For the last ten years, there’s been one WWE talent that I’ve consistently hated. Well, that is until this year.
Back in 2006, a man who couldn’t have looked more mid-2000s if he tried emerged on Smackdown. Sporting a faux hawk complete with blonde highlights, and a smug accompanying grin, The Miz made his debut much to the chagrin of the fans watching at home, myself included. Instantly, I despised him, everything about him. His look, his promos, his wrestling, there was absolutely no redeeming qualities to him. As he had previously appeared on MTV’s The Real World, as well as WWE’s Tough Enough, fans were immediately left with a bitter taste in their mouths when Miz debuted due to his reality star status, like a giant scarlet ‘M’ on his ring gear. Many felt that he had used his minor fame as a stepping stone to the big time, without paying his dues on the indie scene. Although he had trained before applying for Tough Enough, and had spent a couple of years in WWE’s development prior to his main roster debut, it was clear that getting The Miz over would be an arduous task.
As the time went on, watching The Miz on television didn’t get much easier for us fans – his in-ring work was barely progressing, his voice still grinded on all of our ears, and his fashion sense actually seemed to get worse (remember that stupid fucking hat he used to wear?). Eventually, he was partnered with fellow Tough Enough alumni Johnny Nitro, where to everyone’s surprise, they actually made a fantastic team. They gelled so well as a duo, and were arguably the best heel team in WWE during their run. Yet once the team disbanded, The Miz still didn’t seem to excite me in the slightest. I respected how well his tag team run had been, but alone with nobody else to play off, I couldn’t bear to have him on my screen.
For the next couple of years, The Miz climbed his way up the card by feuding with some of the company’s biggest stars, such as DX and John Cena, and winning multiple big card titles. His big break finally came in 2010 when he won Money in the Bank, and cashed it in to win the WWE title. Regardless of his success, I still could not embrace the awesome one as a worthy champion. In fact, the more success he garnered, the more I seemed to detest him, and the more I was left scratching my head in confusion as to why anybody would think he was worthy of being in the main event.
I wasn’t the only one to reject his title reign. Fans were baffled as to why he was holding the biggest prize in wrestling, and his time with the title is considered by many as one of the worst title runs in the last ten years. It seemed that WWE weren’t particularly confident having him as the champion – all of his victories came by DQ or underhanded tactics, and they even had him defend his title against WWE commentator Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler on more than one occasion. Even when the former reality star made it all the way to the main event of Wrestlemania 27, the company put barely any attention on their champion. Despite the entirety of the show’s focus being on The Rock and Cena though, The Miz still managed to shine through.
Before the main event, one of the best video packages in Wrestlemania history managed to instantly change the way many fans thought about Mr Mizanin; it showed the self-proclaimed Most Must-See WWE Champion of All Time stood at the helm of multiple television screens, showing the audience at home just how much he had evolved in a relatively short time. It made a lot of us realise that he may not have taken the hardest path to get there, but he was worthy of being a part of the main event scene nonetheless.
Unfortunately, this momentum didn’t carry on. After losing his WWE title in pretty convincing fashion, The Miz seemed to float around the mid-card for a few years, not really doing anything of significance or interest. He was simply just there –somebody to represent the company, a potential intercontinental champion if they needed him to be, or a former world champion that could lose to up-and-coming stars to give them a bit more credibility. That is until 2014, when Miz suddenly became Hollywood – that’s when my opinions finally started to change. The character was entertaining, ridiculous, and extremely self-aware. I no longer felt that Miz took himself too seriously; it was obvious that he knew the film roles he played were actually D-list at best, and his new gimmick was both taking advantage of his acting career and mocking it simultaneously, which is what made his overinflated movie star ego and outlandish wardrobe all the more entertaining. Plus, without Hollywood Miz, there would be no Damien Mizdow, and even the biggest Miz hater must thank the awesome one for that.
The duo became one of the most popular acts in WWE, thanks to Mizdow’s hilarious mimicking abilities, and Miz’s ridiculous A-list level of self-worth. Admittedly, the majority of the focus was on Mizdow, yet Miz still played his part perfectly, and his efforts during this time earned my respect. Once the team disbanded, the two were on course for one of the best rivalries of the year, but we were all disappointed when the feud went absolutely nowhere.
When the Mizdow rivalry sadly fizzled away, Hollywood Miz’s star began to fall again. He was sent back to the D-list spot on the card, and any positive feelings I’d gained towards him gradually faded away. He did nothing of any real significance up until he won the intercontinental title once again this year the night after Wrestlemania. Initially, this title victory made me groan and scratch my head with confusion, but to my surprise, it became one of the most entertaining parts of 2016.
Since the brand split, the former reality star has become one of the best parts of Smackdown. His Talking Smack promo directed at Daniel Bryan was so brutally personal and passionately delivered that some were confused as to how real it actually was. Miz exploded in such a brilliantly crafted, vicious rant against the retired wrestler that it felt as though years of pent-up frustration had erupted out of him in front of our eyes, and the world began to take notice of the A-lister once again. The momentum kept on rolling as week after week, The Miz managed to consistently stand out with his world-class mic work, whilst being able to balance two rivalries simultaneously, one with Dolph Ziggler, and one with Daniel Bryan. Not only that, this year has been significant for Miz’s in-ring work. Prior to 2016, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you one match involving the king of safe style that was above average, yet this year he’s been involved in some absolute classics, such as the Fatal Four Way at Extreme Rules, and his PPV encounters with Dolph Ziggler, all of which are match of the year candidates. The title vs career match at No Mercy was one of the most compelling examples of storytelling I’ve seen in a match all year. Simply put, 2016 has been the best year of The Miz’s career, and he managed to make people care about the intercontinental title, and his own work, once again.
Even to my own surprise, I have to admit that I am now a Miz fan. He has grown to be an undeniably good performer, and is one of the most hardworking people in WWE. Cody Rhodes stated on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast that Miz works ridiculously hard to do everything he can for WWE, without getting the credit he deserves. He’s always willing to do interviews, he always stays in character, and he’s consistently good no matter what the situation is.
Thanks to my new found fondness for the king of safe style, it’s only recently occurred to me that perhaps the reason why I despised him for so long was simply because he wanted me to. It’s only now when I look back over his career that I realise that The Miz’s work as a heel has always been so convincing and compelling that it doesn’t feel synthetic whatsoever. His smug personality feels genuine, and he makes you genuinely dislike him without ever feeling like you’re doing so because he wants you to. He never at any point tries to be the cool heel as many performers do these days; there are no attempts to get any cheers, and he’s one of the few true villains left in WWE. Although I may have groaned whenever I saw him on my screen before this year, it was only because he was playing his role perfectly without me even realising it.
Even now The Miz has lost the gold around his waist, I’m sure he will still continue to shine regardless. If his work-rate carries on like this, we are all in for a fantastically entertaining 2017. Personally, I believe Miz’s efforts have earned him the chance to be in the main event picture once again – a programme involving the A-lister chasing after the WWE Championship whilst rubbing his opportunity in the face of general manager Daniel Bryan could make for brilliant television. Whatever the future of The Miz, whether it be blue or red, or perhaps even golden, I know I will enjoy it, and thanks to his work this year, I can no longer deny that he certainly is an A-list talent.
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