Lately I’ve found that I’ve been doing a lot of ranting and raving about what WWE needs to do and what it shouldn’t be doing, but is anyways. However, that all changed when I read an article on this site that centered on something that even I – admittedly – had missed. And that is the importance of building up our heels.
Note: While I acknowledge that the same advice should be aimed at the current babyface division...let's face it people. The babyface division doesn't really need to be anything more than generic. Just give us a guy who has a copy of Cena's personality, has an awesome move-set, plays fair, and sounds okay on the mic -- and we the fans will label him as the good guy.
For every positive there is a negative and that could be no truer than in the WWE. For every babyface that walks there has to be a minimum of three heels who want to take him/her down. One of those three heels would traditionally be someone you easily step over and is more like the filing in a cavity. The remaining two however are massive hurdles, with one out of that two coming out on top in almost all of the matches he/she has with that good guy.
In general, heels of the past did not have to really be much of anything. They just had to complete the checklist of traits that the WWE provided us with, namely:
Heels must be large.
Heels must be dominant.
Heels must be crafty yet cowardly.
Heels must be intimidating.
Heels must have a set of lackeys on call upon.
Heels must put our hero out of action at some point.
Those traits were what we used to identify heels in the past. Now, the line has started to blur really badly. And that’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, that is quite possibly the best thing that could have ever happened to the heels.
You see, because heels of today don’t look like they did in the past – aka: They’re not walking around with an exterior that is similar to or rivals that of Triple H’s – and that in itself looked to pose a threat to heels seeing that intimidation only comes from being big. And if there is no intimidation, then the fans won’t believe that that small guy put out Cena (for example). Or that that small guy has other people following him. Or that that small guy is actually grounding the bigger opponent.
However, the threat has been nullified by the diversity of today’s heels. They are no longer cookie cutters to the traditional heel; instead they now have various ways of getting the crowd to hate yet like them at the same time.
Take for example The Miz.
When he first started out no one believed in the guy. Me included. Yet as the years passed, he won tag titles, Slammy Awards, hosted The Dirt Sheet (quite possibly my favourite WWE Show), feuded with major stars, became US Champion and Mr. Money In The Bank, and is now sitting at the apex of WWE with the WWE Championship (and Alex Riley) in tow.
Now, Miz does follow the trait of being crafty yet cowardly, and he does have a dedicated lackey in tow, however, what brings the crowd to him is not his Triple H size (which he lacks), and it’s not because he put a Superstar out of action (hasn’t yet anyway). It is simply because his life story (which he summarized on the Sept. 6 RAW episode last year) is something that many can relate to.
For you see, we all at one point in our lives met those JBLs, HHHs, Cenas – basically all the people who said we wouldn’t and couldn’t do something. And then we did it. It probably didn’t take nearly six or seven years like the Miz to do, but we eventually did what everyone else said we couldn’t do.
Now while the Miz has so wonderfully stated that it is only he that can accomplish his dreams and we still can’t, the fact remains that he draws in the type of crowd who want to see him succeed either because it’d stick one to Cena or because it’d be the happily-ever-after in his storybook fairytale. Using his struggle, yet not using it at the same time overshadows the faults that The Miz carries with him (namely him not being large or intimidating enough), and it brings the kind of heat you’d expect for a heel – the kind that generates boos and cheers all at the same time.
Another example is CM Punk.
He is probably the craftiest out of every heel. By crafty I don’t mean he’s cerebral (SES anyone?), rather I mean that he is able to get people to overlook his insanity by simply doing what you’d expect from a face. No. I don’t mean he wins matches cleanly all the time – I mean he leads by example.
Take a look at his rivalry with Jeff Hardy. He harped on Jeff’s lifestyle every day they squared off, and because society itself frowns upon drug abuse and alcoholism, and because CM was basically Straight-Edge, we all got on CM’s bandwagon. Yet, just when you thought he was probably not all bad, he sneak attacks Jeff Hardy. He punches a referee in order to retain his title only to blame it on some false eye problem. And then he gloats about making the Undertaker tap out – which in itself was a blatant screw job.
Now like The Miz, CM does not have the size that we’ve been used to seeing heels portray in the past. He is a small guy. And it’s because he’s a small guy people won’t necessarily buy into him dominating a much larger opponent. Nonetheless, he does it anyways and that gives him that intimidation. To add, what brings people to CM is another trait that does not come from tradition – and that is his overall presence that seems so natural you’d think he truly believed what he was saying.
This then leads us the fans to truly believe what he is saying. Punk may not always end up being intimidating on his own, but thanks to that natural air, he’s been able to swindle a group from beneath another heel, and get most of its members to follow him without question. Thus giving him that “strength in numbers” edge, and being by far the shrewdest thing a heel has ever done.
That other heel, by the way, is my third example. Wade Barrett. This man has size on his side (it’s no HHH, but it’s damn well large enough) which of course makes him instantly intimidating, and makes us believe his dominance. He’s taken out fan favourites and even enslaved and fired the biggest of them all in John Cena. The man is crafty beyond recognition where he always seems to have an ace up his sleeve.
Example: Hell In A Cell 2010.
Just when Cena had him down, Wade gets help from two future Nexus members in Husky and Michael. He had and still has a set of lackeys on call. And at times he can be cowardly, but only to a short extent. Wade Barrett is the epitome of traditional heel, and that in itself is the main reason why fans draw to him.
However, it’s not the only reason, for you see, Wade on his own is a threat factor, but what makes him truly stand out to the crowd are two main things. One, he is honestly blunt –a trait that makes you think of Chris Jericho. And two, the people he has huddled around him: namely Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater and Ezekiel Jackson.
Barrett on his own has truly accomplished nothing much of merit – unlike say CM and Miz who are former and current Champions on their own – however, he has established himself as a likable heel thanks to the groups he ends up leading (I get that The Corre has no leader..but ignore that right now).
This in itself breaks the tradition of having the heel first being established singly and then moving on to owning a group – not the other way around. Bottom line is that fans cheer for Barrett because he’s a natural bad guy, and conversely they boo him whenever he acts like the natural heel and goes after the crowd heroes.
This entire article wouldn’t have been said if Sheamus was not added to this list. Sheamus is believable – bar none. He has Triple H’s exterior (a plus in the business), we the fans accept his ability to dominate a match, he can act cowardly when things don’t go his way (something that really doesn’t fit a man his size) and he has already put out a fan favourite in possibly one of the greatest and most beloved Superstars in the WWE – Triple H.
When Sheamus arrived on the scene everyone was literally blinded. Okay. Enough jokes.
When Sheamus arrived on the scene he steam-rolled his way to a WWE Title dominating at every possible turn. To his credit, it took CM and Miz years to rack up that sort of dominance, and it took Wade Barrett seven men, and presently three pseudo-established ones, to become the menacing character that he is today.
At TLC 2009, Sheamus beat none other than John Cena to land his first title reign. To say that the WWE Universe was shocked is the definition of the word “understatement." We the fans were suddenly thrown a heel that has power and strength but was not built up enough to give us a hint of how to even react.
Naturally, everyone hated Sheamus because of the confusion and the fact that he won the title from a fan favourite. And so, he generated heat in the wrong way. However, that all changed on his second title reign. He became a heel similar to Edge – again not befitting of a man his size – in that he turned to cowardice. People still hated Sheamus, but like The Miz, we all just hated the fact that he wasn’t allowed to win cleanly when in the past it would have been the opposite.
However, after his second reign came to an end, Sheamus went on a downward spiral simply because he was a heel without friends (lackeys) to utilize so as to make waves or opponents to fight. Enter the face that is John Morrison and we have Sheamus back on track. And contrary to his last couple acts of domination, Sheamus now has fans that actually like him – or at least care about him.
Sheamus is the kind of heel who draws people in because he’s powerful on his own. He’s possibly the only heel in recent years who’s been able to accomplish things without the help of the boss, or a group of lackeys. And that garners respect.
My last example has to be Alberto Del Rio. Nothing about this man screams intimidation, yet whenever he starts fighting he dominates with a scary sense of ease. He can best John Morrison in high-offensive manoeuvres, and he can out-submit the submission specialist in Daniel Bryan. His only lackey is his ring announcer, but as we’ve seen that apparently counts.
When Alberto stepped foot into the WWE, he instantly put down not one, but two of the fan favourites in Rey Mysterio and Christian. One of these men has returned. He’s always playing on the card of being crafty – in a sense that he attacks when it better suits him – yet cowardly to the point where he may as well be the dictionary meaning of the word.
In terms of size, Del Rio falls into the same category as The Miz. He’s large enough to stand toe-to-toe with Edge, but put him against someone of HHH’s size, and he’d seem outmatched.
Now thanks to his actions against two major fan favourites, the fact that he uses a stolen part of the late great Eddie’s ring entrance and not to mention the fact that he completely disregards and disrespects the entire Latino populace, Alberto has been able to easily gain massive heat from the crowd. However, it’s all thanks to his ring dominance that Alberto actually has fans that at least are able to muster up a cheer or two for him.
Conclusively – tracking back to that article I had read prior to this – WWE really does need to build up its heel category because quite frankly faces need at least three legitimate heels and as of late there are way too little “good” heels and an insufferable amount of stoic heels in the business - stoic referring to those who haven’t been able to draw in the crowd on both sides of the fence like they should (namely Drew, Tyler, Heath, DiBiase) – especially now that meeting the full customary criteria is no longer what makes a great heel in the minds of many fans.
Rather, heels of today can put their own spin on their character by moving outside the box in order to be more appealing.
With that said, WWE needs to focus its attention on capitalizing on that aspect. Build up your heels WWE. Make them powerful and credible, so that the faces have people to worry about. And we the fans have villains to believe.
RKO FOR LIFE!!!
Just a mention: Justin Gabriel is not in this for one reason and one reason only. The man is a bonafide face. It’s only a matter of time.