It’s been nearly 20 years since Mike “The Miz” Mizanin left the loft on the Real World: Return to New York and made his way to the squared circle. Since then, he’s become a world champion in WWE, taken on a lead role on the movie screen, and most recently, become the host USA Network’s Cannonball.
Ahead of the Cannonball season finale on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, Miz spoke to Uproxx Sports about the show, his journey to fulfilling a childhood dream in WWE, and how winning the WWE title isn’t his favorite run as a professional wrestler.
“I felt like (Cannonball) could be something big,” Miz says. “When we were starting to air it, NBC liked it so much that not only were we going to air it on USA, but they were going to air it on NBC. This is big enough to be a network broadcast show. Then, hearing the response on Twitter and people coming up to me in the airport. People really enjoy it. It’s something we all need with all the drama and conflict going on in this world. People need an escape to just laugh, even if it’s just for an hour. I think Cannonball has been giving them that.”
Allowing people to escape their own lives and step into his is something Miz has become accustomed to. Just a kid from Parma, Ohio, Miz is living his reality television dreams. And it all started with getting the call to come on the Real World.
“If it wasn’t for reality tv, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Miz says. “If it wasn’t for the Real World, I wouldn’t have the confidence to leave Parma, Ohio and move to Los Angeles. If I didn’t get picked to go there and go through the experiences on the Real World and the challenges after that for MTV, I don’t know where I would be today. The first challenge, my winnings paid for the first year of wrestling school. I was in wrestling school, I was in acting school, I was in improv class. I spent all my money to get the tools to get me to where I wanted to be and that is a WWE superstar.”
For Miz, joining WWE was a lifelong dream that has evolved into his variety of onscreen roles. His secret to that success is simply being open-minded to opportunities and literally saying yes to everything.
“I remember when I first started in WWE and no one wanted to do media on Mondays because Monday is Monday Night Raw and you want to be fresh and ready,” Miz says. “I said if I need to wake up at 5 a.m., I’ll do media interviews all morning. Honestly, it was just to freshen up my speaking ability. I would find things I would say on the radio and think this would be good for WWE. It got me comfortable in front of the live mic.”
That comfort has transitioned into staring roles in films like the Marine III, hosting shows like Cannonball and taking advantage of opportunities on WWE programming like Talking Smack — which gives him the chance for “real conversations on real experiences” that he believes people “need,” in large part because it’s a two-way street. For Miz, Talking Smack is a chance for him to give and receive advice in discussions with others in the WWE locker room.
Those discussions have ranged from Miz’s iconic rant against Daniel Bryan to his more recent chats with Big E, focusing on the latter’s WWE tenure.
“Every time I have a conversation with Big E, he’s always enlightening,” Miz says. “To be honest, I got told I was doing Talking Smack an hour before I was doing it. WWE knows, ‘Hey we need a host, fill him in right now.’ I didn’t have any time to prepare because I was doing Smackdown right before that. I put my suit on and went at it and just started talking. We got into a discussion where I felt I was right and he felt he was right. I had positive and negative feedback from that show. Big E and I talked about it. My goal was to showcase Big E not just being a goofball, not just throwing pancakes. I wanted to show people he has a serious side. How do I get that out of him? I didn’t need to do that. He has a serious side and when we started talking, I think people looked at him and said, ‘Wow, this is Big E.’
“I’ve been a WWE champion and I’ve been in the main event,” he continues. “I know what it takes, what the brass is looking for. Sometimes when you’re goofy and funny, you’re just entertainment, you’re not a main event poster child. I know what Big E is saying. I know he doesn’t want to be a bland superstar.”
While the conversations certainly differed in tone from their first conversation to the second, Miz feels he got the best out of Big E and showcased how the former tag champion can break out on his own and become a true star.
“If you listen to Big E in the first and and second Talking Smack, they’re different,” Miz said. “But they’re both a serious Big E and that Big E is a main-event-caliber, money-making Universal champion-type superstar. I do believe that Big E will be able to be a world champion very quickly.”
Last week Miz got a lot of criticism for his white privilege and him blindly not realizing it. Looks like Miz and Big E had a conversation about these “gray areas” this time around before they did this segment so he can say what he wanted to say better. #TalkingSmack pic.twitter.com/hJ1hw77KXm
— frank | #MFFL (@TheNextBlGThing) August 29, 2020
As for Miz, while he cherishes his own WWE championship run, it’s his time elevating the intercontinental championship that stands out as his favorite spell with the company so far.
“Me and Maryse’s intercontinental title run, that whole thing with the intercontinental title and making it the most relevant, prestigious title in all of WWE,” Miz says. “People always say they’re going to do something and it doesn’t happen. But when you say and you do it. And now, when you look at the intercontinental championship, it’s as prestigious as the Universal championship. It’s a big star moneymaker. AJ Styles was the intercontinental champion, Jeff Hardy is the intercontinental champion and he has a huge storyline with Sami Zayn coming back. People are talking about the intercontinental title. It’s not a title that’s thrown around to give a guy a title. It’s a valuable commodity on Smackdown. People want to watch Smackdown for it and I feel like I was a part of that history in making it prestigious and relevant.”