Videos by OutKick
If you don’t know OutKick’s Mike Gunzelman, aka “Gunz,” know this: his energy makes Ray Lewis look like he has low T.
Gunz is one-of-one. And MTV recognized as much in the mid-2000s.
Before I play the role of Carson Daly and turn this into TRL, let me tell you how we got here.
I was scrolling through Twitter (or is it X?) late last month when my guy Gunz came across my feed. This is the same Gunz who last fall dropped a tweet that featured himself singing along from the crowd to a live Avril Lavigne MTV performance.
Again, that same belly-full-of-Red-Bull energy was readily apparent.
To my surprise/pleasure, last month’s scroll brought me to another Gunz MTV appearance. But this time, he was more than just an energetic face in the crowd wearing a puka shell necklace (And don’t knock the shells. Anyone who was anyone was rocking pukas during MTV’s heyday).
Here was Gunz, on the big stage with a mustache and a guitar working the room like a still-in-college stripper works an NBA player.
I HAD to know more. When I see my guy on stage during arguably MTV’s most popular years, I need answers. How did this all go down? Was he nervous? Is that mustache real?
Calling On The Big Gunz
So Gunz and I decided to drop everything and give the people the answers we all so desperately wanted. After all, it’s not every day a high school kid performs live on MTV. And besides, we were on the clock, so what better way to spend our time than talking music, MTV, knee-high socks and mustaches?
Turns out, even before Gunz and I started our seemingly every other week text and tweet threads with one another about bands, high school Gunz was already sniffing around the music industry.
Gunz said he was a huge fan of bands like Blink-182 and Green Day when he saw MTV was doing a casting call for a show called “Becoming.” The show took music hopefuls and/or fans and turned them into their favorite bands such as Blink, Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit, etc.
Once he saw that Blink-182 was one of the “Becoming” subjects, he begged his mom to take him to auditions. He lived in Jersey and rarely made it to NYC, but just had to get to the initial casting call.
After some initial hesitation, Gunz’s mom brought him to the Big Apple on a Saturday. Unsurprisingly, Gunz set the tone with his wardrobe alone: Dickies shorts, Atticus shirt, Atticus hat, Vans and a Stratocaster guitar.
He was one of roughly 350 people vying for an opportunity to perform as Blink-182 on MTV. A full day of casting soon followed. Hopefuls were placed into three categories, one category for each Blink-182 performer they wished to emulate: lead singer: Tom DeLonge, bassist, Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis (Kardashian) Barker.
Being a big DeLonge fan, Gunz opted for the lead singer group of contestants. Obviously, he won. But really, we would all win a decade+ later when we got to witness Gunz’s strum on MTV.
As one would imagine, you don’t win the right to perform on MTV and then immediately slide into the next day’s programming in between Room Raiders and The Challenge. As Gunz tells it, there were two months of random days sprinkled in to prep faux-Blink-182 for their moment under the bright lights.
Some of those days include wardrobe, haircuts, getting an actual lip ring – “I had to get approval to have that from my catholic high school,” Gunz told me. There were also airbrushed tattoos and a rehearsal day with former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield.
This was all for a show where each “Becoming” group would perform in front of judges in order to determine a winner. Amongst the judges were bands’ managers, makeup artists and more.
From there, it was showtime. “You do have a backing track, but that’s really me playing guitar and singing,” said Gunz. “The performance aired as the main part of an episode of “Becoming.” It was taped in front of a live audience, many of whom were my friends who skipped school to be in the crowd. We did two takes, just so they could get multiple camera angles and the show itself aired on MTV about a month later.”
Everything from the energy, musical talent and wardrobe stands out from Gunz’s stage time. What might be most impressive – aside from, ya know, being a high school kid and all – is that he was performing alongside relative strangers.
“A lot of other contestants went as full bands,” Gunz remembered. “I went by myself because I was so young, did it on a whim and drove two hours coming from New Jersey. It was wild.”
Like Dax Shepard and Jenny McCarthy before him, MTV launched Gunz’s career. His on-air performance led to a VJ role with Fuse TV and eventually working for ABC doing TV hits. Additionally, he kept in touch with management from the bands involved with “Becoming,” which enabled him to start The Gunz Show (which is still pumping out new content), where he regularly talks with some of the biggest musicians in the industry. And, of course, he’s a full-timer at OutKick appearing pretty much everywhere. When he’s not writing, he’s often appearing on Don’t @Me with Dan Dakich, Hot Mic or across the OutKick social channels.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for an MTV star other than Dr. Drew from “Love Line” to resurface!
Now that Gunz walked me through the process, I needed to know if he was walking away with one of those giant checks, a spaceman trophy, or just a pat on the back. I mean, if you rock a red, white and blue wristband with that much sass and enthusiastically point to your guitar player with Peyton Manning-like direction as the drums pound, you deserve something.
“We didn’t win money, it was more so ‘hey dude, you’re on a gameshow, congrats.’ But we got a ton of swag and merch. Tons,” Gunz said through an ear-to-ear smile.
It all sounds awesome, except for one thing. Gunz admitted to me that the coolest part of the whole MTV experience – his mustache – was as real as Santa Claus:
“At that age, the mustache was definitely fake.”
Say what you want Gunz, it’s still real to me, dammit!
The stache was fake but the vibes were real. “I was voted Most Likely To Be Famous from my classmates after that,” Gunz added. And even he can’t believe it all these years later. “I was on MTV dude! I was walking around my high school halls as an MTV emo kid. It was just crazy.”
Having grown up on MTV myself, I know that’s the kind of crazy that would’ve led a coed getting a henna tattoo of your name on their lower back or sliding into your DMs. But not those DMs. I’m talking AOL Instant Messenger DMs (if you know, you know).
There you have it. Our very own Gunz saw his shot and took it. And we loved every minute of it. And hopefully, you enjoyed our trip down memory lane. I admit, some people, even those close to me, wonder why I’d want to do a deep dive on MTV, something now associated with an audience much younger than me.
Truthfully, my friends say I should act my age.
What’s my age again?
What’s my age again?
Follow along on X: @OhioAF