In an era where wrestling fans are too inquisitive for their own good, it’s often hard to find things in the WWE that everyone will agree just works. One of which is the criteria we use to judge what a heel wrestler is in today’s PG Era.
The rapid expansion of the internet wrestling community (IWC) and the ever-growing popularity of dirt sheets has made it cool to support the traditional ‘bad guys’ of wrestling. Guys like Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, and Dolph Ziggler are all supposed to represent your current crop of cocky heels, but instead of being greeted with jeers, are instead finding a certain level of support from the audience.
The Wyatt Family has had only two vignettes air on WWE programming and already we’re seeing an outcry of support from the IWC, boasting their excitement about the new (assumed) heel group. While it’s one thing to mark praise for young, talented wrestlers, it’s another to treat them like a fan favorite when they’re supposed to be despised.
While it will forever be an uphill battle for the WWE to get the IWC to boo their internet darlings and cheer Vince’s prototype superstars (pun intended), there are things that the world’s number one wrestling promotion are doing right.
What do Ryback, Alberto Del Rio, and The Miz all have in common?
Well, nothing. That is, at least, until you dig a little beneath the surface.
When Ryback was first introduced and was pegged as the new version of John Cena, he saw overwhelming support from both fans and the IWC alike. While he most definitely had his flaws, they were often overlooked because fans were excited to see a new, fresh face enter the main event scene. The criticism about his wrestling ability and his mic work were dismissed…until he turned heel.
The moment he switched sides, there was an outcry of how Ryback is limited in the ring and how his mic work is bland and robotic. Suddenly, the very same people that were clamoring for a fresh face in the main event mix hated and criticized Ryback for his shortcomings.
Fans were booing Ryback. The “Goldberg” chants started up again and, if you listen close, you can hear fans changing “Boring” or “You Suck” every time Ryback gets on the microphone.
So tell me – who’s more over as a heel right now? Is it Dolph Ziggler, who has fans chanting his name during Big E Langston matches? Or is it Ryback, who people are genuinely getting angry over seeing in the main event?
Alberto Del Rio
Does anyone remember back about 6 months ago when you absolutely couldn’t stand seeing Alberto Del Rio on television? He had a quick rise to the top in the WWE and was immediately pushed to the forefront of the World Heavyweight Title scene. Del Rio had countless battles with Sheamus that we all continued to criticize as boring, predictable, and exhausting.
While Del Rio’s in-ring style and mic-work haven’t changed much since then, our opinion of him most certainly has. And why is that?
Vince McMahon force-fed us an overused gimmick we’ve seen a million times before with Del Rio’s debut. He catapulted Del Rio into the main event, a place we thought he got too fast, and used Del Rio’s language barrier to annoy us.
Say what you want about Del Rio’s mic work and his lack of “true heel antics” – but Vince knew what he was doing. Fans generally couldn’t stand seeing Del Rio on television. And, as a result, Sheamus became a bigger star every time he defeated Del Rio. Each match, we hoped and prayed would be the final match – the one where Sheamus would snatch the title from Del Rio and the Mexican Aristocrat could be buried down at the bottom of the roster.
So if the point of a heel is be UNLIKED by the fans – was Del Rio really all that bad at what he was doing?
Perhaps my favorite example of a perfect main event heel has got to be Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. The fact that The Miz waltzed into professional wrestling from the set of The Real World, with no independent wrestling background, drove the IWC absolutely nuts.
Coupled with his arrogant attitude, The Miz marched up the ranks of WWE in relatively short time to become one of the best heels we’ve seen in the past 5 years. Not only was he hated by fans, but he was hated by just about everybody in the locker room.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Vince McMahon decided to pit an obnoxious reality TV star against the WWE’s poster boy and have him win at Wrestlemania. Knowing how much people despised The Miz and how often he was criticized for being undeserving was McMahon’s skeleton key into creating a star.
And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but The Miz was far more over than Cesaro, Sandow, and Kidd are now… combined!
So is the WWE Really Doing That Bad?
We’re in a huge transition period for the state of professional wrestling. The internet has given fans the opportunity to see new wrestlers and new styles from around the world, with ease – things only a select group of fans had access to before.
The old rules about professional wrestling have all been broken.
But if you ask me, the WWE aren’t doing nearly as bad as we make them out to be. They’re still creating heels and personas that we really can’t stand to see on television. All the guys that we sit here and criticize – THOSE are today’s heels.
Guys like Ryback, The Miz, and Del Rio didn’t get to the top of the WWE because they were green and had no personality. They got there because they were the best of the current crop of superstars. The issue isn’t that the WWE is putting over the wrong people, but rather that WE, the internet wrestling community, try to out-smart the people responsible for building the product we love.
At the end of the day, there’s a reason Vince McMahon is still the CEO of the only credible wrestling organization left. And that’s because he keeps us bitching about guys we think are undeserving!
Agree? Disagree? Yell at me on Twitter at @suggafnshane.
About the author: Shane Skwarek is a Technology Consultant in the Tri-State area and a long time, avid wrestling fan. He’s a mark for cocky heels and subtle wrestling references, and holds a special place in his heart for the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart Iron Man Match at WrestleMania 12. You can follow Shane on Twitter at @suggafnshane.