I’ve been writing on TJR for two years now, and in that time I’ve done an edition of A Matter of Character on various members of the WWE roster. I started with R-Truth, have done lower tier superstars like David Otunga, Ted DiBiase and JTG, each and every member of The Shield, and even the biggest names in the business like John Cena, CM Punk and Sheamus have had their characters analyzed by yours truly over the years.
I was having some trouble deciding what to write about this week, partially because the WWE has done anything but capture my interest in the last few weeks (aside from some cool stuff with The Shield, which frankly is the only thing that has drawn me in). Then it occurred to me that I could revisit some of the characters I’ve analyzed in the past who have only fallen further into obscurity because of the awfulness of their characters. It’s about time somebody checked these guys into Character Rehab.
I will take four characters that I’ve analyzed in the past and feel have only gotten worse (to the point where I can hardly stand to watch them anymore), and attempt to address the root of their problems as characters, and make some meaningful suggestions for improvement. Let’s Do This!
Affliction: Trying to be an Edgy Babyface, instead coming across as a d-bag.
There are few people on the WWE’s roster that makes me change the channel like Sheamus. The character is a train wreck, and I say that because I know exactly what they want him to be. They want him to be that heroic outlaw, a babyface with an edge who is unapologetic about doing whatever it takes, up to and including stooping to the level of the villain, to survive. They’re failing, but this is what they’re going for. The reason that they can’t get his character right is simple; they have very little comprehension of what makes that kind of character work.
Allow me to explain: These morally questionable heroes work in TV, Movies, etc. because there is a context for their behavior that we understand and thus deem acceptable. In Raiders Indiana Jones wouldn’t have been able to best the man with the sword in a battle, so he simply shot him. Morally it is ambiguous at best, but with his life at stake it was a practical move that we completely understand and even find it badass. Stone Cold would cheat and use underhanded methods as a competitor in the WWE because Vince McMahon was unfairly always stacking the odds against him, and the only way to win was to fight fire with fire. In that context, Stone Cold was fighting for a fair shot, and at the end of the day, that’s an ideal we could all get behind. These characters aren’t ideal heroes, but given the context in which they exist, they are the heroes that can succeed.
Sheamus doesn’t have the proper context, thus he just comes across as a dick. Take this past Monday on Raw when he was losing the tug of war against Mark Henry, he quit and then kicked Mark in the face. From my account, Mark just wanted to have a fair tug-of-war, and what Sheamus did makes him look like a sore loser. WWE creative does this all the time with Sheamus, and I’m convinced they must not want him to actually get over. The only way to make the character the heroic outlaw they intend him to be would be to put him in the right context, battling someone despicable and underhanded with a nefarious agenda. Then Sheamus will just be the outlaw using the same tactics, but for a good.
Affliction: Traded in a character that was working to Yodel like a clown.
What is this character? This has to be one of the most sudden and steep falls from grace in the history of the WWE. The fact that WWE Creative would trade in a character as interesting as a Swiss born Superstar who loves America but not the people in it, is asinine. It’s even more perplexing that WWE Creative would abandon one of the most interesting, creative, and well-written characters they’ve had over the last few years, for a gimmick as useless and uninteresting as yodeling (badly) on the way to the ring.
Apparently there is no heat on Antonio Cesaro, and this god-awful character is just a result of them pushing others harder right now, but the yodeling aspect of it makes it seem like they are actively trying to make the character into a joke (like 97.9% of the main roster). The WWE needs to drop the yodeling crap and just let Cesaro be the hard-hitting Swiss brawler that he was as US Champion. That way, even if you book him to lose, it will actually put over the guy he is facing, because they’ll be beating a tough fighter and not a sideshow clown.
If they really have nothing for the character right now (which is a bogus excuse because they have a staff of writers whose jobs are to write for characters) here’s two simple ones that will make much better use of this obviously great talent. Bring up Kassius Ohno and have the former Kings of Wrestling team up on the WWE Main Roster. The WWE could use another tag team, and it’s something for each of them to do. Another idea would be to have him be the devious, underhanded, and hard-hitting opponent that Sheamus can feud with for a few months that provides a proper context for his outlaw heroics. It helps to rehabilitate both characters, and who wouldn’t want to see the master of the Brogue Kick clash with the master of the Swiss Death (which really should be his finish rather than The Neutralizer).
Affliction: Stupid name, ignoring the prestige of his bloodline, squandering great talent and wasting a compelling storyline.
There might not he a guy under contract with the WWE that makes me sadder than Michael McGillicutty. He is a talented wrestler that exhibits intensity and focus when he is in the ring. He isn’t the best talker in the company but he is far from the worst, and despite being as talented as he is, with a back-story and lineage that should make his character easy to write, instead he is barely featured on NXT.
If there has ever been a superstar that I think the WWE (intentionally?) set up for failure from the moment he was introduced to the WWE Universe, it’s Michael McGillicutty. He was stripped of his famous father’s name which would have given him a slight leg up in standing out, was given the name Michael McGillicutty, a name that cannot be chanted by even the most creative and frenzied crowd, and was instructed to refer to his fans as his McGillibudies. The man never had a chance and has been in need of rehabilitation ever since. Apparently Triple H is a supporter of his and wants to pull the trigger on a repackaging of the character, which is good, but at 33 years old, time is a wasting for Michael McGillicutty.
Change the name (preferably to Joe Hennig) and let him be the great talent that he is. Have him at first try to emulate his father’s perfection and go on a “perfect” win streak on the main roster as a babyface. He is making his father proud and winning match after match in pursuit of the Mr. Perfect legacy. During the streak do short segments that show he is dedicated (to a fault) with trying to be perfect, analyzing every detail from his matches, down to the elevation he gets on his drop kick. Things will get interesting when his win streak is snapped after a substantial amount of time. Then we see his downward spiral, unable to be “Perfect” like his dad, he becomes angry and begins to resent his father for leaving a legacy impossible to live up to, thus turning heel (and if they let him go by Joe Hennig, when heel fans can chant "Average Joe" at him to get under his skin). This story writes itself and it’s not as if the WWE has anything else really going on right? Why not have this as one of your running stories during 2013? It’s much more compelling than anything they’re doing.
Kofi Kingston is one of the biggest victims of fan cynicism, and rightfully so. Wrestling bloggers often refer sarcastically to the amount of times he has been U.S. and Intercontinental Champion, and aside from a short period of time where he feuded with Randy Orton, there hasn’t really been a time where fans were excited about Kofi. Most fans are willing to admit that he is a great worker, probably as nice a guy as you could ever meet, but he’s considered to be completely bland and uninteresting. There is absolutely nothing to his character but blind enthusiasm. He rarely gets promo time, and is the WWE’s go to guy to job to the main event heels, stick in a makeshift babyface tag team, or carry the mid card belts to transition them to a heel they want to get over.
It sucks because I really believe in Kofi. I know that I can’t argue with the fact that he is the blandest character on the WWE roster, but I root for him to find his footing. I think with some inspired writing, Kofi could be a much bigger commodity than he is presently. There are just so many aspects of the character that they have failed to explore; including the fact that he seems to be a huge comic book dork based on his various comic themed ring gears.
The main thing Kofi needs at this point in his career is something to make the WWE Universe either a) start to care about him as a character, or b) take notice of him as a character, which in this case are two different things. I’d use the fact that he and his wife have had their first child to light a fire under the character’s ass, which would culminate in one of two ways. In either case, you start by having a heel character (anybody who can talk would suffice, preferably Punk in a stop gap feud for him later this year) congratulate him on his newborn son and ask him how it will feel when his son grows up to idolize John Cena, or The Rock, or Sheamus, or CM Punk because his daddy was a glorified spot monkey that never did anything but epitomize mediocrity.
This interaction builds sympathy but also provides motivation that can send his character in one of two ways. He can either battle harder, with something to prove for his son, and succeed by winning Money in the Bank or something of that ilk in an emotional and heartfelt fashion (which is a moment the WWE hasn’t had in a while) or he could turn heel, desperate to make a name for himself by any means necessary. If you were to go the heel route, I would eventually have him turn face after realizing that the example he was setting for his son was awful, and I’d have the storyline culminate the same way as the straight babyface route, with him emotionally winning a big match. I would probably go the heel route, because you can tell a longer story with the same heartfelt climax farther down the line, but at the end of the day, the WWE needs to do something to make me care about Kofi Kingston.
There you have it, but what do you think? Which WWE characters would you like to see rehabilitated? Do you agree with my assessments and suggestions? How would you eliminate what afflicts these four WWE Superstars?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying that these NBA Playoffs are definitely picking up. Go Dubs! Have a great week everybody!