The Dirt Sheet revisited: Miz and Morrison a year later


On the upcoming edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, WWE Champion the Miz will defend his title against John Morrison in a Falls Count Anywhere match on (what I presume will be) the main event for the evening. This is intriguing, and not only because Morrison is an exciting talent in the ring and Miz is a brand new face to the main event scene who brings the best mic work in business right now. In fact, this upcoming match is intriguing because these two guys will be forever compared to each other throughout their careers due to their similar career starts.

Both Morrison and Miz began their careers as competitors on Tough Enough. Morrison (John Hennigan) was one of the two winners on Season Three of Tough Enough, while Miz (Mike Mizanin) placed second in the $1,000,000 Tough Enough (Season Four) which Daniel Puder eventually won. The two were tied together in one of the best tag team runs of recent memory, during which Miz and Morrison won two tag team championships and a Slammy Award for 2008 Best Tag Team. After the tag team split and went on to separate brands in 2009, both went on to win their brands’ respective mid-card championships, with Miz taking Raw’s United States Championship while Morrison took Smackdown’s Intercontinental Championship.

The two briefly reunited about a year ago in October to hype their interbrand match at the upcoming Bragging Rights PPV. The two promoted the match by hosting a special one-shot The Dirt Sheet episode, bringing back the old segment that they hosted as a tag team in their ECW days.

Fast forward a little more than a year later, and the two will be battling out at the top of the Raw card for the WWE Championship. Their careers have gone a bit differently since that excellent 10 minute promo, and looking back on it, one can see why the WWE went ahead with the Miz push to the top while they have been reluctant to feature Morrison greatly despite his skillset. Let’s review that promo and see how it relates to the current feud and what has happened since to both wrestlers.

Looking back on The Dirt Sheet

Miz and Morrison put on a good show in that 10 minute Dirt Sheet, bringing up familiar points about tag team splitting and Shawn Michaels – Marty Jannetty comparisons, inserting some comedy akin to their feud late in their tag team career, and building up the match to some degree at the end of the promo. Still, while the tone of the promo was somewhat light early and increased in intensity towards the end, it felt like only one of the participants was taking the situation seriously. Miz was forced to make the most serious comments during the promo to maintain heat, while Morrison was content to sit back and fling Miz-related jokes and show off his new T-shirt during the promo. While Miz remained mostly serious (aside from taking the “husky” comments too seriously as his character has done before) about the upcoming PPV match and how he would prove to Morrison that he was the “Shawn Michaels” of the tag team and Morrison was the “Jannetty,” Morrison showed more interest in making fun of Miz than actually proving himself in the match.

Having said that, this is mostly acceptable fare for a mid-card feud, even one with the backstory behind it like the two of them have. When Miz upped the intensity and threw his typical fit about being entertaining and awesome, Morrison fired back with an appropriately angry reaction. However, while both characters seemed to be fairly comfortable with the laid-back joking at the start of the promo, Miz came off as legitimately incensed about the upcoming match and angered by Morrison’s comments. Morrison, on the other hand, seemed out of his element matching Miz’ intensity on the mic. Watch the exchange beginning at 7:19 in the video. While the Miz thoroughly handled building heat with his self-aggrandizing bit about carrying the tag team and being the better wrestler, Morrison stumbled through the beginning of his response. He did eventually nail the tail end of the performance, including a pretty strong “I dare you!” line that felt convincing, but the whole bit seemed forced after Morrison basically coasted through the first part of the promo.

One year later

The aspects of the promo that aired more than a year ago reflect how the two have been handled through 2010 and heading into 2011. Morrison dropped the Intercontinental Title at the end of December, while The Miz held the United States Championship for all of one month between October 5, 2009 and September 19, 2010. While Morrison was lost in the shuffle for much of the year after Wrestlemania, having no real place on Raw after the Draft, Miz won the Raw Money in the Bank contract at the eponymous PPV and cashed it in to become WWE Champion.

Why did this happen? The comparison between these two former tag team partners is a great example as to how a wrestler can compensate for a lack of in-ring prowess and physical appearance with superior mic work and the right demeanor. John Morrison’s advantage over The Miz is in his wrestling ability; Morrison brings a very athletic style that is mostly missing from the main event scene and would be a refreshing style to watch fight for top-level titles. The Miz has improved greatly even in the last year or so in the ring, but all of his matches are pretty basic in terms of workrate.

Where the Miz has the advantage is in his mic work and the way he acts in his promos. In every one of the Miz’ promos, he sounds and acts like he is carrying a legitimate grudge about the way his career began. If you search for the various Miz promos that highlighted 2010’s best WWE interviews, you can see how his backstory built into his attitude now. Consider his WWE Magazine cover unveiling, for example.

Everything that the Miz has gone through, he paints in a serious light as a part of his career path to eventually becoming WWE Champion. Each event is given significant importance, and it makes the whole story seem relevant to what is happening now. The Miz always treated his United States Championship in the highest regard, which is in part why it helped to build him up as a future legitimate main eventer and somebody who deserved to own the Money in the Bank briefcase. His attitude during these promos was always one of a person shunned and scorned who fought through odds and earned what he felt he always deserved. He maintained his heel heat by constantly reminding the fans that he knew all along that he was awesome and that they were wrong about him.

Contrast that with the way Morrison’s promos appear to the fans. Even back in his days as ECW Champion, the “Shaman of Sexy” always used levity and odd character quirks to promote himself.

Those sorts of promos work fine in the mid-card; Shawn Michaels and Triple H employed that gimmick for about a year in the revival of DX and the ensuing Tag Team Championship feuds. However, when Michaels and Triple H were in the main-event level of the card, they took themselves more seriously, and rightfully so. Right now, we have not yet seen whether Morrison is capable of doing that. His demeanor in the last two weeks of Raw, building up to his title match with Miz, still seem too nonchalant and relaxed for the situation at hand. Outside of Morrison’s matches, which have mostly been strong, he appears to have little interest in the feud; his few chances on the mic have mostly been jokes at Miz’ and Riley’s expense, with only cursory mentions of the WWE Title and what that would mean to him and his career. How can the fans get invested in a character if it appears he is not invested in his own situation? Right now, it looks as if Morrison, win or lose, would still have a grin on his face as soon as he left the ring, which should not be the case when you are feuding for the industry’s top title.

And therein lies the major difference between Miz and Morrison. Miz’ actions and words make him appear like main event material, like he could handle carrying a top-level feud for the biggest prize in the WWE against someone else. Morrison’s mic work and actions make him look like a fun-loving mid-carder who would look out of place and without passion in the main-event picture. There is still time for Morrison to cover his tracks in this regard, and much of that will depend on how the WWE books the two going forward. Morrison’s in-ring ability and athleticism is a welcome addition to WWE’s main-event scene, but he needs to shore up the way he acts and speaks in his promos in order to look like someone who wants to win the WWE Title. The Miz has used every single bit of his excellent mic skills to build heat for his character despite his mediocre ring work; Morrison only needs to make sure he appears to care about what is happening to his character in order to get over with the fans, many of whom are desperate to cheer for someone other than John Cena or Randy Orton.

As a final bit of advice for Morrison before his match, I’d ask for him to take a cue from Daniel Bryan, a guy whose mic work is weaker than Morrison’s but who was still effective at selling the importance of his match when he crashed Miz’ magazing cover celebration.