The Breakdown: Which Heel Structured This Era?
In wrestling, the struggle is an age-old one; the battle for supremacy between Good and Evil. In the world of professional wrestling, the faces of Good, and Evil change depending on the social climate of the country, or even the world around them, as well as the targeted demographic.
In the 80's, we had Hulk Hogan, a proud patriot, who was a role model for children, instructing them to take their milk, and drink their vitamins.
At the time, the U.S. was in the midst of, and coming out of the Cold War, and tensions were running thick between the States and the Middle East as well.
In the 90's, the world was at relative peace with itself. Thus, people were left to their own devices, and decided what they wanted to see.
WCW was running rampant, and as such, the WWE was forced to create an edgy product to compete with WCW, and they needed an edgy character to usher in this new product.
Stone Cold Steve Austin stepped to the forefront with his attitude, his beer swilling promos, and his kick your ass promos.
Wrestling was dominated by things that kept the fan engaged, and as such, Steve Austin appealed to the short attention spans of the fans with his edge-of-your-seat, I'll do anything at any time demeanor.
Now, at war with terror, John Cena steps to the forefront. The States are involved in a Global War on Terror last I checked, as well as the demographic having changed once again to children. Thus, John Cena's character becomes that of a mock-Marine, who never backs down in the face of an overwhelming adversary.
However, without the villains of the Pro Wrestling industry, the Heroes could never truly flourish. The late 90's had the rise of the Cool Heel, however this was somewhat detrimental to the business, and it was not until Triple H stepped up to become the top heel of the industry that we saw a return to the trend, which inevitably helps the babyface to become even more over.
The top babyfaces would be nearly incapable of getting over without the great villain to put nearly impassable obstacles in their path.
Would Hogan have been as big a draw without Shiek and Andre to push him along? Maybe, but we'll never know, as he had them.
Would Austin have flourished without Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels to push him along? Maybe, but we'll never know, as he had them.
In the most recent wrestling product, we have been presented with several heels, none of whom seem to be a clear-cut choice.
There are several heels who have stood out over the years; men such as Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, and Edge have all been amongst the top heels in the industry over the past few years.
The top heel of this Era can be found, however, through objective thinking, and through gimmick analysis.
First, we look at the Apex Predator of the WWE, Randy Orton. Randy Orton's prolonged rise to the main event began at No Mercy of 2007, where he captured the WWE Championship after a Last Man Standing match with a battle-worn Triple H.
He then proceeded to hold the championship for an impressive length of seven months; definitely a lengthy title reign by today's standards. He turned away, and feuded with the likes of John Cena, Triple H, and then-rising star Jeff Hardy.
During this Era of wrestling, John Cena is without a doubt The Babyface, and Orton's feud with Cena is likely the most recent in anyone's minds.
He has feuded with him over the past several years, in the Summer of 2007, again for a brief period in early 2008, and then again, and possibly most notably from summer, through the fall of 2009.
Randy Orton has committed some vile acts toward Cena, including slapping his father, and legitimately tearing his pectoral muscle on the episode of Raw just prior to No Mercy of 2007.
Randy's most noteable feud, however, was not with John Cena, but with Triple H leading into Wrestlemania 25. Randy Orton's feud with the McMahons was a thing of beauty, with nearly perfect execution, with the the only potential downfall being the booking of the match.
However, while Randy Orton has been an incredible heel over the past several years, he is not the man that has led this era's breed of heels.
He has played an important part, and on Raw, for a lengthy period of time, he was without a doubt the top drawing heel. However, he was not this generation's heel.
Next, we'll take a look at Chris Jericho. Chris Jericho's most noteworthy feud was not for the World Championship until its absolute peak.
His partner was Shawn Michaels, and together they stringed along an epic tale of potential career-threatening injuries, vicious beatings, an attack on a man's spouse, and more vicious beatings.
However, aside that feud, Jericho's only other truly noteworthy feud prior to 2010 was with Rey Mysterio.
The feud was driven by a number of things, and made the Intercontinental title look truly prestigious for the first time in quite some time, as main event caliber talent put incredible emotion, and great matches together all for said title.
However, Jericho's appearances in the main event have been sporadic at best. He has been amongst the WWE's greatest heels in recent memory, but the man himself does not define this generation of heels, either.
The man who does define this era best said it himself; this is an Era that is Rated R.
The reason why Edge, from 2007 to 2009 was the best heel in the company was simple; he was structured to be that way from the inception of his Rated R, and Ultimate Opportunist gimmicks.
The top babyface in the company at the time was John Cena, and even still is. The core values of John Cena's character are simple; never back down, never quit; hard work, determination; regret nothing, fear less; etc. etc. John Cena's character's position in the WWE's infrastructure is, in fact, likely amongst the main factors in the company turning PG.
Edge is the Rated R Superstar; his gimmick alone makes him the complete anti to the WWE in that his rating is obviously four ratings higher than WWE allows. He is crude, lewd, tattooed, and advocates sex and violence.
Definitely not an image you want to be sending kids, and definitely something that John Cena can stand against.
Further, the gimmick of being the Ultimate Opportunist is, without a doubt, something that goes completely against the character of John Cena's morals.
Edge is a man who has done whatever it takes to win, be it cheap, underhanded, dirty, or any combination of factors, just so long as he gets the win.
John Cena's character seems to, without directly saying it, advocate for hard work, and earning what it is that you get.
Thus, his and Edge's style of work are completely at odds with one another, and thus, Edge is structured to be the Kryptonite to John Cena's Superman.
Edge's feud with John Cena is more noteworthy than either of the other men, as is his remaining feud of note. Edge's feud with John Cena began with taking the belt off Cena for the first time, after a 310-day reign as champion, after he had endured a grueling Elimination Chamber match.
From then on, the tone of the rivalry was set, with Edge taking advantage of whatever he could to regain, or retain his title against one John Cena.
Edge lost the title shortly thereafter, and it took another year and a half to resume their feud, but resume it did, when Edge took the title off RVD prior to Summerslam 2006.
Edge and Cena then locked horns, and warred for the title at Summerslam, and into Unforgiven, where Cena dropped the belt in a tremendous TLC match.
Edge would then fall out of the title picture for some time when he formed Rated RKO with Randy Orton, and would not return to prominence until ceasing the opportunity of Mr. Kennedy's injury to regain his Money in the Bank opportunity.
This planted the seeds for Edge's remaining rivalry, when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase for a second time. This time, however, he cashed in vs. the top man on Smackdown; the Undertaker.
Edge's feud with the Undertaker was something beautiful, resuming at Survivor Series after both men had returned from injury, then broke off, only to resume at Wrestlemania, where Edge became the 16th victim of the streak.
The feud persisted into a TLC match, where Edge banished the Undertaker, who was the second largest draw in the WWE at that point, from the WWE.
The feud then resumed in the Hell in a Cell match that sets the standard for all PG Hell in a Cell matches. While Edge lost this match, it was the most impressive Cell match in years, and it set a new bar for what a Cell match should be like, in this PG Era of wrestling.
Edge then resumed his feud with John Cena at No Way Out of 2009, where he took the strap off of Cena after entering the Chamber as a surprise entry, due to his bludgeoning of Kofi Kingston.
The feud passed through Wrestlemania, and culminated at Backlash 2009, where Cena regained the World Heavyweight Title, and then dropped it back to Edge.
Recently, WWE has begun to make the effort to push newer, younger talent to the forefront of the attention of the WWE audience in the form of heels. Wonderful talents, such as CM Punk, and Jack Swagger have begun to be groomed to be the next generation of top heels.
Since attaining the World Heavyweight Championship, Swagger's mic work has improved vastly, and his in ring work has remained of a greater quality than the majority of the midcard performers.
CM Punk, however, seems to be the man being groomed to become the Top Heel of the Pro Wrestling industry for the coming generation of performers. His gimmick of the Straight Edge Savior strikes a cord in the WWE's collective conscious, and makes them truly loathe him.
There is a limited amount of time before Cena has to step down as the top babyface of the industry. He may still have another three to five years, at maximum, however the person to step up has to be someone compatible with the man who is, or has been designated as the Heel of the company.
If it were to be said that a top babyface were being groomed in recent memory, it would have to be said that Jeff Hardy would be the one who was meant to usher in a new Era.
Jeff Hardy was receiving the crowd reactions to top Cena, and had he remained with the company, his young age, combined with incredible crowd reaction, and his It factor could have ushered in an age dominated by Jeff Hardy, and CM Punk.
It's sad to see an Era go by sometimes, but this one has long outlived its usefulness. The era that is run by John Cena has become somewhat stale, and it is time to move on to newer things; the first thing needed in this process is to create the heel to draw the most ire possible of the babyface.
Now a crucial question is raised; with the departure of Jeff Hardy, and the time limited on Cena's time as the top babyface of the company, who will step up to become the opposite of CM Punk. Or is it all premature to call CM Punk the Heel of the next Era. Please, comment away.
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