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Lutz's Blog: The Miz's star potential has faded, yet he can still be useful

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Dec 10, 2012 - 06:26 PM

By Jeffrey Lutz

When The Miz main evented WrestleMania 27 a year and a half ago, even as a third wheel in the shadow of John Cena and The Rock, he seemed destined for a career on the fast track as an upper-card player for the foreseeable future.

Miz's character captured our imagination and, even though he was a heel, we were kind of on his side. It was easy to relate to the razzing he endured backstage from the likes of John Bradshaw Layfield for his painfully obvious inexperience, and it was fun to watch his rise from bumbling newcomer to becoming a respectable performer on the microphone and in the ring.

WWE, shortsighted as it often is, didn't capitalize on the underdog story by turning Miz babyface during his ascension to the main-event picture, and now that aspect of his character is used up and forgotten, along with his likability. What we're left with is the same Miz character, now an ill-timed babyface, that languished in the mid-card since his WrestleMania moment while his personality never evolved.

Last Monday was a career low-light for Miz because it exposed how little he has progressed during the last 18 months. During a dueling promo, C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman were delivering their typical elite mic work while Miz stumbled upon a line about Heyman looking like a walrus. He threw away the limited goodwill from that quip by resorting to "Your mom" humor in the midst of Punk's verbal domination, and Miz's juvenile blast fell embarrassingly flat.

Being outshined on the mic by Punk is nothing to be ashamed of, and as an isolated incident it is not damning to one's career. But since his WrestleMania main-event showcase, Miz has been surpassed in ability and potential by Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and Wade Barrett, among others, and now we're supposed to believe in a babyface character that is virtually identical to Miz as a heel. Shaking hands with John Cena and telling fans to enjoy themselves is hardly the ideal framework for a fan favorite. It's an impossible sell.

This halting turn isn't all Miz's fault. The appearance of Vince McMahon on last Monday's Raw gave insight on the blurred lines between babyfaces and heels in WWE. Like Miz, McMahon's babyface character is a tepid extension of his evil side and it exudes essentially the exact same traits. McMahon and WWE's writers are taking a business based on a black-and-white concept -- good guy versus bad guy -- and littering it with shades of gray. Neither babyfaces nor heels earn strong reactions in WWE because characters are given no depth.

The Miz, like his fellow performers, needs depth. He needs to find his voice. He needs to evolve. Chris Jericho got heat for years boasting about his defeats of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but he was able to weave that brashness into other aspects of his character in order to constantly re-invent himself. The Miz can forever harp on his spot in the main event at WrestleMania, but without a growing personality and subtlety to his approach to playing a babyface for the first time in WWE, he'll never be taken seriously and he'll never find his way back to the top.

I'd prefer to like Miz. He's from Cleveland and I'm an obsessed Indians fan, so there's a bond there. My hope for his rejuvenation probably dissolved for good last Monday, though. I cringed at his weak humor and lamented his inability to keep up with Punk. Miz TV was, I assume, developed to highlight Miz's mic skills. The only things it has highlighted so far have been his inconsistency and his one-dimensional personality.

That doesn't mean there isn't a use for Miz in WWE. There will always be a spot for him because of his media presence, his willingness to be an ambassador for the company, and his broad familiarity from his days as a reality-show star. He's no longer main-event worthy, but he can still have his moments. A blossoming program with up-and-comer Damien Sandow is a fine start.

The Miz is not a star, but he's serviceable, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some of the most well-known performers in the history of the business made long careers out of serviceability. He could get lessons in it from several of WWE's agents, such as Arn Anderson or Sgt. Slaughter, two of the all-time great utility performers. Serviceability is Miz's most reliable trait and he, and WWE, would be wise to embrace it.

Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at jeffdlutz@hotmail.com.

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