The Miz has returned to WWE armed with a Hollywood-centered persona that has turned up the brightness of his future.
Both milking and mocking his recent work in the movie business, his conceited actor gimmick takes advantage of what he does best and makes him far more interesting. WWE may not decide to do much with this character shift, but it's Miz's best chance at relevancy since WrestleMania XXVII.
Before leaving to film the straight-to-DVD movie The Marine 4: Moving Target, The Miz was sputtering toward the bottom of the WWE card.
At last year's SummerSlam, he hosted the event instead of competing. He had a forgettable feud against Kofi Kingston that ended with him losing at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2013. Not much else followed.
He was a part of a brief angle where he interrupted matches and complained about not getting more time on WWE's programming.
According to F4WOnline (h/t Wrestling Inc), WWE thought of pairing him with Dolph Ziggler as a tag team of two frustrated men. Nothing came of the idea.
Fast forward past his unremarkable appearance in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and his four months away from the ring to play Sgt. Jake Carter, and The Miz returned to Raw with Chris Jericho not far behind him.
Flashes of Greatness
The headlines born from that segment were all about Jericho. He's the bigger star, and his absence was longer than The Awesome One's.
Before the focus moved completely over to Jericho, though, The Miz showed that his new gimmick is an ideal vehicle for his stage presence and mic skills.
Referring to his face as "the moneymaker" and being overly proud of being in a movie that will likely end up filling the bargain bins at Wal-Mart made it easy to hate him. A white suit and sunglasses helped complete the package.
He threw precise verbal darts at Jericho before screaming, "I'm The Marine, damn it!"
Smugness is irritating, but when it comes from someone so disillusioned about himself, it's even more powerful. This is the most compelling The Miz has been in a long time.
It's a smart gimmick choice, as it pulls from reality and is easy for the audience to buy. The Miz is convincing as a big-headed lover of attention partly because he's a good performer but also because he comes from the world of reality TV, having started his career on The Real World.
So far, he's been able to fully step into the role, even to the point where he's able to capture its essence while shopping for shoes.
He has looked mighty comfortable with the persona so far. It's given him a way to deliver memorable lines and be over the top.
It's essentially an amplification of his previous character.
On the July 4 SmackDown, fans saw both the great potential the gimmick has as well as the biggest possible pitfall The Miz has ahead of him. He interrupted Jericho, again talking about his moneymaker and how great he was before getting a pair of knees to his chin.
The moment was funny; it's also a possible precursor to more bumbling from him.
Too many times playing the victim will turn The Miz into another Damien Sandow. He can be more than just fodder for everyone else. There's not a long list of Superstars who can wield the mic as well as him, and this persona is a fine way to use that skill.
The gimmick tweak hasn't led to more wins yet. The Miz lost to Jericho on Monday's Raw in short time.
For now, WWE seems content to use The Miz as Jericho's steppingstone to Bray Wyatt. Wrestling history shows how effective grating, self-serving heels can be, but not when they are just pushovers.
Mining from the Past
When The Rock returned in 2003, he came bearing a new, conceited attitude.
He looked down on WWE and its fans. Fresh from Hollywood, he was too big of a movie star to care too much about what the crowd thought of him.
That's how WWE made him a heel, setting up a feud with Hulk Hogan.
On the Feb. 6, 2003 SmackDown, The Rock didn't even show up to Philadelphia. He spoke via satellite from Hollywood, talking about his dislike for Philadelphia cheesesteaks.
There are a lot of parallels to what The Miz is doing today from the sunglasses to the dismissive attitude. The fact that The Miz isn't anywhere near the star that The Rock was makes the gimmick even better.
A famous artist sticking his nose in the air at people he considers peons is one thing, but it's even more infuriating when it comes from someone who is bragging about one of his paintings hanging up in a Denny's. That's who this new Miz is.
Ric Flair didn't boast about any movie roles, but he did have the same kind of arrogance that The Miz is displaying now.
For The Miz to perfect his character, he'd be wise to study Flair's promos from the '80s. Watching him go on about his custom-made watches and expensive shoes is equally aggravating and enthralling.
The Miz may be able to learn from the master firsthand soon enough.
According to PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc), there is word that WWE plans to pair Flair and The Miz together. Mike Johnson later reported for PWInsider that "Flair is scheduled for Monday's Raw taping in Richmond, VA and Tuesday's Smackdown taping in Fayetteville, NC."
If that ends up leading to Flair being The Miz's manager, the lead man in The Marine 4 will have a Hall of Famer to assist him in maximizing the power of looking down on common folk.
The Miz's new attitude has electricity around it, a force WWE can either tap into or let fizzle out.