We all remember a few weeks ago when The Miz verbally unleashed on Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. The wrestling world was abuzz for a few days and then the next week they failed to capitalize on it, as instead of Bryan confronting Miz on SmackDown Live, it ended up being everyone’s favorite Little Engine That Could, Dolph Ziggler. I turned out to be a pretty good promo from what I remember, but definitely nothing lasting or memorable. Miz would have benefited from Daniel Bryan helping to push their story forward while Ziggler has done the whole “try real hard bit” almost to death.
To their credit they paid off the story with a really good match at Backlash. Unfortunately coming out of the PPV, the story was continued, as Miz was told he’d have to defend his Intercontinental Championship against Dolph in a rematch. I was disappointed until Miz told his General Manager that he was calling the shots as he stormed out of the ring, seemingly refusing the rematch. I was thinking the story may go down the road of Bryan having to struggle with the idea of his power, the possibility that he may be turning into the thing he always hated most, The Authority.
Later on in the evening, The Miz interrupted the entrance of James Ellsworth to insert himself in the main event while asserting that he IS the main event. I loved this development because I have grown to really appreciate what he has been doing as a heel in 2016. He helped in the process of getting AJ Styles over with fans that may not have known him. He helped facilitate the story that developed between Chris Jericho as well. He has even helped to elevate the level of the Intercontinental Championship with his reverence and hunger for it, whether he was holding it or chasing it. I haven’t always liked The Miz but it’s becoming harder by the week to deny that he gets heat from the crowd like no other heel on the SmackDown Live roster, possibly in the entire company.
While The Miz has grown on me I’ve still had a largely negative opinion of Dolph Ziggler. This isn’t to say that I don’t see his immense talent, because I do. This isn’t to say that I don’t typically enjoy his matches because, again, I do. I guess the issue has been more with the creative direction of his character, although I do hate that he continues to tune up the band. I wasn’t watching WWE when Ziggler was a heel, but I remember flipping on Raw and seeing him as the Money In The Bank briefcase holder. I had no idea who he was but I saw something in him and could tell he had a ton of potential. His look, his athleticism, his arrogance, the way he carried himself and the way the crowd responded to him. I naturally assumed after watching one match that he was going to be the next big star in WWE. He held the World Heavyweight Championship twice, but he has never really been the guy.
By the time I jumped back into WWE full-time in 2014, Ziggler was already being treated as sort of an afterthought. He was performing incredibly in his matches, but rarely winning them and rarely did any of the matches seem to be of any significance. When I saw him cut promos, gone was the edge, the cockiness, the arrogance that made him who he was. His character has often reminded me of a rich man’s version of the old original WCW Chris Jericho character. That classic babyface character that just doesn’t come across as believable. Then something happened on SmackDown last night.
Prior to Ziggler’s entrance for rematch with The Miz he met Renee Young for an interview. He started by saying the same old things, that he is going to give it his all, that he hasn’t been winning lately and that anything can happen on SmackDown Live. Then he cut into The Miz, about how he’s a loud, obnoxious, cowardly cheater who is a Champion. He said that Miz clings to his title desperately but that he is desperate too. Desperate to prove that he still belongs. He said that he was never supposed to be a World Champion but he did it anyway. That he wasn’t supposed to be a Kent State hall of famer, but he did that too. He closed by saying that the only way to prove it is to win the whole damn thing, which drew a real reaction from Renee Young.
On my couch watching, I was actually moved. It seemed like it got the crowd behind him as well. He hit the ring and yelled, “Tonight is the night!” which drew more cheers. The whole thing actually set up an even more annoying than usual entrance from The Miz. It was actually the very rare occurrence of a true heel vs. babyface match. Even though we’d just seen this less than two weeks ago, there was something a little different in the air and they didn’t disappoint.
The intro by Greg Hamilton was great and it helped add to the luster of the match. Ziggler showed a lot of his trademark fire and just the way Miz stands behind Maryse in the corner is such a great touch. From there the action started and this was a really great TV match. It was hard hitting, beautifully paced and there were multiple exciting false finishes. I don’t need to break down the match because I assume you’ve either seen it already or read The Raw Deal, but it closed in on 20 minutes and had the crowd on the edge of their collective seats.
With Ziggler’s promo, with the stakes raised so high, even with my newfound appreciation for The Miz, I found myself actually legitimately rooting for Dolph Ziggler. Actually rooting for an outcome of a match with an outcome that is predetermined. As smart as we think we are about the business, when it is done right, it makes us forget what we think we know. Last night that happened to me.
Ultimately The Miz grabbed his belt, tried to walk out on the match, used the belt to distract the ref and sprayed Ziggler’s eyes, exactly as Maryse had at Backlash. Miz cheated to get the win and I found myself legitimately disappointed. It took me a minute to realize that, “Hey wait, Miz just had a perfect heel victory and that match was awesome.” That’s how invested I was.
I don’t know where Ziggler goes from here, and I still kind of don’t want to see The Miz drop the Intercontinental Title, but Ziggler won me over last night. His piling number of high profile losses may finally lead to that heel turn that many of us have clamored for for so long, but for now he’s allowed me to buy into him as a babyface, even if it is only for just one night. He walks out every week to the words “I’m here to show the world”, and for the first time in a while a babyface Dolph Ziggler managed to show me.
Check out my new podcast, Mat Madness, every Wednesday on iTunes and Podbean, as well as the video show on YouTube. It’s a fan oriented show, so if you’d ever like to take part, let me know. Thank you!