Wasted Talent is a look at professional wrestlers and MMA fighters who are having their potential squandered for various reasons. Join us as we bitch and moan about how unfair life is because we don't get to see this people perform as often as we'd like.
Our second installment deals with the little reality show star that could: The Miz.
Mike Mizanin first captured our nation's attention with appearances on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV, after appearing in the first annual most forgettable season of The Real World. During his stints on a million seasons of RR/RW Challenge, he would often refer to himself as an "alter ego" called "The Miz", which he said was his professional-wrestler side getting out. Pretty much everyone took that to mean that he's an idiot who is marginally aware of pro wrestling and associates "inflated, theatrical bombast" with "wrestler".
When The Miz finally appeared on WWE's fourth season of Tough Enough (which was relegated to segments on SmackDown), it finally became clear that Mike legit loves wrestling and wants to be a wrestler. That's all well and good, we all thought, but the guy is annoying as all hell and basically sucks in every way. He managed to make it to the finals, where he lost to Daniel Puder, an MMA fighter who has done essentially nothing of note in either wrestling or MMA since.
The Miz got a developmental deal out of the competition, however, and spent over a year in Deep South Wrestling and OVW. After getting called up to SmackDown in 2006, he spent the next year in odd roles such as being SmackDown's "host" and feuding with The Boogeyman briefly. He was drafted to ECW in 2007 where he established his gimmick of being a self-proclaimed "chick magnet". Following this was a prolonged feud with Balls Mahoney for the affections of Kelly Kelly. This feud didn't actually have an ending, they just stopped one week and that was that.
Throughout 2006 and 2007, The Miz was most notable for being crummy on the microphone and stinking out loud in the ring. He had the mythical "X-Pac heat". For those of you unaware, "X-Pac heat", named after the mythical Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, is the theory that a wrestler can be so lousy and uninteresting that rather than people saying "Boo you are villainous and I want to see you get beat up", they are saying, "Boo I don't have any respect for you as a performer so just go away." What people fail to realize is that heat is heat, and if you are eliciting any reaction at all, you win. But I digress.
In November 2007, The Miz was thrown together with John Morrison because WWE had no real ideas for either man, and they won the WWE Tag Team titles. Beginning in February 2008, Miz and Morrison were given a streaming web show on wwe.com called "The Dirt Sheet" which would eventually also consist of on-air segments. They were like a 2008 version of D-Generation X, only they were occasionally amusing. Late 2008 saw Miz and Morrison win the World Tag Team Championship and the Slammy award for Tag Team of the Year. Around the time of the Slammys, people were finally starting to take notice of how amazing Miz and Morrison were as a tag team, and the even more shocking revelation that The Miz had slowly become a competent performer throughout 2008. They were the only heel tag team in the company, and they were two of the most despised heels in wrestling.
In 2009, they began an extended feud with WWE Tag champs Primo and Carlito Colon, which built up to a tag title unification match at this year's WrestleMania. Despite being one of the few feuds that was presented on television in the weeks leading up to Mania, and despite fans' anticipation, the match was pulled off of the PPV and presented only to the live audience. Miz and Morrison were still at their most over, but a week later, The Miz was drafted to Raw and his team with Morrison was split up. Miz was immediately inserted into a feud with John Cena. The feud was based on The Miz being "undefeated" against John Cena (via various dubious circumstances). There was a period of several weeks where The Miz was given extended time on the microphone and he was really great. People hated his guts, the feud was something new and fresh, and The Miz was really shining. Then they wrestled at The Bash PPV and Cena beat Miz in five and a half minutes, killing all of The Miz's momentum dead in the water.
Since that PPV in June, The Miz has largely floundered, and not been given much screen time. He recently announced his intention to challenge for the US Title. More upsetting is that The Miz has unveiled new ring attire. His old gear of baggy shorts, arm sleeves, and batting gloves was one of the things that was great about him and his character. He's a guy who thinks he's a chick magnet, and tells everyone he's awesome. He wears a god damn fedora to the ring, for God's sake. His horrible fashion sense, worn with the cockiness he exudes, really ties the whole character together. More than that, it makes him look unique, and makes him look like SOMEBODY. Frankly, his old gear made him look like a star, even when he wasn't one. Now he's in generic, ugly, little tights and wrist tape. Just like Charlie Haas. Unless you're Triple H or Chris Jericho (who wore long tights as his entire look for nearly twenty years before switching to short tights), you can't stand out in a crowd with that look. Hell, even Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker know that.
So how has WWE dropped the ball on The Miz? The same way they've dropped the ball on everyone else who's gotten close to being a big star in the past five years: they only have enough confidence to push someone right up to the brink of being someone to be taken seriously. Then they lose their confidence in that person, or perhaps in themselves, or their fans, and instead of pulling the trigger and giving them that one big win that would convince people they're the real deal, they cut their legs out from under them so effectively that it will take years for a wrestler to build that same momentum again, if ever.
In April, there was a huge argument to be made that Miz and Morrison shouldn't have been split up. It was a valid argument at the time. Then The Miz went and started a great feud with John Cena that proved he had the chops to be a singles star. Maybe not a main eventer, but at the very least, someone entertaining and someone to be taken seriously. He should have gotten a clean win over John Cena. Instead, he was defeated and made to look like a chump so effectively that it could be considered the blueprint for how to kill a wrestler's momentum. In a company that is starving for new breakout stars, the decision is completely baffling.
I anticipate that The Miz will be around for quite some time, and he may get other chances, but WWE could have already had a new star on their hands. This isn't the first time they've dropped the ball on making a new star. It's not even the only time they've done the same thing this year. In 2006, 2007 and a lot of 2008, The Miz was held back by his own ability and the resulting crowd apathy. Now he's held back by nothing other than WWE's fear of the unknown. What a waste.