Mike “The Miz” Mizanin has followed a path in show business unlike any other. While most know him as a WWE Superstar, he got his start on the MTV reality show “The Real World” before taking a shot at professional wrestling.
Throughout his career he has been WWE Champion, fought in the main event of “Wrestlemania” and is now adding movies to an already impressive resume. His latest, a joint production between ABC Family and WWE Studios, is “Christmas Bounty” with Francia Raisa (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”).
The Miz sat down with Zap2it to talk about the movie, which premiered on ABC Family before releasing on DVD, as well as WWE’s annual “Tribute to the Troops” and how “The Real World” both helped and hindered his career.
Zap2it: “Christmas Bounty” is your second time out as a leading man. What is happening in this movie?
The Miz: “Christmas Bounty” is about Francia Raisa’s Tori Bell. She’s basically a bounty hunter, comes from a family of bounty hunters, and I play her ex-boyfriend, who is a bounty hunter as well. She wants to get out of the life, moves to New York City, gets a new job, a new boyfriend or fiance if you will. One of her bountys breaks out of jail and says he’s coming for everyone, so she has to go back down to New Jersey, meaning the new guy has to meet her family. She’s in a whole new life and doesn’t know how to deal with it. I’m there creating a little love triangle.
There’s a little action, a little drama. Really a little bit of everything, so it’s one of those situations where everyone will be happy.
So you got the chance to play a bounty hunter?
I do, but I lost the girl! I lost the girl and I haven’t been the same since and I want her back. I’m a hopeless romantic.
You were also the main character of Mick Foley’s Christmas book, “A Most Mizerable Christmas.”
I was! I don’t know why people look at me and say, “Holidays.” I don’t know if I have a jolly old grin or if I’m a jolly old guy, but I’ll take it! Mick Foley actually came up to me in Europe about two years ago. Mick came up to me and said, “Listen, I’m doing a Christmas book and I’d like you to be the main character.” I go, “Excuse me? Are you kidding me? This is the same guy, I’ve read all of your book and I love all of them. I think they’re amazing and you’re an incredible writer. And now you want me to be at the center of attention for this? Absolutely, no problem. What am I going to be? Am I going to be the hero? The guy that gets all the presents and stops someone?” And he goes, “Actually no. You’re going to be the bad guy and you’re going to be crying in it.” I go, “Well, you know what? I’ll take it. I’ll be in anything you’re writing.”
This being your second Christmas project, as you an especially big fan of the holidays?
I love Christmas, I just hate giving gifts and receiving gifts. I love everything it’s about except for that, because I don’t like the situation where you go and get a gift and say, “Oh my God! This is the best gift ever!” And they’re like, “Do you really like it?” “No, I love these socks. These socks are amazing. Thank you so much.”
It’s one of those situations, everyone has it. Everyone know that no gift is the best gift ever, but you are always trying to find the best gift and you’re never sure if it’s going to be or not.
Is there anything that stands out as a favorite to watch around Christmas?
I just saw it on the 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family, “Christmas Vacation.” Chevy Chase, man. National Lampoon. You can’t beat that, you can’t beat Uncle Eddie.
The Uncle Eddie spinoff movie wasn’t so good.
I haven’t seen that, but “Christmas Vacation” is an instant classic.
This is the second WWE movie you’ve done, after starring in “The Marine 3.” We talked to Chris Jericho recently, who said acting is an offshoot of what he’s been doing in wrestling his entire career. Do you view TV shows and movies as something you’d like to continue doing, outside of the ring?
Sure. I mean, I love WWE. I look at it as live theater. You’re there and there’s instant feedback, whether they’re booing you or cheering you. I love that, but I also love doing things where I get a couple takes, you know? When you’re on live TV, you only get one take and if you bumble a word, everyone on Twitter is going to talk about it for the next year.
So I love doing movies and the fact that WWE Studios has the confidence to give me two of them, as well as a part like this. “Marine 3” was heavy on the action, but “Christmas Bounty” allowed me to do a little romance, a little comedy, a little drama. I really appreciated the fact that they gave me this role, because it has a lot of layers.
On the wrestling side of things, the annual “Tribute to the Troops” is coming up. That seems like a really important date on the WWE calendar for everyone on the roster.
This is one of the most important shows WWE does. Last year I made the trip to Bahrain to visit our troops, and it’s incredible every year. You can watch the news all you want and see our troops, but until you actually go over there and witness their life, what it’s like … I remember being in Iraq. We were in this armored vehicle and there was an orange pole sticking out of it. I was like, “What’s that orange pole for?” and they said, “Oh, it heats up the land mine before it blows us up.” So I asked, “Does that ever happen?” “Yeah, it happened yesterday.” He was so nonchalant about it, saying it like, “Oh, I ate food yesterday.”
This kid was like 19 years old. It’s insane how much appreciation you have for our troops when you actually go over there and see the lifestyle. I felt absolutely protected. Our armed forces are second-to-none and they’re truly amazing.
This show we do every year, “Tribute to the Troops,” is special to everyone and we make sure we go to a base somewhere, so their family and friends can have a special moment before they’re sent off or coming back.
At this point, you’ve been in WWE for several years, but your entrance into wrestling is very unique compared to just about anyone in the company’s history. You first appeared in the public eye as part of “The Real World.” Did that help or hinder you when you were starting out?
A little bit of both. I think “Real World” … I loved doing it. I thought it was amazing and incredible. Then when you get to the WWE, it’s like a fraternity. If you were on a reality show, you’re not supposed to do anything else with your life. You’re supposed to stay on that reality show, maybe get a sister show and create drama. That’s your talent, that’s all you’re supposed to be able to do. But I wanted more.
I tried to get more with WWE, but the audience did not like it, because the WWE Universe is very fraternity-like. Either you’re in with us or you’re not, and if you were on a reality show, you’re not. You have to really find a way to gain the respect of all of those fans. Not only the fans though, there’s also the locker room. It was very difficult and in that sense it hindered me.
However, “Real World” gave me the opportunity to be comfortable in front of a camera. I would cut promos nonstop in the confessional, and I think they were annoyed with me by the end of it. It gave me the chance to hone my craft and get into the Miz character and find out what he wants, which is to be a WWE Superstar. Now he wants to be respected and I think after eight years of being in the WWE he has gained the respect of the WWE Universe and all of the Superstars.
There was a moment when you appeared on “Tough Enough,” where you could see the fans discover, “Oh, he’s not just the guy from ‘The Real World,’ he’s actually trying.” As opposed to some of the more chiseled from rock, muscular wrestlers that don’t seem to put in the effort, who normally end up washing out.
I’ve seen it happen numerous times, as long as I’ve been with WWE. The first program I was ever in, I think there’s three of those guys that are still here. I’m a veteran in the locker room now, which is insane. I never thought that would happen.
It’s been a long, incredible ride and I can’t believe I get to do it. I find it amazing that if you look six-foot-seven and muscular that you’re more accepted than a guy who was on a reality show. Even though, while I was on the reality show I was training at Ultimate Pro Wrestling, paying my way to learn the art of wrestling. Meanwhile, there are guys who just because they play football, they get a contract, or just because they look a certain way, they get a contract. They’re more accepted than me because I was on a reality show.
Am I bitter about that? No. Everyone finds a way to get in. In any job, sometimes it’s who you know. Sometimes you’re the best person for it. Sometimes a person gets a raise and you think, “That guy’s a brown noser, that’s why he got it.”
The way I look at it is if I try harder, my talent will shine through. The cream always rises to the top.
Now that you are a veteran, is there anyone on the roster you haven’t had the chance to work with extensively that you’d like to?
Whoever is the top guy. Who’s your favorite?
I tend to lean toward CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.
I’ll work with them. I want to work with whoever people’s favorite it or whoever they hate the most because you’ll get the most reaction and that’s what I live for.
As far as reaction, do you prefer working for boos or cheers?
I never really considered myself a heel or face. When people considered me a bad guy, I didn’t really consider myself bad. I just considered myself a guy that is looking to get to the top. When you want to get to the top, you’re going to step on people’s shoes, you’re going to create reactions that aren’t sometimes likable, but you’re doing it for your betterment, which is the goal. Would you step on someone’s shoes to get where you want to be? Yes, 90% of people would, I just happen to be doing it on TV.
Is it cool to be a good guy as well? Yeah, there are some things I do that people enjoy. Am I going to be good or bad? I’m just going to be Miz. That’s why it’s on my trunks.
So far removed from your season now, do you still follow “The Real World”?
You know, I’ve hosted the reunion shows. MTV has always been really good to me and I’ve always appreciated everything they’ve given to me. [Producer] Jon Murray has done a wonderful thing with “The Real World” and “The Challenge.” I actually did the panel for “The Real World: Portland” last year. I think it was at Wizard World. MTV called and said, “We have a panel up there, would you mind hosting it?” Absolutely, no problem.
I love going back because that’s where I started. Some people are like, “Oh, you should shy away from that.” Whenever someone tries to do something new, they try to say, “That’s not me anymore.”
That is me. I was on “The Real World,” I’m a WWE Superstar and now I’m doing movies. That’s my story and if you don’t like it, tough. I’m not going to shy away from something I did because I’m proud of it. I’m proud Jon Murray had the confidence in me to put me on the show, and Mary Ellis Bunim as well. They put me on “The Real World” and let me go and do it. It gave me the confidence to say, “I don’t have to stay in Parma, Ohio and get a job and family. I can do whatever I want to do with my life.”
“Christmas Bounty” is available on DVD and “WWE Tribute to the Troops” airs Saturday (Dec. 28) on NBC.