The unlikely alliance between The Miz and Shane McMahon has been a perplexing storyline over the past two months, as WWE hasn't made it obvious where this is all leading.
Normally these things are rather straightforward, as professional wrestling plots aren't the most complex narratives being told on television every week.
But this all started in odd fashion at Crown Jewel when The Miz—firmly a heel at the time—was booked in a sympathetic way, trying to overcome an injury to bring the World Cup tournament to SmackDown.
McMahon, a babyface, did a rather heel move by inserting himself into the tournament in the final, giving him an edge over Dolph Ziggler to win the trophy and tout himself as "the best ever"—something he isn't in the running for.
As an authority figure, he had no business doing that, and it was strange that he usurped the spotlight from a heel in a way that wasn't supposed to make fans cheer The Miz being cheated out of his win.
You'd think the next logical step would be The Miz complaining that he is the rightful winner of the tournament and that McMahon stole his thunder, but the opposite took place. The Miz has spent the past two months wanting to form a tag team alongside McMahon.
It took some convincing, but McMahon eventually agreed. Now, even though they can't settle on what matching ring attire to sport, the two even have a shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against The Bar at Royal Rumble on January 27.
So where is this all heading, and what will happen with these two come the logical end point, WrestleMania 35?
The Next Phase: Royal Rumble Results
The first three steps were the World Cup initial incident, The Miz's pleading to form a team and McMahon agreeing. Much like Avengers: Endgame, we're heading into "Phase Four" of the plot.
If McMahon and The Miz come up short against The Bar, it's unlikely the story will turn into one of them picking themselves back up to earn another title opportunity at WrestleMania. It's probably just the end of them as a unit, as it will have proved they don't have what it takes to be co-best in the world.
By failing, the story opens itself up to February and March being a bumpy road with the two of them butting heads and settling the score in a match against each other at WrestleMania.
But the more interesting path to take is for them to be successful in winning the belts, as that creates problems that need to be solved.
As a champion of the brand, how does McMahon remain impartial to booking?
The McMahon Family doesn't do well with subverting temptation. Vince, Stephanie, Triple H and even Shane in the past have all used their influence to put themselves in positions to win titles.
Can the 2019 version of Shane O'Mac avoid giving himself preferential treatment, especially alongside someone who is such a natural heel in The Miz?
That would be the most interesting story to follow over the course of February and March, with the two of them heading into WrestleMania with the tag titles in their possession.
It All Comes Tumbling Down
Whether it's failing to beat The Bar at Royal Rumble, losing at Elimination Chamber, Fastlane, WrestleMania or an episode of SmackDown, somewhere down the line McMahon and The Miz will have to lose.
If it's at WrestleMania—the logical conclusion point—there may not be a grandiose finale other than dropping the titles.
The past two years have had the Superstar Shake-up occur two weeks after the big show, so it's safe to assume that will happen again this year.
Since Miz and Mrs. is on USA network, The Miz going over to Raw to promote that and avoid any hiccups with the SmackDown move over to Fox in October makes sense.
If he's on Raw, he can't compete for the SmackDown tag titles, which would effectively end their partnership, even though McMahon can technically appear on Monday nights, too. That is a plot hole WWE will likely gloss over and hope the fans don't pay attention to.
This split without a fight against each other could be the best way to have The Miz remain a babyface going forward, because if they start to feud, he's undoubtedly going to revert back to being a heel.
In the past, he's had more success as a villain than a hero, but there have been plenty of teases this past year of WWE booking him with a softer approach.
Fatherhood has painted him in a more positive light. He was effectively proved right in his opinions of John Cena, Nikki Bella and Daniel Bryan from their feuds. His tenacity in the World Cup tournament and at Survivor Series felt like more of a babyface booking.
What This Boils Down To
Ultimately, this is a decision of whether WWE wants The Miz to be a babyface or a heel once he moves over to Raw in April after WrestleMania.
If he's to go back to being a heel, the two of them will lose at Royal Rumble or will win there and then drop the titles in order to set up a match between the two at WrestleMania, where The Miz reverts back to his old ways and McMahon steps aside from in-ring action again.
If WWE wants The Miz to be a babyface, they will defeat The Bar at Royal Rumble and defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania, where they'll most likely lose. Then, The Miz will be shipped to Raw and the team will dissolve.
Anything more wild of a suggestion—like that this all ends with The Miz obtaining authoritative powers over SmackDown Live, McMahon turning heel to screw The Miz over or anything else—just doesn't have any foundation at the moment.
Of course, anything can happen in WWE, planned or not, so that is why we'll have to tune in to Royal Rumble to find out if The Miz and McMahon are on the right track or if something foul is afoot.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.