WWE: The Next Great Heel Faction?
While there isn't much the WWE has given its fans to be excited about of late, outside of the returns of legendary performers such as Kane and Y2J, one thing cannot be denied:
The WWE is finally getting good at identifying and pushing the proper young talents. We've seen men like Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes take great strides of late when it comes to getting noticed and getting pushed.
Wade Barrett recently came out on top (for now) in a feud with the nearly indefatigable Randy Orton. Dolph Ziggler, even though a tainted victory, still surprised many by defeating CM Punk in only the second portion of his gauntlet match (something that rarely happens) .
Cody Rhodes came out as the clear victor of the Booker T/Cody Rhodes feud, and then topped it off with a fantastic backstage promo with his brother Dustin that really highlighted just how far the already-promising superstar has come on the mic.
(Quote me: "Cody Rhodes is the future." I've said it from the moment he debuted.)
There's one problem with this, however: All of the talents that are stepping up and standing out, right now, are heels.
Even when one considers Daniel Bryan's heel turn, (Which if you ever watched him as a heel in the indies, you know is going to be fantastic, despite initial concerns some fans may have), Mark Henry's shocking improvement since being made a true main eventer and given the title, and even Hunico's repeated excellent performances in the ring, all the guys standing out are heels.
And if there is one sure way to make a show boring, it's to have a heel-heavy program, where not many people have anything to do beyond wrestling typical matches.
Fortunately, The Royal Rumble is just around the corner. As such, everyone has something to do for the time being.
But, what about beyond the Royal Rumble?
I'm sure WWE "Creative" has stellar plans for each of these fine talents that are distinguishing themselves, for beyond the Rumble. Something along the lines of: "Wrestle match. Cut promo about how good he is. Attack random face. Wrestle match. Repeat."
But now would be a great time to go beyond the usual, cyclical, mundane, unchanging, repetitive, never-ending, eternal program and truly switch things up.
With so many heels running around, what better move to make than to form the next great heel stable? There hasn't been a great stable in the WWE since the days of Evolution. Nexus possibly could have become one, but "Creative" had other plans (Like burying them for no reason).
Now, I've already gone in depth a few times in previous articles about the benefits of an organized and elite faction or two in a pro-wrestling promotion. (Instant storyline, makes top stars look powerful, gives mid-carders more attention, gives feuds more flavor, allow faces to step up and become heroes, etc...) So, I won't go over that in detail.
But, I would like to take a look at some of the men who could possibly form a group of elite and near-elite heels that could join forces to shake up things in the WWE and give faces something better to do than spend their time saving Hornswoggle or turning heel themselves.
Recent reports at a house show in Tyler, Texas, revealed that Chris Jericho attacked David Otunga after receiving orders from him, via John Laurinaitis, to remove his flashing coat, as it could cause seizures. (I'm sure it was every bit as funny as it sounds.)
This would indicate that perhaps Y2J will turn out to be a face, but because it happened off of television, it probably has little bearing on how his televised character will play out. Jericho will probably still be a heel, because he's just far better at it than being a face.
In addition to this, Jericho trolled the crowd like a pro upon debuting. He did it so well, that some people are still upset about it, not even understanding that they are being trolled by him.
It is masterful strokes of mind-manipulation like that, that make Y2J one of the premier heels of the era and an obvious choice to lead any faction that would come about, should the WWE actually ever decide to change the landscape of the company. Ever.
Jericho would bring instant credibility to any heel faction he would be a part of.
As a top-flight and versatile main-eventer, anything that he does is going to garner instant attention and interest from the WWE fans. (Whoops, I almost said "universe." Will never happen. #StupidTerm.)
The attention and credibility that Jericho garners will help to benefit other heels in the unit that could use more credibility with the fans.
However, with so many top-flight heels, I don't believe Jericho should be the sole leader of a faction. There is one other man with whom he could and should share leadership duties with...
They call him a natural-born leader, because he is one.
And were it not for his mortal enemy, WWE "Creative," Wade Barrett would probably be a multi-time WWE or World Champion, while the Nexus angle was probably reaching it's final wind-down stage. (Large angles like the Nexus should probably die out after two to three years, in my opinion.)
Alas, he was bested by his undefeated foe: WWE ineptitude, and tumbled in standing and stature down into mid-card purgatory for a while. (Which still isn't as bad as being a member of The Corre.)
Fortunately, Wade's innate ability to stand out and be a cut above the rest, ensured that once the uber-rare event of the WWE handling a young career correctly, finally happened to him, he could still grab a hold of the fans' interest and climb back to relevancy. Wade Barrett is, literally, almost too good for the WWE to mess up.
By pairing Jericho and Barrett together, you already a have a backstory and a bond that makes sense, due to Jericho being Wade's pro back on that show that used to be good, until the WWE decided to ruin it. What was it again? "NAX?", "NUEVO?", "Make it a win?" Whatever it doesn't matter, it'll be dead in a year.
Many fans thought that Jericho would join up with Nexus and lend it some credibility, but that never materialized. Because adding a legendary champion to the group to shock the wrestling world wasn't nearly as good an idea as just having him get beat down by them and becoming a mostly pointless tweener in a doomed storyline. (Three cheers for "Creative"!)
But, that's all in the past. Maybe this time, the WWE can do it right (ha ha ha) and join these two guys who worked well off of each other during the first season of NXE.
The WWE is still pretty much a binary organization, in spite of the end of the Brand Extension. By having a WWE and World Champion, that can ensure that a group with two leaders like Y2J and Barrett, never have to fight and implode the group in order to be a top champion.
Jericho can hold the WWE title and Barrett can hold the World Title. Though, that would be something down the line, as I think it would behoove the WWE to continue to invest in the reigns of Punk and Bryan. (Which means neither one will probably be champion after WrestleMania.)
However, Jericho and Barrett as a leadership duo of a heel faction would ensure that, that faction would be taken very seriously. Not to mention the promos would be a dynamic thing of heat-garnering beauty.
No stranger to factions himself, Cody Rhodes would make a terrific addition to a heel stable.
He isn't quite at a point where he could be taken seriously as a leader, but definitely he would fit the role of a competent right-hand man to Barrett and Jericho. Almost in the same way that Randy Orton was to Triple H in Evolution.
Now, one might say that it's the exact same role he played in The Legacy. However, that wasn't so much a faction as it was mainly a tag-team doing whatever it could to help Randy Orton achieve his goals.
There is a difference between being a lackey for a main-eventer and being a respected member of an actual faction.
Vincent was a lackey in the NWO. Randy Savage was a respected member.
Cody has made such wonderful strides, first being helped by his mask gimmick, then being helped by leaving it behind. The semi-psychotic, insanely vain persona he developed with the mask, has turned him into a far more distinctive heel now that he's removed it and toned the psychosis down.
His promos have improved, his personality has become more defined, and even his physical mannerisms have become more clearly distinct when on camera. Cody has definitely mastered the kind of character he is supposed to be and it shows.
(Now, excuse me as I segue into a separate issue. Cody is the Intercontinental Champion and is bent on bringing prestige to the title. If that is to be the case, he needs to become the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in WWF/E history. He needs to defend it repeatedly and it needs to be the coveted by major players in the WWE like Sheamus, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton. And Cody needs to win. Many times, clean. That will bring prestige back to the title and Rhodes.)
Now, back to the main point. Rhodes entering this group as a member will not only help the group, but also benefit Rhodes.
It is important for main-event guys like Jericho and Barrett to give real shine to a man like Rhodes, who isn't quite at their level, yet. And by "real shine", I mean treating him as a valued and respected member of the group, and respecting what he brings to the table. Not feeding him to John Cena on a whim and then punting him in the head if he loses.
That does nothing for a young career and that's why Cody got very little benefit from having Legacy on his resume. (Even Ted DiBiase, who everyone tapped to be a future star, is now a low-level jobber, who just got beat by Hunico.)
Being in a stable enhances your career when done correctly, like it did for Batista and Orton. They were respected until the end of their runs with HHH and Flair.
Treating Rhodes right in this group, which is almost to be demanded by the kind of character he has become, will be beneficial for all parties involved.
It would give a heel faction additional heat (because Rhodes knows how to generate that on his own), additional firepower by adding a champion to the mix, and help Rhodes to further his quest to be a top-flight heel in the WWE.
Please, WWE, I don't ask you for much. And you sure as heck don't give me much, anymore. But please, just hear the desperate cries of a lone Pro-Wrestling fan in the wilderness and have mercy...
Do NOT, do NOT, debut Skip Sheffield as "Ryback" on national television.
Please. I'll do anything you say.
Anyone who knows me knows, I love Skip Sheffield. I honestly believe that if handled correctly, he can be a far bigger star than guys like Batista and Brock Lesnar ever were.
He has so much potential in the ring and on the microphone. The man is a beast, who I believe could be a top 40 greatest of all time at the end of his career. I feel he could be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. I haven't felt this strongly about the prospects of a wrestler since the first time I saw Rocky Maivia.
I even saw the potential in the robotic Randy Orton as a rookie, and I'm telling you, Skip Sheffield can surpass him. I can see Wade and Skip being the defining stars of the next 15 years, as foes and allies at the top of the card.
But not if you stick him in gimmicks like "Ryback: The Futuristic Terminator-Like Robot from the Future."
I know he didn't get a lot of time to show what he could do before he went down to injury in the Nexus, but believe me, he's so much better than that.
The time you are wasting with Mason Ryan, could be perfectly applied to someone like Skip, who has the size of Mason, but is far superior in the ring, and eons better than him on the mic.
His entire aura screams: "I'll rip the head off the Undertaker and shove it down Mark Henry's throat."
Don't ruin him. I'm actually begging you! I'll even apologize for bashing you so much if you do me this one favor.
He survived the "Cornfed Meathead" gimmick on NZT, mainly because no one watches NEST and saw that. Don't try to kill him twice. Just leave him alone. If there is any man in the WWE who doesn't need any gimmick beyond: "Mean". It's Skip. Less is more, here.
To the point of the article, a man like Skip would be perfect for an elite heel faction. Every faction needs to have that one muscle-bound enforcer that you can send in and maul someone who's becoming a nuisance. Skip is that man.
But the best groups always have enforcers that are more than just dumb muscle. Think Batista in Evolution. He was also cool and had swagger about him.
The Big Show in the NWO, he has tons of personality and can talk on the mic. On a smaller scale, Arn Anderson of the Four Horsemen. Not as big as the others, but probably the most underrated mic worker in WCW/NWA history.
Skip has that extra ability. He can talk on the mic very well and he can go in the ring. He's not a Kurt Angle by any means, but he's far better than the usual muscle-bound freaks the WWE parades out with little skill. (See: Jackson, Ezekiel)
Skip would be a superior enforcer for a superior group. And with his background with Wade in Nexus and from NEET, the bond is already set and makes sense.
I thought that when Dolph and Vickie allowed Swagger to join the fold, it meant that the three of them would begin to form the nucleus of an upper mid-card heel stable. There was a lot of talk about how great managers had a plethora of athletes they represented and not just a single star.
The idea was floated about who Vickie should acquire next for her fold.
It seemed as though Ziggler (an almost World Champion) and Swagger (A former World Champion) would form a team that would help Air Boom ignite the Tag Team Division and give young talent something to rally around storyline wise.
But, AHA, the "Creative" Team strikes again! And instead, we watched as Dolph and Swagger went in circles, losing to everyone in tights, (seriously, if they picked a fight with security, I think security would've been booked to win) and no one was added to Vickie's stable.
(By the way, we're still waiting for that Tag Team Division to "Heat Up," J.R.)
In typical WWE fashion, all the promise that moment in time had, just disappeared like it was an anonymous Raw General Manager. (No, WWE, I will never let it go.)
Fortunately, Dolph has crafted himself into a talent that is too good to ignore. He is quite possibly, the hardest working man in the WWE, outside of John Cena.
Because the WWE has tried everything they can to kill his career, from making him a male cheerleader, to a caddie, to naming him Dolph Ziggler, and still, he rises beyond their idiocy.
By continuing to improve on his already impressive abilities in the ring, and making drastic strides in his promos (his rapid-fire bragging binges on the mic are superb.), he has put himself in a position where he was allowed to defeat CM Punk and earn a shot at the WWE title.
And while I give him little chance to actually win it, the fact that he has returned to the point where he can even compete for a top prize in the company is impressive.
Adding Dolph to a heel group would add strength to the group and help to keep Dolph relevant after CM Punk puts him down in their short feud and probably prepares for Jericho at WrestleMania.
However, Dolph wouldn't be coming alone...
Nobody, and I mean nobody, could benefit from being hidden inside of a faction better than Jack Swagger. If for no other reason than the "Creative" team would have to book segments for the entire group.
And that segment would probably save Swagger from having to perform in a segment alone, where he would, once again, be ruthlessly buried.
I don't know what they have against Jack Swagger. (Maybe he told Vince that Randy Savage was his favorite wrestler? I don't know.) It's almost as if they are upset at themselves for not being smart enough to realize they shouldn't have pushed him to a World Title so soon, and are now taking it out on him. Non-stop.
His next stop on the road to Oblivion is Zack Ryder. I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually a squash match in favor of Ryder at this point.
Swagger, in my opinion, is not World or WWE championship material. He's big, he can wrestle, and he has some personality, but his promo style isn't very good due to his pronounced lisp, and he just doesn't have that "it-factor" to me.
Nevertheless, he deserves better than to be on the bottom of the heap. He is at least serviceable at the mid-card level as a tag-team or United States Champion.
But, I think it would be in the tag-division where he and Dolph, together, could best serve a heel faction. Every great faction has had two men dedicated to owning the Tag Team division. And with Dolph and Ziggler, this heel faction would have great representation in a horribly depleted field.
Both are fantastic wrestlers and are a natural fit as a tag team, in my opinion. That the WWE continuously booked Dolph and Swags to be at each other's throats, when both complement each other so well, only speaks to their inability to book 84% of their product correctly.
Putting aside their differences, which really, aren't even differences at all, and truly working together as a team, they could become tag-team specialists and something the WWE could build around if they do it right (ha ha ha).
To round out the group, is of course, the elite Diva of the WWE, Vickie Guerrero.
Yes, I said she is the elite Diva of the WWE.
Take a look at the picture. Do you see her left hand? No, her other left. Now, do you see how her thumb is kind of behind her hip so that it doesn't show in the picture?
Okay, now, there is more heat-getting ability in that thumb than in the entire Divas division.
But...still I'm going to say more.
Vickie would just be an automatic addition to any heel group that picked up Dolph and Swagger. However, she would be one insanely beneficial add-on.
No matter who she is with, with the exception of Eric Escobar, she is able to make people hate them as much as they hate her.
Any member of a heel group who might be lagging behind in heat with the crowd, can simply come out with her for a while and have it enhanced.
While she would mostly stay with Dolph and Swagger inside of a group as their manager, she could go on loan to anyone from Skip to Rhodes. (Though I doubt Jericho and Wade would ever need her.)
Do you remember how unbearable she was as the General Manager/Official Advisor of Smackdown when she had power?
Imagine how uncontrollable she would become knowing she had a group of men, like the ones in this list, backing her up? How unbelievable a heel would she become if that group, for a short time, held all the gold? People might go back to throwing stuff in the ring again.
The best description I could give for what she would mean for a heel group, in a non-wrestling capacity, is probably one of the most hated and detested men of all time: Eric Bischoff.
I would put a group like this together just for the benefit of seeing what it does to Vickie Guerrero's character and how much I could get the crowd to hate her before they actually rioted.
Now, the WWE probably isn't going to put any of these people together in a group.
Because it would be interesting.
Because seeing Jericho and Barrett lead a group of upper-crust heels to domination of the WWE would be entertaining.
Because it would give guys like Justin Gabriel, CM Punk and Sheamus, a reason to fight a serious battle.
And quite frankly, because you might actually like it.
And they don't want that.
Because they hate you.
Now enjoy John Cena and shut up.