Can WWE be a “heel-er?”
If you are knowledgeable in wrestling lingo, the title might be humorous. If not, sucks to be you. Just don’t be Hugh Morris. Ha. I did it again.
Notice how someone becomes really, and I mean REALLY popular for being a raging jerkface, and then changes personality and becomes a bland toxin for television.
The blurry lines began during the Attitude Era when guys like Steve Austin and The Rock never actually changed their personalities, but those who initially booed and screamed for their deaths (Die Rocky Die!) soon became avid fans of the rebellious, cynical, badmouthing-trashtalking behavior which has now become such an integral part of being a WWE superstar.
Some wrestlers, like Edge, have gone back and forth so many times between “good guy” and “bad guy” it never mattered to fans because he consistently delivered. However, someone like The Miz, who made a career out of being hated and despised soon found himself in a similar position. Antagonizing everyone made him hated, but it also made him popular. His feud with John Cena, another person who draws both cheer and venom from crowds propelled Miz’s stardom to new heights. Defeating Cena at WrestleMania 28, and retaining the WWE Championship was a pivotal moment for him, as many thought this was going to be yet another title reign for the WWE poster-boy. However, once Miz lost the championship, the antics changes, and soon it was time for something to change to keep him fresh. He then turned face (good guy) and for some time it seemed the change would be to his benefit. Sadly, with low-tier feuds, mid-card titles, and being lost in the shuffle of new novelties, fans found Miz’s newfound on-air persona to be lacking and uninteresting.
If you forgot Alberto del Rio was a fan-favorite, it was likely because it lasted only a short time. Having spent his whole career as an arrogant asshole, it is surprising to think someone of his caliber needed a personality change so quickly. I believe this to be a result of being pushed too fast too soon, much like Sheamus who is still recovering from a severe injury which needed major surgery. Del Rio won the major titles and say as the top heel of the company for a long time. Once he was dethroned and out of the main event picture, fans too found Del Rio no longer a novel performer. Del Rio spent time as a face, defeating the Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship, but the rising star-power of then-Money in the Bank holder Dolph Ziggler soon would become an obstacle. Ziggler, then a heel, but treated in similar fashion to wrestlers like Edge, branded by the company as a villain, but the crowd wanted more. Evidenced the day after WrestleMania 29, when the crowd at the IZOD Center in New Jersey exploded in cheers as Ziggler cashed in and defeated Del Rio for the title. WWE saw right then and there they had to go back to the drawing board and reconsider some of their characters. At least Del Rio has returned to being a heel, and since then he has reclaimed major championships and reclaimed the deserved ire from the fans which made him popular in the first place.
I did mention Dolph Ziggler. Look at him as Mr. Good Guy now. Crowd loves him, yet he has been buried. That, is another story, for another time.
Does this mean being a face will be a career killer? No. Edge, Austin, Rock, Booker T, and Sheamus have all found a lot of success by having their characters abandon their sinister ways and turning over a new leaf. However it does depend on the situation. Right now WWE has a massive roster. Overcrowded. Being a bad guy guarantees attention because those characters are main challenges for the resident heroes. However, it seems people like Miz, Del Rio, and others may feel these days… Evil will always triumph, because good… is dumb.
The next part will feature a closer look at The Miz and someone who could benefit from a heel-turn, Kofi Kingston.