Thursday 2 October 2014

Bad Bad Guys

Where’s the heat in WWE?

Look at any Randy Orton appearance over the last six months. The crowd will boo as soon as his music hits but there’s no passion to it. It’s done out of a sense of habit or because the audience knows that’s what’s expected of them. ‘The Viper’ is WWE’s lead bad guy and so he needs to be booed.

No wrestler should be getting booed just because they’re a baddie. They should be getting booed because the audience dislikes them and wants to see them receive their comeuppance. The wrestler should be genuinely disliked. And that’s not the case with Orton. He’s booed because he’s boring and because people feel they should play along.

And it’s not just Orton. Very few wrestlers in WWE seem to understand how to turn crowds against themselves or why it’s an important part of their job. That or they’re concerned about being genuinely hated by fans. While the latter is a worry it’s also part of the territory for a pro wrestler at the WWE level: people should be willing to make themselves hated so that their good guy counterparts can become more appreciated by contrast. Everyone in wrestling benefits from having heels people want to see beaten on a roster.

A leading theory is that cool heels like the nWo ruined the business. Now every bad guy wants to take that route. That, people say, allows you to act in a heelish manner, with all the creative freedom that entails, while still receiving a healthy royalty cheque for T-shirt sales at the end of the month. That’s a simplification of the argument, but it’s accurate enough.

The easy to hate Randy Orton.
I don’t agree with the theory. While I imagine it’s desirable for a lot of wrestlers to be the cool bad guy it won’t be for all of them. As I’ve already stated I think the bigger problem is that too many people just don’t want to be full-on bad guys because of the possible repercussions. That and WWE’s approach doesn’t allow for much variety. For the most part every bad guy acts like every other bad guy. Every good guy acts like every other good guy. It’s an approach which makes riling crowds up, or forming positive bonds with them, hard.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the good guys the company has on offer are limp and fairly uninteresting. With bland guys like Kofi Kingston and the Usos being the norm people gravitate towards the heels because, by their nature, they get to show a bit more personality and character. Look at Bad News Barrett earlier this year. He was set up as a heel for months on end but people took to cheering him because he exhibited more personality than the stock WWE babyface. Bray Wyatt has become a mesmeric tweener. Fandango, Cesaro and Bo Dallas have experienced it too, getting cheers when they are, apparently, supposed to be the bad guys.

It shouldn’t be hard for the writing team, and the wrestlers themselves, to come up with reasons for fans to cheer and boo with passion at the appropriate times. Although an inability to do so would explain the woeful lack of interesting storylines outside of the main event.

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