Hey internet, it’s time to give The Miz a break. Not that he doesn’t deserve the criticism, but he probably doesn’t deserve the non-stop nitpicking that happens every time MizTV comes on. He probably doesn’t deserve to be called out for using the figure-four leglock, an obviously corporate decision. And he probably doesn’t deserve to be made fun of for Real World anymore.
Actually, scratch that last one.
But still, The Miz is a bonafide superstar by WWE standards. He’s a former World Champion AND he headlined Wrestlemania against John Cena. You might argue that his catchphrase is lame, his suits are tacky, or that his hair is ridiculous, but you can’t deny that he brings value to the company. Unfortunately, professional wrestling fans sometimes struggle with long-term perspective. They forget that in late summer 2011, people were clamoring for a Miz main-event run. His heel persona was finally clicking. So what happened?
Place blame on a number of different areas. For starters, the WWE creative team had no idea what a WWE Championship run with The Miz should look like. Every victory he earned was hollow. If he couldn’t win a match, he’d sneak out or cause a disqualification. If there’s ever been a textbook example of why your main champion needs victories to avoid losing all credibility, The Miz is it. By the time Elimination Chamber 2011 rolled around, The Miz was defending his WWE Championship, the most important title in the business, against Jerry “the King” Lawler. No offense, but “the King” has no business main-eventing pay-per-views in the modern era. Unfortunately, that’s what defined Miz’s championship run – not the best in the world, but whoever creative could find to save the belt for John Cena.
The other major issue was that, after Miz lost the title, he continued to lose. His rematch against John Cena was a joke – both him and Alex Riley, together, as a team, couldn’t keep WWE’s resident Superman down in a last man standing match. The Miz’s misfortunes only continued until he finally faded off television completely so he could film ‘The Marine: whatever whatever’.
That’s not to say The Miz is completely absolved here. He hasn’t changed his catch-phrase – literally, a one word “Awesome” with extra emphasis on the “awe” – in three years. He’s a baby face now, but the way he struggles through a good-guy promo is enough to make even Katie Vick cringe. He’s simply trying too hard to get over.
There’s still plenty of room for Miz to grow, though, and unfulfilled potential in his career. He has a relatable personality, his in-ring skills aren’t too shabby, and he knows how to be the company guy. The Miz might have weak promo skills for a face, but let him fall back into the “edgy without cute” mic style, and he’ll probably start acting a little more natural. Most of all, Miz knows what hard work in the wrestling biz looks like, and understands how quickly it can fade away.
This is less about what The Miz has done before, and more about what he can do next. Start with a major character overhaul. Then, spice up his move set, slap on a fresh set of tights, and pair him with Paul Heyman for a few months. Imagine how much more relevant The Miz would have felt as the next Paul Heyman guy instead of Ryback. Now, imagine how much better the resulting match with CM Punk would be.
Many viewers have it in their mind that The Miz is a company stooge. People want to say that he’s another one of WWE’s generic babyfaces, who’d be better off main-eventing “Main Event” than standing anywhere near the biggest prize in all of sports entertainment. I’d counter with Money in the Bank 2010. I’d argue that The Miz has done exactly what he’s been asked to do, but as a result, has never been given the freedom to re-define his career. He’s never truly had a chance to be the best.
Then again, maybe his critics are right. Maybe The Miz is nothing more than a reality-show reject who stumbled into a oftentimes weird and flukey business. At least he’s not just the WWE ‘flavor of the month’ anymore; now, the next stage of his career should live – or die – by what he brings to the product.