I want to take a moment now and discuss the differences between a face turn and a heel turn. At first glace the idea behind both of them may be more or less the same. Change a guy’s personality from likeably and honorable to mean and underhanded or vice versa, and that’s all there is too it. But the differences are there. For one thing it can be incredibly easy to turn someone heel. Just put them in a tag match with a beloved face character and throw in a betrayal. A promo then next week about being justified in said betrayal and how you will never liked the fans in the first place and you’ve got all the boos you could ever want.
The same cannot necessarily be said for a face turn. Sure it’s possible to do the same thing, have a falling out between two heels where one of them will turn face but in this situation results may vary. You could have a guy like Alex Riley who got great reactions for two weeks after turning on the Miz, but less than a year later is one of the most forgettable superstars on the roster. The same thing can be said for Mason Ryan who has had no positive outcome of turning face. Other recent face turns that haven’t worked out so well include R-Truth, who crazy character, even though he is still getting screen time, will never work as well as a face as he did as a heel, and Kane who at one point was one of the most dominating characters in the WWE as a heel, was sentenced to playing air trombone with Santino during his run as a face.
Face turns work better when they happen naturally, with fan support. Randy Orton may be the best example in recent years as he gradually built up a fan base to the point that even though he still had heelish tendencies, he was getting more cheers than boos whenever he walked out to the ring. I’m not saying that a successful face turn can’t happen quickly. Take a look at CM Punk’s turn last year. Whether you consider the official moment of the face turn to be, the promo, MiTB, or his eventual return, the fact remains that it happened in a short matter of weeks. But even though it happened quickly, what’s important was that he crowd supported the turn. I’m not sure I’ve heard a pop as big as his MiTB one since Mick Foley’s first title win back in the day. (Is that old enough to be considered “The Day?”)
The point is that while a heel turn can be an easy thing to execute and is more or less up to the prerogative of those backstage, A face turn without fan support will never work. I’m sure that creative would kill to be able to guarantee undying, almost universal fan support for a wrestler they consider a face. So why, when Daniel Bryan has gotten the WWE Universe to deliver that kind of reaction every night, are they trying to squash it?
I don’t want to dreg back up hurt feelings about Bryan at WrestleMania, because I know how we all feel about that already, but if one good thing can be said about it, it’s the fact that undeservedly losing a match in 18 seconds, may have made Bryan the most over wrestler in the company. Ever time he comes out, a stadium full of “Yes” chants. If he’s on the screen? “Yes” chants. Different Wrestler comes out? Let’s do a couple of “Yes” chants anyway. Del Rio comes out? Change “Yes” to “Si” and keep right on chanting. Not even at a WWE event but rather at a baseball game instead? Try a couple of “Yes” chants. Couldn’t hurt.
Is it too optimistic to see “Yes, Yes, Yes” eventually sit along the sides of “Woooo,” “Oh Yeah,” and “Smell what the Rock is cooking?” To think it could be the next “What?” where crowds will chant it years after the Wrestler who originated the catchphrase has retired. Maybe so. After all, this level of Bryan support is only a few weeks old. We could quite possibly, have forgotten all about this come SummerSlam, and Bryan could have faded back to the mid-card level. But right now, that’s not the case. Right now, Bryan is kind of a big deal.
So what’s the deal WWE? Why are you so against this? To be clear, I’m not asking for Bryan to become a face overnight. I don’t think Bryan should be back to fighting heels yet, nor should he drop his current “I’m the best” character for the more passive “Aw Shucks” character he was back when he was a face. I’ve already said that a slow turn is good for a face and I stand by that. But it seems that WWE is intent on squashing any support for the guy. Through promos, they are trying to spin the “Yes” chants as mocking instead of supportive. There have also been reports that on the shows that don’t air live (read: Smackdown) audience “Yes” chants have been muted unless Bryan in currently in the ring, and even then are being dulled down. So what’s up with that?
My only possible guess is that creative feels grumpy that this Heel persona they worked so hard to give Bryan has backfired, and they are desperate trying to rein in this out of control reaction so that they can tell the exact story that they want to tell. On principle I support that idea. I’m a fan of extended storylines and the idea that creative has planned several months in advance. Plus, there are countless examples of a potential filled storyline taking a swerve into something terrible when unexpected things arose. (“Who sent the text?” springs to mind) But in this case it might be best to let it go. To ignore the fact that Bryan is currently one of your most popular wrestlers, hurt’s the guy’s momentum and hurts the quality of the product as a whole. And if that doesn’t convince you, you’d probably sell a whole lot more T-Shirts, if you let us all chant “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
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