If I said a few months ago that Miz would be the hottest wrestler on WWE TV every week by the end of the summer, it would have sounded preposterous. After several reinventions, he has finally found one that resonates with his Hollywood A-List heel gimmick. While Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Paul Heyman, Bo Dallas, Jack Swagger, AJ, and others continue to do good work on a series of sub-par episodes of Raw, Miz has stood out as the most consistently entertaining and engaging. He went from a character who got almost no reaction to one who most fans absolutely hate with a few simple tweaks.
Miz used one of his dirty tricks on Smackdown when he sent Damien Sandow to the ring to wrestle for him as his stunt double. Earlier in the show, Miz tried to get the night off, but found himself scheduled to face Sheamus when Corporate Kane cut off a phone call with his agent. Sandow lost the match, but Miz got a cheap-shot in on Sheamus after the bell. Once again, Miz protected his “moneymaker” face and drew more heat from the fans. It is the simplest, classic booking move in wrestling to have a heel continually evade his deserved beating until the fans have to pay for a major event. Even though Miz lost the Intercontinental Title to Dolph Ziggler, no one has hit him in the face since his return and the fans’ collective desire to see him get jacked in the jaw increases every week.
Miz was even better on Raw when he teamed with Cesaro against Sheamus and Ziggler. He participated in the match this time, but he spent the early part on the apron with his sunglasses still on his face. He entered the ring briefly, and when he tagged out, he sat down in a director’s chair to have his make-up artist reapply make-up to his face. It reminded me of Playboy Buddy Rose pulling a sandwich out from under the ring during a tag match, only less buffoonish and more annoying. When the match got tough, he sent Sandow in as his stunt double, and Sandow instantly got a Zig Zag from Ziggler. Since Sandow never actually hit Ziggler, he did not get Miz disqualified. The distraction allowed Miz to sneak up on Ziggler and hit a Skull Crushing Finale to win the match and build toward his Intercontinental Title rematch. Take note that throughout this glowing description of Miz’s antics this week, there is very little mention of his wrestling. He has always been a serviceable in-ring worker, but looks better with certain opponents. His character work is so strong right now that his wrestling ability is a distance second to his persona and mic work. That is the same order of preference to his success that he had during his WWE Title run, so it is clearly a step in the right direction.
It is easy to forget now, but Miz went through about three miserably failed gimmicks after his Wrestlemania main event win almost four years ago. He lost his momentum as a heel when it became clear that John Cena and The Rock were the focus of the main event. When he turned face, nobody cared. He turned heel again and wandered his way through pointless tag teams and cringe-inducing feuds. He did not overhaul his cocky heel character entirely, he has simply added layers to it that are easy to understand and extremely unlikable. There are so many wrinkles to the character- the sunglasses, the “moneymaker,” the phone calls to his agent, the student double, the make-up artist at ringside, the director’s chair, the way he begs out of matches- that are all consistent with the character, original, and draw heat. Gimmicks are not dead in wrestling. When a gimmick is believable and encourages a response, it can still be the lifeblood of a good wrestling program.