Before Dolph Ziggler wrestles in a WWE Supershow on Saturday in Evansville — and before he gets his title shot at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view Sunday — we'll let him talk a little smack (OK, a lot of smack).
Then we'll tell you how he earned this opportunity.
"I think I'm in the best shape of my life, I think I look like a million bucks, I think if anyone were to represent this company as WWE champion, I don't think I can think of a better person who has been carved and cut out of stone to actually fit this bill," said Ziggler, who is listed at 6-feet tall and 213 pounds.
"I feel I'm the best wrestler right now in the WWE. I'm planning on beating CM Punk this Sunday, taking the WWE championship. And you know what? I'm going to make him give me his shirt that says 'Best in the World' afterwards, too."
Look past the boasts and you'll see a talented wrestler who works hard because he knows it all can be taken away. He wants to stick around and be the greatest WWE champion ever. First, however, he has to be a WWE champion.
He'll wrestle the hulking Sheamus in Evansville on Saturday for the Supershow, a special event scheduled to include John Cena versus Kane, and a special appearance by Chris Jericho. Those guys have been among wrestling's biggest names for years — Ziggler is making his bid to join them.
Ziggler — born Nick Nemeth — chose his career after catching a pro wrestling show at age 5. He was a star wrestler in high school in Lakewood, Ohio, and at Kent State University.
After making his WWE debut in 2005, he twice was sent back to the developmental league level while hoping the WWE would call again. After the second time, in 2006, he knew third chances were rare.
"I decided I'm going to go back to developmental school and I'm going to practice twice a day, twice as hard," he recalled.
"'If I get a chance, I'm going to show them I never should have been taken off the roster, and not only that, I should be the champion."
He returned to the WWE in 2008 and adopted the Dolph Ziggler name.
He has since earned Intercontinental and United States championships, important stepping stones to this WWE title shot.
"It's been a slow, gradual build that they've started to realize I'm one of their go-to guys," he said. "I'm going to continue to build on that and be their absolute go-to guy. I want this championship, and I want to hang on to it for a very long time."
He doesn't sound as confident about his scheduled matchup with Sheamus, the 6-foot-4, 267-pound "Celtic Warrior."
"That guy's crazy, man," Ziggler said. "It'll be a tuneup, or he'll soften me up. We've had a couple of matches before and he's come out on top, so I wouldn't mind getting back at him to get some confidence before the Rumble."
(Here's the link to the story on the Courier site but it looks like the page is down)