The Wrestling Backfire: Heels are Becoming a Dying Breed in WWE (The Miz, Kane, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler)
by Kyle Fitta on March 12, 2012

The well-known Blair A Douglas and I were recently talking about heels in WWE. I asked him if he thought heels are becoming an after-thought in the wrestling business and he thought they were.

I must agree. There aren’t a lot of heels that are over. Sure, some heels come out to boos and fans tell them they suck on occasion, but fans do it all for fun. It’s unlikely a fan afterwards thinks or says to themselves, “Man, I really hate so-so. Given the chance, I would try to break his skull.”

These days, most heels attempt to be arrogant and indulgent and try to have this flamboyant cockiness to them and act like they’re the best thing since sliced bread, or even Sliced Bread #2. They also sneakily beat down babyfaces, tell the fans they suck and make fun of them as well.In real life, this would make somebody hated. However, almost everyone knows that wrestling is scripted.

There are  also are many fans who grew up or heard of the Attitude Era and Stone Cold. The Attitude Era had wrestlers who did everything a heel did except they were cheered. Because of that reason, fans feel it’s now hard to boo wrestlers who acted like the wrestlers they use to cheer.

Normally, a heel would dominate for a while and then a babyface would finally get his revenge. Not only did this help a heel get over and stay on top for long and powerful runs, it also helped the babyface get over because the fans would rally behind him as the chaser until he finally won.

These days, the WWE books their heels as vastly inferior to their babyfaces. They don’t allow their heels to dominate for long periods of time because they’re too afraid it will hurt the babyface’s credibility.  Little do they know, a great heel makes a great babyface if the feud is booked properly.

A few years ago, it was also a lot easier for heels to get over since there were fewer boundaries. There is nothing wrong about having a PG product. Most wrestling companies were very successful who based their companies on the PG rating. However, their PG rating was different from WWE’s. The WWE’s is way more sanitized, which makes it hard for wrestlers to “cross the line” (no TNA pun intended.)

A lot of things still work to this day that were used in the 1980s but methods on how to get heat isn’t one of them. The world today is a much darker place than it was 30 years ago. Wrestling has always been about being edgy and going further than any other show would ever imagine, but now it’s stuck in the past.

If I were to put on Tosh.0 right now, it would surpass anything that tried to be racist. If I were to put on Louie, the vulgarity would be way surpassed “Kung Pow Bitch”. If I were to put on CSI (although I never would), there would be way more violence and rape scenes than WWE’s product.

The point is: wrestling used to be ahead of its time, but it’s now stuck in the past. Heels are supposed to be people who are heartless, spineless, and – most importantly – hated, but they cannot be hated for doing something that the past ones did 20 years ago. They instead have to do something that makes a person hated in this age.

If the WWE cannot surpass itself or believe people don’t hate fictional characters anymore or book their heels stronger, it maybe the time to demolish the good vs. evil philosophy, and possibly start allowing the fans to choose who they like/dislike or come up with something better because heels that are hated is becoming nonexistent.



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Kyle Fitta

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  • Zork

    I feel that Jericho, Edge, Orton, and Heel Batista were the last few really effective Heels WWE’s had for a while. Up until Edge’s more organic face turn, he always got really good heel reactions…unless he faced John Cena, then again that happened to everyone.

    Jericho to me, is the epitome of how to correctly be a heel in today’s environment. This guy was getting people so angry with him it was causing people to argue with him, throw crap at him, and even attempt to fight him after the show was over.

  • Limo

    There are two big problems with the way the WWE is booking heels right now. First, there are too many invincible faces right now. Just among active wrestlers, you’ve got Cena, Punk, Orton, Shaemus, and perhaps Big Show. The last time any of them was booked to have a clean loss to anyone was when Mark Henry beat Orton clean a few PPVs in a row. And even those results were hardly mentioned a week afterwards. Before that, I think the last time any of them lost clean was back when they were heels. (Sheamus and Punk)

    The top faces aren’t afraid of the heels, because they know the only possible chance the heel has is to cheat. Even Kane who used to be unstoppable was soundly beaten by Cena and now has moved on to being made to look like a chump by Orton. There is no balance to the force. I’d like to see Cena go full-slown heel not to make his character more interesting, but because he might actually still be booked as a credible threat to the main event faces.

    The other big problem is that debuting heels are rarely given monster pushes. It used to be that when The Undertaker or Earthquake made their debut, they destroyed everyone in their way until they finally worked their way up to Hulk Hogan, who was the only guy who could possibly stand a chance against them. Nowadays upcoming heels are booked to look weak even against the mid-card faces. Alberto Del Rio should have squashed Rey Mysterio, but he never got a clean win. Miz struggled to win feuds against John Morrison and Alex Riley. Of course no one is going to buy that he can beat Cena.

  • http://twitter.com/Kanta_Mizuno Ryan Alarie

    There are generally going to be two kinds of bad guys. I say bad guys, not because I’m anti-kayfabe, but because I’m talking more generally. There are some bad guys in movies that are cool, and some that are actually loathsome. Hans Gruber, Darth Vader, and especially guys like Jason, Freddy and Micheal, are sort of cool. The Joker, and many of Batman’s rogues gallery, have such personality, that you enjoy watching them. It’s not about hating them and wanting to see them lose, but just about enjoying the ride, etc.

    Other villains, especially in the context of the film, can elicit actual hatred. During those couple of hours in a movie, you may see them do something which gets under you skin. As long as you continue to suspend your disbelief, you want to see this scumbag get his come uppance. In some films, you may even get a bit queasy as they go almost too far in making a loathesome villain, and brings up the question of whether the eventual punishment will be sufficient.

    The worst thing a story can do is have a bland villain. You either want someone you absolutely hate, or someone you “love to hate”. Heels should probably fit into the same categories.

    Some heels are basically “faces for smarks”, and are magnificent bastards. They are more enjoyable than the faces because they aren’t tied down by a strict moral code, or by having to be a smiley baby kissing goodie two shoes. A lot of the time, these guys can transition over to the face side just by switching their opponents.

    It is, arguably, harder to get someone you genuinely hate, or at least, while suspending disbelief, you hate. And, those who do garner that kind of anger, you have to worry about the potential that this hatred won’t equate to “I want to see this person get beat up” but instead ends up as “I don’t want to see this person at all”. Unfortunately, the most reviled people on the roster seem to be the few that are, more or less, incapable of providing catharthis. No one is going to beat up Vicky, except for a Diva, and even then, you are going to have a poor match considering Vicky isn’t a wrestler … and admitedly, neither are many of the face Divas that would be put up against her. Similarly, Cole will hopefully not wrestle again, even if he continues to get more heat than most of the roster.

    I will agree though that they do need to have at least some strong heels (they were going there with Henry, until Big Show showed up and the injuries started happening), as the plucky underdog face is an easy but effective story. The chickenshit heel angle of Bryan’s can work too, but too many of the heels are in that mode, and not enough are the dominant kinds of heels. They don’t even have to be dominant monsters, like Kane or Henry. Ric Flair and HHH were both heels that could dominate in the ring, without being physically imposing, instead using heel tactics as insurance policies, instead of as their only path to victory.

  • Mike Gojira

    Jericho is a product of a by-gone age. The closest we have to him is Dolph Ziggler, but it feels like the WWE won’t let him off his leash. Have you seen his “Ask the Heel” shit from Ryder’s Youtube show? They’re fantastic bits.

  • CHpunk

    I remember at the hieght of the Hardcore Revolution in wrestling (around 1999/2000), seeing Steve Corino grab a chair from Sabu and then nicley place it back under the ring. I think Corino was more a manager at the time, but Bob Holly did this too. The fans both times booed. I think the very idea of a heel who beats a beloved face cleanly, and is under 6’4 is something fans could hate. It’s not like Austin Ares is too beloved by fans, except smarks. I’m afraid WWE is using the 1950’s guidlines that say, a villain can’t prosper from his crimes.

  • CHpunk

    I remember at the hieght of the Hardcore Revolution in wrestling (around 1999/2000), seeing Steve Corino grab a chair from Sabu and then nicley place it back under the ring. I think Corino was more a manager at the time, but Bob Holly did this too. The fans both times booed. I think the very idea of a heel who beats a beloved face cleanly, and is under 6’4 is something fans could hate. It’s not like Austin Ares is too beloved by fans, except smarks. I’m afraid WWE is using the 1950’s guidlines that say, a villain can’t prosper from his crimes.

  • Sideshowbob

    Speaking of apathetic heels, this can all be summed up by this:
    Drew McIntyre vs Jack Swagger

  • Sideshowbob

    cena is being booked like a weasely heel, but is a perpetual face…

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