Before Mike “The Miz” Mizanin saw his dream of becoming a WWE superstar realized, he gained notoriety on MTV reality shows. From Real World to Real World/Road Rules Challenge and beyond, the 37-year-old was a regular fixture on the network. So much in fact, an argument could be made that MTV was in fact Miz TV.
After 12 years since last competing, Mizanin officially returns home to host the second installment of The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars. The eight-episode event premiering on November 21 will feature 10 of the fiercest champions from past seasons of the long-running series going against 10 celebrity athletes and entertainers in challenge-style competitions. Winners will face-off for a chance to take a share of the $150,000 cash prize to donate to their beloved charities.
The series gave Mizanin the opportunity to reunite with fellow old school Challenge vets like Chris “C.T.” Tamburello. Before the games begin, The Miz took a break from his crazy busy schedule to tell us why this season of The Challenge will be, in a word, AWESOME!
After more than a decade, The Miz has found his stride in WWE on 'SmackDown Live' and become one to watch.
When you were approached about hosting this show, was there ever talk about you participating?
The Miz: There was a long time where every year I would get invited to do The Challenge, and I kept telling them that I’m retired. I’m retired, I’m retired. I’ve done a couple of the reunion shows. So, they kind of saw my hosting abilities. Then they were like, ‘There is nobody more perfect to host this show than you. You are a WWE superstar as well as a Challenge vet.’ They felt I could relate to both sides of the spectrum. I saw it as a huge compliment. When they offered it to me, it felt so cool to be back. The Challenge is really where The Miz got to open up, and we got to see the character kind of blossom into what he is today.
You started out as a teenager on MTV, and now you’re coming back. Does it almost feel like a high school reunion for yourself?
Definitely. I’m so thankful to MTV and everything they’ve done for me. I got to go on the Real World. I know for a fact if I didn’t make it on the Real World that I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I’d probably be flipping burgers at my dad’s Mr. Hero. It kind of has been this whirlwind that when I got on the Real World, it made me realize I could do anything I wanted. What did I want to do? I wanted to be a WWE superstar. Then I set out to do my goal. Now that my goal is accomplished. I mean it’s accomplished me being a WWE superstar, but I want to be the biggest star ever in WWE. I think you make new goals. New goals for me is to be the biggest star in everything. I want to do it all. Back in the day when I was on the Real World you weren’t allowed to do everything.
It was almost like forbidden to be an actor, or a host, or anything if you were a reality star. Now with social media and everything. I mean if you’re on Instagram, you’re on a reality show. I look at The Rock and Kevin Hart, they are always on Instagram and social media posting videos and telling us exactly what they are doing. It’s like you’re in their own reality show. Now you can do it all. That’s what I want to do and set out to do. I tell my people I want it all. I want to be the biggest WWE superstar. I want to host things. I just want to get out there and have fun. And there’s nothing I’d rather do than to go to MTV where it all started on a show that made me be the person and the star that I am. I get to have fun with people who are in the boat that I was in 10 years ago.
What was that experience like being on the opposite side of things? Reality television continues to evolve and wasn’t as vast as it is now compared to when you started. What has it been like to see the new blood?
When people found out at WWE like my friends and people in production that I would be on The Challenge Champs vs. Stars, they started asking me questions. This show has been going on for so long, I guess you don’t realize how many people really watch the show. Even with WWE, I don’t realize how many people watch the show. But man, everyone watches The Challenge. They are like, ‘Dude, it’s a guilty pleasure. I’ve been watching since I’ve been alive.’ So, it’s kind of funny how The Challenge has been able to change and evolve, but keep an audience and add more. To be a part of that is so cool and so fun.
Now that they’ve added the stars aspect of it competing for charity. How does that change the dynamic of just competitors competing against one another?
I love it because everyone always tells me they can do The Challenge. Everyone in WWE says they can beat me in The Challenge. I’m like, ‘No you can’t.’ Nobody can beat me in The Challenge. You see all these people sit on the couch and watch the challenge thinking they can beat C.T. or [Johnny] Bananas. The fact is no you can’t. And if you can, step up to the plate. That’s exactly what we are doing. We are telling the stars to step up to the plate and play The Challenge champs in a game they are seasoned for. They’ve been in it. Then you bring in the stars who have excelled in the areas they’ve been in. Now you’re putting into a situation playing a game unlike any game you’ve played in your entire life. It’s tough. It’s cutthroat. It’s not only physically, but mentally it will drain you. You will see on this show literally the champs know how to play this. If the stars know how to step up to the plate, they can do some damage. It’s not about being just athletic anymore.
You mention the stars coming from all these backgrounds and walks of life including Ariane Andrew, who also came from the world of WWE. Who surprised you maybe as the competition progressed?
Going in there you go in there and pick out in your mind who would be ousted first, who is going to be a weak link, who is going to be strong. Looking at the stars team. They were pretty stacked. You got Terrell Owens, Shawn Johnson. I mean she is an Olympic gold medalist. Then you have Matt Rife from Wild N’ Out as well as Justina [Valentine] and Ariane from WWE, MMA fighters like Michelle Waterson. You have everyone. But just because you excel at your particular sport does not mean you are going to excel The Challenge. The champs are seasoned and know exactly how to play this game.
They know how to play you against each other. But MTV does such a great job changing The Challenge up. That way no matter what you walk into if you’re a champ, you are playing a new game and have to figure out the obstacles and strategies to excel in this game. That is what we are going to see unfold. Now guys like T.O., putting a superstar NFL player, a guy is in my book, should be a Hall of Famer in the NFL. He has to go up against guys like C.T. in these interesting, unique challenges. It’s fun to watch. You know T.O., it’s fun to see the drama unfold. You know T.O. doesn’t like to keep his mouth shut.
One of the things you mentioned was you want to have it all within the entertainment industry. You and wife Maryse have your first child on the way, how do you feel that is going to change your life and how you approach your career?
It is absolutely incredible. Everyone always tells you that your life changes once you get a kid. My daughter isn’t born yet. Even still, I can sense my whole being changing the way I look at things. Things I want to teach her and guide her. When I found out it was a girl, I just felt this whole amount of nerve. If it was a boy, I would have been like, ‘Well, I can let him do whatever he wants.’ But with a girl, I want to nurture her. I want to protect her. I want to guide her and make sure she is okay. It’s almost like I am this protector. It really does change you. In my life, I don’t have days off. I literally just got done with the European tour. As soon as I got done, we went to Atlanta to do a show. I’m flying to Los Angeles and tomorrow shooting something for Nickelodeon. After that, I’m do promotion for MTV Champs vs. Stars. Then I go to Houston for Survivor Series. It’s a nonstop job. I need to find a way to balance because I don’t want to be a dad who isn’t there. I want to be there for my daughter. I want to be there to help her with anything she may need. I don’t want it to be that she has a problem and can’t find me or talk to me in person.
That human contact is what you need. Then there is my wife, who is an absolute champ. She is the best that I can possibly ask for. She understands and gets it. She has been in WWE with me, so she knows the lifestyle. She knows what we have to do. We’re workaholics. That’s the problem. I love working. I really enjoy the things that I do. And when you enjoy your work, you don’t want to stop. But you also have to find time for your family.
Now seems to be a great time for you personally and professionally. Within WWE there seems to be this shift in that even though you’ve played this villain on TV for so long, people are starting to cheer you more. And even though you aren’t WWE champion or headlining WrestleMania right now, many fans perceive you as this MVP player and one to watch on the show. What has it been to get this sort of reaction after all this time?
Let’s put it this way, it’s about time. Honestly, I still don’t feel I get the respect and the applause I deserve. I’m always striving to do my best and be my best. Right now, I’m more confidence than I have ever been. From a character standpoint, from everything standpoint. I legit wanted Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel by my side because I know the talent they possess. Just having them around, I try to elevate everything. Now I’m at a level where you have to step up to the plate if you want to hang against me. If you don’t, then I will swallow you whole.
The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars premieres November 21 at 10/9c on MTV