Last week, Talking Smack lived up to its name. Airing right after Smackdown Live every Tuesday night on The WWE Network, the show allows wrestlers a chance to further their storylines outside of the ring and vent if they so desire. (They must’ve gotten the idea from The Talking Dead, the wrap-up show that follows The Walking Dead on AMC.)
During last week’s broadcast, The Miz was a guest. One of the hosts, Daniel Bryan, made a pointed criticism about his in-ring work. The former four-time World Champion claimed that the current InterContinental Champion was “soft” (or did he mean “sawft”?) and that he seemed less than eager to take bumps, particularly punches to the face. He bluntly called him a “coward”.
In the past, when he was knocked for any number of reasons, The Miz would simply laugh off and diminish such negative views as the work of “haters”. He even turned it into a T-shirt. In all the years I’ve been watching him in the WWE, he has never let this get to him.
But judging by his ferocious reaction on Talking Smack, Bryan clearly touched a nerve. Shaking so much with rage, The Miz passionately defended himself, claiming in his decade-long run with the WWE, he had never gotten seriously hurt. He went on to hammer Bryan for telling the fans he would return but then retiring instead.
The Yes Man had a very good reason for ending his pro wrestling career, as Miz well knows. He accumulated so many concussions, among other serious injuries, the WWE would no longer clear him to wrestle. As he noted to The Miz, he would be back if the company would let him.
That wasn’t good enough for the star of Christmas Bounty. The Miz suggested that if he was serious about coming back, he’d return to the “bingo halls” where he got his start. Sticking the proverbial knife ever deeper, the IC Champ claimed that he loves the WWE fans (he’s currently a self-absorbed heel) and would make his title (which he has won on four previous occasions) mean something again. (Bryan’s last title run in 2015 was with the same belt.)
Daniel Bryan eventually walked off the set which added even more fuel to The Miz’s venom. With a very noticeable vein bulging out of his shiny forehead, he pointed out the obvious. When vigourously challenged, ironically, Bryan was the one who showed fear.
But was The Miz right about everything else he said? Is his “safe” style of wrestling, as Bryan derisively called it, the best way to work?
Bryan could’ve easily demolished his argument but because he abandoned this heated conversation while an agitated Miz was still lashing out at him in mid-sentence he missed a glorious opportunity to do so. There are so many things he could’ve said instead of just walking away in disgust.
First off, he could’ve asked the IC Champ if he had ever had a classic match? The Miz would probably respond with his two main event matches with John Cena for the WWE Championship back in 2011. To which Bryan would’ve noted that his match with Cena at SummerSlam 2013 was better than both of them put together.
Miz would’ve countered that he was Champion that night for just a few minutes thanks to Randy Orton cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase with a big assist from Triple H. Bryan would’ve reminded him that the only reason he remained WWE Champion at WrestleMania 27 is because of The Rock. And that Miz only became the champion in the first place because he cashed in his own MITB briefcase on a fallen Orton during a November episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010. The only way he was able to keep the title in a 2011 Royal Rumble rematch with The Viper is because of the interference of CM Punk.
Miz would likely go on to mock Bryan for losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in the opening match of WrestleMania 28 in less than 20 seconds, to which Bryan would note that his loss led to his eventual babyface push as the fans began enthusiastically chanting “Yes!”, his once purposefully obnoxious catchphrase, in protest that night. When Miz would take credit for that success, as he did in an interview in 2012, Bryan would argue that despite his love of the fans, they didn’t love The Miz back during his own ill-fated, mercifully brief babyface turn.
The Yes Man could list a whole slew of great matches in his career. A Money In The Bank ladder match in 2011 (which led to his first world title push), the 2012 Elimination Chamber match for the WHC, the three WWE title bouts on pay-per-view with CM Punk (including one that featured Kane) during the Spring and Summer of 2012, his Royal Rumble 2014 match with Bray Wyatt and that stellar encounter with Triple H at WrestleMania 30 which directly led to him regaining the WWE Championship in a 3-way with Orton and Batista in the main event of that same show. Both encounters lasted 30 minutes apiece. Could The Miz have accomplished any of this with his “safer” approach?
Bottom line, Daniel Bryan can easily say he had more memorable, important matches in his six years in the WWE than The Miz has had in his entire career even if he did suffer serious physical setbacks that ended his wonderfully inspiring run all too quickly.
As for the IC Champ’s assertion that he’s never been seriously hurt, I can think of two instances where things went wrong at his expense. The original finish of the Cena match at WrestleMania 27 ended in a double count-out where Miz hit the back of his head hard on the concrete while taking a bump at ringside. If memory serves, I do believe he suffered a concussion from that.
And then, there was the Raw match he had with Kofi Kingston where he got struck so forcefully with the Trouble In Paradise (basically a spinning kick to the head), you could hear the loud thump of the impact. Miz looked dazed for a bit after he was pinned.
Interestingly, if Bryan had brought up these instances during their Talking Smack interview, Miz could’ve used them as proof he can take a serious bump and not lose his spot. To which Bryan would’ve instantly countered that these were rare, unfortunate accidents and he doesn’t handle genuinely safe but tough-looking bumps on a regular basis.
On this week’s Smackdown Live, The Miz delivered another blistering heat-seeking promo that seemed slightly inspired by CM Punk’s brilliant “pipe bomb” promo in 2011. Once again sounding very defensive, especially when he was booed, he talked about how great a team player he is for WWE. Whenever the company needs him for PR work, he’s there, dignity be damned.
Daniel Bryan’s promised direct response to last week’s Talking Smack segment, on the other hand, was a huge letdown. Bryan and The Miz never actually had a follow-up face-to-face encounter which is baffling. In fact, as Bryan noted on this week’s Talking Smack, it was decided by WWE management to keep them apart on-camera from this point forward. (Ridiculous. Talk about poor creative judgment.) For his part, Bryan apologized for abandoning co-host Renee Young during a hot segment and for pissing off The Miz, although on Smackdown Live, it was more than clear he stands by his original criticisms, as he should.
It’s such a shame he didn’t go further last week because had he done so, he would’ve won the argument. Handily.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016