With the advent of WrestleMania XXX taking place Sunday, I think now is as good a time as any to acknowledge the Miami alumni who have made an impact in the arena of professional wrestling: Brian Pillman and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. It’s interesting to note the accomplishments of these two men as they are rarely, if ever, discussed in regards to our “notable alumni.”
Before his in-ring career, Pillman made a name for himself on the football field for Miami as a defensive tackle, setting tackles for loss records and earning second team All-American status twice. He was also the roommate of then-cornerback John Harbaugh, who you probably recognize as the Super Bowl winning head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
After his college career ended, Pillman signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 1984 and later signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1986.
Pillman remained in Canada after his football career ended after the 1986 season and spent three years working in Stampede Wrestling under the tutelage of Stu Hart, whose family is accomplished and revered in the wrestling business. He then bounced around with short stints in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), becoming a two-time Light Heavyweight champion and World Tag Team champion with Steve Austin during his first run in WCW. Pillman finally broke into the World Wrestling Federation (WWF/WWE) in 1996, where he and Austin were a part of the notorious “Pillman’s got a gun” storyline.
Sadly, Pillman died of heart disease at the age of 35 in a hotel on the day of a pay-per-view he was scheduled to compete at. If not for his untimely and tragic death, Pillman might have become the ultimate heel during the Attitude Era for the WWE.
Mizanin took a very different path to the squared circle as he dropped out of Miami in 2001, despite being a member of the Theta Chi fraternity and a business major, to appear on MTV’s “The Real World.” He would make appearances on multiple seasons and spin-offs of the show. In 2003, he joined Ultimate Pro Wrestling with the goal of making it to WWE, which he eventually succeeded in doing a year later.
After being in the developmental system of the company for three years, Miz went on to hold every major title in the contemporary WWE, becoming a five-time Tag Team champion, a two-time Intercontinental and United States champion and a WWE championship reign in 2011 with a title defense in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII. He is the 25th Triple Crown Champion in WWE history, meaning he held the Tag titles, the Intercontinental or United States championship, and the WWE or World Heavyweight belt in the same year.
The Miz also has had success in acting as well. He has 18 different TV show appearances, including a guest appearance on “Psych.” He has also appeared in several movies, “The Campaign,” “The Marine 3: Homefront,” “Christmas Bounty” and an upcoming appearance in “The Marine 4.”
Pillman and Mizanin are unique compared to what the typical Miami alumni provide, and they should be discussed more in the general context of Miamians who went on to do bigger and better things.