By Jeff Lutz, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@JLutz82)
I feel like I’ve gotten to know the family of Mike “The Miz” Mizanin a bit too well on WWE television over the last several months.
First it was Miz’s dad, lovingly dubbed Mr. Miz by WWE audiences, who received ample screen time as The Miz aimed to relate to enemy-turned-friend-turned enemy Shane McMahon and Shane’s own disapproving father. Now The Miz’s loved ones are again being used as storyline fodder in a rushed two-week rivalry with Bray Wyatt that culminated at Sunday night’s TLC pay-per-view.
There is some cross-promotion happening with the E! Show Miz and Mrs., and if The Miz’s was the only family-centric story being told on WWE TV, it might be more palatable. But it’s far from the only one, and WWE chairman Vince McMahon seems far too reliant upon bringing wrestlers’ families into stories that could just as effectively be told without them.
It’s important to note that families have been the focal point of some of WWE’s best programming for generations. Bret and Owen Hart, the McMahon family saga, and the Guerrero legacy including Eddie, Chavo, Vickie and others have provided drama and entertainment that many fans look back upon fondly. Even fictitious relationships such as those between “brothers” Kane and The Undertaker, as well as Edge and Christian, have compelled viewers for multiple story arcs over many years.
But at 74 and having long lived a sheltered lifestyle surrounded by the relatives that currently or used to help him run WWE, family now seems as if it’s the only thing McMahon can relate to, and it’s become a crutch for McMahon’s creative ideas, or lack thereof. Viewers may care about the personal lives of wrestlers, but not enough to see the amped-up (or completely fictitious) versions of them played out on TV week after week after week.
Some performers seem unable to escape the clutches of McMahon’s often one-dimensional presentation. Bobby Lashley is currently embroiled in an on-screen love triangle with real-life married couple Rusev and Lana, whose acting is testing my patience. Previously, Lashley and his character suffered through a story with Sami Zayn that included references to Lashley’s three sisters, which were ultimately portrayed by a trio of men.
I’m ashamed of myself for remembering that.
The Miz, as previously mentioned, also rarely seems to avoid scripts that don’t include at least an allusion to his family. His quick buildup with Wyatt was directionless until Wyatt’s character made veiled threats to Miz’s family on Smackdown two weeks to go, further indicating exactly where McMahon’s mind goes whenever he needs to create friction between two characters.
An “I’m going to harm your wife and kids” story was between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was barely over before WWE jumped right back into another one with The Miz and Wyatt. Bringing wrestlers’ families into these tales isn’t necessary for stars such as Styles, Samoa Joe, The Miz and even Rusev, who have enough verbal talents and connection with the audience to sell personal issues that have some depth, instead of the shallow stories hatched from the exhausted brain of Vince McMahon.
Speaking of kids, you might remember why Rey Mysterio’s character has such hatred for Brock Lesnar – because Lesnar beat up Mysterio’s kid, of course. How did WWE attempt to reintroduce Kevin Owens on television last winter before the rise of Kofi Kingston necessitated Owens’ heel turn? By making Owens into a family man who loves going out for pizza and bowling with his kids. How did WWE introduce heat between Drew McIntyre and Matt Hardy before their match last Monday? By scripting a line for McIntyre in which he took a shot at Hardy’s newborn.
It goes on and on … and on. Maria Kanellis can’t just be pregnant. She has to be pregnant by another male wrestler while she emasculates her husband, Mike Kanellis, for a story that has essentially spelled the end of Mike’s WWE career. Drake Maverick can’t have a fun side angle with his wife as he attempts to capture, keep, or recapture the 24/7 title, now Dana Brooke and Elias are involved and Maverick is an attempted philanderer. Even the harmless jokes turn aggravating.
There are enough brothers, mothers, sisters, and fathers on WWE television to make for an extremely volatile holiday dinner table. They’ve certainly made for repetitive and unimaginative television for the last several months and probably longer. In a vacuum, many of these stories could work. But when nearly every angle involves families, nothing stands out. I keep waiting for Owens’ character to be fueled against Seth Rollins by the love of his wife and kids.
It’s a unique era in WWE. Many performers are multi-generational stars and it seems as if more wrestlers are married to each other than at any other time in the company’s history. It’s OK to occasionally call upon those relationships to add color and real-life drama to angles. WWE, however, has zoomed right past occasionally into territory that makes everything on TV look the same. Families are great and easy to relate to, but I don’t need all of WWE’s families when I have my own.