These days, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin's battles are exclusive to the WWE ring, but in 2001, he found himself in arguments that stretched across New York City.
The wrestling champ, who first introduced the world to his alter ego on “Real World: Back to New York” at 19, got in hot water while filming with housemate Coral Smith, who didn’t take too kindly to some of Mike’s remarks on race (you can check out a particularly heated argument below). Thankfully, Mike and Coral eventually buried the hatchet and became “Challenge” BFFs, and in an interview with Zap2It yesterday, Mizanin, now 34, credits his conversations with Smith and Malik Cooper as the catalysts to big changes.
“She wasn't sure if I was racist, ignorant or just stupid. One thing was for sure: She wasn't going to let me off the hook," Mizanin said. "I wasn't racist. I was just telling how my life was and trying to be as open as possible. Then, it was more of a learning curve for me for being on the show and being around people that I normally wouldn't hang around because I wasn't subjected to them [back home]."
Mizanin added that he still occasionally pops in old VHS tapes of his “Real World” days and cringes at the sight of his screw-ups, but asserted that he had no regrets. He then lauded the show for its ability to draw out conversations that address the cultural zeitgeist.
“Sometimes the worst things that you can say really teach you a lot about what you can learn,” he explained. “It made me realize where I was at in my life. I'm glad I went through it because it allowed me to open my mind even more and get educated."
+ Check out the full interview, look back at more iconic "Real World" moments and be sure to tune in to the premiere of the all-new "Real World: Skeletons" tonight at 10/9c!