Tryout: Let's Talk About Miz, Baby…

Let’s talk about…..The Miz.
The popular dismissal of professional wrestling by most is couched in a
vagary of cliches, whether derided as ‘fake’, for ‘kids’, or my personal favorite, a
‘male soap opera.’ It’s telling to consider the idea that soap operas are less than
full narratives because of the fantastical elements that permeate the storytelling:
whether it be long-lost twin brothers, torrid affairs, returns from the dead or what
have you, the general consensus of the viewing public is to discard professional
wrestling in the same breath for it’s similar elements of over-the-top plots.

To examine wrestling with a more critical eye, however, one must immediately be willing to fight these charges with fervor, to point out that whatwe watch is little more (but not less) than a version of theater, an institutiondating back to the beginnings of drama, one in which the stories are told both in the ring and outside the ring, with neither being the greater of each other. It’s the difference between John Cena the wrestler and John Cena the worker; Cena the worker can obviously be ready for the spotlight in ways that Cena the
character hasn’t been in ages.
Character is the big ‘X’ factor for wrestlers, of course; a good one can
remain over forever with little change, so long as he reacts to the plot or movement
around him. Steve Austin’s brief descent into narcissistic hell during the
Invasion being a high point for the depth of the Austin character, even if it failed
to be a high point for the storytelling around him. The point being, the high or
low brow nature of what we watch matters little in comparison to the compelling
nature of it. Or, more accurately, does it suck us in? Do we forget for a moment
the small flubs of the match or the backstage segment and instead believe the
narrative presented?
Allow us to examine the curious case of The Miz.
Imagine, for a moment, you have been given the book. (A situation we
all KNOW that we can do better than the current person doing so.) You’re given
a wrestler with the following background: Wanted to be a wrestler his entire life.
Charismatic, willing to do everything we ask of him, whatever promotion we
need, radio, television, TV movie of questionable (re: script used as toilet paper)
repute; willing to work his ass off regardless of how much we may embarrass
him, works the mic strongly when given the chance, a little smaller than most,
but has a ton of heart and is willing to work his way up the ladder until the time
is right. Promotes wrestling on other mediums – said from the beginning all
he ever wanted was to be a professional wrestler and has nothing but positive
things to say about an industry that, frankly, needs people to say SOMETHING
positive about it sometime.
Is this man a face, or a heel?
Think carefully before you answer.
Trick question of course. The answer is, as it is most of the time in
wrestling, ‘both’. It all depends in the presentation. And that is where the WWE
has gone so horribly, horribly wrong with The Miz, and why he is a symptom of
a larger problem.
The Miz, of course, came in as a heel, under the perfectly acceptable
“I’m better than all of you because I’m an arrogant prick, but I made it and you didn’t, so suck on it!” mentality. His fantasies about being the phenomenal wrestler that he wasn’t, combined with the incredibly irritating narcissism made him an easy target for the fans’ hatred. And, for all practical purposes, he did a marvelous job, rising from tag titles to the US title to the World title, hitting all the checkpoints along the way of a rising midcarder to main eventer. His ringwork left something to be desired, surely, but it illustrates the truism about wrestling that cannot be denied; workrate is only part of the package.
(For you old-school RSPW-ers, that sound was Herb Kunze’s head exploding.)
Much like a shark, in any drama or story, movement is necessary for life.
Not physical movement, mind you, but character mobility, which is to me the
biggest problem facing WWE today, and the reason that the storylines are less
than compelling in many instances. Characters don’t react or change due to the
circumstances surrounding them; rather, the lazy ‘they’re fighting the good/bad
guys now’ has taken over as character development. Growth as a term has
simply become the word in the initial sandwiched by two H’s, not a way for a
character to reapply his narrative in a way to connect with the fans on a different
Cena still does the same things, regardless of opponent, that he did years
ago. Sheamus is still the same character, yet now is expected to look like a
superhero, albeit one who engages in dirty tactics (see: Alberto Del Rio + car +
joyride – somehow does not = Grand Theft Auto) that are inexplicably cheered
on by the announcers who deride such actions when done by those not chosen
to be cheered. Randy Orton still sets up for the punt, regardless of it being the
most heinous action in wrestling history this week, or just another way to put
away the opponent the next. In short, the idea of character growth has been
quietly filed away, with the idea being that wrestlers can simply do the same
things at the same time, and the difference in circumstance will do the rest.
But what about the missed opportunities that arise when more is needed
to do something special? What about….The Miz?
The beauty of the story that accompanied The Miz was that his character’s
background allowed the narrative to go in either direction, and that is where
WWE has dropped the ball. When The Miz turned face, instead of allowing him
reset his character by saying something along the lines of “Hey, guys – I’m just
like all of you, in a way. I always wanted to be a wrestler, but I was never the
biggest and the strongest; all I had was the desire to make it, and that carried
me through a lot of hell to get where I am. Now, I need your help to make it
back to the top, I need you to see for who I truly am, just a wrestling fan who’s
living his dream. Nobody wanted The Miz to succeed, but I’m still here, and if
they couldn’t get rid of me 8 years ago, they sure as hell aren’t getting rid of me
Instead, he’s still the smarmy, annoying, insufferably sarcastic ass that
people love to hate, but are supposed to be….well, I’m actually not sure at this
point what he is. There’s no definition to the Miz character right now, except
that I just want to punch him whenever he darkens my screen. But it’s not the
kind of reaction that the heel wants, the ‘I hate you so much, I hope that you get your arm ripped off and beaten to death with it in the middle of the ring, you
prick!’ heat.
Sorry, been a long day with the kid.
Rather, it’s the heat of ‘bathroom break’ or ‘check the playoffs’, and that’s
sad to me. Because I see something in The Miz, unpopular as that opinion
may be; I see a man in search of his character, one which is right there for the
taking, if he adjusts it enough to allow the fans along for the ride, as opposed to
keeping them at an arm’s length because those involved don’t understand how
to properly grow a character.
Daniel Bryan. Much as we might love to think that his ringwork got him
over, let us not descend into total fantasy here; his exuberant celebrations of
each victory successfully carried over into complete sincerity from his heel run
to his face run. Indeed, does Daniel Bryan get over without the ‘Yes’ chants? If
we’re honest with ourselves, we know this not to be the case, that Daniel Bryan
was a benefactor as much from his character changing as his admittedly superior
skills between the ropes. Looking at HIS character progression throughout
the last two years, he’s gone from jackass champion to overly caricatured tag
champ to inspiration man on a quest to win his World championship. He has,
with the changing of the character from a heel to a face, refined his techniques
to emphasize the crowd reaction he desired. This is the mark of two particular
things; being an outstanding professional wrestler, which he is, and being willing
to accept the necessary adjustments to his character deemed by those who
craft the narrative, i.e. HHH and Vince.
And before you think I’m giving Vince and HHH credit for Daniel Bryan,
this is not the case, as Bryan still needed to implement the suggestions that
were given to him in a realistic and organic fashion, an admittedly tall order for
a man known to not have mic skills as his strong suit. It cannot be denied that
Bryan has learned from his time in WWE, and applied his history of grappling
with those who have made suggestions, but HE still had to make his character
work in a way that was HIS in the end, and he has done so, deserving all of the
good that comes his way.
Let’s not lose the thread, but draw the analogy – Daniel Bryan is what Miz
could have someday been, if two things would have happened – intense work on
his admittedly mediocre ringwork (despite the verbal blowjob I’ve been giving
the man, he’s no danger to Bryan when it comes to putting on 5 star matches),
and allowing his character to naturally evolve when his allegiances changed. Instead,
he’s allowed his character to simply wilt in the spotlight, all the while
believing he’s moments away from blooming once he finds the right feud.
Ric Flair won’t solve The Miz.
Talk Shows won’t solve The Miz.
Even titles won’t solve The Miz in his current state.
What will solve The Miz? Reinvention of his character, using the exact
same character as before, with a different spin on it. Rather than sarcasm,
sincerity. Rather than arrogance, quiet confidence. Rather than cheating, outwrestling
the opponent. (Admittedly again, this last might take some work.)
I write all this not because I think that The Miz will be a great professional
wrestler. I simply write it because he is the perfect example of someone who could be a very good professional wrestler who is being horribly misled by those
who have given him confidence that they have his best interests at heart, telling
him that there’s no need for THAT wheel over there, when they’ve invented a
NEW one over here.
But we don’t need you to reinvent the wheel, WWE. We just need you to
spin it.
Follow me on Twitter: @MrSoze
Rick Poehling