WWE/THE MIZ: From MTV to top WWE Star: The Miz gives us an exclusive look at his 'Real World' (CBR.com)

Posted on 5/19/117 by Mike Informer

From MTV to Top WWE Star: The Miz Gives Us an Exclusive
Look at His 'Real World'

MAY 18, 2017

Holding a toy championship belt in one hand and a throw
pillow in the other, Mike Mizanin stood atop a couch and
posed triumphantly.

He had just reclaimed the plastic title from his housemates
after hitting them with a series of pantomimed punches and
chasing them through the house. He applied a cartoonish
version of the claw hold, spoke in a bassy voice and
sauntered along the floor as he messed around with Coral
Smith and Lori Trespicio. And now the costume-store
championship was his again, a fact made clear by his
prideful stance on the furniture.

This was an ordinary sight in the house. Cameras often caught Mizanin morphing into his alter ego,
The Miz. During his time on The Real World: Back to New York
in 2001, a college kid from Parma, Ohio, became an
amalgamation of pro wrestling personalities.

"There were pieces of Ultimate Warrior, Stone Cold Steve
Austin, The Rock, DX [D-Generation X], you name it. I was
taking from all of them," Mizanin told Bleacher Report of
the inspiration for his Miz character.

He roughhoused with his housemates. He held a lamp to his
mouth as he issued trash talk. He grew brash, loud and

Mizanin couldn't know at the time that these ventures into
another self would be the genesis of a WWE career.

What began as a playful act from a frat boy ended up being
the first steps into the world of the squared circle.
Eventually, Mizanin would become The Miz full time. Years
after his six-month stint on reality TV, he became one of
WWE's most recognizable faces, holding the WWE Championship,
serving as intercontinental champion six times and
headlining WrestleMania XXVII.

Before wearing those gold straps, though, he first carried
around a plastic one, when The Miz wasn't a ring name, but a
persona he slipped on for fun.

The Birth of The Miz

A native of Parma, Ohio, Mizanin went to college less than
300 miles from his hometown.

His time at Miami of Ohio began conventionally enough. He
studied business, joined the Theta Chi fraternity, went to
class, partied, the usual.

But while watching TV, he found the inspiration to step into
the reality TV world.

"I remember sitting on my couch on a Saturday watching
reruns of The Real World. And it said, 'Do you want to be on
The Real World? Go to MTV.com and you can try out there.'
And I said, 'I want to be on The Real World.' And I sent in
my tape," Mizanin recalled.

After producers reviewed the VHS of his audition and
interviewed him, Mizanin found himself in a house full of
strangers in Greenwich Village, New York.

It was a shock to the system for a young Ohioan.

"I'm 20 years old. I move to New York City, the biggest
melting pot in the world," Mizanin explained. "You go in
there. You have these cameras on you. You have roommates
you've never met before, people from all different walks of

Viewers could see how uncomfortable he was. Mizanin
struggled to click with his housemates early on.

He felt that he struggled to fit in from moment one.

"Right from the start, it felt like I was the outcast, the
person that nobody was going to like," he said.

Things changed when he began to embody what become known as
The Miz.

Mizanin issued over-the-top threats in a low, gravelly
voice. He crashed into a trailer to show it didn't hurt him.
He goofed around under the guise of a wrestler invading The
Real World.

He told the cameras, "The Miz is a character I created. He's
basically a wrestling star. And he's ready for the big

The Miz became a way to cope. It was the mask he could wear
at the masquerade.

"The Miz came in as a way to say exactly what I was feeling
and not have any repercussions for it because it was a
character I was playing. That character became very popular,
not only with fans but with castmates," Mizanin said.

The castmates asked him to reprise the role, to re-embrace
the role.

"They were in on the joke," he explained. "They were
laughing with me. And they loved it. They were having so
much fun with it."

After the show ended and Mizanin had to return to normal
life, The Miz could have easily dissipated. It could have
been an act that he reflected on fondly, but instead stayed
very much in the present.

Entering the Business

Mizanin didn't dream of WWE stardom when he held up his toy
championship or convinced his housemates from The Real World
to roughhouse with him. His wrestling persona was a
plaything then.

But the itch to enter the ring soon hit.

After filming ended, Mizanin watched himself and his alter
ego back on TV. Again, inspiration struck from the screen.

"In August, when I started watching the show, I thought,
'What do I want to do now?'" Mizanin said. "I was sitting in
my bedroom at my dad's condo. I remember seeing an action
figure of The Rock and going, 'You know what? I'm going to
become a WWE Superstar.'"

He sat at his computer and researched wrestling schools.
Ultimate Pro Wrestling based in Southern California popped
up. And luckily, he had an in.

Rick Bassman, the school's founder, knew a reality TV
producer, Scott Freeman, who had worked on The Real World.
That connection helped get the ball rolling for Mizanin as a
wrestler in training.

It didn't matter that Mizanin had been on TV and developed a
following of sorts. He started with a blank slate at
wrestling school.

And at first, Bassman took little notice of him.

"I had over a thousand students come in through the door. We
were really prolific at the time. I was so hyper-focused on
the giant, jacked-up guys at that point," he explained.

The muscular and magnetic John Cena stood out at UPW.
Mizanin did not.

"I knew from day one that guy [Cena] was going to be a star.
It was pretty obvious. I definitely wouldn't have had that
impression about Mike," Bassman said.

Mizanin's everyday physique didn't catch the trainer's eye,
but unfortunately, his attitude did.

"I remember him being really arrogant in the early stages,"
Bassman recalled. "I really prided myself on running a
school and a backstage that was super copacetic and
friendly. Mike didn't really fit that mold."

The UPW headman decided to venture down a path he hadn't
before to remedy that.

The promotion held shows at the training facility at times
where the matches were made on the spot and the trainees had
to quickly piece together a plan before performing.
Mizanin's opponent that night was Sylvester Terkay, a 300-
plus-pound mixed martial artist and kickboxer.

Bassman instructed the big man to go after Mizanin hard in
the ring.

"He beat him up good," he said of Terkay crossing paths with
The Miz. "After the match, Mike came up to me and said, 'I
get it.' And that arrogance was just gone immediately."

After that sudden shift, Mizanin began to catch on to the
art. He found his stride down a difficult path.

"He was coming along really nicely. At that point, you could
see that he was ultra-serious, and that he was probably
going to go somewhere," Bassman remarked.

And months later, at a show in Anaheim, California, Mizanin
would get a ringing endorsement from a former world

Diamond Dallas Page stepped in to make a cameo for the UPW
promotion. He requested Mizanin as his partner. The pair
took on Adam Pearce and Babi Slymm in front of around 700
people. DDP liked what he saw fighting alongside the rookie.

"After the match, he (Page) came back to me and said, 'That
guy's going to be a star,'" Bassman said.

To achieve that status, though, a heavy workload awaited
him. As much as reality TV prepped for the talking side of
wrestling, it didn't elevate him past his peers at UPW.
Bassman noted that while Mizanin "was definitely a good
promo guy," he didn't stand out from a talented crop of

It would take more stages in his evolution to demand more

Proving His Toughness

A hybrid of his past two experiences awaited. Mizanin would
be both a wrestling trainee and a reality show star as part
of WWE's Tough Enough in 2004.

This was the fourth season of WWE's reality show
competition, and the company chose to amp things up by
having the finalists perform various challenges on its
SmackDown show. This edition of Tough Enough also promised
the winner a million-dollar contract.

Mizanin had a leg up on everyone else thanks to The Real

"It got me comfortable in front of the cameras," he said of
his reality show experience. "Whenever I had an interview,
it wasn't a nervous situation. That was something I'd done
for a long time."

"It showed me I could play up to the cameras. The camera was
my friend," Mizanin explained.

He also had a head start over some of his competition thanks
to what he learned at UPW. But didn't have an athletic edge
over eventual winner Daniel Puder, who was an MMA fighter
before signing up for Tough Enough.

Puder hadn't seen Mizanin on MTV, but after a quick search
on the computer he discovered how much of a name his fellow
competitor already had.

When the MMA fighter saw Mizanin in action, he came away

"I thought he was smart. He knew how to build a name. He
knew how to create what he wanted," Puder said of the man
who would become The Miz.

In Puder's mind, Mizanin was driven, but not as much as
himself. That's what allowed him to emerge the victor,
forcing Mizanin to settle for the runner-up spot.

"I beat him in a mile race every day. He wanted to beat me.
I came in training harder than him for what this was. But he
was a good athlete," Puder said.

If anyone dismissed Mizanin as too soft for the squared
circle, they were quickly proved wrong.

Mizanin took the continual punishment of the training and
strode on. His back blasted against the canvas over and
over. Trainers rode him and his peers hard.

Puder found himself respecting the guy from MTV.

"He's a tough guy. That's why he's gotten so far in life,"
Puder said. "When you go into WWE and you're in there for
more than a match and you get pounded, you're tough. When
you keep coming back day after day after day, you're tough."

"He trained hard in the gym. He listened. Out of all the
other guys, I'd say he was the one that really pushed the

That pushing and training was enough to catch WWE's eye,
even with the second-place finish in the competition.

WWE exec John Laurinaitis later called up Mizanin to offer
him a development deal with the company's then-feeder system
Deep South Wrestling in McDonough, Georgia.

Resistance and Reinvention

As much as his experience with The Real World prepared him
for WWE life by bombarding him with interviews, it also
taught Mizanin how to thrive somewhere he didn't feel

When he worked his way up to the main roster in 2006, he was
met with his fair share of resistance.

He was the "MTV guy" who didn't belong. He was the outsider.

Mizanin put it simply: "I wasn't liked."

"I think of WWE as a fraternity. You have the fans involved.
You have the WWE Superstars involved. And you have me
wanting to be a part of the fraternity and no one accepting
me," he said.

Fans often dismissed him as a C-list celebrity getting an
opportunity he didn't deserve. He didn't have the indy cred
that well-traveled wrestlers like CM Punk had.

His career became a long series of moments where he proved
himself, from his tag team success alongside John Morrison
to his recent memorable reigns as intercontinental champ.

It wasn't until the last few years that the majority of the
audience started to appreciate Mizanin's athletic ability,
his mastery of his character and the hard-hitting verbal
jabs he throws.

The current version of The Miz is a brash, self-absorbed
jerk who believes himself better than anyone else. He and
his wife Maryse strut around the WWE landscape, wearing
sunglasses inside and taking pot shots at everyone.

It's very little like the loud, in-your-face persona he
played while on The Real World. He's evolved the character
as he's cemented himself as one of WWE's key figures.

Mizanin relishes the uphill nature of his climb to this

"Every ounce of respect I have today, I had to earn," he
said. "I guess I'm glad for it because it made me the person
I am today and I like me."

Today, he's taking on a new climb in a mediumacting.

Playing the action hero Jake Carter for the third time,
Mizanin starred in The Marine 5: Battleground. The movie
series has forced him to dive into a different side of

"You want to root for Jake Carter," Mizanin explained.

"Every time I come into the Jake Carter character, I think
of him as Mike from Parma. The kid that just wanted to be a
WWE Superstar who would work hard and fight for everything."

The disparateness of the characters is clear. The Miz is a
self-server; Carter is a protector.

And strangely enough, in this latest movie role, he found
himself surrounded by familiar faces from his WWE gig.
Superstars Naomi, Curtis Axel, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas and
Mizanin's wife Maryse all star in the action flick.

Mizanin credits some of his recent success with having
Maryse so close to him.

"The reason I've had such a good 2016 and 2017 is because I
get to have my wife with me at all times. She pushes me. She
drives me," Mizanin said.

"To have her there on the movie set to shoot a scene is just
an absolute bonus."

Movies may be Mizanin's go-to art form at some point. If he
proves himself there as he did in the WWE ring, success
awaits him. And he's triumphantly gone from one platform to
the next before.

As his old trainer Bassman pointed out, he had to work hard
for his success.

"He didn't come in with all the gifts of a natural athlete,"
Bassman recalled. "He had to emerge from the pack.

"He redesigned himself. He recreated who he was," Puder said
of his former Tough Enough competition. "He's done really
well. I'm really proud of him."

From Ohio kid to reality TV star to WrestleMania headliner
to actor; that redesigning process for Mizanin rolls on.

The Miz (@MiketheMiz) is a former WWE and intercontinental
champion. He has starred in three installments of the film
series The Marine.

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