Let’s address it straight off the bat - The Miz’s WWE title reign is not going to last very long.
Raw confirmed what we’d all been suspecting anyway; Miz looks every inch a transitional champion. Assuming things go logically, he’s here to ferry the belt between Drew McIntyre and the suddenly terrifying Bobby Lashley.
Admittedly, logic isn’t always WWE’s blueprint of choice, and even on the road to WrestleMania, they’re no strangers to veering off course. But all the pieces appear to be in place, so I think we can be forgiven for jumping to conclusions this time.
Does this make Miz’s victory an empty one? It may seem so at first, but I think in the wider context of his career, the cash-in represents the product of his consistency and loyalty over the years. WWE’s decision may have been more of a storytelling device than a sentimental nod to The Miz, but it still means something. Judging by a chunk of the response online, I’m not the only person who thinks so. A lot of us are pleased for him, albeit in a conflicted way.
Because let’s face it, the briefcase has been a booking disaster this time around. Otis’ pointless victory, Tucker’s pointless heel turn, Miz’s pointless first cash-in - it all felt incredibly poorly planned. Many were surprised he beat Drew at all. As we finally emerge from the other side of the mire, we now have a situation where the WWE Champion is not the focal point of his own title scene - despite winning the belt a few days ago. Bobby hasn’t wasted any time, it’s fair to say.
Despite all the MITB messiness, the storyline is still somehow on track. In fact, if things go the way we’re all predicting, it could work out very nicely. McIntyre deserves to lift the WWE title in front of a live audience, and beating Lashley is clearly more triumphant than swatting John Morrison aside and demolishing the A-Lister. WWE’s ends could justify their means here, and it’s what we feel we deserve as fans.
But is that what The Miz deserves?
Miz has plenty of qualities that suggest a transitional reign isn’t reward enough. He’s an immaculate ‘company guy’, not only in a media-friendly PR sense, but internally too. He can be trusted with any feud, big or small in scale, compelling or car-crash in nature. He can even do so as a heel or babyface (although he’s clearly a far more natural antagonist.)
But that’s surface-level Miz, and it doesn’t quite do him justice. He isn’t just the capable regular we’re often guilty of seeing him as. Let’s not forget, this is a man who cut one of the best promos in recent memory on the most popular babyface of an era - and he got us to agree with him.
Miz eviscerated Bryan on Talking Smack. In doing so, he showed us that glimpse of an ability to raise himself well beyond his apparent ceiling - apparently through nothing more than passion and hard work. We’ve seen this before on occasion, but it mostly happens outside of the public eye. As we would learn after the fact, Miz overcame a barrage of heat when he first made it to the roster, defying the ugly side of an industry that has historically treated outsiders with contempt. Despite being renowned for his lack of in-ring flashiness, he has always set himself apart with grit, heart, fire - all the usual clichés, but in Miz’s case they’re actually true.
So for such a deserving Superstar, is this second title reign a case of too little, too late? Too little, maybe. Too late, yes - by about two and a half years.
Midway through 2018, it seemed for all the world like Miz was about to take the strap from AJ Styles, revisit his old feud with a suddenly-active Bryan, and go down in spectacular fashion at WrestleMania.
That seemed the obvious route. Instead, Miz and Bryan’s war fizzled out over the course of several disappointing matches, before the returning hero turned heel and beat AJ himself. Of course, Bryan’s masterful title run eventually helped create an amazing moment for Kofi Kingston, but Miz’s window had passed.
It’s interesting to compare Kofi’s ultimate triumph with the biggest win of Miz’s career. KofiMania spoke for itself; it was Kingston’s night, outshining the rest of a show loaded with babyface victories. When Miz retained his championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, he was the third most important person involved. Maybe even fourth, if we count the Anonymous Raw General Manager.
I’m not suggesting that Miz’s moment should have felt as big as Kofi’s. The latter was a long overdue win for a beloved babyface, and a deeply significant moment for black wrestlers and fans the world over.
But I don’t think Miz deserved to be a peripheral figure in his own ‘Mania main event, especially when he beat The Unbeatable One.
Yes, the records show that in 2011, The Miz defeated John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania. That’s astounding when you think about it - except it isn’t, because the match was never about Miz vs. Cena. The Rock’s involvement reduced it to a preview of the following year’s main event, and the highlight of Miz’s night became his pre-match hype package. (Which was incredible, to be fair.)
Now, overshadowed by Lashley and the looming promise of McIntyre, The Miz is in familiar territory ten years later. For all his efforts, he’s still waiting to fully reap the rewards.
So is this second world title reign enough? If it ends next week, with Lashley scraping bits of liquified Mizanin off the bottom of his wrestling boots, the answer may well be no. But in giving Miz another peak, WWE have added a tangible weight to his career, whether they mean to or not. He cannot be regarded as a fluke main-eventer, nor a flash-in-the-pan champ - not when those stints are a decade apart.
By hook or by crook, The Miz is now a repeat WWE Champion, with the same number of reigns as Savage and Flair. And while this obviously doesn’t push his legacy to their level, it certainly cuts the distance a little. That has to feel good.