”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE’s top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Should Miz vs. Daniel Bryan headline WrestleMania 35?
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the written finale of Miz Appreciation Month. It has been a lot of fun deep-diving some of the pertinent themes that have shaped his career to date and exploring his all-time status following his renaissance run these past two years. Today, we conclude with a look back at the five greatest matches of his career.
A reminder of the back end of the Top 10: Miz vs. Ziggler at Backlash ’16 (#10), Miz vs. Morrison vs. Bryan at Hell in a Cell ’10 (#9), Miz vs. Ziggler at TLC ’16 (#8), Miz vs. Morrison vs. Cena at Extreme Rules ’11 (#7), Miz vs. Bryan at Night of Champions ’10 (#6)
#5 – The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 34
Honest to goodness, if you have not rewatched this yet then I urge you to go back and do so at least one more time. I thought on the night that it initially viewed like something that would age very well on account of how smooth a performance and how well paced it was in combination with the series of climactic near falls that played on the general unpredictability of the situation via moments that legitimately felt like match-enders for each superstar. On replay, the high quality remains, but the little touches come into greater focus and elevate it from being just another hot opener to being a few years away from potentially going down in the annals of WWE lore as a highly regarded WrestleMania mid-card classic.
Comfortably the best match that Miz has had across his seven WrestleMania main card appearances, it would have felt conspicuous by its absence on this list even though it has yet to pass time’s test; and it would not have been worthy of inclusion on this particular list had it not been for how well he rose to the occasion on the grandest stage. Remember, The Miz had long since proven himself capable of stepping up in mid-card matches when the lights were brighter (at several PPVs), but rarely has he been in the ring with talents capable of telling four-star stories in three-star minutes like he was at WrestleMania this year.
These three basically took the same chemistry that had allowed them to hit a home-run on Raw in the spring of last year and produced a gem – a powerhouse 15-minutes – with the lights on brightest.
#4 – The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules 2016
It is a very rare thing that the hardworking hustle guy becomes a legit superstar; Joakim Noah rarely becomes Al Horford well into his career. The Miz did it, though, and partly because Miz did not lay the Talking Smack-down until the summer that year, this spring-time classic does not always get included in the renaissance discussion; I’ve been guilty of that myself. I think it would be understandable to have labeled it a top notch, perhaps even all-time great version of the Fatal 4-Way Match back then, but it certainly did not strike me two years ago as a sign that Miz was about to become nearly as integral to the product into the back half of the decade as he had been for a brief 15 month period at the very beginning of the decade.
I’ll tell you what this match is a case of, within the context of this sort of conversation, which seeks to identify truly special night’s in Mike Mizanin’s pro wrestling career. This is a case of an utterly fantastic match that more than lives up to the hindsight hype being almost too much of teaser trailer that wonderfully showcases what each of the four involved could do if given the platform on a larger and longer scale; to say that it necessarily belonged in the discussion among Miz’s best individual performances was questionable due to the credit split so much between its combatants. Nevertheless, if you put in a list of best matches at all, then you have to logically rank it. I felt like I could not substitute Miz vs. Reigns or Morrison in for this match because it was just so great, lost in a logjam of great matches in a year 2016 that featured over ten four-star matches from AJ Styles alone (talk about a statement that well defines why jaded fans don’t disappear despite the struggle being real with some of WWE’s booking decisions); the 4-Way had to be on here, so it had to get ranked.
Look, you could make the argument that it was best match on this list, especially if you’re the type of fan that just wants to have a blast with wild, non-stop action and slick looking sequences galore leading into glorious high spots. For me, this is where the teaser trailer clause, if you will, kicked in for me; Miz was amazing, but he put on full display that incredible renaissance in these next three matches rather than just a brief preview.
#3 – The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship at Extreme Rules 2017
What an outstanding old school performance this was, and a match that highlights very well the growth of The Miz over the years. This was his finest outing in calendar year #2 of his renaissance period. If I may take a quick aside and then circle back around to my point, one of the things that I dislike about Dave Meltzer’s ratings is that they are biased toward a certain kind of match, and frankly that extends to a lot of the ways that reviewers tend to rate matches. Miz vs. Ambrose represents a different kind of great match and is just as deserving of high praise for what it does well as a more epically wrestled performance deserves when performed to its upper limits of quality; yet, Meltzer (with all due respect to him and others like him) has his standard for “this is what a great match looks like” and even something great for a different reason does not get the credit it deserves, which matters because so many fans study his opinion in shaping what they believe equates to greatness. Miz vs. Ambrose was a great match, absent high spots galore and well-timed finisher kick-out sequences that one typically associates with a Match of the Year candidate, but more than making up for them with classically simple storytelling and escalation of the narrative to emotional peaks via character acting, a combination that in this day and age is decidedly old school.
I love the Miz-Ambrose match, how it used so much heel psychology on the part of The Miz to milk everything out of what some would have called a “limiting gimmick” – that being if Ambrose got disqualified, he would lose the title. The overall presentation also, as much as any match outside the 2016 Ziggler series, showcased the value of Maryse and the underrated role that she played in Miz’s renaissance getting off the ground and becoming firmly established as a thing by a year after her return to WWE.
I feel like this match is destined to end up on a “hipster classics” list a few years down the road when people start to clamor for reminiscing about the time period in which we currently view the product. Go watch a few Curt Hennig Intercontinental Title bouts from 1990 and 1991 and tell me that Ambrose-Miz does not hold up well to the Perfect standard.
#2 – The Miz vs. Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship at Backlash 2018
Look, I’m going to be very honest. I think this might have been #1 if I had written this column in six months. As my upcoming book, The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era, will attest, I think that passing the test of time is a very important aspect of a match’s legacy, and I find that trying to ascertain as accurately as possible which more recent matches will be able to do so is a fascinating exercise. 2018 is going to keep rolling forward and other great matches are going to take place, but I absolutely loved my replay of the Rollins vs. Miz match from last weekend to the point of feeling like it is the frontrunner among WWE proper performances for Match of the Year. Personally, it was everything that I could ever want in a feature-length mid-card match; it even had the old school character dynamic that I increasingly mark for of a clearly defined babyface against a clearly defined heel. I’m going to have to try not to gush too much about it in December like I’ve gushed about other Rollins matches that I equally or greater appreciated – vs. Triple H at WM33 and vs. Reigns at MITB’16 – over the past two years, but that will be challenging, trust me.
My kneejerk reaction is to suggest that we will talk about Miz vs. Rollins as one of the premier mid-card singles bouts of the decade, Top 5 at the very least. Those who follow my columns regularly know that I have been making a conscious effort to revert back to a more pure-mark kind of mode this year, with The Architect and Finn Balor as the two wrestlers whose success I am most invested in with youthful exuberance, but it is certainly not bias that places this match in this spot, on the brink if not outright the heir-apparent to the next match for the #1 overall greatest Miz match position; everything that Miz developed within him during that time he was downgraded, so to speak, and that was most famously unleashed during what I think of as his “Austin 3:16”-like promo on Talking Smack in August 2016, it all culminated in that match with Rollins, nothing less than the shining example of man who had just realized his full potential as a storyteller on WWE’s 20’x20′ canvas.
God Bless WWE if they ever show a behind-the-scenes hug, handshake, or audible emotional back-slapping session between them on one of those specials like WWE 24 or WWE365; it sure seemed to me like the type of match that would have “had the boys” out of their seats in the back, “sold out backstage” as Bret Hart might say. I’m at that old man phase of wrestling fandom; I appreciate so much seeing a match like that because that, more than anything else in pro wrestling today, is what keeps me watching. It sounds in my head and looks on this page weird when I write, “I’m proud of those guys,” but I am, ladies and gentlemen…I just am. I sat in Atlanta and watched Miz main-event Mania and sat in the arena in Raleigh a year later baffled as he jobbed to Brodus friekin’ Clay, eventually falling so far from the main-event level that you’d forgive anyone who figured he’d never even get close again, and it was an absolute pleasure to sit there and watch him six years later ascend to that caliber of in-ring performance, hopefully en route back to the very top of the industry. Hats off to both…
#1 – The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Title vs. Career Match for the Intercontinental Championship at No Mercy 2016
Going back to the concept of hindsight hype, I had built up a ton of it for my replay of the Ziggler vs. Miz Career vs. Title bout. These were my highly praiseworthy thoughts for it back in October two years ago: “[it] was WWE storytelling at its finest, with both characters completely immersed and booking that finely complimented the action in order to tease the finish on numerous occasions.” I loved the storyline, I bought fully into the fiction, and thought that they absolutely killed it at No Mercy. Adding to the weight of what it had to live up to was the fact that I watched it the night after Miz and Rollins tore the house down at Backlash a pair of Sundays ago. This project began with Miz vs. Ziggler in the poll position, but it really had to re-deliver.
From the Figure Four sell by Ziggler onward, especially, I still believe upon replay that neither The Miz nor The Show-Off has ever had a better match; and I will be very honest, stepping out of my analytical mode with at least one foot, in saying that part of the reason why I love it so much is that, watching it now, I view it as the hallmark achievement from The Lost Generations. As a bell-to-bell performance, nothing that the peers with whom we most closely associate them historically can hold a candle on their best nights to what Miz and Ziggler achieved together in the fall of 2016; and that there was a lengthy period when many of us believed we would never see something of that caliber in the ring from members of The Lost Generations only amplifies the achievement and furthers the point made regarding their Title vs. Career bout coming to represent the potential realized of their strangely regarded era.
I suppose it should not have come as a surprise that it held up so well against the best particularly of the recent Miz library considering how well it performed in comparative analysis to the stacked roster of Match of the Year candidates in 2016, but whatever it may be that The Miz and Daniel Bryan go in search of achieving together in the not too distant future, the penultimate showdown in the Ziggler series is the standard that it must exceed.