Monday, April 15, 2024
EditorialDo Real Faces & Heels Exist In WWE Today?

Do Real Faces & Heels Exist In WWE Today?

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Hello everyone! Today, I’ll be discussing the current roles of faces and heels in WWE. The aim is to understand how the company reacts to its talent and the audience, and how the concept of face vs. heel has evolved over the years. I feel it’s important to highlight key moments in history which changed the game and how we perceive it.

Evolution.

In the 70’s and 80’s it was easy to market one, maybe two stars as the faces of the company due to wrestling fans being more accepting of the booking. It was a simpler time, we enjoyed larger-than-life characters and happily tuned in to see our heroes overcome the villains. The big names led the company forward by bringing in the money.

Something changed in society by the 90’s. Key events hurt the concept of kayfabe and strict rules on face & heel in wrestling. Suddenly turning heel became the cool thing to do, and working as the “good, patriotic man” was no longer acceptable. TV audiences had grown weary of typical superhero characters, and Hulk Hogan knew this. He shocked the world by becoming a notorious heel, abandoning all of his principles and fans to take WCW over with the New World Order. In other words, nothing was sacred anymore .. if Hogan could turn heel anyone could.

Around the same time, Stone Cold Steve Austin gained a lot of steam in the WWF as a no-nonsense heel. The reactions he received pushed his character to Wrestlemania to challenge Bret Hart; where he lost the submission match by passing out to the Sharpshooter in a pool of his own blood. It’s an important moment in history .. not just because Austin sparked the Attitude Era through a loyal fan base, but because the fans wanted something new and made it happen.

Austin got mad respect for going above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a violent, yet thoroughly entertaining bout. The fans turned on Bret because he showed disrespect to his opponent while they were still processing the fighting spirit they’d witnessed. It could be considered the most successful double turn in wrestling history, and the conditions were perfect for everyone. It opened the door for even more face/heel turns, and the next few years were chock-full of ’em.

The Attitude Era didn’t need a superhero leading the way as it had anti-heroes and vicious heels. Imagine, if you was able to see Austin and The Rock for the first time again (Men In Black style), you might find them to be rude, selfish, vindictive, callous, and manipulative. But they brought something different to the table, as Austin became an example of the average Joe having to withstand the corrupt actions of their bosses. The Rock had incredible mic work, presence, a look the girls longed for, and the ability to stand above everyone else. He was everything Austin wasn’t .. yet loved all the same. They had to endure many hardships and sacrifices to reach the top which helped them gain the respect they needed.

The fall of promotions and territories such as the AWA, NWA, WCW, ECW, the introduction of the internet, the brand extension, and other variables combined to halt the evolution of the business. In other words, if wrestling was going to change it was going to be how and when WWE decided. The way the WWF was able to survive was through Vince being able to see changes in the industry and adapt the product in correlation to the tides of the sea.

In 2001, with no major promotions to scout .. Vince and company were left to mold the industry the way that suited their profit margins; instead of sticking with what’s entertaining for the ratings sake. But what do you do when there’s no reference? Do you keep using what brought you to the top of the mountain? Or do you risk it all and perhaps hurt the company when you’re already on top with no competition? You go with the first one .. you keep the needle skipping on the record player .. showing the same stuff  over and over again because that’s what drew crowds in before. Not just the skipping of the record though .. in fact, it seemed WWE started playing it backwards.

The world kept changing in the early to mid-2000’s and WWE didn’t know how to handle it. There were several knee jerk reactions to lawsuits and unfortunate incidents which encouraged those in charge to revert the product back to a family friendly PG content show to cover themselves. Instead of thinking outside the box and delivering something creative, something risky, something new .. Vince McMahon was set on taking things away that the Attitude Era fans had grown to expect.

A Broken Record.

Enter John Cena … who let’s face the truth here, was really over when he held the United States title and rapped each week. It was cool, it was fresh, it was funny, but was it great enough to warrant making him the face of the company? To many the answer was simply “he’s not ready yet”. The loyal fans wanted someone to show up, make an impact, and fill the shoes of guys like Austin and The Rock. They never got that though! They got Cena instead, and slowly but surely they resented his dominance. He was the ultimate good guy, but unlike Hogan before .. not universally loved. The kids who didn’t grow up with Austin and The Rock loved Cena and rightly so! That’s all they knew .. so props to Cena for being a good role model to them.

Cena and Vince McMahon’s booking killed what it means to be a true babyface. Yes, on one hand they are supposed to be good people, have principles and so forth, but they’re also meant to be entertaining and have the majority of support. Cena didn’t have that, and for a time neither did Randy Orton or Batista. They weren’t on the same level as those who came before, and the dynamic of babyface was shattered because WWE refused to move the record forwards. No one would’ve booed Cena in the 80’s, but because he came after some very strong characters he was labeled as “too nice” and “fake”. To make matters worse, WWE refused to acknowledge the total disdain towards some of their superstars who were being “shoved down people’s throats”, which subsequently made the mixed reactions worse.

WWE soon realized that even though Cena was hated by many, he brought in a ton of money through merchandise. It would be like .. a company not selling their #1 product just because a few didn’t like it. There’s always the option of walking away from said product, never to buy it again. Cena brought fans in .. many of whom were children who continue to watch to this day, and despite his critics claiming WWE was killing the product, the profit margins said otherwise.

The point I’m making about Cena and other talents post-Attitude Era, is WWE eventually came up with the idea that they should embrace the controversial crowds and treat it like a good thing. The evolution of face & heel changed as now it doesn’t matter whether the good guy gets booed, or the bad guy gets cheered, so long as they are the focus of attention. WWE’s current roster is filled with examples of good guys who are cheered, yet occasionally display questionable antics, while some heels may play to the crowd through flashy entrances, cool promos, and delivering solid wrestling matches to “steal the show”.

As is evident with one superstar in particular, you can be “The Guy” .. someone who is neither superhero or villain, just someone who does his job and cares only for those who show their love and support. Nothings needs to change as long as the fans keep making noise, and that goes for someone like Eva Marie too. As long as the talent gets strong reactions and maintain good ties backstage, the company will make something happen for them.

The List Of ..

Next up, and only as of this date, I’m going to randomly list some individuals/stables on the WWE roster and try to justify why I think they are face, heel, or mixed:

  • SAWFT – They are as close to faces as you’ll find on Raw due to their consistency. They come across more like a modern-day anti-hero team (insulting, yet entertaining) who would’ve suited The Attitude Era product had they been around. They go over well because they cater to old and new fans alike with fan participation; which is becoming a rarity in WWE. Still, when Enzo hits on Rusev’s wife .. who’s the bad guy here?
  • Big Show – How many times has he turned? More than anyone right? I can’t call him anything as he changes his spots depending on which side of the bed he wakes up on. Good for now .. but he’s totally unreliable if you want to care about his character.
  • Braun Strowman – To many he’s a monster heel and inexperienced worker, but I like him! See what I mean? I know I’m supposed to hate him .. but I can’t because I respect his dedication to improving, and I find his intensity appealing. Also .. he’s not dumb, he knows what’s what and how to play the game, which is another thumbs up. Yes .. he’s another big guy and Vince drools over big guys etc.
  • Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho – To some they come across as idiots who use their friendship to cheat their way to victories. To me .. they are enjoying themselves, and I love the List of Jericho, love when Owens kills Saxton on commentary. I respect both for being incredible wrestlers. Again … am I supposed to hate these guys because they’re friends? Even more so when they cheat to stop Roman Reigns getting another title. Heels? Tweeners? Faces? Depends on who you talk too.
  • Bayley – She is a typical old school babyface wrestler. However .. some fans don’t care for her as she’s “too nice” and can’t handle spiting others on the mic. She is trying, and one day she might succeed in gaining everyone’s respect .. but for now you either love her or don’t care if she’s there or not. Not everyone saw what she did in NXT, so it’s a clean slate and I fear some may find her polarizing if she doesn’t bring something extra soon.
  • Sheamus – Wait a minute .. he hated Cesaro .. but he was forced to tag with Cesaro .. so they stuck together .. won a championship, lost a championship, and they’re still teaming to get it back? Is Sheamus a face now? I figured Sheamus would’ve kicked Cesaro’s head off the second they lost the titles. I don’t know .. does anyone care after they lost the titles at the Rumble on the pre-show? I lost track of this a long time ago.
  • Gallows/Anderson – Oh wow .. they didn’t win the titles! Dusty Finish! Controversy! How dare they get screwed like that! Oh no .. but wait! Ain’t they the bad guys? Why do we care if they got screwed? We shouldn’t right? We wanted Sheamus and Cesaro to retain? But they did get screwed .. and went on to win the titles at the Rumble. Are they good guys for overcoming the injustice? Did they finally get justification for the torturous months of screwjobs from The New Day? Speaking of which.
  • The New Day – The fact is .. they ain’t too different today than they were back when they were heels. They still cheat .. they still use the numbers game .. but we like them for that? It’s OK for them to do it but not the bad guys right? Do we like them for ridiculing Titus O’Neil because he wanted to get in on the fun? When someone wants to join the group they bring out the insults? What happened to the positivity and dancing with everyone? They can be really immature and insulting .. yet we support them for bringing the entertainment.
  • Dolph Ziggler – He’s a heel because he said something to Jerry Lawler which we know was approved beforehand? He’s a heel because he beat Kalisto several times without losing? He’s a heel because he got his confidence back? So let me get this right .. if he loses a lot we forget to spur him on .. but if he wins a lot we hate him for turning his back on guys he had no existing relationships with? I don’t get it. Did he change anything about himself aside from finding confidence? Lawler’s had far worse things said about him in public .. so the jury is still out on why we should hate a guy who is working hard and winning matches with a competitive attitude.
  • AJ Styles – Again .. is AJ not doing his job because some fans cheer him no matter what? Should he be doing more to get heat? And why is he so damn good in the ring? If you want to be an effective heel you can’t impress the audience like that! That’s only going to gain even more respect. Apparently, he’s either one of your favourites, or “just some guy” John Cena beat at the Rumble. Either way .. it doesn’t do his “heel” persona any justice. Remains to be seen whether AJ can be truly hated after so many years making loyal fans, it doesn’t feel natural to me in the slightest.
  • Eva Marie – I’ve had a few arguments over this. The fact is .. she sucks so much that many can’t stand the sight of her. Couple that with her look and ego-maniacal entrance (which is not cool like Bobby Roode’s!), you have something resembling an old school heel. It doesn’t matter if she sucks in everything she touches .. it adds to the character. I have to stress .. true heels do not have to impress you with wicked mic skills and ring work. If anything .. heels should do less, they should slow the match to get fans frustrated. I know that goes against everything some want from their wrestling product, but I see so much hatred I would want to capitalize on it by first ensuring she’s able to work safe ..  and then making sure she continues to be disrespected.
  • The Miz – Sigh .. for years I loathed his character to the point I stopped watching whenever he was on-screen. Nowadays .. I find myself respecting his work .. so I can’t hate him the same. He’s one of the closest proper heels in WWE as he never made a face turn work. He’s putting some of the new guys to shame, and I really hate to say this but .. some could learn from him.
  • Bray Wyatt – He’s so .. mixed. It’s like .. he wants the heat, but he wants a cult following too. A “cool heel” who can’t make up his mind does not sit well with me. You don’t hear universal boos or cheers .. he’s so far in the middle it falls to the individual viewer to decide what to make of him.
  • Roman Reigns – Could list a lot more but ending with Roman. He’s in a similar boat to Cena back in 2005 where he has loyal support, yet the rest of the audience can’t stand him as he’s being groomed as the next golden boy of a generation. He is not an anti-hero, he is not charismatic, he is not great in the ring, he is not entertaining on the mic, and all he really has is a look and repetitive moveset. That’s enough for some people, especially children, women, and some men in the audience who dig his style. To the rest though .. they expect a lot more. We’re used to top stars having way more character than he’s able to find on a good day. How can he be a babyface when much of the audience can’t buy what he’s selling? And does he have any principles to pass on? All we know is he’s “the guy” .. but anything else? At least Cena and Hogan were role models with a surefire message. What kind of example does Reigns set if any?

Just some examples of how face and heel roles continue to conflict. It’s not black & white, and while talent may be labeled as face or heel, they may not get what we used to consider the desired heat whether it be positive or negative. When a face doesn’t do enough .. they are hated and disrespected. When a heel does too much .. they are respected and loved to the point they turn face while retaining the same character.

Conclusion

WWE doesn’t care whether their talent get the expected reaction as they proved with Cena. They gave up trying to appease to the majority, and instead encourage characters who you, the individual, decide if they are for you. It’s much like football teams (American or Soccer), you may support your home team, or you might decide to support a more successful team. You can choose to hate your teams rivals, or not, it’s your choice. No one is stopping you from hating Manchester United, or Chelsea, or any team for whatever reason. No one is stopping you from supporting several teams at once; it is open game. What it all boils down to is where the money comes to rest.

WWE tells us through their booking the guy who is going to win a lot, and as a fan, your only options is to either love it, hate it, not care, or walk away. WWE has evolved at its own pace the last sixteen years and there’s no going back. Now all we do is pine for someone to “turn heel” so we can cheer him! Yay! Cena and Reigns could turn heel next week and automatically become babyface to the rest of the audience. Wouldn’t that be cool? To see them turn on their loyal fans like that? Sure .. if we want a Hollywood Hogan rehash!

I’m done and banged on way too long about this subject, so please forgive me if it was long. There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave the rest of the conclusion to you guys. Have the lines been blurred? Will we ever see another Hulk Hogan? Will we ever witness a heel who’s so hated they can’t walk to their own car without being assaulted? I doubt it but stranger things have happened. Here’s to you Roman Reigns .. a legend in the making whether we like it or not .. I’ll keep trying to figure out the puzzle of who and what you are. Thanks for reading everyone!

Disclaimer:- This article is my intellectual property and redistribution is only acceptable as long as you give credit to Kyle Dunning. You also need to cite www.ewrestlingnews.com as the original source of publication. If you do not give credit I will contact you and ask to remove it. Failure to remove will lead me to take legal action against you and the website it was posted on. I am not willing to sell my work at this time.

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