SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin: John Morrison ‘will be WWE Champion, and it’s my goal to get him there’
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin won the WWE Championship in November 2010 when he cashed in his “Money in the Bank” contract against Randy Orton. A decade later, he is looking to create a similar moment for John Morrison.
“John will be WWE Champion, and it’s my goal to get him there,” said Mizanin. “He would be an outstanding WWE Champion. Some of the stuff he can do is incredible, he’s so entertaining. He’s a friend that has my back, and I have his, too.”
Mizanin and Morrison have been working together since the latter’s return to WWE in January. They had a run with the SmackDown tag titles, as well as a Universal title program with Braun Strowman, and even created a new music video together.
“Now we have two have hit songs, ‘Hey Hey’ and ‘HEY! Hey Hey,’” said Mizanin. “Can you believe those are the titles? But working with John, I’ve never had more fun in my life. John really pushes me to do things I’m normally not as comfortable doing.”
Mizanin is stepping outside of WWE for a new project, providing analysis for the new Cannonball show, a 10-part series that premieres Thursday night on USA Network. He co-hosts alongside Rosci Diaz, overseeing a water-based competition where the winner receives $10,000.
“I’m supposed to be the expert, but I’ve never seen these games before in my life, and no one else has either,” said Mizanin. “But it’s not me, it’s the contestants that make the show. You get to watch people climb up a 100-foot mega slide, and you can see the fear in people’s eyes. And watching people face their fears, seeing those different levels of emotions, that makes the show.”
Mizanin is one of the most active stars in WWE. In addition to helping raise a two-year-old and eight-month-old, he has 14 new episodes of his Miz & Mrs show coming to USA Network this fall, and now introduces viewers to Cannonball, serving as a real-life version of commentator Pepper Brooks from Dodgeball.
“When I put the headset on, it feels like home,” said the 39-year-old Mizanin. “I’ve been able to host a bunch of shows, from MTV’s Challenge reunion to Champs vs. Stars for two seasons, and being a WWE superstar has prepared me for everything that entertainment has to offer. Coming into Cannonball, it’s a different atmosphere. I’m working with Rocsi Diaz, who is incredible, and Simon Gibson, our sideline reporter, had us laughing the entire time. I feel like he’ll be a household name in 10 years.”
Creating new content for viewers is a constant goal for Mizanin, who remains hungry for more success despite already being one of WWE’s longest-tenured talents.
“If I’m not on every poster and the entire show isn’t on my back, then I’m not where I want to be,” said Mizanin. “I want to be the top star, the go-to guy, and that’s my ultimate goal. And I want to show what WWE talent has to offer, which is what I want to show in Cannonball and with Miz & Mrs.”
Due to the pandemic, there is an entirely new set of challenges associated with producing television. WWE continues filming its weekly shows at the company’s Performance Center in Orlando, where Mizanin says he feels comfortable with WWE’s testing policy and safety procedures.
“I feel safe every time I walk into the PC,” said Mizanin. “WWE is really looking out for us. Everyone is getting tested, they’re doing their due diligence. WWE is giving people entertainment. People need entertainment right now, some fun, and that’s what we’re giving them every week.”
Next month’s SummerSlam is a major show for WWE, and Miz has opponents in mind for himself and John Morrison: a tag team match against Drew Gulak and Daniel Bryan.
“Any time I get to beat up Daniel Bryan, it’s one of my favorite things to do in WWE,” said Mizanin. “And any time I get to beat up a person that envies Daniel Bryan, that’s also one of my favorite things, too.”
As The Miz’s next story plays out on SmackDown, he hopes his fans will also invest their time in Cannonball.
“It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s competitive, and I hope people watch with their entire family,” said Mizanin. “Come enter into our reality, let us entertain you.”
Mother and son reunion at AEW’s FyterFest
A highlight of last Wednesday’s Fyter Fest was the entrance of Chuck Taylor and Trent. The Best Friends arrived in style, being driven into Daily’s Place in Jacksonville for their match against AEW tag champs Kenny Omega and Hangman Page.
Or, perhaps more appropriately, they were dropped off.
The two wrestlers—who, along with Orange Cassidy, all have massive potential for AEW—rode in the backseat of a minivan driven by Trent’s mother, and Trent received a kiss from his mom after thanking her for the ride.
The moment was lighthearted, designed to be an intentional break from the tension of the main event. But upon closer glance, there is deeper meaning entrenched in that moment, especially in the smile on the face of Mrs. Marasciulo, the mother of AEW star Trent (Greg Marasciulo).
“I loved having that moment with my son,” said Sue Marasciulo. “I used to drive him everywhere. He first started wrestling in this old garage when he was only 15. It was an hour from where we lived, but he was so insistent on going. The other kids were 19 and 20, so there was a big age difference, but he said, ‘I’ve got to do this,’ so I said OK.”
Trent, Taylor and Orange Cassidy are three of AEW’s rising stars, but all three have paid their dues to reach this moment, with Trent even having a run in New Japan and time spent in WWE. His mother never doubted that her son would make a livelihood out of pro wrestling.
“I always believed he could turn this into a career because of his dedication,” said Marasciulo. “There would be nights when he couldn’t come to dinner on time because he was watching WWE. He’d be watching something in slow-mo, studying a wrestler’s move, and he’d call to me and say, ‘I’ll be right there! This is important!’ He was 24-7 with wrestling. I was hoping he would be this successful and happy in his career.”
Marasciulo never expected to be part of last week’s show, but having a mom drop off two best friends served as a wonderful way to highlight The Best Friends.
“This was Greg’s idea,” said Marasciulo. “He texted me last week and said, ‘Hey Ma, how would you like to drive us into the ring on TV?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ He needed to check to make sure it was OK. Once he found out that it was, I said, ‘Sure, why not.’ So he flew into Myrtle Beach, and we drove into Jacksonville together. It was so much fun.”
Though there have been countless car rides between mother and son, there were never video cameras capturing the moment for live television on TNT. Marasciulo shared that this experience was an entirely new environment for her.
“I was so, so nervous,” said Marasciulo. “At the same time, when it was done, I was so, so excited. Everyone said it went well. I never thought, after all those car rides, we’d ever have something like this happen. It was such a special, important moment, and it was such a good feeling to be able to share it with my Greggy.”
Mike Verna in new Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial
Mike Verna is the new face of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
The 28-year-old pro wrestler has some strong chops for acting, which are on display in his new commercial for Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s “My First Cheesecake” ad.
Verna, whose real name is Mike Taverna, takes a unique route to baking the delicacy, including a steel chair. And the finished product, a perfectly baked cheesecake, was the result of a family effort.
In fact, two of the co-stars in the commercial are family.
“That’s really my dad in the commercial, and the baby is my nephew,” said Verna. “When I got the part, my agent said that everything would be shot remotely. I’d get a kit, all the cameras and the lighting, and all I could think was, if I got this spot, how the hell was I going to do this?”
Filmed from his parents’ home in Brooklyn, New York, Verna teamed with his family to create the video. In addition to cameos from his father and nephew, Verna’s mother helped with the lighting, and his girlfriend worked the camera.
“This was my whole family putting together a national commercial with an iPhone camera and a lot of people yelling at me through Zoom,” said a laughing Verna. “With the pandemic, the director and cinematographer were on Zoom. I was impressed, it looks professionally done.”
Verna was recruited by an agent from BMG Talent after seeing him wrestle for EVOLVE at a show in Brooklyn, and he has gained experience by starring in a couple of pilots that have yet to be green-lit. He is looking to harness this momentum into an exclusive deal with a wrestling promotion.
“I want to sign somewhere where I’ll still have the ability to act,” said Verna, who started training in 2011 at the New York Wrestling Connection. “There is one place where I would like to be, and it would be dynamite if we do.
“I got into acting through wrestling. It was never something I necessarily wanted to pursue, but professional wrestling is a form of acting, so I gave it a shot. This is my first national commercial, and we’ll see what happens next.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The most fascinating piece of last Wednesday’s NXT-AEW ratings battle was the jump on the USA Network when Sasha Banks started her match in the main event against Io Shirai. Banks, who wrestled Kairi Sane in an entertaining match on Raw, is quickly becoming one of the top draws in WWE across all three brands.
- The second nights of AEW’s Fyter Fest and NXT’s Great American Bash each take place tonight. Both shows offer really solid lineups. AEW has Lance Archer-Joey Janela, Nyla Rose in action, a new promo from Taz, an eight-man tag pitting the Young Bucks and FTR against the Lucha Bros. and The Butcher and The Blade, and a really exciting main event of Chris Jericho taking on Orange Cassidy in the biggest match of his career.
- NXT has Isaiah Scott-Johnny Gargano, Mia Yim against Candice LaRae in a street match, a six-man tag of Breezango and Drake Maverick vs. Santos Escobar’s El Legado del Fantasma unit, and a title-vs.-title match pitting NXT Champion Adam Cole against North American Champion Keith Lee.
- After all he and his family have done for WWE over the years, it is a tough pill to swallow to know that WWE is holding onto the trademark for the name Cody Rhodes.
- Heath Slater’s return to Raw on Monday was extremely well done, and he cut a tremendous promo before his match with Drew McIntyre. Slater has potential, but wherever he lands, he needs to be built correctly after years of establishing himself solely as a comedy act.
- The New Japan Cup finals are set for this weekend, with Kazuchika Okada meeting EVIL in the finale. The winner will challenge IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito the following night at Dominion, and both shows will have fans at Osaka-Jo Hall.
- Brian Pillman Jr. is a fantastic addition for AEW. For those who have followed him in MLW, he is constantly elevating his work in both the ring and on the mic, and his arrival adds more energy to the roster.
- The New World Order was formed 24 years ago yesterday, marking the biggest moment in wrestling history and the start of a five-year stretch that has yet to be matched.
- If you cannot consume enough content about Andre The Giant, then this clip is for you. Between mocking Jim Duggan’s trademark thumbs-up gesture to, as Tony Schiavone aptly calls it, his “Rude swivel,” the clip captures some of Andre’s brilliance.
- Chris Jericho shared a piece of his own history that took place two-and-a-half decades ago and forever changed his career.
Conrad Thompson previews this week’s edition of ‘Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard’
A new episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard is set for this Friday, as Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson look at the career of Kevin Nash in WWE.
“The first thing we’ll look at is Kevin’s jump to WWE in 1993,” said Thompson. “He went from no traction and no money in WCW to working with big time stars in WWE, and we’ll talk about how the whole Diesel character came to be. And what is Diesel? Is he a truck driver? Bruce and Vince McMahon disagreed on how to present him.”
Nash is one of wrestling’s most charismatic personalities, though his 358-day run with the WWE title that began in 1994 was a largely disappointing stretch for the man who went on to set the wrestling world aflame with the NWO.
“It’s become wrestling lore that Diesel was the worst drawing champion in WWE history, but how much of that is fair?” asked Thompson. “How much of that was Nash and how much was creative? And who was actually drawing money in that era in wrestling?
“We’ll also talk about the way he leaves. He had some awesome matches with Shawn and Undertaker on the way out, but it feels like there is a hotly-debated topic about how his departure from WWE went down. Kevin has his version, Bruce has his, so there is a ton of meat on the bone here, and we’ll look at The Kliq, too, where Kevin is one of the drivers.”
In addition to his role in the NWO, Nash also became the booker in WCW, establishing himself behind the curtain.
“Kevin became a power broker in WCW,” said Thompson. “He actually got the book, and there is always going to be controversy when that happens. And it will be really interesting to hear from Bruce on how Vince responded to stars that he created leaving for WCW. They came to Vince to be stars, then left for bigger pay days. I’m most interested in picking Bruce’s brain on what it was like for Vince.”
Tweet of the Week
If you’ve ever been to the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, Mass., then no explanation is necessary.