Monday 21 January 2013

Bad Guys Done Good

Last year WWE found themselves light on headline talent. Wanting a quick fix before slower building investments like Ryback and Antonio Cesaro pay off the decision was made to turn longtime heels Alberto Del Rio and The Miz into good guys.
In the case of 'The Awesome One' I thought the switch was long overdue. Miz had been eliciting cheers from a small but vocal group of fans since winning Money in the Bank in 2010. That support for him had peaked during his WWE title reign didn't matter, I was sure he'd succeed as a good guy in late 2012.
I was less convinced it was a good direction for ADR. His gimmick (an aristocratic braggart) is naturally heelish. I didn't believe WWE was willing to put in the work that would be required altering the character to allow him to work well as a good guy. I was of the opinion that the best way to give Del Rio the refresh he needed was to cast him as the leader of his own stable.
I was wrong. WWE have shown that they're willing to do everything possible to establish Del Rio as a good guy. Most obviously they have recast him as a Latino hero. As the idea is for him to replace Rey Mysterio as the promotion's leading Latin star it's a shift that makes sense, and one ADR has proven well suited to.
A more subtle change has seen the friendship between ADR and his ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez receive more emphasis, with Ricardo being used to show a vulnerable side of Del Rio for audiences to relate to. Both men have dropped the smirking from their repertoires too. This makes Del Rio more likeable and makes sense for Ricardo when you consider he's now introducing a hero.
Perhaps the smartest thing WWE have done regarding the Del Rio face turn is to keep his ring style aggressive. More often than not crisp, stiff shots will attract more supporters than haters. As ADR was already doing that it made sense to let him continue. He's added the moonsault to his arsenal too. High risk manoeuvres are another way of enticing cheers for him.
Going all the way with his push and having him defeat Big Show for the World Heavyweight title is another smart move. It's important to show fans that a top line babyface is going to win. It encourages support. The timing has worked out nicely too, as ADR is going to spend at least part of WWE's peak period in a prime spot.
As I said above I was confident The Miz would transition into the good guy role well. An important part of being a good guy in WWE is being able to connect with an audience through a promo. Miz's verbal skills have always been one of the most polished parts of his act so it was natural to assume he'd handle the tweaks needed to here cheers over jeers with relative ease. He did.

He's listening to the cheers
'The Most Must See WWE Superstar' has done an excellent job of interacting with crowds since his turn officially kicked in. He's encouraged "Miz is awesome!" chants, added a little chat with the crowd to his pre-match apron slide, and begun pointing to areas of the audience to encourage a burst of cheers. All are well judged moves. Crowds are reacting very well to him.
Miz has done so well in his new role that the recent decision to associate him with Ric Flair is largely unnecessary. In fact the segment on last week's RAW in which Miz was required to impersonate 'The Nature Boy' was pretty poor, and risked doing more harm than good. The guy's fine alone.
Apparently the Miz and Flair on-screen relationship is going to continue for a while. I'm doubtful that it can provide any significant help. Unless the intention is to have the story culminate with Flair seconding Miz for a singles match at WrestleMania it may as well be dropped. They're too different for Miz to be a believable heir to 'The Nature Boy' mantel.
Del Rio and Miz have done a good job of turning babyface. WWE have done well assisting them. If the company could remember how to introduce new talent with this level of proficiency then the future would be looking a lot brighter.

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