anytime soon?
It looks like I'll be working with Tyler Breeze. If that continues, I don't think that's the situation. But I mean, who's to know? Every Monday, something new happens, something special happens. You never know what's going to happen. That's the cool thing about the wrestling business.

Has the start and stop nature of your pushes over the years motivated you to work harder?
I mean, everything I do motivates me to work harder, whether I'm champion and can't defend it or lose the first time I get it, or win Survivor Series and just have to work my way back up from the bottom. It's anything. That's how the business goes. It's ups and downs, just like the entertainment industry. You want to be on top, you want to be the best, and if you're not there, you're striving to get there. And everything that's happened is always driving me to be better. And when you know you're as good as I am, you know its going work out one way or the other. The cream rises to the top. If you're good, you're good, and you're going to be.

WWE Smackdown takes place on Tuesday, October 27, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The action starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20-$105.