Lately, there’s been an ongoing thing in WWE where a handful of names are stuck in limbo of being not quite a babyface, not quite a heel, and somehow, not even a tweener.
There have always been people who skirt the line, whether they’re a “cool heel” character like nWo used to be, someone who is such an over the top babyface that the point is to boo them, or when they’re someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin who gets cheered whether he gives a Stunner to a hero or a villain.
Then, there are people like Big Show who switch sides so often it’s impossible to keep track of where they are at the moment and it’s better to just go on a match-by-match basis.
However, at the moment, there are some superstars who WWE’s creative team seems to be unsure of how even they want the fans to perceive them, which is equal parts entertaining and frustrating.
So what gives? Well, first, we have to establish who these people are.
Thankfully, a couple wrestlers have been decided upon somewhat recently, even though they were struggling for a bit.
For example, Tony Nese somewhat turned babyface for a very minor feud of sorts with Drew Gulak, but within no time, he was back to pointing out his abs during his entrance. This pretty much signaled that WWE possibly toyed with the idea of a full-on face turn for him, but it just wasn’t working out, so they ditched the idea.
Similarly, Hideo Itami was back to being a face on 205 Live, but was still smug enough to shout “respect me” to the audience during this time. When teaming up with Akira Tozawa, he never looked happy and quickly became a pill, picking fights with The Lucha House Party and eventually turning on Tozawa. Okay, so he’s back to being a heel again. We can check him off the list.
What’s up with The B-Team, though, for instance? They were assuredly heels for the longest time when partnered with The Miz, yet on their own, they’re doing things that pop the crowd, but not necessarily against heels.
Are we supposed to root for them over a team like Titus Worldwide, who are definitely babyfaces? If so, why were they booked against Breezango two weeks in a row, when they are babyfaces who are much more over than Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil? That would seem to indicate more of a heel dynamic than anything else.
And yet, they’re the pitiful loser team that is garnering sympathy and at the very least, transitioning into a babyface role…despite how, if they win the No. 1 contender spot, they will be facing The Deleters of Worlds, who are babyfaces themselves. It’s a weird setup that isn’t limited just to Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel.
Ignoring people like The Ascension that WWE just doesn’t care enough about to position as true heels or babyfaces, because they’ll use them in whatever manner they better serve for that week, another tag team bouncing around to an extent is War Raiders.
When they come out, they actively engage with the crowd—a babyface tactic, for sure. However, they’ve had more of a feud with Heavy Machinery than anybody else so far, and they’re babyfaces.
Hanson and Rowe are all over the place with their matches since joining NXT. They’re up against enhancement talent like The Metro Brothers, which are neutral, they’ve been fighting TM-61 who are now heels, and they’ve been fighting Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, who are faces.
The crowd just goes along with whatever is happening at the moment: do they like War Raiders better than the opponents? If so, cheer. If not, boo. That’s okay for now, but eventually, a decision is going to have to be made.
When SAnitY comes up to the main roster, WWE is going to have to pick if they’re faces or heels, too, as they’ve played both parts in the past few months in NXT to such a gray area it’s hard to establish any ground one way or the other.
Roman Reigns is a topic that doesn’t need to be discussed anymore, as we all have heard everything about the subject of him being booed instead of cheered but still booked as a babyface, yet it’s interesting to look at the mirror image he has going on with Rusev Day.
While WWE refuses to make Reigns a villain, despite all the boos, the opposite is happening with The Bulgarian Brute, who gets cheered every week and isn’t a true babyface yet.
Once in a while, a turn is teased, but things snap back to normal the next week when he belittles Daniel Bryan or something along those lines. Lana definitely seemed like a face in her encounter with Billie Kay last week, and it was followed up this week by her hitting Naomi with a neckbreaker during their dance off, which is a heel move, for sure.
Why is the Rusev Day stable being booked as heels who should get positive reactions from the crowd, but not be cheered because their opponents are people we should sympathize with more? If they’re heels, stop playing up to the audience to ask for cheers and don’t put Lana against someone like Billie Kay. If they’re faces, stop having them act like heels and just do something definitive already!
Nia Jax is also somewhat suffering from this, but it’s starting to seem less and less like she’s in the gray area and more like she’s following in the footsteps of Tony Nese as a failed babyface.
Heading into WrestleMania, she was positioned as a sympathetic character that promoted a body-positive outlook, was bullied by her best friend and was supposed to be cheered, without a doubt.
Afterward, she brought Ember Moon onto Monday Night Raw and teamed up with her, cementing her babyface status even more as she continued to fight with Alexa Bliss, which ended at Backlash.
Then, suddenly, she’s challenging Ronda Rousey and beating up helpless jobbers, telling off the audience and acting like a heel. Things swiveled around 180 degrees rather quickly, didn’t it?
There’s no mistaking her as the heel in the feud against Rousey at this point, but it’s unknown if that’s just a temporary thing for Money in the Bank, or if that’s going to continue going forward. We can assume if Rousey wins, Jax will stay a heel and feud with her, but if there’s a no-contest or something, WWE might put a pin in that and want Jax to be less of a villain in July.
So with all that being said, what is going on with all of this? Is WWE purposely trying to keep things more ambiguous for the sake of something different and not having to adhere to more strict heel/face relationships, or is this a byproduct of laziness or a lack of commitment?
Does WWE want us to go one way or the other, but isn’t able to properly translate that intention through the segments on Raw and SmackDown, leaving us with this confusion?
For that matter, do you like this better, or are you just riding this out and waiting for the official decision to be made and the picture to become clear any time soon?
As far as my own tastes, I like it when it comes to the argument that it keeps things interesting and unpredictable, but I can’t stand it when it comes to pacing and storytelling logic. A lot of it screams as though WWE writers don’t care at the moment and are being frivolous, rather than purposely toying around and being masterful puppeteers.
I’m not even sure when all of this will clear up, as the Reigns issue has been going on for years, Rusev has been teetering on a face turn for months, and by the next episode of Raw, we could see The B-Team make a definitive move in either direction.
In the meantime, let’s just hope there’s a plan for all this and that it isn’t just a case of WWE not having a clue what to do.