The greatest thing that NXT did was provide a platform for The Miz and Daniel Bryan. They were paired together, Miz being Bryan’s pro/mentor. The fascinating element of this came in both their backstories.
It all began on the original incarnation of NXT. Before it was a cult phenomenon, NXT was the name given to a wrestling reality show where rookies were placed with a pro/mentor. They did silly challenges, people were voted off, it wasn’t for everyone.
In Daniel Bryan’s highly recommended autobiography, ‘Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania’, Bryan wrote:
“The only reason to care was that if you won the challenges, you got points. By the time we did the first elimination, whoever had the most points was immune to being ejected. But the challenges were so inane and demoralizing that by the end, we all treated them as a joke—except, that is, for Skip Sheffield (later known as The Ryback), who demonstrated an undeniable will to win even the most idiotic game."
The Miz and his Mentoring of Daniel Bryan
Miz was a former reality television star, who got his shot in WWE through the 4th incarnation of Tough Enough. By the time he was Daniel Bryan’s pro, he had only been wrestling about half as long as the man he was supposed to mentor. What a fascinating dynamic.
"The Miz started talking, but I could barely focus on what he was saying. I heard the words ‘internet darling’ and ‘a star in the minor leagues’ and could only assume he was talking about me. He asked me if I thought I was ready, and ironically enough, my first word in WWE was, ‘Yes.’“
Daniel Bryan was trained by Shawn Michaels, who has nothing but great things to say about his pupil. He was also mentored by William Regal, who, again, has nothing but glowing words of praise. He was a true journeyman.
Bryan got a developmental deal with WWE (then WWF) in 2000. He lasted 18 months. Later, he was given some matches as an enhancement talent, while not actually being signed to the company. That dried up quickly, however.
From 2003-2009, Daniel Bryan (known under his real name, Bryan Danielson) worked various promotions all over the world, with a big focus on Ring of Honor. The point of all this is that the man paid his dues. So, when he made it back to the WWE and had to train under The Miz, he made sure the world knew he was better than that. Much to the chagrin of The Awesome One.
Imagine that: you work your hardest to get better and master being a WWE superstar and you’re really making progress, which Miz constantly has, then in comes this indie superstar, beloved on the internet, and he’s telling you he’s better than you. Not only that, but he says he can beat you. You’d be heated, right?
"The Miz didn’t complain at all. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity and spent time with me to find ways we could make our partnership stand out. He genuinely wanted what we did to be good. The more I saw how hard he worked, the more I respected him."
Miz versus Daniel Bryan for The Miz’s United States Championship.
For those unaware, the title changed hands that night. It was the first time Bryan proved himself on the WWE stage. This was the initial steps towards making him a credible superstar. By that same token, it showed what Miz was capable of. How he could help build future superstars.
"The Miz is quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career."
– DEAN AMBROSE ("Talking Smack" 12/27/2016)
Alex Riley and Damien Sandow may not have had much of a tenure, but that wasn’t Miz’s fault. When those men left his side, they were over with the WWE audience. One was a flunky and the other was a stunt double, but they were set.
We all know where Daniel Bryan went after his feud with The Miz. To put it simply: he reached the mountaintop. He won the main event of WrestleMania, the actual pinnacle of achievement for a professional wrestler.
Miz got there, too.
"Be so good, they can’t ignore you"
– STEVE MARTIN
The Miz and Daniel Bryan are walking, talking personifications of that above quote. Daniel Bryan wasn’t supposed to succeed at the level that he did. This very fact was the main theme throughout the buildup towards his triumphant dream realized at WrestleMania. It appears they simply took real life and manipulated it a bit to make Daniel Bryan the story. His career, his drive, his will. The fact that he was too good to ignore.
Which takes us to the current day between The Miz and Daniel Bryan on SmackDown Live.
Picking up from the story they told all those years ago, Daniel Bryan carries a distaste for The Miz and his wrestling style. He famously said the words, "you wrestle like a coward," during that explosive segment of Talking Smack on August 23rd, 2016. That, of course, led to what is arguably the greatest promo of Miz’s career.
[NOTE: The promo is transcribed in full for anyone who may not be able to watch the video posted below.]
(anger rising, causing him to trip over his words) “I-I-I wrestle like a coward?”
“You wrestle like a coward.”
“I’m the one…?”
“If I were to create a wrestler, who to me embodies, like when I was an independent guy, and I was thinking like, ‘oh okay, what’s the soft WWE style?’ It would be that. WWE has transformed in the last-“
“Hold on, you had your chance to talk. You’re the one who called me a coward in the wrestling ring, I’m the coward in the wrestling ring.”
“But let’s talk about cowards for one second. The reason I wrestle the way I wrestle is because I can do it, day in and day out, all the time, for ten plus years. I have never, never in my career, ever been injured. I don’t get injured for six months to a year. I am here each and every week, but you sit there and call me a coward?!”
“Wait, let me tell you about a coward! Let me tell you about a guy who tells his WWE fans, the people that he loves, that he will be back, he promises them, ‘I promise you, I will be back in one year’s time to claim this title’ (gesturing to Intercontinental title), but you didn’t, Daniel, did you? But I’m the coward? I’m the one that doesn’t love the fans?”
“Okay, if they would let me come back, I would come back.”
“Oh, if (tripping over his words) – you would?”
“You-you would? You love that WWE ring, you love wrestling. You love being right in the wrestling ring, and you love wrestling, right?”
“Well, why don’t you quit? Why don’t you quit and go to the bingo halls with your indie friends?”
RENEE YOUNG (Co-Host of Talking Smack):
“Okay, I think you need to calm down. That’s not what this show is supposed to be about-“
“No! I got this. Me and the GM have this. Thank you very much, Renee, this is a great show, but we’re talking here.
I need to talk to you, real quick (puts his finger in Daniel Bryan’s face) because the fact is that you’re the one who calls me a coward, but you’re the one who doesn’t get in the WWE ring again.”
(DANIEL BRYAN GETS UP AND WALKS OFF)
“No, don’t you walk away from me, Daniel. Don’t you walk away! I’m the one that loves the fans, I’m the one that loves everyone and everything! You’re the one that gets up and walks away every single time! You’re the coward! I am not a coward! I am your Intercontinental Champion and there is a reason I have the title. The reason: making this the most relevant, prestigious title that WWE has, and I deserve your respect on SmackDown Live! Get that camera right here!”
(CAMERA SWITCHES TO A CLOSEUP OF MIZ)
“Understand that this is day one forty-one of the never-ending Intercontinental Championship world tour and I swear to you, I promise you, it will be the most relevant title on SmackDown Live! I could care less about those kids for the Tag Team Titles, and the Women’s Championship, and the WWE Championship. This is my show! MY SHOW! And I’m sick of all of you, my GM, sitting there, criticizing me, calling me the coward. You’re the cowards! I’m the one here, day in and day out, in that wrestling ring, beating people up. Thank you very much.”
(THE MIZ THROWS DOWN THE MICROPHONE AND STORMS OFF…)
All these years later and they’re still pushing each other to be better. The fire Daniel Bryan drew out of Miz was incredible. It led to pure passion.
These two are likely never going to be able to wrestle each other in a WWE ring again, but due to that promo, most of the fandom wants it. Their careers are forever linked in such a fascinating way. Their dynamic feels one hundred percent real. It’s always too good to ignore.
Editor’s update: Miz recently spoke with Foxsports.com revealing that the Talking Smack segment with Daniel Byran wasn’t exactly scripted! Here is what he had to say:
"You guys are getting an exclusive here, I don’t think I’ve ever told this. So here was my day up to that point: I wasn’t written on the episode that day and I’m the Intercontinental Champion. This is the title that I’ve loved since I was a child, and I don’t want to be the guy who says, ‘I’m going to make it great,’ and then not do anything. I want to make it great.
So I told them to put me on ‘Talking Smack.’ They asked, ‘Well what are you going to do?’ And I said I’m going to rip into Daniel Bryan. And then I guess I kind of went overboard. And when I go, I have no filter. It’s everything that is fueling inside of me and I just black out.
I was like, wait a second. I’m the guy that’s always here, doing everything, doing the stuff that you don’t want to do or that John [Cena] doesn’t want to do, and I don’t get injured.
And people compliment me on what I said, but I was so angry that it was difficult to even speak."
He actually left. I didn’t expect him to leave — I expected him to hit me. The things I was laying into him on were very below the belt and very mean and very rude, but when I go, I just go."
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