WWE Elimination Chamber ended on a shocking note this past Sunday, with The Miz cashing in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE championship from Drew McIntyre. It was an unexpected detour on the Road to WrestleMania, and stirred up as much controversy as the first time Miz won a world title more than a decade ago.
The Miz, real name Michael Mizanin, first rose to fame as a cast member on MTV's "The Real World" in 2001. On the reality show, Mizanin introduced the character of The Miz, an over-the-top, flatly-cliché professional wrestler alter-ego. Under the made-for-TV gimmick was an actual love for pro wrestling that led to his entry into the WWE world, first with an appearance as a contestant on the 2004 season of "Tough Enough," then working his way through the developmental system before finally debuting on WWE television in 2006. In 2010, Mizanin won his first world title, a run largely rejected by fans who had not bought into him as a "real wrestler."
That, among other failures -- and successes -- in the business, has him prepared for this run with the company's top championship, Mizanain told CBS Sports.
"It feels like a perfect storm that ended up with me with the WWE championship," Mizanin said. "Any time that you can be the guy that is trusted to hold the most coveted title in WWE and be the face of the company, that just means the world to us. That's what we fight for. That's why we are here each and every week. Granted, we're here to entertain our audience, but we have goals. My goal was always to get the WWE championship back. I didn't want to be a one-hit wonder. I wanted the title again, and I wanted to showcase what I can do as a WWE champion. Now, here I sit before you as that person.
"Now, I have the confidence. I had confidence 10 years ago, but the knowledge I've learned through my failures -- I always say my failures taught me more than all of my successes. Through all my failures and successes, I've been able to learn and absorb what I needed to get back to where I am today. Now, I am happy, confident, ready and well-prepared. I just want to make sure that everybody knows that every time Raw comes on the air, it is the most must-see show and that things are happening and there are times you won't know what is happening, but you want to see what happens next. That's what makes a great show awesome."
There's been an interesting sort of echo to Mizanin's first run as champion over the past year. In both championship victories, Mizanin successfully cashed in the Money in the Bank contract on an injured champion following a grueling match. 2020 also saw the return of former partner and real-life friend John Morrison lead to a revival of their successful team from the late 2000s.
Morrison has been by Mizanin's side through his stint with the Money in the Bank briefcase and now as champion, with the pair celebrating his championship to kick off the post-Elimination Chamber edition of Raw on Monday night.
"John brings out the best in me," Mizanin said. "He motivates me and makes me think outside the box. His brain works differently than anybody I've ever met. He is just an incredible friend. He's the brother I never had. I love being next to him in the ring and being able to share this with him."
Mizanin's first run as champion was not well-received critically or by the fans. But he has managed to maintain a position of relevance through a series of tweaks to his character, and has found himself as a performer both inside the ring and on the microphone.
That has led to a sort of reevaluation of Mizanin's place in WWE and an acceptance of him as a high-level performer. Of course, the critics are a constant in any high-profile form of entertainment. Mizanin is fine with the critics, he said, because it's a part of what drives his love for the job.
"You obviously were not looking at my Twitter feed," Mizanin said. "When I won, it wasn't all positive, I'll tell you. It felt like 10 years ago when I won it the first time. I don't deserve it. I suck. I'm the worst person ever. How can they do this? They're ruining Monday Night Raw. I take that and I listen to it because if people are talking ... which they were and it blew up the internet as the most talked about thing out of Elimination Chamber. Nobody now knows what the Road to WrestleMania now is. That's the greatness of WWE. You never know what's going to happen. People can now assume and think about it, but this is what I love about this company and this is the reason I've been able to do what I've been able to do for so long. It's because I love my job.
"I love being a WWE superstar. I love the fan interaction that we have and the connection. Whether it's positive or negative, it's their prerogative to do whatever they want to do. I love it, and I love everything about it. That's what gets me going and wakes me up in the morning. I love the business of WWE and being a sports entertainer. I love proving we're not just 'rasslers anymore -- we are the greatest entertainers out there. I'm out there to prove that with any show I'm doing, whether it's Raw or it's Miz & Mrs., which comes back, by the way, with new episodes the day after WrestleMania (April 12, USA Network). It's always incredible to see the reaction to that, too, because I'm supposedly a bad guy on Raw, but then you watch Miz & Mrs. and can't help but like me."