As we head into the final days before the biggest weekend for the WWE and its fans, Wrestlemania 33; the internet is buzzing with speculation, rumors, and ‘what comes next’ post-Wrestlemania. Superstars are hitting the media to plug the event and provide insight to fans who eagerly eat up every word and sound bite.
I fell upon an interview that your fearless leader (or ‘next in line’), Paul “HHH” Levesque conducted with Sport Illustrated and found it to be fascinating. There are people who like Paul Levesque, respect his contributions to the industry and his mind for this business – I happen to be one of those people – and then there are those who don’t. Regardless, when the topic of Roman Reigns came up, I was intrigued by HHH’s response on whether or not the character would ever turn ‘heel’.
“People can look at Roman Reigns and say, ‘The failed attempt that is Roman Reigns,’ but Roman Reigns sells tickets. Roman Reigns gets one of the loudest reactions every night, whether that reaction is a boo or whether that reaction is a cheer. The fans who say, ‘I don’t understand why they don’t turn Roman Reigns heel!’ Isn’t he already?
“If you believe what you believe, and you’re saying, ‘How can they not turn him heel? There is 70 percent of the crowd booing him out of the building!’ If that’s your belief, then isn’t he already the biggest heel we have? If 70 percent of that crowd is booing him, then he’s a heel. We’re just presenting him to you in a different way that makes you hate him.”
Very interesting words from one of the greatest of all time, in my humble opinion. Still, WWE Creative, in this massive evolution of sports entertainment and the roller coaster ride fans go through when it comes to the many different characters that encompass both RAW and SmackDown rosters, I can’t help but agree with Levesque. For some, Roman is heel – someone they can’t stand for various reasons and invokes a need for them to boo him when he comes out; for others, he may be face – where fans are excited to see him walk down that aisle and cheer to their hearts content.
It is somewhat the same situation that Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho faced recently, but the roles were reversed. Last year, their BFF storyline was just about the only thing that was good about Monday Night RAW. Still, despite the fact that they were heels – or perhaps what heels have been considered in the past – the two were getting cheered and receiving louder-than-loud pops, every time they hit the arena. While faces of late have leaned (for the most part) toward what is right and just and heels cheat and lie; during the Attitude Era, the lines between heel and face were very blurred, thanks to a man called “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
WWE main roster characters are introduced to audience at differing points within the year. There are undeniable faces, the Bayleys, Seth Rollins, New Day, and Sami Zayns of the wrestling world. Then you have the undeniable heels: Samoa Joe is a fine example, AJ Styles, Charlotte … the list could go on.
Still, newer characters have emerged from the wood work that do walk that fine line. Before Corbin Baron entered this program with Dean Ambrose (a tweener of sorts himself), Baron, a heel, seemed to turn his back on fellow heels during the lead up to Survivor Series. It’s that ‘lone wolf’ persona that could be either face or heel – but regardless of how fans define him, he walks alone. Nia Jax, pursuing championship dreams as of late, has often pushed queen heel Charlotte aside and attacked her; proving the pursuit of WWE titles will always trump heel alliances.
Then there’s the Wrestlemania program between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. Who is the heel and who is the face? I don’t think it matters as the program build up as been a dream come true. A unique feud in its own right, both characters have done things that point to ‘heel status’; both have compelling stories where fans may look at them as faces. Orton broke away from the Wyatt Family, which indicates face status – however, burning down Bray’s compound is a vastly heel move. Eating away at Bray’s insecurities and knocking him when he’s finally obtained the WWE’s holy grail … also heel. Still, Bray cheats and intimidates, which is typically the move of heels; yet also has won the respect of a vast majority of WWE fans due to his promos and in-ring techniques … which, much like say Austin and The Undertaker, creates a blurred babyface character.
Then there’s John Cena. One cannot ignore that his enormous popularity has also brought forth many haters. He enters an arena and sometimes the cheers are clear, sometimes the boos are, and sometimes it just sounds like mass chaos. Still, he gets a massive reaction and Cena becomes one more factor in the evolution of how characters are presented – and where the idea of heel and face may not matter. We no longer see the Hulk Hogan idea of a mass babyface phenomena that the 80s ushered in when wrestling and sports entertainment was first put on the map – the lines of good versus evil has always been an arc in WWE storylines; but the good versus evil theme has been blurred when it comes to other television programs (i.e. The Walking Dead, etc.) this idea just might be spilling over to into WWE storylines.
Alas, WWE Creative, under the guidance of your fearless leader, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the job you need to focus on is creating intriguing and believable characters who exude confidence when entering that ring, and ensure they carry some compelling stories with them. It will be our job as WWE fans on whether or not to decipher them as villain/villainess characters or our heroes and heroines.