”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: What is the greatest Miz match of all-time?
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 begin the conclusion with a look at the back end of the ten greatest matches of his career.
#10 – The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler at Backlash 2016 for the Intercontinental Championship
Allow me to introduce to you a concept that I like to call “hindsight hype,” which refers to the amount of excitement generated for a match by its historical reputation. If someone became a fan in the mid-2000s, for instance, then the TLC tag team series during the Attitude Era would be viewed by such a fan, in all likelihood, with a tremendous amount of hindsight hype; a more tenured enthusiast experiences hindsight hype differently, as the reverence is of his or her own creation, meaning that the performance has to live up to the standard it set in his or her own mind (the original Ironman Match, for example, has been adversely affected by hindsight hype for yours truly).
As far as The Miz is concerned, if there is any series of his matches that seem likely, right this second, to generate considerable hindsight hype for future first viewings or replays, it would have to be his Intercontinental Title rivalry with Dolph Ziggler two years ago.
Personally, I had a list prepared that reflected my Miz Top 10 ahead of any pre-column-writing study; the Backlash ’16 match was pretty high up on my list, as I thought it incredibly well set the tone for the next eleven weeks of what I feel to be the in-ring manifestation of the career renaissance that Miz enhanced during that feud. I had long felt that Miz and Ziggler had great chemistry, dating back to their Summerslam opener in 2014 that I think is one of the finest sub-10-minute bouts of this decade, but the renewal of their rivalry at the first brand-only PPV of brand split 2.0 was a cut above any of their previous matches against each other. On the night of, I was blown away by it, feeling that they seriously out-kicked the coverage of their recent rekindling; after rewatching their 2016 feud in its entirety for the purpose of this project, it did not live up to my hindsight hype for it, but I still believe that they out-kicked their coverage, just by closer to five or ten yards than twenty. IC Title matches that last a third of an hour have not exactly been a dime a dozen in the 21st century, so I really appreciated then and still appreciate now what they did with the time afforded them, building a story from the ground up as they did and creating enough momentum to keep the saga going for another three months thereafter.
Daniel Bryan seems poised to take this title from him, but at present time I believe that Ziggler is the top opponent of The A-Lister’s career.
#9 – The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Morrison in a Submissions Count Anywhere Match for the United States Championship at Hell in a Cell 2010
I think it would be fair to say that there would not have been much reason to put together a Miz Top 10 list before his renaissance starting in 2016, but that is not to say that there weren’t a few gems in his original library too, the two opponents most integral to his early success being Bryan and Morrison, whose WWE exit in 2011 has left him vastly underrated and might be, to this day, one of the Top 5 rivals in the A-Lister’s career. The Miz vs. Jo Mo match from October 2009’s Bragging Rights event was an honorable mention here, and the Falls Count Anywhere Match for the WWE Title on Raw from a few months after this triple threat was held out only because it was far more a showcase for Morrison than Miz; still to come is yet another match involving Morrison from his WWE Championship reign.
When rewatching this one for Top 10 consideration, the question that lingered in my mind was whether or not Miz played a prominent enough role in the top notch quality, which had already been verified in recent years when putting together a list of the ten most epic matches that were never intended to be epic with the gentlemen from LOP Radio’s The Right Side of the Pond. The Submissions aspect obviously favored Bryan and the “Count Anywhere” aspect clearly played to Jo Mo’s strengths; since I wanted this to be less a list of the best matches in which Miz just so happened to be involved and more an amalgamated list of his best performances and his highest rated matches, he had to hold up his end for a match to be included. To that end, multi-man bouts are not always, in my opinion, ideal because the credit can be split unequally across the totality of the performance. However, Miz was a massive part of the success of this particular multi-man match.
It’s funny watching this back today. If you get a chance, check it out and see if you notice what I thought was the most interesting thing about it: that Miz was clearly the star and that Morrison came across the far more likely future headliner as compared to Bryan.
#8 – The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship at TLC 2016
Typically, I am not a fan of including Ladder matches when evaluating a wrestler’s top performances because the vast majority of the genre’s library fall into the stunt-brawl category heavily dependent on spot innovation. Rare is the Ladder match that borrows from the principles taught by HBK vs. Razor and Rock vs. HHH in the 1990s, which told stories and just so happened to utilize ladders along the way. Miz and Ziggler had a deeply rooted issue previously referenced and the Ladder match stipulation has somewhere along the line become a payoff gimmick that, while not making a ton of sense necessarily, is generally accepted in its role (perhaps because of the generally high quality). I certainly do not remember being at all jaded by the use of the Ladder Match to conclude their rivalry; rather, I felt enthused to see what they would do with it, assuming that they would stay true to the gimmick’s WWE roots.
One major takeaway from my replays of it was that it was absolutely best watched at the end of the feud, as it was then; I watched it twice in the past month, the first time out of order with the timeline of the rivalry and in the order of my master Miz Top 10 list and it was not as good as it was when watched again within the timeline. It would actually be an interesting exercise to rank it among its Ladder Match peers from this decade because, even though it did not wow with innovation, it did a great job of echoing the patterns that made the Miz-Ziggler series the surprise hit of 2016. Overall, it was the kind of match that expressed how far Miz had come in putting the personality he regularly displayed in his promos into a feature length in-ring performance.
#7 – The Miz vs. John Cena vs. John Morrison for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules 2011
Much like with the other triple threat involving Jo Mo, this Cage Match that saw The Miz’s November ’10 to May ’11, one and only WWE Championship reign to date come to an end a month after retaining the title against John Cena in the main-event of WrestleMania (telling you, folks, he’s a poor man’s Jericho!), was a Miz performance that really holds up well against competition from the his renaissance period. I thought I heard years ago about Miz being a really good high school basketball player, but a compliment I’d like to give him here is that his supreme confidence in himself during that Money in the Bank-induced title reign reminded me of sharing the hardwood with that stingy dude who really isn’t very good but who loves the game so much that he tries his damnedest to keep up with better players, translating to someone you can believe in as a teammate nonetheless.
I want to make it clear that I have always rather liked The Miz and that I was flat out disappointed when his career peak stopped cold in its tracks after an incredibly impressive 2011. He competed in WWE Title matches that year in six different months, made a pit stop back in the WWE Title picture en route to Cena vs. Punk II, and headlined Survivor Series against Cena and The Rock just weeks after facing Punk and Triple H. He did not have many great matches during that stretch, but he had a lot of rock solid ones. This Cage Match was his best.
Something tells me both he and WWE look back with mixed feelings about CM Punk’s rise shortly after this match occurred. I’d be willing to bet that Miz would’ve been willing to bet that he would have eventually gotten another World Title reign by now; he wrestled his final title bout like a dude in command of his next move, taking all but one of the bout’s signature bumps (and there were some pretty bone-crunching ones, please recall) and genuinely playing the sleazy heel role rather exceptionally. It has been a genuine pleasure going through Miz history these past few weeks; I’m very glad that he’s reached the upper-level again and is thriving.
#6 – The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan for the United States Championship at Night of Champions 2010
Pre-2016 renaissance, the general consensus was that the best match that Miz had been featured in as a singles competitor in a one-on-one situation was against Daniel Bryan, building off of their tremendously engaging pairing on the original reality show-based format of NXT, on which Bryan was considered the “rookie” and Miz his “pro.” Bryan’s reputation as the best wrestler on the independent scene and this sort of early crowning achievement for him in cathartically winning the US Title has tended to overshadow, especially within the diehard audience, that The Miz was, himself, on the brink of the main-event after a breakout post-‘Mania 25 through Summerslam 2010, at least in the character department. He had worked hard in the prior years to advance from afterthought (and joke) to improving prospect to one half of a really good tag team to solid upper mid-card champion with a true gift of gab all the way to Mr. Money in the Bank.
Compared to his renaissance work, which offers a bit more flair for the dramatic into the equation in an era that rightfully demands it to be maximally successful amidst stiffer competition, Miz vs. Bryan in 2010 watches as a tad more dull, but it retains its story-based emotional connection that would have resonated with today’s audience even without their pending rematch in 2018. Miz represented in this match the system that undervalued the experience and know-how that wrestlers like Bryan learned by honing their craft around the world, and he was impressive in drawing from the ire that the people aimed at him and harnessing it like one might expect of the quarterback of the football team attempting to prove that he could win in a fight against the captain of the wrestling team. It was not a great match, but it was a really good one.