WWE opted to cancel TLC in favor of a New Year’s show, and during a year where we all desperately needed one, Day 1 kicked off 2022 with a bang, and right away the show let us know about some of the changes WWE is trying to make in the new year. First off, “pay per views” are dead. This is fair, as no one has specifically paid just to view one of these shows in half a decade. Instead, we get premiere live events, which means the weekly tv shows are low tier live events. I can admire some honest marketing.
Things were off from the start; shortly before the show, it was announced that Roman Reigns had tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to compete, a sentence I also repeated to my relatives just 8 days prior when I had to miss Christmas dinner. Best of luck to Roman as he recovers as quickly and easily as possible. Hope he finds the time to watch the entire Muppets filmography, as I feel that really helped in my quarantine period. The Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar was replaced by a fatal five way for Big E’s WWE Championship, starring Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins, and obviously E himself. Given that Rollins originally earned a one-on-one opportunity at the title six weeks ago, this made perfect sense.
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I think I understand what Jimmy and Jey have always been saying, because I, too, was a little down on Day 1. It wasn’t entirely terrible; the Usos and New Day have never had a bad match together, Liv Morgan had a fantastic showing, and Madcap Moss vs McIntyre was better than literally anyone could have expected. Not good, but better. Overall, there just wasn’t a ton to write home about. A mid show to kick off another mid year for a company that can’t afford to tread water like this much longer.
The main event was very solid, if overbloated with five guys trying to get their best in under 10 minutes. The mix of big names in the ring was enough to carry the match, and made it a more than suitable replacement for a last minute adjustment. While I’m sure there will be plenty of upset over the controversial ending, which saw Lesnar hit Big E with an F5 to win the title, it does open the door for a lot of possibilities along the road to Mania. I definitely wouldn’t have had Big E be the one to get pinned when there were three other men just hanging around there, and I would have invested a lot more time into giving him a legitimate reign, but I will say I’m very much looking forward to him being the one to take the Universal Title from Reigns at WrestleMania. Let me have this, okay?
The Old Rated R Superstar
The focus may have been on face Lesnar as he took selfies with fans post-match, but I was thinking of another wrestler who has also rocked a Viking ponytail back in the day. That’s right, we’re gonna talk about Edge vs Miz.
I’m not going to tell you this was a great match—it wasn’t, but that’s really not the point—but I will tell you it was a sign that WWE is finally realizing how to implement Edge within their roster. I didn’t watch the Rated R Superstar wrestle live as a kid (truthfully, I’m more familiar with him from his acting career) but when the dulcet tones of “You think you know me” hit at the Rumble two years ago, I was out of my seat. After nearly 10 years of believing his in-ring career was over, this was the perfect comeback story at an event that helped him become the multi-time champion 15 years ago. The stage was set for a huge return, and then a couple of unfortunate setbacks happened in quick succession.
COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans and gave us the Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania 36, which we really don’t have to talk about ever again. Edge was injured, taking him out of tv for more than half a year as he rehabbed. He returned to win Rumble ‘21 and challenge Reigns feat Daniel Bryan for the Universal Title, in a triple threat that, as Joseph Anthony Montecillio recently said, doesn’t quite stand the test of time. It was a whole lot of leaning into that vintage Edge style that marked his career in the early aughts. The problem was, we can’t see him as that guy anymore. Edge has, for obvious reasons, been a face since his return. Going against guys like Reigns and later Rollins, we were obviously meant to cheer for him—and yet, WWE wanted to constantly remind us of his heelish past. Reigns brought up “old school Edge,” Rollins insisted the vet had lost a step.
And he had, obviously, because the man is 48 and spent nine years out of the ring. So, why are we calling attention to this? Obviously, the Hall of Famer can’t go like he did in 2005. He shouldn’t be able to, due to the constant passage of time and its effects on us all, let along the injury that forcibly retired him. In my mid 20s, I can no longer touch my toes, so Edge putting his neck in those positions is pretty remarkable. The feuds with Orton, Reigns, and Rollins all relied on bringing out the “old” Edge. Miz did this too, to a degree, but we’ll get to that later. There was this constant insistence on bringing back something that we shouldn’t be seeing in 2021—a persona best left in 2011, because that’s not who Edge is anymore. He can be the comeback kid, the man who fought to make his way back to doing what he loved. He can be your favorite wife guy, a dad, Christian’s friend, a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t need to be the same person who vacated the title ten years ago, and we should probably stop trying to remind everyone about that dude, because it’s just going to be a bummer.
Miz & Mr. Edge
And so we come to Miz and Edge. A feud built on having a hot wife, starring in some WWE Studios films, and being a good dad, things we know Edge has accomplished. And yes, there was a lot of “Edge can’t go like he used to,” but he’s gotten to play around more here in a way we haven’t really seen since his return. A midcard feud that involves dumping Brood blood on a couple at their vow renewal is certainly more fun than promising to avenge your family’s honor and competing in a 40 minute crawl through the performance center. And I know I just devoted a paragraph to letting old Edge go, but Brood references are always timely and never unwanted, and they work as a part of this character. He can’t go in the ring like the Rated R Superstar could in ‘06, but he has magical vampire powers from that time in the 90s when he was super tight with Gangrel. If you could ruin people’s moderately nice suits on live television, wouldn’t you take advantage of that gift?
Edge, who relishes being on TV with a palpable energy, has always been an over the top character. The Rated R Superstar, the Ultimate Opportunist, worked because he was such an asshole. In 2021, no one wants to see Edge be an asshole. We want to see him be a grown man, fighting for himself and his passions and his family. Instead of embodying the villain, he now gets to put them in their place. And while extremely hateable is a quality Reigns and Rollins both like to employ as well, and they’ve both excelled within the jackass category lately, but it’s hard to find someone who does it quite like Miz.
A future Hall of Famer in his own right, Miz is so good at being a dick that for the short time period where they tried to sell him as a nice guy, everyone actively hated it. He’s the performer who can make almost anything work; I praised him and John Morrison as the rare bright spots throughout the ThunderDome Era, as their devotion to whatever goofy bit they were given always made the joke land, even when it was piss poor. Miz wrestled a zombie lumberjack match to promote a B-minus Zack Snyder film, and it was still watchable. Putting him with Edge, who hasn’t been allowed to step outside of the “grizzled returning vet” role since Royal Rumble 2020, gave them both the opportunity to have a little fun. Not to mention that, in the ring, Miz does about five moves, which is great, and his character has never needed to be “good” to make an impact. It’s just an added bonus against someone who has a bit less left in the tank than, say, Daniel Bryan.
Like I said, I won’t claim this match was a classic. To start, it was far too long. We could have accomplished this in 10-12 minutes, not 20. Miz targeted Edge’s knee, Maryse did her best distractions, and Edge kept coming back from certain defeat. Marcuse saved Miz from tapping to a crossface and delivered a punch to Edge in the corner, setting him up for a Skull-Crushing Finale for a very close count. After standing on the ramp waiting for someone to hit her music, Beth Phoenix came down to ringside to even the odds, scaring off Maryse and leaving Miz to eat a spear, scoring the Phoenixes the win.
It’s not gonna be on anyone’s match of the year lists, but that’s not something that should matter to either man at this point. It’s never mattered to the Miz, who’s had as healthy a WWE career as anyone could hope for. Edge doesn’t need to wrestle excellent matches to get crowd approval; he just needs to be Edge. It’s a treat to see him healthy enough to be in the ring at all. Miz has long favored his excellent character work over in ring prowess, and it’s almost always paid off for him. WWE needs to realize Edge is going to work best against guys like that, people who will match him in promo skills, but not expose him in the ring. I’m not trying to say Edge is bad—he’s not, not by a long shot—but it’s never going to be 2006 again. I love 2021 Edge. I love the genuine caring he brings to his promos, the enjoyment he gets out of just getting to do this job. Let him relish those moments without the constant weight of a previous career.