Those who are new to my Role Reversal series, please take note of the following articles to get a good handle on where this series is likely to go and what I'm looking to accomplish:
As a short history of how this all started, I recently posted a number of articles about John Cena leading up to Wrestlemania 27, stating emphatically that Wrestlemania's prestige, weight and overall impact to WWE practically demanded that John Cena turn heel on the grandest stage of them all.
In response, many members of Bleacher Report commented that they didn't feel John Cena could portray a heel convincingly enough.
Thinking back on guys like HBK, Triple H, Rock, Stone Cold and Undertaker, guys who were talented enough to play both faces and heels brilliantly, I damn near had a coronary.
Just because John Cena is a good guy now, does not in any way, shape or form mean that he can't PLAY a bad guy later. Just because they share some similarities, the Cena we see in the ring is a different person than Cena at home.
After thinking on this further, it dawned on me that many other stars carry this stigma around. People think certain wrestlers in WWE are "natural heels" or "natural faces," and that their best work is only done playing ONE character.
When in fact, it's playing multiple sides of the moral scale that give the performers more clout, and their on-screen characters the most depth.
I'm currently in the process of attempting to shatter those stigmas by painting past and present superstars in very different lights.
While I'll gladly admit that certain people play good guys or bad guys better than others, the very BEST performers and the very BEST actors are the ones who can jump back and forth between playing a devious villain one minute and a glorious hero the next.
Look at a guy like Anthony Hopkins. He played one of the greatest villains in movie history, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and yet, also played Ted Brautigan in Hearts in Atlantis. Whereas, Will Smith in Independence Day was basically the same smart-talking action hero he was in Bad Boys and Men in Black.
While we can't infer that Smith is a bad actor simply because his roles are largely the same one to another, looking at Hopkins' resume and seeing variety in his characters is a lot more appealing to movie buffs than seeing a guy perform at basically one note.
People who remember the Spirit Squad's "Nicky," and the group's subsequent demise at the hands of DX's "One Last Stand," probably never thought they'd see Nic Nemeth ever again. Not only am I thankful he's still around, I'm thankful that "I Am Perfection" came up on my phone's music shuffle this morning.
I'll be honest in that I don't think I was watching much wrestling when his new gimmick first started, but I've read that he began approaching people backstage and introducing himself, "Hi, my name is Dolph Ziggler." Check out the link for a rare Adamle appearance.
Right there, you have to admit, the guy's name sets him far apart from all the other average names out there. John Morrison, Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel. All very generic sounding names, sometimes simply placing two first names together.
But Dolph Ziggler? How do you forget a name like that? First name, very strong, quick single syllable off the D, last name has the tongue doing a slight curly-cue twist to pronounce it right.
Despite his fresh new start, along the second half of 2010, he made a name for himself as Vickie Guerrero's boy toy (similar to how she treated Edge and the short-lived and comical Eric Escobar).
Even if he lost in the end, Dolph has at least proven himself in matches against top names like John Cena and Daniel Bryan, and he did score an impressive win over John Morrison.
Granted, Morrison and Bryan aren't directly in line for heavyweight title shots at the moment, but they're still well-respected by fans.
For him to put up great showings against them definitely puts him in a different place than Chris Masters or Mark Henry, who really haven't done much in either of their times with the company, despite pulling out recent victories.
So far, Dolph's biggest claim to fame has been holding onto the Intercontinental Championship for a considerable amount of time with Vickie's help, which has at least deepened what started as a fairly quirky character.
He's a cute little pretty boy, kind of the type to get roped into a rich cougar's money and do her bidding, even if it means sacrificing a bit of his manhood and independence. At least he was living the high life in some lap of luxury and/or power.
Thus, Dolph Ziggler is, and has been, a heel, and Vickie's aid has helped him get a taste of the main event. Lately, though, he's just been stuck. He wasn't helped much by his Wrestlemania match, however as far as I can see, Vickie also hasn't been as active in helping him during matches either.
Along the way, Dolph has been given a few moments when a face turn could have occurred.
One came during NXT Season 3, when he was caught making out with Kaitlyn. Vickie was clearly incensed at seeing him cheat, and yet, after the smoke cleared, Dolph and Vickie were still together.
Later on, Dolph's temper got the best of him during a few arguments with Vickie, and you know how things go, he said some things, she said some things, but again, Dolph and Vickie made nice and buried the hatchet.
But what is it about Dolph that really makes him a heel? Is it the peroxide solution that keeps him a totally bleached blond? Is it his tan? The fact that the front of his boxer-brief tights is an open zipper? Can't tell you how long it took me to see that clearly. Is it the fact that he doesn't have a huge moral dilemma about cheating? Or is it simply his association with Vickie Guerrero?
They were, at one time, boyfriend and girlfriend. Now that they're on Raw, they've magically mended their differences enough so that they're "business partners." So far, we haven't seen them go back on that word, cameras to date not catching them kissing or snuggling backstage as if they're actually "more than business partners," but all in all, keeping the two of them together just seems very lazy.
Creative doesn't seem to want to risk changing Dolph too strongly, yet would it devastate the entire product to risk changing a guy at his level in a way that would not only make Dolph more appealing to fans, but make the product more appealing as well?
WWE isn't 100 percent about crowd participation, but just like in years past, would it destroy the very foundation of the company to put Dolph in a position where Vickie challenges him, he looks at the people to work the crowd's reactions, and lets them build his confidence until he kicks her to the curb?
Can't you just see that? Can't you just picture that moment?
Vickie tries to help Dolph cheat during a crucial match, it backfires, Dolph loses. The camel's back, finally broken by the last straw. The winner of the match hits the locker room, leaving the "business partners" on their own in the ring. Vickie immediately grabs a mic, starts apologizing profusely.
Dolph doesn't say a word, he just stands there looking downward. Vickie tries her best to apologize, but like always, her temper takes over and she starts screeching at him, yelling at him, berating him.
He stares at the crowd, who know exactly what they want him to do (as they've been busy cheering and rooting the rest of the night), Dolph snatches the mic away, bringing her (and everyone in attendance) to an immediate silence.
Vickie waits patiently, eager to hear what her man has to say. She's not used to him standing up for himself, so she's treading uncharted waters.
"Ya know what, Vickie? I appreciate your help last year, in keeping the Intercontinental Championship around this gorgeous waist, but since we've come to Raw, what have you done for me? Team me up with those bickering hens, Laycool? For a STUPID intergender tag match? WITH SNOOKI?
"That's the best you can do as my 'business partner?' I can get better business representation out of the back of a phone book!"
Big zinger, he's keeping true to his character with the mention of his looks and reference to things that occur in the back of a phone book.
Also, he's poking fun at a WWE promotional and creative decision, making such a silly last-minute match on such a big stage, which makes WWE's talent look more sentient and less like puppets in a play. Finally, the big finish, the dismount, the coup de grace...
"In fact, Vickie? I'd like to quote someone that you know all too well...as far as you being my 'business partner' goes? YOU'RE FIRED!"
He grins at Vickie, flippantly tosses her the microphone just as his music hits and he struts away, doing his hair wipe pose once he gets to the top of the ramp.
Classic moment, huge character change for Dolph and a chance to really ingratiate himself with fans instead of just having to play the little toady all the time.
This, of course, would bring about Vickie's wrath and greed for revenge, and to counteract much of what Dolph is likely to face, he could use another person by his side for support, whether for backup against Vickie's minions or simply as a cheerleader. Possibly as both.
And that someone, as I mentioned before, is Kaitlyn.
Clearly, her skills need considerable polishing before she gets a shot at the butterfly, if that ever happens. She's only had a couple matches on Smackdown and didn't make much of a showing in any of them.
However, she's decent on the microphone, at least when speaking on relevant topics, and being by Dolph's side, she could get the added visibility she needs to get more over with fans as a personality/valet, rather than as a wrestler.
She'd not only validate him as more of a ladies' man than fans thought, but he'd have additional support to help get fans on his side when he's competing, just many great managers and support staff has done in the past.
I'm unsure of how WWE really feels about Kaitlyn's erotic pictures found all over the net, however with her winning NXT, she could use some coattails to ride into a sliver of spotlight.
Dolph's solo coattails may not stretch for miles and miles, but if they're at least long enough to get a hottie like her some camera time, we may see Raw's ratings hop, skip and jump up a teeny bit.
After all, she's not going anywhere on Smackdown, and if Raw is the higher-rated, Live, in-your-face broadcast we know it to be, maybe a trade is in order.
Furthermore, if Dolph were to feud with Vickie, and Vickie were to find either another heel to "get in bed with," or other bad guys to represent, Dolph pretty much has a built in feud to work for months.
Dolph could end up riding Vickie's intense amount of heel heat to becoming a major face star well into 2012, and he could end up taking Kaitlyn with him, making her NXT Season 3 victory mean something significant.
They've already ended up releasing Season 2 winner Kaval. Burying and ignoring Kaitlyn makes the show even more of a joke than many already consider it to be.
Such a significant face turn for Dolph, and the added influence of Kaitlyn, could really help him grab that next rung in the ladder to being a star we WANT to watch on a regular basis, as opposed to a heel we try to justify endorsing.
Seems to be how these things work, doesn't it?
A wrestler gets over with fans, and once they're over enough, they either turn face or heel with a big move, thus rising to the next rung. After that, they make another turn far down the road and they pull up another rung, until finally, they reach the top.
They ride those little waves of pulling off an action that holds major consequences, inspiring us to watch next week to see what kinds of consequences result.
That's how ratings rise. That's how wrestlers become more popular or more hated.
One of the best ways to develop characters is to show them making monumental decisions. If you don't layout a character's life story and show every relevant thing about them before your audience sees them in the present, you at least owe it to your audience to show your characters accomplishing big things.
If a character in the wrestling business isn't busy chasing titles, and they're not heavily embroiled in a heated Best Of series with their arch-nemesis, what are they doing? Getting into serious drama perhaps? You don't even have to be a good wrestler to get involved in compelling drama.
Maybe turning Cena from a smiling goody-goody to a brutal, vicious killer is a little too drastic to ask for in one night.
But writing Dolph's relationship to Vickie so that he starts realizing that she's pretty much doing nothing for him anymore, that all she's done is use him to try to get herself ahead, that she was a psychotic, loudmouth you-know-what for ratting him out about attacking Teddy Long on Smackdown at her behest? Changing Dolph's personality so that Vickie finally gets what's coming to her?
Not that risky, but stands to gain them a lot more viewers.
I've written numerous full-length novels in my time, and in composing plot outlines, I look at how a scene is a shaping up, and sometimes, I say to myself, "ya know what? This character's gotta die. I'm done. It's over. You're dead." And I write them out.
Sometimes, there's leeway to bring them back in some capacity, sometimes not. But the decision gets made right then and there. They've reached the end of the road, time to focus on other people.
Sometimes, I think of a line of dialogue, I contemplate for a moment or two if it's appropriate, then I think, "screw it, I'm going for it. It's so blunt, it's so accurate to how this person is feeling. Just say it."
As I pointed out in Role Reversal Vol. 1, a person's story needs to be meaningful before their end comes. Sometimes, a wrestler's end comes from a freak accident or drug overdose. Sometimes, a wrestler's body wears down, injuries catch up to them, and they either retire or die.
Sometimes, that end comes when they get released, which in some cases is way before they deserve such an end to come.
Occasionally, wrestlers leave a company of their own volition, due to their ideas not panning out properly where they're employed. In Role Reversal Vol.3, we're going to take our first look back at a popular superstar among the majority of the IWC.
A man many consider a "natural heel," a man who considers himself a "natural heel," but with every day that passes, he may never have a chance to be one again...