WWE: Where Is the Line Between an Annoying Heel and Distractingly Annoying?
As I have written on my Raw reviews countless times, WWE is desperately in need of a solid heel. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of talent in World Wrestling Entertainment at the moment, but where is the money heel? Where is the guy who people pay to see beat up? Where is the legitimate audience venom? The problem with the promotion today is that WWE and the creative team cannot distinguish between "good heat" and "bad heat."
Before we go any further, I will explain to you novices out there what "good heat" and "bad heat" is: Good heat is when you want to pay money to see the heel get his comeuppance. Vince McMahon from 1998-2001 was the perfect example of good heat. Wrestling fans shelled out big money to see someone (anyone) get their hands on the evil boss.
To go back even further, Andre the Giant drew an awesome amount of good heat (and participated in the biggest match in wrestling history) when he turned on Hulk Hogan and teamed with Bobby Heenan. A monster crowd showed up at WrestleMania III to pelt Andre with trash as he went to the ring to face Hogan.
Both of those heels were dominant, main event-level guys, but that doesn't always have to be the case. Jimmy Hart and the aforementioned Bobby Heenan made a living out of being slimy weasels who annoyed the crowd at every turn. Hart's megaphone was as recognizable as any wrestling prop, and Heenan's interviews were legendary for their annoying qualities. That's still all good heat.
Bad heat comes about when a heel crosses the line from "I want to see this guy get his ass beat" to "I need to change the channel and get this guy off my television." The worst thing a wrestling company can possibly do is make their audience change the channel due to a character.
The best example of that right now is Michael Cole. At the beginning, Cole was a breath of fresh air because we hadn't had an effective heel commentator in years, and a heel play-by-play man was new and different. However, WWE looked a gift horse in the mouth and thought "well, if people hate him when he's annoying 10 minutes out of every broadcast, imagine the money that will roll in when we make him annoying for two hours!"
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. People are now booing Michael Cole not because he's a bad person, but because they are sick of hearing his comments and always getting away with it.
An effective heel always gets what's coming to him: Ric Flair lost the title tons of times, Vince McMahon got his ass beat on a weekly basis, Jimmy Hart was tossed around the ring like a rag doll and Bobby Heenan was Hulk Hogan's personal punching bag for years.
Michael Cole should have been shut up by someone by now. They seemingly had a blow-off ready to go at WrestleMania, but they decided to keep the Cole character going. It's gotten to a point where Michael Cole and Twitter references are dominating the comments board instead of actual, you know, wrestling.
I remember at one point, WWE decided that Melina's gimmick during all of MNM's matches would be to scream as loud as possible for the entire match. Yes, people booed her, but it wasn't a "someone please sell me a ticket for the next time those heels wrestle", it was a "I'm seriously going to leave if this person doesn't stop" kind of booing. Thankfully, that whole shtick was dropped rather quickly but how in the world did that even get on TV?
Ten years ago, every heel on the roster was "cool guy" trying to be the Rock and never showing any sign of weakness (nWo, Triple H, etc.). Now, we've done a complete 180 degree spin and every heel is a coward who only attacks from behind and sneaks out of matches (Alberto Del Rio, the Miz, etc.). There needs to be a healthy mix of both. No one wants to pay their hard-earned money to see every heel being a carbon copy of the previous guy. People watch wrestling to see variety in their characters, not to be annoyed for two hours.
Heels have to be annoying, I understand that. Without Vince McMahon, there's no Steve Austin. Without Ric Flair, there is no Sting. Without Jack Swagger, there is no Evan Bourne...OK, bad example.
My point is that WWE seems to have lost its way on how to book a heel. Years ago, a character like Michael Cole would have been a manager or relegated to a show like Heat or Velocity so they could figure out if the act was working on it. However, these days WWE is so desperate for ANYONE to get heat that they immediately pushed Cole to the moon once he got a decent reaction.
Last week's Raw drew a terrible rating as a 3.33 in the first hour plummeted to a 3.07 in the second hour. That means people tune into a product expecting to be entertained and end up turning the program off because it's either boring, annoying or uninteresting.
In a matter of sheer coincidence I'm sure, pretty much every heel on the show is either boring, annoying or uninteresting. Of course, that's just my opinion.
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