About two and a half years ago, one outburst shifted The Miz’s fortunes. Up to that point, Miz’s WWE career had already been sublime but even still, that famed Talking Smack promo felt pivotal. It was a defining moment, a rant that encapsulated this character’s whole purpose and skyrocketed his importance in the process. Miz’s presence on SmackDown Live immediately grew and in truth, the rest is history. Since then, Miz has continued to build his legacy as an iconic Intercontinental Champion but as of late, his portrayal has taken an unexpected shift.
For the longest time, The Miz character was only the hero of his own story. Blinded by the injustice and disrespect that surrounded his arrival, Miz opted for every shortcut imaginable, steadily climbing the ladder and refusing to apologize for it. Wrestling is a genre overloaded with generic villains simply described by “arrogant” or “cocky” but in Miz’s case, his whole story made perfect sense. This was a man shaped by his wrestling past, a guy fueled by criticism and one that as a result, strived for success regardless of who he had to hurt along the way.
The Miz’s on-screen journey has been glaringly consistent, grounded in truth and easy to understand. The aforementioned Talking Smack promo captured that perfectly too, with Miz’s direct message to the camera particularly standing out in my mind. After insulting Bryan enough to force his departure, Miz was visibly filled with emotion, demanding our attention for one final statement. As you’re reading this, I’d imagine that the visual is currently embroiled in your mind too but for me, there’s one claim that feels especially symbolic.
“I’m sick of all of you calling me the coward. . .you’re the cowards! I’m the one in here day in and day out . . . beating people up.”
Now in truth, these lines aren’t the promo’s most recognizable but in my view, they are quite glaringly human. There’s a tired, frustrated anger towards the “coward” insult and more than that, there’s an honesty to this extract too. While his actions made The Miz an on-screen villain, his story was one of admirable achievement and success. Against all odds, Miz had become one of his era’s most successful performers and regardless of how he’d achieved those feats, this character just wanted to be loved.
That’s relatable and it also made his every move understandable. That was fitting too considering that after his Talking Smack diatribe, The Miz’s actions didn’t change a bit. Instead, they simply took center stage until in late 2018, Miz embarked on a new quest. Desperate to make his father proud, Miz formed a tag team with Shane McMahon and experienced immediate success, winning the SmackDown Tag Team Titles on their first attempt. Even still, the eventual result seemingly remained clear.
After all, McMahon is historically a beloved hero and The Miz is well, The Miz. He’s just a villain, it’s been that way for 90% of his decade-plus wrestling career. A turn was inevitable, the only question surrounded when and why Miz would actually betray his latest tag partner. Before long though, the story’s direction would soon hint at a different destination. That’d come to fruition in Miz’s hometown of Cleveland too, with Shane McMahon lashing out after the tandem failed to recapture their now lost tag title belts.
McMahon assaulted Miz from behind and then shoved his father too, next battering Miz in heinous fashion while his dad watched on. It had felt this way for a while but now it was suddenly unavoidable, The Miz had become an actual hero, and not just one that exclusively existed in his own mind either. A week later and Miz finally spoke on the topic, producing one of his greatest promos yet as he encapsulated his whole hall of fame career up to this point.
“For ten-plus years, I’ve been laser focused on one road, and that is the road to WrestleMania. But at what cost? Throughout my career I’ve taken advantage of people, taken shortcuts, taken undeserving opportunities. Besides my wife and daughter, I’ve sacrificed every single relationship I’ve had in this business. That’s what this means to me.”
This particular extract feels crucial. It highlights Miz’s self-awareness as well as an acceptance of his actions. That’s key to this next chapter too, a desperation to right those prior wrongs while also, a celebration of what Miz has achieved so far. The man himself delved into this on SmackDown Live, discussing his lengthy but now successful quest to earn the fans’ respect. It’s hard to be surprised when The Miz impacts people with his words but regardless of his body of work, this outing felt especially impressive.
In a matter of minutes, Miz explained this whole programme and most importantly, concluded things by capturing the whole audience’s support. The Miz really is the hero here and frankly, he’s immediately one of WWE’s most understandable too. That sentence is rather surreal in itself, but factor that in that he’s standing opposite Shane McMahon and this suddenly becomes all the more stunning. Imagine pondering this matchup just six months ago, it would’ve appeared so misplaced but in execution, it’s felt so natural and relatable.
After years of playing a villain so he could be his own story’s hero, The Miz now enters a new phase of his storied career. Clearly one of his era’s finest heels, Miz’s next task may not be as tough as cynics originally suggested. Instead, The Miz’s story actually speaks for itself and if it doesn’t, well he’ll speak on its behalf.
“I went out on my own, followed my dreams and proved everyone wrong. I found my way . . . and I became a champion . . . I did that and I did it on my own . . . I am a proven success story and that’s something to be proud of.”