How Bad Are Our Bad Guys?
I feel like I’m living in Opposite World these days. One might say I’m also feeling a little salty. Perhaps it’s the Early Onset of Christmas Mania. I enjoy the yuletide for all its merriment, but detest listening to my mother recite, “I can’t believe that in just 57 days it will all be over!” Good God, woman, you enjoy Christmas so much that you spend the whole season dreading December 26th? It’s enough to make anyone turn to wrestling for solace.
Last week I got all warm and fuzzy about the Intercontinental Title match between Axel and Ziggler –few people felt the same way, though many gave me some generous benefit of the doubt (they could barely remember it anyway). Then this week, I cued up RAW with a sense of dread, after reading many tweets about how rotten it was. I got a surprising kick out of it from a comedy standpoint, but I found the crowd-pleasing main event terribly sloppy. What’s wrong with me? Down is up and up is down! For the last few months, wrestling has been a befuddling schmozz, looking more and more obviously like the written-on-the-fly programming that it’s always been.
One issue was raised by many on twitter during RAW: The line between good guys and bad guys has blurred to such a point that not even the wrestlers know. And that’s a problem, because one’s “babyface” or “heel” persona informs all aspects of his/her behaviour. From the way he carries himself down the ramp, to whether she breaks from the ropes before the ref counts to 5, consistency is an important key to building character.
With all due respect to Zac Soto’s wonderful Heel Honor Roll series, I thought it would be fun to sit down and examine each of the supposed heel wrestlers on the main roster, to determine how bad they really are these days. Why are we supposed to hate them, and are those reasons enough to do so? Let’s rate them by Razor Ramons out of 10, the original “Bad Guy”.
Selfie on the beach? Yeah, he’s a jerk.
From the ever-present smug look on his face, to the agonizingly slow rate at which he carries himself, Randy Orton begs to be hated. On the odd occasion that he does smile, it’s really more of a sneer, and the smile never quite makes it up to his eyes. Freaky.
Orton has lived a charmed life. He’s been forgiven for his abrasive temperament towards colleagues and fans, and rewarded upon returning from suspensions. Not that he hasn’t put in the work: when he wants to, he can put on a damn good match. He can pick up the pace and thread moves together thrillingly. But only when he’s moved to do so. Annoying.
Though he’s rarely played the babyface, fans cheer for him. He’s the cool guy who doesn’t give a shit and gets all the glory (and looks quite fit while doing so). He is favored, and in some cases, undeserving.
He puts guys out of commission by mercilessly punting them in the head. He has enjoyed every success not by being a team player, but by being selfish and demanding. His huge ego informs everything that he does. He doesn’t care how people judge him – and that’s the mark of a true heel.
He’s one of the few WWE Superstars who goes by his birth name, and ironically, it’s impossible to tell where the fake Randy Orton ends and the real one begins. One thing is for certain: he is a HORRIBLE good guy. I’m giving him 8 Razor Ramons, falling only a bit short because his promo work does so little to enhance his heel character.
Look at them, prepping for a match. What mischievous little boy scouts.
For the longest time, The Shield specialized in sneak attacks, not very nice at all. Sometimes they’d do it out of their own sense of justice, sometimes on behalf of another heel figure, thereby enhancing their bad-guy status (sneak attacks for hire!). Even more dastardly, they’d often attack in a handicap situation, their three guys on one or two other people. Never mind that it all goes down in a badass fashion – sometimes it’s hard to boo The Shield, no matter who they’re facing or how unfair it is.
And that’s why they’re tricky to judge. They taunt their opponents; they seem to relish hurting people; they have zero allegiance to the fans. But people get excited to see them come out and wreck babyfaces. There are only a few hallowed good guys that can elicit jeers for The Shield (Punk, Bryan, the Rhodes brothers) – but sometimes even then, the fans are just so pumped to see these talents squaring off that “a damn good fight” supersedes the proverbial colour of their boots.
The Shield have fallen prey to their own cool factor. When I wrote a column praising them back in the spring, there followed an outpouring of fist pumps and bromantic enthusiasm (since lost when we upgraded our comment system, so go read it if you didn't then!). The Shield transcends wrestling tastes, fan gender, and to a certain extent, age. Between the three of them, there’s something for everyone.
They’re heels in theory, but the only ones booing them are probably kids. I give them 6 Razor Ramons. I’m not keen for them to split up, but perhaps that’s the only way for at least some of them to get heat (by sneak-attacking their own).
How DARE he be so fabuloso?
Alberto Del Rio tends to be pro-Mexican, which would be acceptable in the normal world, especially since he is Mexican. But in the “USA! USA! USA!” world of WWE, it is very bad. To drive the point further home, Alberto mounts little Mexican flags on the ring posts and insists that Lillian Garcia introduce him in Spanish (a reminder that not too long ago, Del Rio had his own ring announcer, which was supposed to be obnoxious but was really a delight). Back then, he went the old-fashioned heel route: driving expensive cars to the ring, mistreating said ring announcer, and generally flaunting his aristocratic status.
He lost a lot of traction when he lost Ricardo. His wrestling ability notwithstanding, Alberto can’t seem to get much of a crowd reaction one way or the other. I adore his mid-match celebrations of himself, yelling “DEL RIO!” with a flourish. Does no one else see how fun that is? Try it yourself sometime, just interrupt a meeting at work by pounding your chest and proclaiming your last name to the room! But wait, I’m supposed to hate him.
Alberto can step-up enziguiri and cross-arm breaker like nobody’s business. He’s used the latter to put several guys on hiatus, but still yields little more than a token frown upon his entrance. I feel like he’s a natural heel, but needs more of a personal vendetta to take it to the next level. Cue Ricardo? Until then, 6 Razor Ramons. He has a different kind of heat than The Shield, but I fear it’s for the wrong reasons.
Tickled pink to be so very mean.
The Real Americans are heels because they are rude and unwelcoming towards people who weren’t born in the United States (hilariously represented by the All-American American Swagger and the Swiss-born Cesaro). Their manager is known for antagonizing fans and uttering scandalous opinions (though as of late, his schtick has been watered down to the point of Ignorant Uncle Who’s Almost Quaint).
Swagger has a history of acting like a knucklehead. A personality-free, ham-fisted collegiate wrestler who fits in with Zeb’s drum-beating and flag-waving just fine. He’s easy to boo.
Cesaro has a history of being awesome. The company has tried to suppress it, to no avail. He may put hand to heart for “We The People”, but the bemused look on his face betrays him: Cesaro is better than a cheap-heat xenophobic rant; he’s more than just a Giant Swing. If being awesome is bad, then he’ll never be good.
I give The Real Americans 7 Razor Ramons. Zeb garners 6 of those for himself because his platform is downright awful, and Swaggers gets 1 because he’s quite good at being That Guy. For the time being, I am more than happy to see Cesaro play his role in all this.
What, a guy can’t just sit in a rocking chair, minding his own business?
The Wyatt Family also specializes in the sneak attack. A classic heel technique. But unlike the slick militia work of The Shield, the Wyatts operate in a much creepier fashion. They don’t look like normal folk. They don’t talk like normal folk (two of them don’t really talk at all). They are definitely suspicious.
Their brand of violence has a perverted feel to it. The way Bray caresses his opponents, and kisses them before taking them out… it results in awkward moments of silence, a rarity in wrestling. At present time, their agenda remains a sweet mystery, as we wait to see who they’ll attack next, and whether Bray answers to a higher power. Sheep masks, Hawaiian shirts, and fedoras are everywhere these days. Everyone wants to Follow the Buzzards, and everyone cheers when the lantern is lit.
Also similar to The Shield, the Wyatt Family has amassed enough awesomeness that it will take some seriously sinister moves to increase their heel quotient. I’ll give them 7 Razor Ramons, because they still elicit a stronger negative reaction than Del Rio.
That’s Not All!
I have six more heels to look at, before I can fully judge the current state of our bad guys! I will do that two weeks from now. Next week, I will analyze a match from Survivor Series, but that match will be chosen by YOU, the TJR Wrestling readers. Tune in to my Monday News Update to see which two matches are in contention for analysis. Log your vote in the Comments on or twitter, and I will do an Anatomy of a Match on the winner. Easy and fun! Let’s hope that Survivor Series gives us plenty to work with. Until then, have a great weekend and Never Tag With The Miz.