The Year of The Miz: How Mike Mizanin became WWE’s MVP

The Turnstile
WWE’s The Miz will defend his Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor at WrestleMania 34 on Sunday. (Courtesy WWE)
WWE’s The Miz will defend his Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor at WrestleMania 34 on Sunday. (Courtesy WWE)

“Quiet on the set!”

Nearly every Monday night for the past year, WWE fans have been greeted with the same introduction to The Miz, the wrestling star who fancies himself as an A-list celebrity whenever he walks through that curtain and performs in front of an audience.

The remarkable thing about all of this, is that The Miz’s schtick isn’t too far off from the actual role he plays on a weekly basis for the WWE. Over the past year, Mike Mizanin has become the WWE’s A-list player and heading into WrestleMania, there’s no question that The Miz will be trying to steal the show once again.

“Even though my match is not called the main event, I plan on making it the main event and people to talk about it for years to come, moments that last a lifetime,” The Miz told Yahoo Sports. “We have all of the components. Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, as much as I make fun of them and degrade them, they are two of the top, elite, talents in WWE.”

The Miz, who for the better part of the past year has held or been involved with the WWE’s Intercontinental Championship, has been faced with a task that arguably no other WWE talent has had to handle. On “Monday Night Raw” – the company’s biggest weekly show – The Miz’s championship has been the most prestigious title that’s been present and defended on a regular basis.

Since WrestleMania 33 last year, Brock Lesnar has held the WWE’s Universal Championship, Raw’s biggest title, if in name only. While Lesnar, a “part-timer” in wrestling speak, has made appearances on the show and defended his belt during pay-per-view events, the Intercontinental title has, for all intents and purposes, become Raw’s biggest draw.

“To be one of the focal points of Raw, to know that Vince [McMahon], Hunter [Triple H], Stephanie [McMahon], Shane [McMahon], that all of the execs, believe in me and know that I can put out there and revolve a show around me, that my star power can bring people into an arena, make people watch at home, that is second to none,” The Miz said. “That trust, that is what you live for as a WWE superstar.”

Traditionally, the Intercontinental Championship was awarded to the company’s best “worker,” a wrestler who has both the technical skill in the ring as well as the ability to draw fans in with the ability to cut a promo – wrestling jargon for being able to use the microphone well.

“I was the person that elevated that title, that made it prestigious and that was my goal,” The Miz told Yahoo Sports. “My goal was to have this title where it was when I was a kid, when Ultimate Warrior was going up against Hulk Hogan. It was the biggest match that you could see. That is where I’m taking the Intercontinental title.”

A lot of that prestige, is due to Miz’s relentless devotion to his craft, both on the microphone and in the ring.

While The Miz, a 12-year WWE veteran, certainly checks both of those boxes, it’s his ability to connect with fans, despite being a “heel,” in this new era of WWE wrestling, that makes him such a valuable commodity.

“I think social media is so huge nowadays,” The Miz said. “It’s like a reality show, if you really think about it. You’re learning about everyone’s life at every minute, I know exactly what The Rock and Kevin Hart are doing at every moment because they’re always talking about themselves and filming themselves doing it. I feel like I know them. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to know who you are as a person and as a character.”

This evolution didn’t just happen overnight, however. More than five years after he was in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII against John Cena, The Miz had, arguably, the defining moment of his WWE career.

In a vicious 2016 promo on “Talking Smack,” WWE’s version of a post-game show for “Smackdown Live,” The Miz unleashed on Daniel Bryan, who at the time was barred from competing due to previous head injuries. The moment perfectly blurred the lines of television show and reality. The segment went viral and set the course for the The Miz’s renaissance, where, to this day, fans know what they are getting every week will be entertaining.

“There is no line,” The Miz said. “It’s one of those situations where I want the fans talking about my match and I will do whatever it takes. Whatever I feel out there, it’s what’s going to happen.”

Since then, The Miz’s promos have come with a bite that few others in the business can deliver. Think about having a chip on your shoulder and then multiply it by ten – that’s exactly the place where The Miz is coming from every time he picks up a microphone or steps in a WWE ring.

“To be honest, they can say anything they want about me because whatever they say about me, I’m going to come back 20 times harder,” The Miz said. “The goal is to one-up everyone, to be the talk of the entire night.”

In many ways, Mizanin was built for this era of WWE. One of the first – and most recognizable – reality stars thanks to his role on “The Real World: Back to New York,” Mizanin’s television background and relentless work ethic allowed him to fully immerse himself into the world of wrestling.

Since his debut in WWE in 2006, Mizanin’s whole life has revolved around the company. He met his wife Maryse on the “Diva Search” contest, their lives have been documented on the “Total Divas” reality television show, and last year, they made their biggest announcement yet.

“Where do we want to announce to the world that Maryse is pregnant?” Miz said. “We both said in the WWE ring because that’s where this began and let’s keep it going. I thought it was beautiful, I thought it was romantic. It’s funny, it’s the first time I’ve ever been cheered.”

A newborn daughter, WrestleMania around the corner, a move from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas in the works, filming a new show for USA called “Miz and Mrs.,” it’s hard to imagine life getting more hectic or better for Mizanin, especially coming off of arguably the best year of his career.

“Every year I change drastically,” Miz said. “Every year I try to evolve, I try to get better. I try and do whatever it takes to learn more and be a sponge. Even at the level I’m at, I’ve never trained harder for where I’m at because I know this can leave.

“There are ups and downs in this business and right now I feel like I’m on the incline, but I want to stay there, I want to keep myself there and only the elite can do that. I feel like right now I’m at that level and I can do that.”

Who knows, maybe after the year The Miz has had in the WWE and Mizanin has had personally, perhaps even his beloved Cleveland Browns will get a franchise quarterback in the NFL draft (He wants USC’s Sam Darnold, for the record).

Now THAT would be awesome.

WrestleMania 34 will stream live around the world Sunday, April 8 at 7pm ET on WWE Network.

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