Happy Monday all, and what a week in wrestling it has been. Last week on a rather nostalgic episode of Monday Night Raw, the WWE revealed their hand, showing us what the exciting “summer of 2012” angle would be. CM Punk attempted to take a “dirty” victory after Big Show knocked out John Cena, refused to lend Cena a helping hand during Big Show’s post-match beat down, and left The Rock laying to close last week’s milestone Raw by seemingly turning heel.
Last week’s surprising events got me thinking; the WWE has for decades been based around the idea of good and evil clashing in the controlled environment of a WWE ring. The struggle between hero and villain is at its core what the WWE, and all wrestling has heavily relied upon to tell relatable and compelling stories to their fans. That said, I really took a look at some of the WWE’s top villainous characters after last weeks Raw 1000 Special, and found myself identifying with them more than I can say I identify with the babyfaces. It’s not because I want to be a smark, or because I’m rebelling against cheering whom the WWE wants me to cheer, or even because I myself am a terrible and villainous human being (in fact, I’m a pretty big softy). I simply identify with the heels more because character-wise, a lot of the WWE’s villains aren’t all that villainous.
Before I get into why the WWE’s villains do not seem all that evil to me, let’s first take a look at what traditionally made a wrestler a villainous character. Heels were bullies that would employ multiple underhanded tactics to get what they want. They were deceptive, would break the rules and use illegal maneuvers and foreign objects during matches, and weren’t above gaining any kind of advantage over their heroic babyface counterparts. Conversely, babyfaces were squeaky-clean heroes, deliverers of justice and defenders of all that was fair and good.
During the attitude era, the lines were blurred by the rise of heroes like Stone Cold Steve Austin and DX. These heroes were willing to stoop to the level of heels for the sake of comedy and survival, and were still cheered strongly while doing so. The things that made fans hate heels, such as arrogance, lying, cheating, and stealing were now being done by the heroes, albeit for a good cause (i.e. Stone Cold with limited resources, standing up to Vince McMahon the tyrannical boss who would stop at nothing to destroy him). Cheating was now considered clever, sneak attacks were now pre-emptive strikes, and heels were determined more by their ideology than their actions. You could do anything and still be cheered, as long as the reason you did it was admirable or understandable.
Which brings me to today’s heels, the majority of which are nothing short of inspiring, sympathetic characters in my book. Let’s look at some of their stories and you may see what I’m talking about.
The Miz- When Mike Mizanin joined the WWE roster he fulfilled a childhood dream as a life-long fan of the WWE. His dream would become a nightmare as he was hazed and bullied mercilessly for his reality show background by his peers and colleagues. To add further insult to injury, the fans booed and treated him like nothing more than common street trash. He was a fan turned wrestler that was scorned by both the fans and wrestlers. He would have the last laugh however, as he would persevere, improving and impressing everyone as he rose to the top of the WWE and became WWE Champion.
Does that sound like the story of a heel character? That story is in one word, inspiring. So why is he considered a heel and not a babyface? I don’t care that he’s cocky (hello, who’s more arrogant than The Rock?), I don’t care that he cheats to win (Eddie Guererro was made a hero for the same practices), or that he has a massive ego, feels entitled to things, and has huge chip on his shoulder. Facts are facts and he did anything in his power to overcome adversity and did.
Big Show- When Big show turned heel and helped Johnny Ace defeat John Cena at Over The Limit, people instantly turned on him, because Cena is the hero and purveyor of justice. You know, the John Cena who spent an entire match toying with a guy who can’t wrestle, brutalizing and beating him mercilessly instead of just winning the match at the multiple junctures he had things sewn up, and had his arrogance and douchebaggery blow up in his face in the end.
When Big Show explained that he was sick of being treated like a funny side show, being made to dress up in weird outfits to make the audience giggle, I totally understood why he’d feel that way. I also understood that he was hurt by the fact that everyone moved on so quickly after his humiliating firing, and that no one stood up for him once he was let go (however to be fair, the WWE has conditioned everyone not to highly regard firings). Finally, I totally got his beef with WWE’s poster boy, John Cena, a guy who claimed to be Show’s friend, who was out cracking jokes mere moments after his firing. I get that he brutalized some wrestlers after he returned to send a message that he meant business (did no worse than John Cena has done to others, for example Wade Barrett and Johnny Ace), but in the end, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to the guy, unless you know, you’re a complete dick.
CM Punk- Although his reasoning for his actions last Monday have not been explained, I can tell you right now, that CM Punk is right, and the babyface is wrong. This seems to be a recurring pattern for Punk, as he was right when he lectured fans and Jeff Hardy about the dangers of drug abuse and having a drug abuser as champion, as he was right about wanting vengeance on Randy Orton for a vicious attack that cost him a title (and for reasons I still don’t get, just because Randy became babyface in the time since, it was okay that he did that when he was heel?), and as he was right about calling John Cena a fraud when he first assumed control of Nexus.
Facing the facts, CM Punk as a heel has been right more often than any babyface, and it astounds me how much twisting and framing Jerry Lawler and the WWE have to do to make it seem as though he’s the bad guy. He had no obligation, morally or otherwise to help John Cena after their match (just as John hasn’t come out to rescue him when the situation didn’t directly involve him). He also has no reason to feel guilty for trying to pin a weakened Cena (as Cena did just last year, winning a WWE Championship from a Rey Mysterio who had wrestled a match earlier that night, and wrestled two matches the week prior). Finally, he shouldn’t feel guilty about striking The Rock down first, as The Rock has made a career of making the first strike on his upcoming opponents (hell he attacked Cena after teaming with him at Survivor Series). Don’t get me started on his legitimate gripe about John Cena still being catered to despite the fact the Punk has been Champion for over 250 days.
I could go on and on, about Orton being played up as the bad guy, when Triple H was the guy that turned on him, or Daniel Bryan being portrayed as the bad guy in the wedding fiasco last week, despite the fact that it seems he was all in and committed to AJ (I still don’t understand why she couldn’t say yes to both proposals?). The fact is, you can frame anyone to look like the bad guy, but the WWE seems to be more often than not framing the heels as the more sympathetic, underdog characters, with legitimate issues that spur their actions.
It would be one thing if much like Harry Osborn in Spiderman 3 (I know it was a terrible movie, but its pertinent to this topic, I swear), and their anger/gripes stemmed from a misunderstanding, false accusation or a blatant lie, but in most of these cases, the heels are absolutely undeniably correct to feel the way they do, and the babyfaces are ignorant a**holes for not at least understanding or acknowledging that. I know that not every heel comes across this way, but there are enough to warrant the discussion. At the end of the day, I think there is an issue, when the characters that are right, have truly been victimized and are the most sympathetic are the heels, and the babyfaces are no longer the heroic purveyors of justice. No matter how much humanity comics give Lex Luthor, in the end, he is wrong, he is clearly the bad guy, and needs to be stopped by Superman. In short, the villains need to be more villainous and definitely less sympathetic than their babyface counterpart if you want me to root for their demise.
There you have it, but what do you think? Do you believe the way heels and faces are booked is a bit backwards? Do you have as hard a time hating the WWE’s villains because they are so often correct in their assertions? Is the blurred line between heel and babyface brought on during the attitude era a little to blame for a lot of today’s heels being more sympathetic than the a lot of the babyfaces?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying I can’t wait for the track and field events to start in the Olympics. Being Jamaican, you know I’m pulling for my dude Usain! Have a great week everybody!