ABU DHABI // Mike Mizanin is a placid, mild-mannered man. As a teenager in Parma, Ohio, he was editor of his high-school yearbook, he was a studious young man at business school, and he avoids spicy food because it makes his nose run. He would not, in short, say boo to a goose.
His alter ego, however, is another matter. The Miz is mad, bad and dangerous to know, the man wrestling fans love to hate. He calls himself the Awesome One, uses every dirty trick to win, and dispatches his opponents with moves called the Neckbreaker, the Half-Nelson Facebuster and the Skull-Crushing Finale.
So when the sound of his signature theme I Came To Play by Downstait belts out at Zayed Sports City next month, guess which one of his two personalities will appear?
"I am the guy who lies and cheats, and I will do whatever I have to do to absolutely win," The Miz, 31, said yesterday. "Take a mental note, because when I come to Abu Dhabi, I'm the bad guy. "You look at me and my size and you probably think, 'I can take this guy'. But the fact is I will backstab anyone to win."
The boos, jeers and catcalls of the crowd? Bring it on, he says. "I embrace it. It just fuels my fire to win. I am the guy you're going to boo for the rest of your life."
The character of The Miz first surfaced on American reality TV about 10 years ago, when Mike realised it was the perfect passport to a career in professional wrestling. He signed to the World Wrestling Entertainment consortium in 2004 and was ranked No1 last year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine.
An unashamed showman, he has too much respect for the audience to pretend that pro-wrestling is pure sport. "It's a cross between a rock concert, an athletic sport and an improv comedy show, all wrapped up into one mega-entertainment event."
He is, he says, "like a puppet master" - and the audience is his puppet. "I can hear how the audience feels, and I know exactly what to do to get them to be where I want them to be."
The WWE has had its share of controversy since it was founded in 1952, including a series of allegations of steroid abuse and excessive violence, compounded by a lawsuit in 2002 that forced the company to change its name from the original WWF (World Wrestling Federation).
In 2008 it began broadcasting more family-orientated shows to a growing audience of women and children, and WWE has gained a large following in the Middle East through its television shows, Smackdown and Raw.
The Miz says the new bloodless shows mean he has to work harder, but he enjoys the challenge of having to be more creative in the ring.
The shows in the Raw World Tour from February 9-11 at Zayed Sports City will be WWE's first live event in the UAE. Household names such as Chris Jericho, CM Punk and John Cena are among those who will flex their muscles at the event, but The Miz says he will win - as he "always" does, because he is "smarter" than his rivals.
"I'm planning on being undefeated in every match in Abu Dhabi for my entire career."
The only wrestler to have won the WWE United States Championship twice, he plans to continue breaking records. With his catchphrase "I'm The Miz, and I'm awesome", he wants to be the "biggest star the world has ever seen", both in the WWE and in the real world.
"It's going to take a lot of work, but I'm the type of person who doesn't mind a lot of work," he says.
"You do it because you love it. And I love it.
"I'm the WWE superstar, so I get to do what I want and how I want."
And anyone who cares to disagree risks a Skull-Crushing Finale.
The Man Behind The Miz
He calls himself a “lying and cheating back stabber” who uses his signature move, the Skull-Crushing Finale, to destroy his rivals in the WWE ring.
But in the real world, Mike Mizanin, aka The Miz, is the type of guy who avoids spicy food because it “heats me up and makes my nose run”.
Getting the sniffles is not a side many fans get to see of the loud-mouthed professional wrestler, who was in the UAE on Thursday to promote the WWE World Tour, which arrives in the capital next month.
He might act like a savage in the ring, but on the outside he avoids eating red meat, even though he loves a good cheeseburger. “I enjoy what I want, when I want,” he said.
The performer, who divulged that he has a cameo in Will Ferrell’s forthcoming film, Dog Fight, said he always tells people to watch the WWE for its entertainment value – as though it were a movie with “great soap opera lines and larger-than life characters”.
Back home, in his Hollywood condominium, the Ohio native has a “Wall of Miz” with all the action figures, awards and trophies he was won throughout his career. His favourite item is the WWE Championship trophy.
“It was a title everyone said I would never get, but I did, and that was a childhood dream,” he said.
* Marie-Louise Olson