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NEWARK, N.J. — The Miz’s quest to claim his ninth Intercontinental Championship ended at WWE Backlash when Raw’s Seth Rollins defeated The A-Lister to retain the title, thus sending Miz back to SmackDown LIVE without his signature prize.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for Miz, who has essentially hitched his identity to the Intercontinental Title over the last two years. In fact, he’s weeks shy of the all-time cumulative record reign, and a victory here would have tied him with Chris Jericho at nine stints as champion. With history at stake, Miz brought a near-perfect game plan to WWE Backlash, but Rollins — who christened himself as a “fighting champion” this past week on Raw in an effort to distance himself from Universal Champion Brock Lesnar — fought with all his heart to finally earn the checkmate.

Miz had taken an L before the match even began, as The Miztourage declined to rejoin their former leading man at ringside. Miz still rose to the occasion at first, countering everything Rollins threw at him and rolling outside the ring to slow the match down each time The Architect began to heat up. The A-Lister’s excellent game plan forced Rollins to go high-risk, and while one maneuver — a picture-perfect Frog Splash from the rafters — hit its mark, The Architect’s attempt at a Revolution Knee on the apron did not, and he smashed his knee full-bore into the ring post.

Miz seized his moment and wrenched Rollins into the Figure-Four Leglock, but Rollins showed his heart, which made the difference as the match entered its final stretch. The Kingslayer not only powered his way out of the Figure-Four, but he kicked out of a pair of Skull-Crushing Finales (one of which came after Miz deadlifted Rollins into position), and in the match’s deciding moment, Rollins used a half-second window in between dueling roll-up attempts to stomp Miz into the mat for the victory.

So, Miz heads back to SmackDown empty-handed but impressive in defeat. Rollins returns to Raw with championship in hand, a line of challengers at his doorstep, and ready to fight the good fight.

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Count Seth Rollins among those who is no fan of Brock Lesnar’s schedule. The Architect surprised the WWE Universe during his first post-Greatest Royal Rumble address by announcing that, instead of competing on the same limited basis as The Beast Incarnate, he wanted to defend his Intercontinental Title as a “fighting champion.” Finn Bálor, who missed out on the title by, literally, the tips of his fingers, was the first (extraordinary) man to take Rollins up on that offer.

The former Universal Champion had floated the title match as a “tiebreaker” of sorts between the two, as each have two wins against the other in one-on-one competition. Fittingly enough, the epic match was at a dead heat; Bálor had an answer for everything The Kingslayer attempted, including a very creative counter of the superplex-Falcon Arrow combo (after the superplex, Bálor was the one who hit the Falcon Arrow on Rollins). Despite Rollins’ dodge of the Coup de Grâce, several of the champion’s stomp attempts came up empty, and the war of attrition seemed to be tilting in Finn’s favor the longer the match went.

It was going to take a last-ditch effort for Rollins to pull out the win and, luckily for him, The Kingslayer came through in the clutch: As Bálor attempted his running dropkick, Rollins stopped him cold with a superkick on the button and stomped him into the canvas to earn the victory. Bálor’s quest for the title comes up short again, while Rollins’ stint as a fighting champion is off to a rousing start. Should Rollins survive The Miz at WWE Backlash, it’s even possible that they’ll see each other again. They may not be part of the new Four Horsemen as The Miztourage hoped they would, but “the new Steamboat and Savage” has a nice ring to it indeed.

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