WWE Analysis: Is the Fine Line Between Face and Heel Slowly Fading Away?

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

Is John Cena attacking CM Punk with a lead pipe for no reason morally right? (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Is John Cena attacking CM Punk with a lead pipe for no reason morally right? (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Since the early beginnings of pro wrestling, there have always been designated face and heel personas for each wrestler. The face is the one who is supposed to stand up for what's right, while the heel is typically someone who is either enamored with themselves and their abilities or just simply believes they're better than everyone else.

Usually, the fan favorite is cheered by crowds by pandering to them in most cases, while the hated heel does everything in his power to ensure that the audience despises him. While it may have been that simple back in the day, it's no longer as cut and dry in this day and age.

Of course, a prime example would have to be John Cena.

His signature motto is, "Hustle, Loyalty and Respect," which basically sends a good message to those who idolize him and gives a good sense of what he represents.

Despite that, Cena is widely known as one of the more controversial stars in the company today given the strong response he receives every time he makes his entrance. Whether it be a resounding chorus of cheers or boos, Cena never fails to electrify a crowd once he hits the ring.

While I may not be the biggest fan of his character, I undoubtedly respect him as a person and what he stands for. Sure, his overbearing positive attitude may be a bit much at times, but his "rise above hate" slogan is one of the few things I admire about his character.

However, his actions this past week on Raw completely conflicted with any of his prior statements. If you recall, Cena struck CM Punk with a lead pipe at the conclusion of their verbal exchange when Punk hardly did anything to antagonize the attack.

Sure, Punk was running his mouth quite a bit to Cena on Raw, but why resort to violence? Punk hadn't laid one finger on Cena before the Cenation leader whipped out the foreign object, so that alone didn't make much sense to me.

Cena wasn't the only one to go against what he normally stands for on Monday night, as Sheamus delivered a brutal Brogue Kick to David Otunga after their tag team match had already ended.

Why would Sheamus, a guy who is seen as one of the poster children of the anti-bullying Be a Star campaign, continue to assault Otunga even if Otunga did nothing to warrant the beating he received?

Live audiences will cheer almost anything their beloved hero does inside the ring as long as it's against someone they despise, but on what grounds? Pro wrestling fans love violence and enjoy watching wrestlers inflict pain on others, but is it morally right when it's the supposable fan favorite who is being hypocritical?

This article is not meant to bash WWE's take on the Be a Star campaign but rather to analyze the morals and minds of WWE Superstars to see if they're truly morally justified. A Contemporary Issues class I'm taking at the moment gave me a new understanding of the human mind and how it works, so I thought it was only appropriate to relate it to wrestling by discovering if the fine line between a face and heel is still as apparent as it once was.

Not only are some faces showing heel tendencies, but there are also a handful of heels who are switching roles on a consistent basis as well.

Daniel Bryan and Kane would be the definitions of tweeners; they don't play to the crowd but tend to receive a mixed reaction depending on who they're facing.

CM Punk has shown many shades of gray throughout his career, but his most recent heel turn has been the most compelling. It was uncertain back in July if Punk was a true heel or not after attacking The Rock at Raw 1000, but it wasn't until a month later that he ambushed the likes of John Cena and Jerry Lawler to solidify his villainous turn.

Despite having his foot on the rope, Punk lost to Cena in a tag team match last week on Raw due to the referee's incompetence. If WWE is so desperate to turn Punk into one of the company's most maniacal men, then why are they giving him legitimate reasons to complain?

Often times, heels will make a load of sense during their promos if you pay close attention, so does that mean the crowd will boo them just because they're heel? Probably, but it's more so the way they get their logical point across through arrogance and such that makes it sound worse than it actually is.

Although he refers to himself as WWE's resident #HEEL, what does Dolph Ziggler do that really makes him a villain? I realize he tends to show off at times (hence the nickname), but not as much anymore, and he isn't given enough mic time to really rip into any of his opponents.

When you take away Vickie Guerrero from Ziggler's act, I can pretty much guarantee that he'll be considered a face. Fans have come to appreciate his amazing athletic abilities inside the ring, so a face turn for Ziggler is imminent once he finally drops Vickie.

Randy Orton, who has changed little about himself since turning face two years ago, continues to exhibit villainous behavior by delivering RKOs on commentating tables and punting others in the skull and having fun while doing it.

Honestly, members of the WWE Universe couldn't care less if Orton's actions are justified or not, as they just enjoy watching others endure pain. While the only difference between the Viper from a few years ago and now is the fact that he's massively over, he's more boring ever than ever in his current role.

Hopefully he reverts back to being a full-fledged heel at some point in the very near future.

Human nature is a biologically inherited trait that changes over time through experience and environment, something can be perfectly related to the world of wrestling as far as face and heel turns go. However, the shades of gray in many of WWE Superstars today make it much more difficult to decipher whether they're a full-blown face or heel.

Personally, I enjoy what WWE is doing with this tactic, as it allows the WWE Universe to cheer and boo who they please and not feel obligated to root or heckle one wrestler just because they happen to be a fan favorite or hated heel.

Furthermore, it adds more mystique to each character in the sense that you're unsure what their motives are since their status as a heel or face is undefined. Some may argue that it's bad for business, but I think it makes that certain individual much more interesting and intriguing in the eyes of fans.

Almost every face/heel turn these days is foreshadowed weeks in advance, because if it's not, there's no logical reasoning to back it up. The days of cheating to win matches and expecting to garner heat while doing it are long gone, because I'm sure there will forever be that group of fans (the IWC specifically) who will continue to cheer their favorite heel regardless of what dirty deed they pull.

I like cheering Christian, but how does his current character differ from his recent run as a heel? The fact that he's no longer begging for his deserved rematch for the World Heavyweight Championship, a gesture that hardly make him heel to begin with?

Big Show squashed David Otunga last month on Raw before taking a brief hiatus from WWE and received a few cheers while doing so. Does that make him a fan favorite again since he's targeting a figure that most people despise?

The answers to these inquisitive questions are limitless, as there are endless ways to interpret them. As I previously stated, the uncertainty in wrestlers' motives today might make it harder to really know whether they're face or heel, but you'll still cheer or boo them regardless depending how much you love or hate them.

If the status of a wrestler depended solely on their crowd reaction, then most wrestlers would be tweeners, as every wrestler has their fair share of nay-sayers or supporters. It's amazing to think how much the wrestling industry has evolved over the years, and this is only the latest example.

Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and make sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on if wrestlers are still clearly classified as heels and faces or if that fine line has gradually faded away over time. As always, your criticism and overall feedback on my latest piece is welcomed and greatly appreciated.

GSM out.


Visit my website at Next Era Wrestling, and listen to my SAVE US GSM radio show every Wednesday night at 10/9c for more of my thoughts and writings,along with WWE/TNA news, reviews, recaps and more.

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