‘For all you naysayers out there. The Miz is no fluke! The Miz is real. The Miz is awesome.’

Is there a more polarising figure in wrestling today than The Miz? Yes, you can argue Hogan in TNA. Triple H in WWE too maybe. These two polarise because of their control of a product. They do, however, have a wrestling history that is hard to argue with. At the moment, The Miz doesn’t have that. He polarises because he is the cocky ‘jock’ character whether heel or face. He polarises because many people argue he shouldn’t have been given the top spot at Wrestlemania XXVII either due to wrestling ability or his ‘perceived’ standing in the company. Perhaps he also polarises though because he’s the normal guy, like you or me who actually got up and ‘did it’. Whereas most of us find going to the gym a few times a week a trial, Miz wanted to become a WWE superstar and worked his arse off to get there. And we didn’t. So we hate him. However, as Mike himself says, ‘I’m all heart. I want this more than life itself.’

The Miz, as we know him, didn’t actually start off in WWE but in the reality series ‘The Real World’. Now, I had no idea what this programme was. I knew ‘Mike’ had been on it so I gave it a watch. If you don’t know, here’s the opening narration – ‘This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped. To find out what happens, when people stop being polite and start getting real. The Real World.’ So, basically it’s like an open-world format of Big Brother. I wouldn’t know. The only reality show I watch is ‘The Apprentice’ (it’s the suits, innit!?). Anyway, Mike Mizanin dropped out of college and went on that programme. In one of the episodes he debuted his wrestling ‘gimmick’ The Miz. An egocentric, jock wrestler who, literally in some cases, wanted the spotlight on him. In fact, here is The Miz’s ‘real world’ debut.

As one of the other Real World participants (Coral I think) says in that clip ‘That kid is never giving up’. Interesting. I’m sure many people have walked around in front of the mirror trying out gimmicks and ‘talking smack’. Why not. It’s fun. If your eight or drunk (not both though). Mike, however, didn’t want it to just be a pipe dream, he wanted it to be real. He wanted to be a pro-wrestler and, in a way, used ‘The Real World’ as a way to get there. Watching a lot of the clips of the programme, Mike is actually quite a placid guy who makes a few mistakes but also gets upset with himself quite a lot. He makes stupid comments (the first video I watched was ‘Coral Takes Down Miz’ and yet, apparently, they became really close friends after the series). In a way, he learnt from his mistakes and, if anything, needed ‘The Miz’ to gain confidence. I sort of get that. How many great actors are mumbling, shy introverts in real life and yet, as soon as the camera is on them they are screaming ‘say hello to my little friend’ whilst taking down a Bolivian drug cartel? It’s a strange dichotomy. Indeed, as another contestant, Emily, says, ‘I don’t understand The Miz. I don’t want to understand The Miz’. It’s hard for people to get. So, Mike needed The Miz more than the other way around.

From there, Mike entered the 2004 Tough Enough competition. It’s weird watching clips from that now because, when you watch it live, you don’t even think that one day, yep, that guy will be headlining Wrestlemania. In his own words, ‘I believe the best fan could be the best wrestler’. That goes back to my original point. He was a fan. He owned the same books and DVD’s that we all owned. He just wanted to step out there and compete in the squared circle. He was the smallest guy on a season that included wrestlers that would one day become Ryback and The Boogeyman. Here he is -

What interests me, and I remember thinking this at the time, is that Daniel Puder was a muppet. He was the cocky heel. Mike was fine but people didn’t like him because he was a reality television star (signs include ‘This isn’t The Real World’). A lot of people already knew who he was and, reality television being what it is, people thought they already knew him. Due to this, a lot of people didn’t like him. WWE, however, were interested and, even though Mike came second, The Miz was offered a developmental contract. Not bad really because the last time I remember seeing Puder, he was getting a well deserved thrashing at the hands of Eddie, he who shall not be named at that well known locker room bully, Hardcore Holly. The Miz however was at Deep South Wrestling getting trained by Bill DeMott. Not too shabby.

When The Miz debuted, he was ‘host’ of Smackdown. I remember watching it, as a ‘blue guy’ and being annoyed. He was sat in the crowd trying to whip them up into a frenzy. He did some backstage stuff, hosted the Diva’s competition things like that. Basically, he got in the way of the ‘wrestling’. The thing I was there to watch. He annoyed me not because of who he was but because of what he was getting in the way of. On his in-ring debut on the 1st September 2006, it’s interesting to see, although he’s become a lot better wrestler as the years have passed, the persona was fully formed. Yes, he’s adapted and refined it, but the cocky persona was there in his match against Tatanka. He gets some boo’s but the crowd also follows his Pacino-esque ‘hoo-ra’ chant. Again, it’s interesting to note that JBL buries The Miz (‘he could tie me to a tree in my prime and not beat me in three weeks’). There’s no secret made that many in the locker room hated the fact that this ‘reality star’ was ‘pretending’ to be a pro-wrestler. He didn’t deserve to be there. The locker-room was no place for someone like him. A fan. I always like looking a debuts, so, here it is.

The JBL commentary reminds me of Michael Cole’s initial work on Daniel Bryan. There the (internet) fans had decided that Bryan was the best independent wrestler in the world so the big company man would bury him. Also interesting to note that The Miz was Bryan’s mentor on NXT season one. To be honest, though, Miz went from strength to strength after his debut. His first big break with the company was his work with John Morrison on ECW. It was here that The Miz became a better wrestler but also a better talker. ‘The Dirt Sheet’ was one of the first web shows I actually watched because it was pretty funny. If anything, Mike had taken all those things people hated him for (reality star/fan turned wrestler) and used it against everyone else. He’d made it. He was money. He was ‘the chick magnet’. What better way to piss of the fans that to highlight everything they weren’t. Were they wrestlers? No. They paid to watch it. Could they schmooze with Kelly Kelly? No. They could barely smell her perfume as she walked past them on the ramp. Did they hold a tag team title? No. They could by a replica at the store. That heel persona at ECW was a great way to show the fans what he’d become and gain some real heat. It was the start of the evolution of The Miz and, if anything, went right back to that ‘Real World’ clip where he shined the spotlight in his face.

It was in the move to Raw that, like most moves to the red brand, began to make him into a true ‘face’ of the company. First of all though, it was true make-or-break. Miz had to become Cena’s bitch for the summer of 2009. So, from being buried on commentary, to making it on the C-brand, to almost career destruction. I remember when Cena wiped his feet on Miz at the end of The Bash match (I think it was then but feel free to correct me) I got really annoyed. It was a public dressing down. Yes, a lot of rumours were going around that Mizanin was more Miz than Mike backstage and needed to be taught a lesson but I was also sick of seeing Cena be the one to bury people. Hell, we’ve just seen it with Miz’s Tough Enough partner Ryback four years later. As bad as the backstage rumours about The Miz’s attitude were though, I still saw him as the ‘fan who made it’ so to see the company man do that really angered me. He was scuffing his heels on all fans, including the kids who wanted to make it too.

I’ll be fair though, that summer obviously taught him a lesson because since then, The Miz has flown. Championship after championship. Storyline after storyline. He was even The Calgary Kid for a while (remember that?). For a company that couldn’t find anything for Christian to do for six months this year, The Miz has always been front row centre. It was winning the 2010 Money in the bank though that catapulted The Miz to this moment –

I always love a good cash-in and this was one of my favourites. Firstly because I’m not much of an Orton fan but also because of this.

Another interesting thing about this match, apart from the fact that The Miz almost loses, is that CM Punk is on commentary. Punk’s feelings about Miz’s push are clear on his DVD. Again, it’s the wrestler/reality star dichotomy. It’s also interesting that both stars are actually really strong on commentary. There is more to Punk than wrestling (‘I am the best on this microphone, in that ring, and even on commentary’) and I’d argue it’s the same with Miz. When he commentates, he’s good. I listen to him. I’m not a fan of his commentary when he’s scouting opponents as I think he detracts from the matches but, well, that accusation could be levelled at any wrestler with the headphones. Miz can talk and, in 2010-2011 the company ran with him. He had a four-star match against Morrison on the first Raw of 2011, he worked the crowd brilliantly every week and they ran with him to such a point that he even defeated Cena at Wrestlemania. Of course, The Miz took a backseat in the run-up to the annual shin-dig (apart from his rather topping Rock impression) to the two big company men but still, he did it. Of course, he eventually lost to Cena at Extreme Rules but, as well all know, Cena always ends up on top eventually because, you know, he’s the underdog (really?!). He became such a heel though that when his partner in crime, Alex Riley, turned and beat the crap out of him on Raw, it was one of the loudest pops I remember. Shame they didn’t know what to do with Riley after that but that’s not Miz’s fault. He’d built himself up as a top-level heel by that point.

Miz stayed relevant on television though whether it was with his tag partnership with R-Truth (and a main event match against Rock and Cena at Survivor Series) or by picking up the win for Team Johnny at Wrestlemania XXVIII. It’s with the recent face turn that some problems have occurred. It’s easy to be a Miz-hater, particularly for those who post on forums, etc. but being a Miz-lover is an altogether trickier proposition. He turned at about the same time as Del Rio but whereas he went from evil, millionaire bully-boy to Mexican man of the people (and, er, back again) Miz hasn’t really changed. The writers still want him to be the cocky jock but simply want the audience to change. Yes, fans were getting behind him more because, by this point, people had either forgotten his reality TV background or simply didn’t care now, but his character hasn’t really changed. They’ve handed the figure-four-leg lock over to him and that’s about it. Yes, I admit that I miss ‘heel’ Miz but I could go with a face version if he actually adapted too but it’s like the writers think that one handshake with Kofi makes us forget all his years of being a villain.

Yes, Miz has fallen down to mid-level championships, and Miz-haters take that as a sign that he’s out of favour with the company but how many stars stay main-event their whole career? Only a few. For every Cena there’s a Kane or a Big Show, guys who can main-event but can also contribute lower down the card too. Also, for someone who’s allegedly ‘out of favour’ he’s doing okay on the film front too. ‘The Marine 3: Homefront’ will be one of WWE’s biggest DVD releases this year and he’s just filmed ‘Christmas Bounty’. Following on the festive theme, Mick Foley included him in ‘The Most Mizerable Christmas’. In a weird way, is that a locker-room stalwart finally giving his approval to the former reality star?

The Miz polarises like no other at the moment. The live fans cheer. The online fans hate. His new T-shirt says it all, ‘Haters love me’. He knows it. He gets it. So do I. To be honest, I’m expecting a lot of negative reaction to this column and I don’t really know why. I like the bloke. He’s worked bloody hard to get to where he is. He had a dream and hasn’t stopped trying to achieve it. You think he wants a top title again? Of course he does. Will he make my top five wrestlers ever? Probably not, future career depending, but my top five does include The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. Does that mean Daniel Bryan or CM Punk aren’t good wrestlers? Of course not! Does it mean The Miz doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph? Of course not. For every CM Punk pipe-bomb we have a young star who doesn’t want to live a pipe-dream and that’s important. In Miz, I see a lot of us, the fans, in there and as he’s grown up, matured, he’s become someone we can enjoy watching and listening to. Yes, some people will always be negative about him but there are people who are negative about The Undertaker too. What it is, it’s opinion and this has been mine. Really?! Really.

To end, here’s the match with Morrison on the January 2011 Raw. Definitely worth a watch.

‘I’m nervous. I’m scared. Anytime you get you get into a fight you’re going to be scared but the thing is, that’s what being ‘The Miz’ is all about...being ‘The Miz’ is like a state of being. I turn all that fear, all that nervous energy into adrenaline and it just builds up, builds up until it explodes.’

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Please follow me on Twitter @HughFirth or email me on ashburnham74@yahoo.com All constructive criticism is appreciated.

Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.