Over a dozen years removed from his official WWE debut, The Miz remains one of WWE’s most successful Superstars and continues to reinvent himself every chance he gets.
Surely fans and officials alike didn’t expect much out of the former reality TV star when he started out on his journey into the realm of professional wrestling. Despite the notoriety he gained from his time on MTV’s The Real World, he still lacked the in-ring experience and appearance necessary to be a big star in WWE.
Two things Miz didn’t lack, however, were the ability to talk a crowd into a building and, most importantly, passion. Those attributes were enough to earn him the attention of fans early on in his run and allow him to stand out from the rest of the pack on the fourth season of Tough Enough.
After spending some time down in developmental and serving as the host for the Diva Search competition, Miz arrived on SmackDown in 2006. He immediately made an impact by embarking on an undefeated streak and better yet getting under the skin of viewers through his above-average mic work.
In 2007, he aimed to be more of an in-ring threat when he was drafted to ECW that summer and developed his own identity by feuding with The Extreme Exposé. It wasn’t until he pared up with John Morrison that he really started to build credibility and find his footing as a tag team competitor, eventually winning the WWE Tag Team Championship.
Over the next year and a half, Miz and Morrison dominated the tag team ranks and quickly became one of the most entertaining tandems the WWE Universe had seen in ages.
Of course, every duo must inevitably go their separate ways, but Morrison was always expected to be the one who would break out on his own and achieve main event status.
Miz was perfectly cast as a tag team wrestler, but whether he would sink or swim when he and Morrison split up was unknown. By April 2009, they accomplished everything imaginable together, and thus the time was right for the team to be broken up.
In a surprise turn of events, Miz betrayed his longtime friend at the 2009 WWE draft special upon being moved to Raw without him. That was exactly what he needed to make a splash in singles competition right from the get-go.
It was only uphill from there for Miz as he set his sights on John Cena for his first feud on Raw. Although he went on to lose their initial one-on-one encounter at The Bash 2009 in a five-minute match, being able to rub shoulders with the face of the franchise gave Miz a much-needed boost.
In the remainder of the year, Miz knocked off Kofi Kingston for the United States Championship, his first taste of singles gold in WWE. His seven-month reign as champ helped put him on the map and saw him mix it up with the illustrious likes of MVP, Mark Henry, and even Bret Hart.
Once he dropped the strap to Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions 2010, he was finally able to enter the WWE Championship picture, which is when he won the Money in the Bank Ladder match and teased cashing in the contract on countless occasions.
On the November 22, 2010 edition of Raw, Miz etched his name into the record books by beating Randy Orton to capture the WWE Championship. It was a moment virtually no one ever saw as a legitimate possibility when he debuted in WWE, yet The Awesome One proved them all wrong by reaching the mountaintop and clinching the company’s most prestigious prize.
That said, his WWE title reign wasn’t remarkable, and in fact, he was booked to lose non-title matches to Orton, Jerry Lawler and others more often than he should have. Although his run included a successful championship defense in the featured matchup at WrestleMania 27 (something he could boast about forever), fans never truly viewed Miz as a main event player.
He ultimately lost the belt to Cena at Extreme Rules 2011 and began his gradual descent down the card.
The next several years of Miz’s career were nothing short of a roller coaster. There was no doubt that the company still valued him, but it looked like he was now being positioned as the ex-world champion who would play a part in elevating other talent.
For the rest of 2011, Miz was booked as a stepping stone, suffering a string of losses from everyone to The Rock and CM Punk to R-Truth and Alex Riley. He was barely able to make the main card for WrestleMania 28, and even in victory, it was painfully apparent that he needed to evolve in order to thrive (let alone survive) in WWE.
At Money in the Bank 2012, the star of The Marine 3 returned to TV following a two-month hiatus sporting a new look and attitude. The new-and-improved Miz had officially arrived.
It didn’t take Miz long to show he was all business and ready to return to the top. He picked up his first Intercontinental Championship at Raw 1000, a title he would soon become synonymous with as a result of how he carried himself as champion.
Unfortunately, a face turn at the end of 2012 ruined any momentum he had. Granted, it was uncharted territory for Miz and he was determined to make it work, but in addition to WWE handling his character poorly, it was blatantly obvious that he was much more comfortable in the heel role.
He bounced all around the card in 2013 and 2014 before reinventing himself yet again as the self-proclaimed Hollywood A-lister. It was a glorified midcard gimmick, mind you, but it helped him get back on the right track, reclaim the Intercontinental title and enter an exciting storyline with Damien Sandow.
His most recent resurgence came in 2016 when he defeated Zack Ryder for the Intercontinental Championship one night removed from WrestleMania 32 thanks to an assist from his wife Maryse. She had been away from WWE programming for almost five years and their on-air alliance was the best thing that could have happened to Miz.
Ryder, Apollo Crews, Sami Zayn, Darren Young, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Kalisto, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler were all unsuccessful in taking that title from Miz in 2016. He managed to make it feel like the most important piece of gold on SmackDown while simultaneously proving himself to be the best heel in the entire company.
Miz could have been put back in contention for the WWE Championship heading into 2017 and many fans wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but instead he was involved in a fairly high-profile match with Cena and Nikki Bella at WrestleMania 33.
Since then, Miz has done exceptional work regardless of what brand he’s been a part of. It was an odd decision to transition him to the Raw brand in 2017 when he was already on the cusp of the main event scene on SmackDown Live, but in typical Miz fashion, he flourished and had a tremendous run for himself on Monday nights.
He made his highly anticipated return to the blue brand earlier this year and rekindled his rivalry with Daniel Bryan soon after. They have been a recurring highlight on SmackDown for months, though it should merely be a matter of when and not if Miz will be wearing world title gold around his waist once again.
The Miz’s unique WWE odyssey dating back to his days on Tough Enough has led him to where he is today, and even at the age of 38, he has plenty more to offer the company in the years to come as one of their most versatile performers.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.