"The end of the world as you know it..."
You know where this paragraph is headed. One of the most anticipated returns to the WWE, hyped by months of video packages, with fans speculating who this mystery superstar—and the "she" that was mentioned, but that is another story—would be. The lights went off and out came Chris Jericho.
And, despite the huge ovation he received, he quickly turned heel. He was the second-to-last man standing in the Royal Rumble. Then, it all went downhill. Despite many opportunities to "reclaim what was rightfully his," his run wasn't much different from Heath Slater's—albeit with a much higher quality of matches.
Tensai. A WWE superstar who had gone to Japan to hone his skills and dominated the competition there. Physically dominating, with a very intimidating presence. He came back and manhandled superstars, throwing them around like rag dolls. But, after being overcome by the resident "Superman," he too has been on a losing streak, jobbing to everyone including Tyson Kidd (Nothing against Tyson, but he isn't the best booked superstar in the roster.)
Kane. A return to the mask. Something that was highly anticipated by the WWE Universe—especially those that were around to see his first run. He came back and made John Cena feel the fire that still burned. He would make Cena embrace the hate. Or so we thought.
However, Cena was only in a temporary feud with the "Big Red Monster." As soon as it became time to focus on his WrestleMania opponent, he overcame the fire and the hate. And Kane targeted Randy Orton—possibly as a substitute for the injured Wade Barrett.
To sum things up, Kane has been an easy target for everyone except Zack Ryder—although Ryder did defeat him in the battle royal to bring us ZackDown.
I am sure you know this trend. Heel superstars are promoted like crazy and given powerful video packages. Then, they debut/return to action. And, the weeks of promos and vignettes fall flat, making us wonder why we expected great things in the first place.
Perhaps it is WWE's newest strategy. Since they are bound by the laws of PG television and the fact that they have their anti-bullying campaign, they cannot make the heels do really "evil" things. So, all the hype for the heels is built up before they actually arrive.
While this severely affects the longevity of the character—both Kane and Jericho are seemingly turning face, because there isn't much else to do—it does give the WWE an ability to do similar vignettes/promos with other injured/absent stars who will have another heel run along the same lines.
Of course, there are the resident heels—The Miz and Alberto Del Rio come to mind—but these guys are usually represented as cowardly heels who can win nothing if they don't cheat. While being willing to cheat is a trademark heel trait, overdoing it can make the character seem pathetic. And Del Rio has been pathetic lately.
There are only so many missed opportunities one superstar should be allowed before he is moved to another feud or repackaged. Even Daniel Bryan—who was having a glorious run until WrestleMania, has slowly been turned into this archetype and might possibly be jobbing to a non-wrestler at SummerSlam.
While The Miz has recently made a strong return to the WWE, one wonders whether this is only to hype his new WWE-produced movie. Whether he will still be booked strongly after two months or return to his previous—almost crybabyish—persona is something that we have to wait and see.
(On the subject of crybabies, recall the stark difference between the babyface Miz won the Intercontinental title from and the heel persona the same person had a few months back.)
I'm not saying strong heels don't exist anymore—Mark Henry was spectacular in the role last year. But, apart from that, one usually sees only cowardly heels, in stark contrast to the top babyfaces—Cena, CM Punk (before RAW 1000), Randy Orton and Sheamus—each of whom has been booked as unstoppable.
Yes, CM Punk has turned heel—or so we are led to assume. But, will he be the same tough-speaking, technical-wrestling and competitive person he was before the turn? Or will he—like many fans suggest—lose half his wrestling ability, two-thirds of his mic-skills and 90 percent of his bravado and become another of the heels that are just there to be overcome by the babyfaces?
This seems to be the current theme of the WWE; making babyface champions at any cost necessary. Look at the World Heavyweight Championship since Mark Henry. Big Show was a babyface when he won it. As was Daniel Bryan. And Sheamus.
I wouldn't be surprised if Sheamus turned heel before dropping the title to a newly-turned babyface in Dolph Ziggler (unless Ziggler drops his briefcase to the newly-turned Chris Jericho before that happens).
This is not limited to the main event. Even Santino Marella—who should not be champion with his current gimmick any longer—is showing some signs of turning (his argument with the referee in his match with Antonio Cesaro—"I do not know this rule," seriously?) which leads me to assume we will—thankfully—see him drop his United States Championship soon.
Gone are the days of Cerebral Assassins and Wrestling Gods being evil but powerful rulers of their lands. Gone are the days of angry young men mercilessly punting their opponents' heads.
Gone are the days of Ultimate Opportunists spearing the living daylights out of their opponents. While all of them did cheat in their matches and feuds, they still were booked to be credible against any opponent.
But, there is hope. With Big Show competing for the WWE title and Brock Lesnar set to take on Triple H, there is the chance that we will see a strong heel again.
Also, there is the strong possibility that Wade Barrett will come back without losing either his strong presence, exceptional mic skills and dark charisma and take his rightful place as the top heel of the company.
Until then, the Super-heel is merely something out of the history books.