”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: How big of a match is Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz in your opinion?
Every one of us knew it was coming. The moment that Daniel Bryan’s return was confirmed, it was only a matter of time before he started interacting with the nemesis that brought him to initial WWE prominence and kept him storyline-relevant even into his multi-year hiatus from in-ring competition: The Miz; and, amidst one of the most heavily criticized creative periods of the entire WrestleMania Era, WWE has done very well these past four months to tease but never provide the anticipated reignition of the Miz-Bryan feud. Now, Summerslam 2018 is upon us and it appears that WWE is ready to cash in on the investment that its audience has made in seeing the classic antagonist attempt to avoid the thrashing that one of the most beloved all-time protagonists will naturally want to deliver him; the heel will inevitably seek to one-up his former NXT “rookie,” while the babyface best known for being the ultimate underdog will shed his odds-against attitude as the clear favorite to force his faux-mentor to take an extended drink from the fountain of comeuppance. Honestly, no matter the result, Bryan vs. Miz is as can’t-miss as anything WWE has offered up this year.
It could not have come at a better time for the leader of the Yes! Movement. Many column inches and podcast segments have been dedicated over the past few months to how royally WWE had messed up one of the greatest gifts that they had been given arguably ever, that being Bryan’s dream-come-true scenario of making a comeback. A WrestleMania return for a tag match to end one of the most overwrought stories of the decade was fairly easy to forgive at the time because fans and pundits alike were on the same page about it just being wonderful that Bryan could return to the ring for WWE, but a multi-pay-per-view saga with Big Cass that approximately one person on earth wanted to see followed by the latest example of WWE’s “Now…Then [is] Forever” booking philosophy in the reunification of Team Hell No sapped virtually three-quarters of the momentum of DB’s unexpected comeback. Like much of the WWE product over the past sixteen months, Bryan suffered from the inability of the WWE writing teams (spearheaded by Vince McMahon’s fish-like attention span) to put together consistent character development for the contemporary roster. However, each time that Bryan crossed paths with Miz, or was even hyped to maybe cross paths with Miz, there was a palpable shift in energy. The Yes! Man needs this feud and he needs it now.
Facing the facts, The Miz needs this feud too, albeit perhaps not as much as Bryan does. Since his Match of the Year-contending Intercontinental Title bout with Seth Rollins in early May, he has done very little of note; his Smackdown brand exploits since the Superstar Shake-Up have been relatively obscure in the grand scheme of things, undermining the reputation he had built as the linchpin of the Raw brand during the 2017-2018 season. Bryan is perhaps his greatest career foil – the wrestler that brings out of him a level of passion like no other opponent – so getting back into his crosshairs should do nothing but good things for the A-Lister.
The story for Summerslam writes itself and, as much as one might struggle to give credit where its due to a promotion that has fumbled a laundry list of big picture things since 2016 for getting at least one thing right, WWE has done well, thus far, to merely squirt a bit of lighter fluid on a fire that has been burning beneath the surface of its week-to-week product since The Miz first utilized the Talking Smack platform to berate Bryan and begin his career renaissance. Truthfully, WWE does not need to do much to get the audience dialed fully back into a Miz vs. Bryan match; there is already plenty of material for WWE’s production department to put together one of its nifty hype video packages.
If anything, enthusiasts should hope that WWE tries to stay out of the way as much as possible, letting the two performers and whichever agents are involved piece together the drama on the 20’x20′ Summer Classic canvas that fans have been clamoring to see for the past two years. Nevertheless, Bryan vs. Miz having been handled with care to date – the manner in which they were portrayed in the Gauntlet Match several weeks ago on Smackdown comes to mind as one of the better, most subtle creative master strokes of an otherwise underwhelming year – it would be a somewhat promotional-faith-reaffirming occurrence should WWE put the kind of spin on this rivalry that we know that it is capable of; I am, for clarity’s sake, still in agreement with my LOP colleagues, Sir Sam and Samuel ‘Plan, that when WWE gets it right creatively, nobody in the world does it better. In the Reality Era, WWE routinely took situations comparable to Miz vs. Bryan and upped the fictional ante to the point where it connected on a myriad emotional levels. WWE has become so monotonous in its storytelling, resonating with the verve of a quiet flatulent more so than the resounding booms of yesteryear. Many of us are dying to be told a story that makes us feel something besides apathy again; at its best, Bryan vs. Miz gives WWE a shot at redeeming some of its colossal gaffes from recent months and years.
If I may share my hope for the match, it would be that WWE uses it to establish considerable stakes for both characters moving forward. Ideally, I would like to be sitting there during the conclusion of the pre-match video package feeling like there were WrestleMania Season implications to the proceedings. It would be fair to state that, in this day and age of there being no clear-cut pattern to the WrestleMania main-event unless you made it big over a decade or two ago or your name is Roman Reigns (sad to come across that jaded, but the truth is the truth, folks), your best bet as a contemporary star is to become so indispensable that WWE would have no choice but to consider you, if not for the outright Show of Shows-closer than at least for the second or third most promoted spot. Miz could conceivably lose the Bryan feud convincingly and yet still, just as he did in 2010 segueing into 2011, walk away the undisputed big picture winner. He has been fantasy-booked into several WWE Championship scenarios for WrestleMania 35 since moving back to Team Blue and, when you combine his renaissance period with his reality show-influenced mainstream boost, he is a strong top-tier push in the second half of 2018 away from getting back to the promised land. Presuming that Bryan re-signs with WWE next month, he seems just as likely to peak his comeback tale in that coveted ‘Mania card position as his arch-nemesis.
This will easily be the match that I most anticipate for this year’s Summerslam. The Miz called his shot on Talking Smack two years ago and subsequently spent the time since elevating himself to an echelon that would make the masses clamor to see him in a feature-length bout against Daniel Bryan at the second biggest pay-per-view of the year; I cannot wait to see him step up to the plate and try to knock it out of the park. Bryan sat toiling away on the disabled list, absorbing verbal barb after verbal barb from Miz and others while desperately trying to get cleared in order to wrestle matches rife with the kind of drama that ignited the Yes! Movement in the first place, like this one; with all due respect to the TV matches, the historic battle royal ironman run, and the four ho-hum special event appearances since April Fool’s Day, Bryan’s comeback (at least in my mind) really begins on August 19th.
Please take a moment to like the Facebook page for The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era (which will be released in one week on August 1st!) for excerpts from the book such as the following, written about a particularly engaging rivalry involving Edge, “Watching a former World Champion in wrestling attempt to follow his career year is like watching a pro football player motivate himself after he has already won his first Super Bowl; it is as if, in reaching the highest level he ever thought possible and admitting to himself, “OK, I have achieved greatness,” he then wonders, “Alright, can I be all-time great?” “