What a week for WWE.
SummerSlam happened, WWE revealed a new Universal Championship that was skewered by its entitled fanbase and Brock Lesnar bloodied Randy Orton in a finish so graphic that Chris Jericho reportedly thought it was real, per Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Marc Middleton Wrestling Inc.). That finish led to a reported backstage fight between Jericho and Lesnar.
Finn Balor continued WWE's unfortunate tradition of prominent independent wrestlers being forced to forfeit world titles due to injury, joining Daniel Bryan (2014) and Seth Rollins (2015).
Heath Slater has become the new Zack Ryder.
However, not one of those events was the biggest story of the week.
Best in the Miz
Forget being the best promo of The Miz's career; this was one of the best promos I've ever seen. Daniel Bryan's own passion helped make the segment more three-dimensional, as did Renee Young's brilliantly uncomfortable facial expressions.
Remember Titus O'Neil's promo from Raw that died a slow death? In fact, the promo was so bad that it made him trend worldwide as the Twitter criticism cascaded. After O'Neil flubbed his first line, the entire monologue quickly got away from him, and by looking into his eyes, it was clear he was lost.
The intensity and passion in Miz's eyes, however, made his promo a masterpiece. Miz seemed to be on the verge of tears as almost 10 years of ridicule from holier-than-thou hardcore wrestling fans boiled over. Miz tripped over a few lines himself, but it didn't matter because he was in a zone that I rarely see any wrestler approach.
In light of Balor becoming yet another former indy guy who was forced to forfeit a world title—in his case, the Universal Championship—due to injury, Miz's comments were as poignant as they were relevant. Balor was injured by an errant power bomb from Seth Rollins, who, in addition to suffering a serious injury from his own physical style, is beginning to develop a reputation for being reckless.
Miz is the ultimate spokesperson for WWE and has never been known to go off-script. As realistic as his career-defining promo was, it was likely structured and in line with WWE's philosophy about its own safer wrestling style. I wouldn't be surprised if WWE begins to slowly back away from featuring the indy mold of talent as main eventers.
The Buckle Bomb has now injured two high-profile performers, Balor and Sting, per Figure Four Online (h/t Middleton), and WWE should seriously consider putting that maneuver to rest. But in addition to the moves themselves, Rollins needs to slow down in the ring and adopt a more generic style. For a highly talented athlete like Rollins, being a little more generic still allows him to exist as one of the top workers in the country.
In a recent blog blog post, WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross pointed out the many positives of slowing down one's style, including the ability to connect with an audience through facial expressions and what he called body English:
Equally insane is the internet ramblings that Seth Rollins is "dangerous" in the ring because X number of wrestlers have been injured during matches with him. I don't agree with these accusations but I do encourage Rollins and virtually all of today's main players in the business to slow down a half a gear and while doing so it will likely reduce the chance of injuries somewhat but note that nothing will ever remove the issue of injuries from the equation. Plus, that reduced half step always gives the talents more opportunity to perfect the required subtleties of being a great in ring performer I.E. facial expressions, body English, and SELLING, in general.
The WWE style emphasizes storytelling as much as wrestling. Moonsaults, Red Arrows and topes look cool, but one can only see these moves so many times until they become nothing more than a cheap, momentary thrill. Connecting with fans through taunting, boasting, trash talk, vulnerability and telling a story without having to resort to a single hold separates wrestlers from stars.
Everybody Gets a Title?
I've been vocal about WWE introducing so many titles, but the rollout on SmackDown was done well, and it made the new Tag Team and Women's Championships mean something. I like that SmackDown has branded these titles as SmackDown Championships, as opposed to Raw's broader view of a Universal Championship. This demonstrates two different philosophies, which will continue to establish each brand as unique.
SmackDown's sleek two-hour format and the continued momentum from its entertaining Talking Smack post-show are quickly establishing WWE's secondary flagship as NXT north. As long as SmackDown exists in its own world and treats each of its champions as elite performers, its championships will be able to stand out as meaningful and prestigious.
As far as unification matches, the more successful the brand split, the further away WWE will be from any type of unification match. If Raw and SmackDown are able to produce similar ratings on a week-to-week basis, title unification will be the last thing on WWE's mind. However, if things begin falling apart and fans do not buy into the concept of exclusive pay-per-views, championships and performers, these matches will be forced to take place much sooner.