Like many wrestling fans since the launch of the WWE Network, I have been revisiting the Legends of Wrestling Round-Tables. If you haven’t already, check them out just as soon as you get a chance.
I’ve seen the majority before after stumbling across one on Daily Motion. Last night I was thinking about something Mick Foley said about him trying to attract heat in ECW. E C Dub had what we would call a ‘smart’ crowd, which essentially means that we think we know everything but probably instead means that we know too much for our own good.
Mick knew that old-fashioned ‘bad guy’ tactics would not get the job done and therefore went about things another way. The ECW fans were famous for the disdain of ‘mainstream’ wrestling organisations such as the WWF and WCW. Mick capitalised on this by taking a pro-WCW stance and wearing t-shirts of a love heart enclosed Dungeon of Doom, a faction in WCW that are not held in the greatest regard (see the round-table on ‘Factions’ from which the inspiration for this article sprung).
What Mick did brilliantly was to recognise that his audience wanted to be told how much he hated them and how he was better than them. These characters were becoming cool at the time. They very much still are, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard or even said myself that CM Punk is a better heel.
What we, as the fans who have been exposed to the business for longer, recognise is that Punk is doing an outstanding job in that role. Peers of ours then subsequently boo John Cena, cast as the good guy, as we also spot stagnation in his character as a result of fear of tipping the boat in a direction that would redirect the adulation of children (and their parents’ finances) around the globe away from the WWE.
People have long discussed a heel turn for Cena but I myself cannot see the need or purpose. The audience reaction would simply reverse. The kids would boo him and adult males would cheer him for doing what we wanted. When one thinks of the potential merchandise losses for both John and the WWE, I can understand a reluctance to go through with it.
Daniel Bryan is, for this moment at least, the man who has our backing. We’ve seen Daniel Bryan suffer what we have deemed to be a torrid time since being screwed by Triple H at SummerSlam. From repeated refusals to pull the trigger on a title run to the infamous Royal Rumble snub.
What has seemingly made things worse for us is that the ‘stale’ Randy Orton and the ‘undeserving’ Batista are taking what rightfully belongs to the hero of our group of fans. Orton and Batista have subsequently been booed out of every building the WWE has appeared in and we are demanding change.
Wait a minute; we are all booing people who we are meant to be booing? Isn’t that the sign of a great heel? Granted Batista was not this way by design but then you could argue that about a lot of characters and personalities throughout many eras of professional wrestling, crowd reactions are not an exact science.
What I am suggesting then is that the WWE have created, much like Mick Foley did, something that we as an entire fan base can all truly and utterly hate. Saying the USA sucks or how much money you have doesn’t work anymore (I’m looking at you Del Rio).
If half the audience thinks the bad guy is cool or doing his job well then that is fundamentally the wrong reaction from 50% of the audience. Like Foley, the WWE is acting in a way that they know we will hate, by holding back our hero and passing him over for guys we deem undeserving.
I am not stating that the WWE set out with a master plan, instead they have perhaps stumbled upon it by happenstance, but why should that detract from it? I know that I want to see WrestleMania XXX to witness Daniel Bryan overcome ‘the shovel’ we are all so obsessed with and then go on to beat these new generation of heels, in order to close WrestleMania.
I have no doubt that this will become one of the most memorable endings in television history and Daniel Bryan subsequently propels to Stone Cold’s levels of success after he himself overcame Mr McMahon. If and when this happens, Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista will all have played a big part in that.
For the first time in my recent memory, we are being given top heels that we genuinely hate and for some reason we don’t like it. We aren’t meant to! For fans that know everything, we seem to have forgotten this very simple and yet essential fact.
– By Richard Thompson