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An Unexpected Journey To Liking The Miz by Ron Pasceri

There was a time, about 10 years ago where I became an angry old man. Yes, at the ripe old age of 27 I had decided that everything going on at that time sucked. Everything current in 2006 was inferior to everything that came before. Sports, music, movies, television and even pro wrestling. I hated the WWE name change. I hated the brand extension. As a lifelong WWF fan, I couldn’t stand seeing Eric Bischoff on WWE TV. I felt there was no way the next generation of pro wrestlers could hold a candle to guys like Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. What drew my ire even more was the development of John Cena and arrival of The Miz. I’ve since come to appreciate who Cena is, what he means to pro wrestling and everything that he has accomplished. The Miz has been a much harder sell.

My first experience with The Miz was as Mike on MTV’s Real World New York when I was about 21 years old. Due to my negative nature, I found him to be an idiot. If memory serves correctly, The Miz wasn’t shown until a little later in the season. At the time, I was doing some backyard wrestling as a character named Madness with my friends, which I was taking very seriously. I made a character of my own, with catchphrases of my own, a personality of my own and a style of my own. It bothered me when people in our Association just imitated wrestlers from WWF or WCW. In my estimation, that was all The Miz was doing. He was just lifting sayings from current popular wrestlers and saying them in an asinine southern accent. And when he would “wrestle” it was ridiculously cartoonish. Again, I took my work as a backyard wrestler very seriously. There was definitely some part of me that was angry that he got to display his corny character on TV when I felt what I was doing was of a significantly higher quality.

Eventually he showed up on Tough Enough, coming in second place and earning a developmental deal. I figured there was just no way this guy could ever cut it in legitimate pro wrestling. I didn’t take him the least bit seriously and partially because of his arrival to the roster in 2006 I stopped watching WWE with the exception of Shawn Michaels’ matches. In 2010, after HBK retired, I stopped completely. When I heard that the following year Miz was main eventing WrestleMania XXVII as the defending champion, I was satisfied to leave my fanhood of WWE behind. Then the WWE Network started and I subscribed, at first solely to watch older matches. Then I attended the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia in 2015 and had such a great time I bought completely back in. But, unfortunately, Cena and The Miz were still around, although only Cena was still relevant. As Cena was winning me over with his weekly U.S. Title Open Challenge, Miz was being over shadowed by Damien Mizdow. Then at this year’s Rumble, something interesting happened.

As we all know, AJ Styles debuted that night, much to the delight of Orlando and the wrestling world. He was treated as a star from the second he set foot on the stage and immediately began his program with Chris Jericho. While Jericho was his main nemesis for his first three months, The Miz actually helped play a part in AJ’s rise. His Miz TV segment where he sarcastically put over every aspect of AJ’s character before tearing him down. His constant interruptions of everything AJ attempted to say. He also spun gold out of AJ actually knocking out two of his veneers in their first match, playing the Hollywood prima donna to perfection. Over the next couple of months, he used Miz TV to perfection, helping push storylines between the Jericho and Styles as well as the Intercontinental Championship picture while keeping himself as a relevant part of those stories. I actually started to appreciate the heel he had become.

While I wasn’t looking, The Miz had become arguably one of the top three heels in the company behind Kevin Owens and Jericho. The small additions to his character like his ludicrous acting, his insistence on saying that he headlined WrestleMania and of course the addition of Maryse by his side, which definitely hasn’t hurt. Even the detail of his arrogance costing him the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania. But what I’m most impressed with is, he’s been embroiled in a feud with Owens, Sami Zayn and Cesaro, who are three of the best technicians in WWE and he hasn’t looked out of place. Last night’s Fatal Four Way at Extreme Rules was the match of the night as far as I was concerned and he played a part in that. The pace was frantic, especially the final few minutes leading to the finish and he was right in the thick of it. I loved that he managed to find a way to hold on the the belt and I think he will continue to be good for it.

With all I know now and with a fresh perspective, I couldn’t help but look back. My bitterness toward the newer generation of wrestling has faded and my appreciation for the evolution of the business continues to grow. I also have embraced the idea that wrestling isn’t just about the men and women that step inside the ring or the matches they have. It is about moments and stories and memories. It is about time spent with friends watching or talking about this goofy thing that we all love. It’s about making new friends to share the joy and passion with. While I despised The Miz when I saw him on the Real World, I watched an old clip and saw something totally different than I did 15 years ago. Ok, it was still ridiculous, but not in the negative way I saw back then.

What I saw this time was a guy who used wrestling as a way to break down people’s walls, as a way to communicate and as a way to make people have fun and laugh. He used wrestling as a way to bring people together. And what I saw was a 21 year old kid who turned his love for wrestling into his dream come true. That is what wrestling is. It is fun and silly sometimes. It is also magic and it represents our hopes and dreams. To The Miz, I once turned on my love of wrestling partially because of you, but now I see that you represent so much of what I love most about it. After 15 years, I finally do smell what The Miz is cooking.

Check out my new podcast, Mat Madness, every Wednesday on iTunes and Podbean, as well as the video show onYouTube. It’s a fan oriented show, so if you’d ever like to take part, let me know. Thank you!