Inspired by a friend who was killed in action, The Miz was determined to put on a great show for the troops.
The Miz may not wave a flag in the ring or start a “U-S-A!” chant for the crowd, but the man behind the character—Mike Mizanin—is one of WWE’s proudest patriots.
WWE’s Tribute to the Troops special airs Thursday evening on the USA Network, and The Miz played an integral role, both on and off camera, in the success of this year’s event, which was taped on December 4.
“Any time I can do anything for our Armed Forces, it’s always something extra special,” said Mizanin. “I love the fact that WWE does this every year.”
While The Miz is one of the biggest personalities in all of wrestling, the 38-year-old Mizanin is shockingly humble for a man backed with his career portfolio. His passion, of course, is entertaining, but he also takes immense pride in giving back to the U.S. Armed Forces.
Mizanin’s signature intensity on the microphone and emotion in the ring will be on full display during Tribute to the Troops, particularly since he has a deep-rooted connection.
“One of my best friends in high school, Jeff Boskovitch, was a Marine,” said Mizanin, who lost his friend in August 2005. “He went overseas to fight in Iraq, and he gave the ultimate sacrifice. Every time I look at someone in an Armed Forces uniform, I always think of Jeff. Any time I can support our troops, I do it.”
Mizanin even spent last year’s Christmas in Iraq on a USO tour, entertaining troops and experiencing life on a military base.
“I spent my Christmas in Iraq and it was amazing,” said Mizanin. “The people in the Armed Forces, they’re without their family and their friends. All they have is each other, and they’re fighting for our freedom so we can have those special moments with our family and our friends.
“I have so much respect for the sacrifices they give. They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for my family to keep us safe over here. It’s the little things we can do as WWE superstars, like putting on a show for them, so they can be with their family or be with their friends, and take home moments that will last with them for a lifetime.”
The Tribute to the Troops show also features WWE champion Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, and Charlotte Flair, but few on the show—and in the company—are as long-tenured as Mizanin. He has been on the main roster for the past dozen years, admitting he is humbled by the thought of arriving where he always longed to be.
“One thing I learned early on in my WWE career is that, whenever you’re in the ring or at an event, make sure you step back and take a look at what you are at,” said Mizanin. “Take a look at the faces out there, take a look at the people you’re affecting. It is absolutely incredible to me that I’ve been able to do this for so long.”
In a rare break of character, Mizanin conceded that remarkable odds had to be overcome in order to achieve his current spot in the WWE.
“I am not the most athletic person in the world,” said Mizanin. “Now The Miz will tell you I’m the greatest thing in the world, but I know I am not the most athletic, or the biggest or smartest. But one thing that sets me apart from everyone else is that I will outwork you.
“I’m a huge believer that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough. Even when the talent does work hard, I’ll work harder. I have to work for what I get. I work for these moments and I’ve worked for where I am today.”
And, as evidenced by his hunger every week on SmackDown, Mizanin is still far from content.
“I was up until two in the morning after Raw on Monday thinking about how I can better entertain the audience,” said Mizanin. “That’s the mindset I have, I always want to do my job better. It’s not only WWE, now we have Miz and Mrs. where I’m also the executive producer with my wife, and we’re trying to put on the best show possible. I want people to watch the show and say, ‘That show made me smile and took me away from all the pressure that I was going through in my life, and that made me happy.’ With all this negativity in the world, I’m trying to create positive vibes—even as The Miz, who is the ‘bad guy.’”
And Mizanin was paying extra close attention as Vince McMahon spoke this past Monday on Raw promising change for the WWE audience. His mind was spinning with reckless abandon as he invoked his own trademark confidence, often bordering on the necessary trait of stubbornness, deciding that he will ultimately be the one who leads WWE’s flagship show back to prominence.
“I watched Raw on Monday and listened to the call for change, and in my head, I was thinking, every time there has been a ‘Superstar Shakeup,’ I have been moved from a show,” said Mizanin. “And every time I’ve been moved from a show, that show has suffered. Every show I’ve been on has been the show to watch. I have made it must-see, so it’s my duty to tell people that because I’ll never get the credit for it. I’m the greatest underdog in the whole WWE that never gets credit for it.”
Never straying too far from his character, Mizanin also took joy in discussing famed WWE underdog Daniel Bryan, who he believes is strikingly familiar as “The New” Daniel Bryan to the old one.
“When Daniel Bryan came back, I said right away he was a dud,” said Mizanin, whose battles with Bryan are both long and distinguished. “Bryan wasn’t special anymore. Then all of a sudden, he changes. He says he needed to do something different.
“That’s what I was saying the entire time. I am the reason Daniel Bryan changed, but I’ll never hear him say that. That’s not the type of person Daniel Bryan is. He is all about himself and what he wants. There is no doubt that Daniel Bryan is an elite talent in the WWE ring. But as a person, as a character, as “The New” Daniel Bryan, he is all about himself. Even the old Daniel Bryan was all about himself, but no one saw it except me.”
Mizanin is currently involved in an ongoing storyline with Shane McMahon, who won WWE’s World Cup tournament at November’s Crown Jewel show by filling in for The Miz during the finals.
“Shane is one-third best in the world, and I’m two-thirds best in the world,” said Mizanin. “I thought it was an absolutely incredible move by Shane to step in after I got injured and win for SmackDown. That’s what SmackDown needed. We believe we are the top-rated show and the show to watch, but we’re never given that credit.”
Mizanin even had a backstage segment with Vince McMahon on Tuesday’s SmackDown, which is an opportunity he does not hold lightly.
“To work with a McMahon, whether it’s Stephanie or Shane or Vince, it’s an absolute honor,” said Mizanin. “That family has done so much for the WWE, so it’s an honor to step inside a ring or do promos with them. People can come up with their conclusions all they want, but I am looking at this as an incredible opportunity.”
The Miz returns to television Thursday night, performing from an aircraft hangar at Fort Hood Army Air Field in Fort Hood, Texas. With the memory of a fallen friend making his heart beat slightly quicker, Mizanin promised a memorable Tribute to the Troops.
“Watch this show and look into the audience,” said Mizanin. “This is a show being put on for our Armed Forces, the ones who protect and serve us. We were there to support our troops and give them the show that they deserve.
“They’re the people making the ultimate sacrifice, allowing us to celebrate the holidays with our family and friends. They’re the reason we are able to have our freedom. So to give them a little holiday cheer, this was a great time for us to say thank you.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.