I Learned It From Watching You…

by Jacob Godwin

Wrestling,at its heart, is a story of the battle of good and evil. Any common fan today is aware of the terms “babyface” (or face) used to describe the good guy and “heel” used to describe the bad guy. If you follow wrestling at all these day it’s clear the heel has risen. In just about any match the heels get as much cheers as the faces these days. #Heel is a popular twitter trend. Wrestling fansites sell heel merchandise. Which leads one to question are the heels still heels? Once the fans start cheering the heels aren’t they now the face?
So why do we cheer them? ( I’m using the collective we here, because most of the guys I root for are the heels.) Has society changed to the point that we want the bad guy to prevail? Is morality in today’s society not as black and white and instead a sloshy coloring of grey? That may have something to do with it. However I think the factor that has spurred the heel epidemic the most is that in the cases that the heel is cheered it is done so at the expense in a face that has out worn their welcome, someone who is so bland the crowd can’t get behind, or someone who is not really being a face at all.

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Arguably WWE’s most popular act right now, the “heel” faction of Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns.

Now you may not have noticed but the content makers of the industry are not happy with the heel trend. CM Punk was quoted during his Undertaker feud as saying, “If you’re rooting for me, then you’re not getting it.” Dolph Ziggler has said the same thing. Yet, there was Internet outrage when The Undertaker pinned Punk, and glorious celebration when Ziggler won the World Championship the next night. The Shield are three young upstarts who have decided that there are a lot of injustices in the WWE, and they have decided to wipe the WWE of those injustices. Yet, as soon as their music hits everyone marks out. I’m sure this doesn’t make Vince McMahon happy? (Perhaps that’s why we do it.) So Vince, why do we root for the heel?

Because Vince, we learned from watching you. We learned… from watching you (cue after school anti drug segment)

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The now-famous ‘Attitude Era’ speech

Vince McMahon has on more than one occasion changed the face of professional wrestling. In the mid 90s, he did so again when he introduced the attitude era. Vince did interviews explaining that the days of getting behind heroes that told us to eat our vitamins and say our prayers are over. Vince introduced the attitude era as the age of the anti hero. The attitude era would go on to be create legends such as The Rock, HHH, and of course “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin was the attitude era. Austin broke all the rules, he flipped off and cursed out his opponents, he harassed and embarrassed his boss on a weekly basis. If you did one of Austin Antics at work you would be fired, and Austin was the top face. He was the anti hero that led to The Rock and HHH getting cheers as one talked about eating pie and the other pulled pranks such as drugging the boss’s daughter and marrying her in Vegas.

Steve Austin was made in his feud with Bret Hart. Bret Hart was an old school face who exemplified honor, respect, and excellence. Bret Hart quickly found himself on the heel side of life, and was a damn good heel. Hart ridiculed the fans nightly for turning on him. He said that morality was dead, and the crowd was filth. The excellence of execution became the personification of heel. After he made his exit, that top heel spot was replaced by none other than Vince McMahon himself, the evil millionaire boss, everyone loved to hate.

I’m not here to advocate that the attitude era come back. That’s the last thing I would want. However it was this era that blurred the line between good and evil. The good guys did not walk the straight and narrow path. They had personality. They were entertaining. They were the highlights of the show. This personality is not often found in the faces of today.
Today’s faces are mostly one dimensional. Let’s examine their upper card faces:

The top face, John Cena gets just as many boos as he does cheers. Cena has personality, but it went stale a long time ago.
The Miz is probably the next face with the most personality, which his former heel character unchanged, and unsurprisingly, most people still hate him.
Sheamus is a bully. I’ve never seen him be anything but. He’s not funny, just mean. The good guy doesn’t do sucker punches. He should be above that.
Randy Orton’s gimmick must be the most bored professional wrestler in the world. He shows no personality,no cares, Randy Orton has no fucks to give.

Alberto Del Rio does not have a large enough fan base to continue to be talked about.

Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho are the faces who are doing something right. Daniel Bryan is entertaining in ring and out. He has found his character. He is near flawless in his ring work. He blends his personality throughout.

Does this sound like something you want to invest your time in? What if I told you there were other guys in WWE that were like Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho?
There’s this guy who started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. He gives everything in the ring. He’s a snarky, smart ass who scoffs at authority and doesn’t take much from anyone. He would fight God, if God would accept the challenge. He calls himself The best in the world, and he believes it every moment, every day.

There’s a man who is a premier athlete, who gives everything week in and out, when he goes out to ring he’s going to show the world and he is The show off, Dolph Ziggler

ImageThere is this other guy who is an immigrant. He came to America to compete with the best, to prove he is the best. He is a modern day renaissance man. He speaks five languages, and has traveled the world. He is an amazing athlete who loves America, however Americans upset him a little. He is the international superstar, Antonio Cesaro

There are three young guys who are looking to make their way to the top. However, on their way there they have stumbled across some injustices. There are wrongs they feel they need to right. There are problems they need to fix. They are the hounds of justice, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns- The Shield

These guys are something you can get behind, each have different personalities that you can relate to or want to relate to. This is the basis of what a fan base is about. Having talent or the look can only get you so far. The personality is how stars are built and what fans rally on. The faces I mentioned above all at one point or another showed personality. People swarmed behind them, but over time they’ve became complacent (and in some cases obviously annoyed) with their spot. There’s an argument to be had if the heels we cheer are heels at all. We aren’t cheering heels because we want the bad guy to win. We want the more entertaining guy to win. We’ve gotten behind newer, talent who are hungrier, who have more desire fueling them, who have passion versus the guys who have been content in their spots for years, gone bland, and most times are just not like-able.

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