This countdown isn’t in any order or declaring the definitive best, we’re just selecting ten that we Vultures loved. Find out more here.
The Miz and Dolph Ziggler have been staples of WWE’s midcard forever. So much so that in 2016 a fair few of us had probably forgotten they were there. Despite being able to boast more than a decade’s WWE experience each neither had ever managed to prove demonstrably that they could draw at a main event level. Call it a lack of opportunity, or experience, or just bad luck when it came to the ebb and flow of WWE’s talent development cycle. In 2016 you weren’t tuning in for either of them. Until they made you.
Do I have your attention now?
On the August 23 edition of Smackdown aftershow Talking Smack, The Miz delivered a scathing worked shoot on Smackdown General Manager Daniel Bryan. He called Bryan a coward for retiring. All at once wrestling fans were listening.
Just over a month later, on an edition of Smackdown Live in Cleveland, Dolph Ziggler delivered the best in ring promo of his career. At the end of his tether after a string of losses, Ziggler offered to put his career on the line for one more shot at The Miz’s Intercontinental Championship. With that, fans immediately started talking. In 2016, with the likes of Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar and John Cena on their roster, WWE’s best storyline was the out of nowhere masterpiece that was The Miz against Dolph Ziggler.
No Mercy, Smackdown Live‘s second exclusive Pay-Per-View of the new brand split, was not a perfect show. It’s strange match order and the temporary loss of Becky Lynch hurt things out of the gate. The match between Miz and Ziggler though; that was near perfect sports entertainment.
This is awesome
Every single thing that could be used to tell its story was exploited to perfection. The pacing saw fast, athletic intensity expertly interspersed with slower chains of reversals. The Miz didn’t pull out the Figure Four leg lock because he was tired my friend. That gem was there so your little brain wasn’t overloaded with clotheslines or DDTs going in to the match’s finish.
Ziggler and Miz also deliberately fine tuned their movesets for the bout. Notice how Miz’s offense was slow, deliberate and methodical? That stuff’s meant to annoy you and show you just how systematic, crafty and dominant he is. Observe how Ziggler’s offense was nearly all short bursts of intense action? Sorry to have to break this to you but he’s working you as well.
More seasoned fans will know this of course, and are probably gritting their teeth at how thick I’m lathering on the condescension. Wrestlers do this sort of thing all the time; it’s Psychology 101 when it comes to portraying a character in the ring. But I’m sure those same veteran fans will agree with me that quality character work of this level can be surprisingly uncommon from certain WWE performers. Not that it’s always their fault. Wrestlers can only elevate bad material so far.
At this point in their careers, The Miz and Ziggler are incredibly unlikely to become main event tent poles for WWE. They are, however, better than they’ve ever been. It comes down to experience. Rookies, even journeymen, lack the confidence, skill and creativity to layer so many sub-plots so seamlessly into a twenty minute match. Miz’s mocking theft of Daniel Bryan’s signature moves? His repeated efforts to land a slingshot powerbomb? The desperation of Ziggler with his injured leg? His bootless homage to Eddie Guerrero? Only two quality ring veterans could have pulled this off so smoothly. And make it look so good.
That’s why it’s one of the best matches of 2016, folks.