Bell to Bell: How Punk and Lesnar Stole Miz’s Life
It’s been a back and forth year for Mike Mizanin, the man WWE fans know as “the Miz.” He’s gone from main eventing Wrestlemania alongside John Cena and the Rock, to being thrust into a seemingly thrown together tag team with R-Truth, to abruptly being returned to midcard status, to being announced this week as the star of The Marine 3 (yes, that’s really happening).
“Smarks” have been scratching their heads over the way Miz has been booked these past few months. Once a main event player, he’s done almost nothing but put people over this year. The most notable exception was at this year’s Wrestlemania, when he scored the winning fall in the 10-man tag. He mysteriously vanished from Raw for three long weeks after that, only re-appearing this past week to score a pinfall victory over Santino Marella. He’s had an extremely rocky 2012 so far, but it would appear the Miz’s career is starting to gain momentum again.
Fans who read the online dirt sheets know that Miz’s waning career progress as of late apparently had to do with the buyrate for Survivor Series, which was lower than WWE would have liked. The main event was supposed to have been huge, with the Rock returning to action after eight years to team with John Cena against the Miz and R-Truth. For some reason, WWE reportedly saw fit to blame Miz for the buy rate. Why? Good question…Several weeks later, Miz and R-Truth were on opposing sides in a tag team match. Truth somersaulted over the top rope, and Miz failed to catch him. This supposedly earned him a lot of backstage heat, and allegedly even a verbal beatdown from Triple H himself. Since then he’s been spending a lot of time with his shoulders on the mat.
And so, Miz spent some time in career purgatory. It was a pretty crappy situation. Miz has never been the best wrestler in the world. But he works his ass off, has done a lot for the company from a marketing standpoint, and you’ll rarely find a better heel anywhere in the wrestling world.
It’s also rather ironic, given that at this time last year, Miz was poised to break out and be one of WWE’s next big babyface stars. Don’t believe me? Think back for a second.
Though he was still one of the most hated men in the entire sport at that point, last summer the Miz was actually starting to hear cheers. On a few episodes of Raw, a smattering of “Miz is awesome!” chants could be heard. The reason for that was pretty simple. It’s a time tested formula in the pro wrestling world: If you’re a good enough heel, eventually the fans will love hating you so much that they’ll simply start to love you. As unlikely as it seems, Miz was starting to make that turn toward babyface stardom. Fans were digging his brash and boisterous (if not annoying) attitude, and they’d come to respect him after hearing some of the stories about how he got hazed by other wrestlers for being a former reality TV star. The Miz had defied the odds and become a bona fide WWE superstar, and if there’s one thing wrestling fans have always loved, it’s seeing hard work pay off for an underdog.
The Miz’s only rival for that big face turn was CM Punk. At this time last year, Punk’s character was akin to a sadistic cult leader. He’d taken over the Nexus faction from Wade Barrett, had forced them to go through bizarre re-initiations, and had set himself up as a bizarre spiritual leader of sorts. In terms of villainy, Punk and Miz were essentially neck and neck. Though Punk was (and is) better on the mic and in the ring, Miz was so damn cocky and abrasive that he seemingly appealed to the fans’ inner rebel. Punk’s apparent frustrations with WWE’s use of him seemed to be pointing toward his departure from the company, leaving Miz to turn face and become one of the most unlikely heroes the wrestling world had ever seen.
Then everything changed.
On June 27, 2011, CM Punk cut a scathing “worked shoot” promo that literally changed the direction of the company. Intentionally or not, it set him up as the company’s next top-tier babyface, brought John Laurinaitis on to all of our televisions (for better or worse), and the resulting “shake up” helped Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder move up the card. Obviously, WWE hadn’t planned on Punk’s promo launching his career into the stratosphere the way it did. As such, it became clear that if they could keep him signed, he’d become one of the company’s big heroes. And just like that, the Miz’s opportunity was gone.
Miz has always been an effective heel. But after Punk abruptly changed WWE’s plans, Miz seemed to have trouble keeping his character fresh. After winning the WWE Championship and main eventing Wrestlemania, he needed to do something different with that character. He was placed in a heel tag team with R-Truth, and they became outlaw characters of sort, rebelling against Triple H’s authority as the Chief Operating Officer. The idea was good, but the execution was a bit silly at times. As such Miz lost a little bit of ground, especially after Truth was suspended via the company’s wellness policy following Survivor Series. Then Miz botched that spot, and he was in trouble.
But Wrestlemania XXVIII turned out to be a good night for Miz. After weeks of complaining about how he didn’t have a match at the show, he was added to the John Laurinaitis/Teddy Long 10-man tag, and he scored the deciding fall. A win like that could have given Miz the momentum he needed to build himself back up as a major heel, possibly feuding with Punk for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. After seeing him put on the back burner for so long, fans seemed to be ready for him to be in the main event spotlight again…
Then Brock Lesnar showed up, and every heel in the company had to take a step down to make room for him at the top. Miz vanished from Raw for three weeks, reappearing on the Extreme Rules pre-show to face Santino Marella for the United States Title…and losing.
Miz got a bit of redemption on Raw this week, not only returning to the show, but beating Marella. That, coupled with his role in The Marine 3, make it clear that he’s apparently not going anywhere any time soon. But with Lesnar at the top of the card, Chris Jericho hanging around for a little while, and WWE determined to push Lord Tensai as Laurinaitis’ new bodyguard, he may have to take a back seat yet again if he wants to be a heel. He’ll have the same problem if he tries to go babyface, with John Cena, CM Punk, and Randy Orton blocking his path.
Miz seems to be in a a very tumultuous position. If he wants to stand on top again, he may have to re-earn his spot as a fish in a pond that’s a little bigger than it was before. It seems we’re about to find out just how “Awwwwwwesome!!!!!!” he truly is…
Thoughts From Raw
- Well, I guess the Wrestlemania buzz is officially gone, what with Brock Lesnar seemingly being written off TV for the time being. Read something about how Brock allegedly blew up backstage following his match with Cena at Extreme Rules because Cena addressed the crowd following the match. Apparently the story was that Cena was too beat up to talk like that, and Brock apparently thought it made him look weak. Mind you, this is all a big rumor at this point. But the decision to have Lesnar lose his first match back is a perplexing one. Now, this supposedly relentless killing machine has been beaten. How does that not take a good amount of the wind out of Brock’s sails for the foreseeable future? Yes, I understand he’s dangerous and formidable no matter what. But now he’s also beatable. I imagine it hurt Brock more than it’s going to help Cena.
- Whose bright idea was it to give John Laurinaitus and Eve Torres a backstage skit together? NEITHER OF THEM CAN ACT!!!! Apparently, she can’t get through a simple public announcement without fumbling her words!
- Speaking of Johnny, I’m actually glad it’s going to be him that faces Cena at Over The Limit. I gagged a little bit when Lord Tensai came out…
- I can’t muster up a lot of sadness about the Bella twins leaving. Yes, I respect them for learning their craft in the WWE, I respect the time and hard work they put into the business, and yeah, they were nice to look at. But truth be told, they never really did anything for me either on the mic or in the ring. Congratulations to Layla on the comeback, though.
- So this whole thing with Primo & Epico losing the tag belts is part of an angle, right? If not, they were completely worthless as champions, despite being great athletes.
Front page image from wrestling valley.org. Images 1, 3 and 4 from WWE.com. Image 2 from obsessedwithsports.com.