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Why The Miz's Talking Smack promo is important

It's not just the words he said that mattered as Miz went after Daniel Bryan on Tuesday night. It's how and why he said them, and it teaches a lesson on what's missing in today's wrestling landscape.

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I didn't care what was real and what wasn't, what was planned and what was spontaneous, or whether or not The Miz crossed any lines in his segment with Daniel Bryan. I still don't, and my joy in both sides of that promo resides far more in what it revealed, than in any of the feelings directly associated with it.

Early in my wrestling career, due to circumstances that sometimes just happen in this industry, I found myself sitting at a Cracker Barrel with a big-time WWF and WCW star from the 1980s. During that breakfast, he told me about his relationship with Magnum T.A., who he was still somewhat bitter towards, because of things that happened outside of the business during that time. I mentioned how big a fan of Magnum's I was growing up, and how much I hated the man eating grits in front of me as a result. One thing he said was that stepping into the ring with Terry Allen was never particularly fun, but you knew you were going to make money that night. It wasn't going to be a match. It was going to be a fight. Every single time, Magnum would at some point knock the hell out of you.

This guy joked and said he wasn't sure Terry was ever smartened up. "He didn't know it was a work," was the exact phrasing.

Why did I tell that story?

Because it's what I thought of when I watched The Miz verbally assault Daniel Bryan this week. I thought of a fight; an honest to god, believable, personal issue. It took me back, not just to that conversation, but how I felt when I was a young pro wrestling fan who found a way to use cognitive dissonance every Saturday and Sunday night. I was transfixed by Miz's words, because they were so pointed, so inflammatory, and so powerful. Incidentally, so were Daniel Bryan's comments.

Once he was finished, I started thinking about that Cracker Barrel chat, but I also started thinking about guys like Roman Reigns. Here's a guy whose every breath has been scripted for him, who always comes across like a focus tested, overanalyzed, over-gimmicked action figure. What defines Reigns is what several writers came up with, and ultimately what Vince McMahon wanted. And, a careful look into house show attendance and overall product interest will tell you it hasn't worked.

What's sorely and criminally absent in pro wrestling today is a promo like Miz produced two days ago. In terms of match quality, you can watch AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Seth Rollins (sorry Bret), Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Richochet, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre Jr, Kota Ibushi, Kevin Owens, or any twenty other guys and get what you seek. You can watch Asuka, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Gail Kim, Natalya, Becky Lynch, and though that list is shorter, you can find great women's wrestling in many different locales. In tag wrestling, there's The Revival, ReDragon, American Alpha, Rappongi Vice, The American Wolves, The Young Bucks, The Addiction, and many others.

The New Day and those of that school provide the comedy, Mauro Ranallo, Jim Ross, Josh Barnett, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, Corey Graves, and others provide solid commentary. The gear is fantastic. The music, particularly in NXT, is outrageously good.

What a vast budget and a deep talent pool can't bring you, however, is a great promo. It doesn't require the right circumstances, or a fleet of writers catering to one man's vision of what's good. It takes a willingness to "go there," in the right context. Dropping insider language or slut shaming the Bellas for their significant others isn't "going there." Instead, it's the First Take of pro wrestling interviews.

Miz used history we all know to serve as the jumping off point for a larger argument, and even if it went to an unexpected place, that's a good thing. I can't tell you how often I watched cruiserweights in locker rooms script out every move and lay out a match from top to bottom. I was always taught to believe in the, "But what if the audience didn't get that memo," maxim, where working to a crowd and being flexible were the keys to a great match.

Well, could that not apply to a promo as well?

Certainly, WWE, TNA, or anyone else will have bullet points and things that must be hit upon, in order to sell PPV matches or get from point A to point B. But, outside of those is where the freedom has been snuffed out. Listening to Ambrose over the past month has shown what taking the constraints away can do for a talented individual. Let these people sink or swim on their own, and even if they fail early, perhaps they'll learn what it takes to stay afloat. Some men and women need the guidance, but not all, and possibly not even the majority of a roster.

The Miz has always been a great character, and he has the ability to talk in a way some can't. Had it not been him, it's likely the result wouldn't have been anywhere near as strong, but I had a friend ask me today why we don't see that kind of stuff on TV, in front of a wider audience. I didn't have an adequate answer, but I knew immediately that he was right. It's this kind of interview that is almost entirely absent from the business today, and because of it, the next generation won't know how to talk.

No one cuts a promo like Arn Anderson today. I've said many times he's my favorite talker of all time, and that's never likely to change. But, learning from Arn might have helped a Steve Austin or a Chris Jericho. Who are the stars of 20 years from now going to have to teach them how to do an interview? The WWE Network is a treasure trove, but whatever new fans the industry creates won't be watching 1984 shows in the beginning. It will be what's on RAW and SmackDown that counts, and 98% of those promos...


Finally, listening to Miz made me remember how easy it used to be to talk people into the building. A great promo is easy money, and what the Intercontinental Champion did was push the envelope, fearlessly let out whatever emotions were inside him, and in the process keep my eyes focused on the television screen. That kind of interview leads to stacks of cash, and it has since the days of Muhammad Ali.

Back to Cracker Barrel and this worker's stories, these two men that didn't care for another put on some of the greatest matches of my lifetime. Bouts I'll never forget, and often speak of fondly in wrestling circles. It made them both extremely wealthy in the short term.

Running away from tension, rather than crafting and using the sharpness of the razor blade is a terrible mistake, and it gets made over and over again in today's climate. It should be an unwrapped gift, rather than something to fear. It's not always going to exist, and when it doesn't, creating passion in a promo is a skill, nourished by unleashing the superstar and allowing him or her to speak from the heart. When it does exist, what nearly anybody in a performing position should be able to agree upon is this:

Making a lot of money and providing for your family is amazing. I might not like you, but I can still do serious business with you.

I hope someone in WWE, or elsewhere, saw the reaction to Miz and Daniel Bryan's verbal battle, and recognized the fallibility in the current business structure. I pray that this person has some semblance of power, and was left asking himself or herself, "Where is this stuff? Why have we not been doing this?"

Then, I hope that person realizes how easy it would be to start.

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