Because of Randy Orton’s concussion, rendering him unable to wrestle his match against Bray Wyatt on Sunday, the Intercontinental Championship match between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler was suddenly vaulted into the second biggest match at Backlash. You could have made a case that it was already that important going in, but that just speaks to the lack of depth the SmackDownLive roster is experiencing in the immediate aftermath of the brand extension.
What makes that notion so difficult to get behind is that The Miz and Dolph Ziggler have spent the last several years being buried further and further down the card, and suddenly they’re positioned in a key program. They’ve certainly been pushed since arriving exclusively on SmackDown, with Ziggler earning a world title shot at SummerSlam and The Miz stealing headlines for his work-shoot promo with Daniel Bryan on an episode of Talking Smack.
Have Ziggler and The Miz done enough to establish themselves as credible top-of-the-card level talent in the absence of Orton and John Cena, or have they been tarnished too much over the years to be viewed as legitimate contenders? The WWE is banking on the former, using Ziggler to further the storyline Miz started with Bryan since Daniel can’t carry out his feuds in the ring.
At Backlash, the WWE gave The Miz and Ziggler more than 18 minutes in their match for the Intercontinental Championship, on a night where the pay-per-view started late and ended early. As noted, The Miz retained thanks to his wife, Maryse, spraying Ziggler with a substance while the referee was distracted. A classic heel tactic that will allow Miz’ reign to continue and further their program at the same time.
According to Cageside Seats, the feud will definitely continue, with Miz and Dolph Ziggler facing off again at No Mercy, with the possibility that the IC title will be on the line in a cage match. Cage matches are normally reserved for wrestlers with more bruising styles, but this would certainly add an element to a rivalry that’s spanned several years that we’ve yet to witness.
SmackDown Live will present No Mercy, just the show’s second brand-exclusive pay-per-view, on October 9, less than a month after their debut Network special. Backlash was met with mixed reviews with arguments coming from both sides as it pertained to the timing of the show. The main event between Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles was excellent, but the decision to pull Orton at the last minute was heavily criticized seeing how his bout with Bray Wyatt would have been one of the show’s marquee matches and was advertised right up until the last minute.
The SmackDown creative staff will certainly be challenged to increase the entertainment value for the next pay-per-view, and a cage match between The Miz and Ziggler would certainly go a long way in achieving that. We’re hearing that John Cena may return to television as early as this week to potentially set up a title match with Styles at No Mercy before going on hiatus again for the remainder of 2016. Whether Ambrose still fits into the title picture remains to be seen, but that should be cleared up quickly.
Speaking of clearing, the hope is that Orton will finally get cleared as well to right the wrong they created when booking his Backlash match with Wyatt in the first place. A Cena return, Orton and Wyatt and Miz and Ziggler in a cage might just be enough to sell the show.
Adding the element of a steel cage may be coincidental or a continued subtle shot at former WWE superstar CM Punk. It’s been confirmed that the opening sequence of Ziggler’s match with The Miz at Backlash was their way of mocking Punk who lost his UFC debut to Mickey Gall the night before in less than three minutes. The Miz played the role of Punk, charging after Ziggler, only to be taken down hard and put into a choke submission position which is what Gall did to Punk, spelling the beginning of the end of their fight.
[Image via WWE]