What I'm Thankful For..........Wrestling-Wise
I love Thanksgiving. The food, the family, the warm weather (since I leave New York for Tampa), and the time away I get to reflect. Many people forget that Thanksgiving is a time not just to overindulge and be reminded of the guilt associated with that gym membership opened on January 1st and largely ignored since January 10. It's actually a time where we should give thanks, and be thankful for all the gifts life has given us, big and small. I could ramble off a piece about how lucky I am in this life, but I'm pretty sure my sincerity would come off as pretentiousness to the faceless readers that will come across this piece. This is a wrestling column, so I will focus on a recent event that I am thankful for. As you will come to see, even the much lauded wrestling business can sometimes come across a gem. This is one of those times.
As a kid, we watch wrestling for the pageantry, the larger than life personas, the unique bouts of athleticism and strength, and the intricate storylines carried out by the performers. Over time, our innocence as viewers fades, and we either become disillusioned by the negative aspects of the business, or in my case, become enthralled by the flawed nature of it and begin to love it for its flaws.
It is sometimes hard to come to the understanding that your childhood heroes from the squared circle are mere mortals, and problematic ones at that, but because so many struggle with issues beyond anyone's control, its almost axiomatic that we as older fans come to realize the few that make it through the right way. Monday night was a shining example of this.
Despite his on camera persona as an arrogant, cocky, perhaps narcissistic individual, The Miz has battled quite a bit since joining the WWE in 2004, but as I sit here admiring the rays on my uncle's ranch in Tampa in 2010, the former reality tv star that wasn't supposed to make it is the current WWE champion.
What many may not realize is that this former reality star never once expected rock star treatment like those with pre-established fame often get. In fact, he took the abuse that came along with his past in stride, never once complaining and letting it deter his dream. As those who watch The Real World have told me, Mike Mizanin did not enter the WWE in hopes of continuing his fame. Conversely, he used The Real World to gain notoriety in hopes of chasing the childhood dream of becoming a WWE superstar.
In essence, his plan backfired. Though The Real World may have convinced the WWE to sign young Mike Mizanin, the politics of the industry were largely against him once in the company. As an outsider to this dog-eat-dog world, Mizanin took to this crazy idea of working hard at this craft that was largely new to him. Through it all, he still carried the stigma of "priveleged", though the opposite became his reality.
From the onset of his WWE career, The Miz was often an afterthought as a performer. From host to singles competitor, to tag team specialist, to another crack at singles glory, negativity was always quick to follow The Miz. "He's just a washed up reality star", "He can't wrestle", "He's being carried by Morrison", "he's the Jannetty of the team and will fail now that they have split", "he's not big enough", etc. Despite it all, The Miz kept proving people wrong. Of course, he did so as a hated villain, so it's not as if his story is a human interest piece in terms of on screen execution. However, those of us who understand the business deeper than just what is presented on the screen should appreciate the journey of the Miz.
Even Miz's title win on Monday is a microcosm of his career. While others with the Money in the Bank briefcase have used the element of surprise for a quick cash-in, Miz's turn was different. Yes, he did cash in on a vulnerable champion, but he didn't blindside him with the briefcase either. He cashed in and asked for a real match. Though it took place after another title match, the fact remains that it is the longest Money in the Bank cash-in match since RVD's One Night Stand bout with John Cena. Coming from a heel wrestler, it's a true testament that he wouldn't want to cheat his way to victory. Much like his career, he wanted to earn it, further proving the naysayers wrong.
As I watched these events unfold on Monday, I smiled. Upon further examination, the timing couldn't have been better for this to occur. We all can look back on our years and see what we have done right and wrong. I can almost guarantee that all of us went through peroids of struggle, where we felt we could have worked harder or smarter. Even more, I know that every one of us have had times where we felt underappreciated and that our hard work was not getting us anywhere. Perhaps others have achieved success quicker, or maybe our quality work goes unnoticed. On this day, look no further than Mike Mizanin to know that success is always possible, no matter the provocation.
From reality star to WWE Champion, The Miz has defied the odds at every turn. The smile of jubilation he had on as he held up the title belt was very real. This is a man that worked hard to get where he is, doing every promotion he could, improving his promos and ringwork every single day and has earned every ounce of success he has. Despite being perhaps the most hated villain in the company and maybe the industry, I think we should all look at the Miz as a shining example of what can be achieved regardless of family ties and/or politics. Sometimes the purity of work can get you to where you want to go, and that is truly something to be thankful for.