Happy Friday TJR Faithful! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written or y’all, but in my defence, work has been overwhelming as of late. I’m going to try to have something new for you guys every week leading up to Christmas since work is taking a bit of a hiatus for the holidays. Enough about me though, let’s talk WWE!
Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about this week. There were a few ideas swirling around my noggin. I wanted to write about The New Day and why it would be better if they were WWE Champion, but thought that might be redundant because it’s obvious. I wanted to speculate about the morale in WWE after Sheamus gets his umpteenth run as a top guy while dudes who are really over have to sit back and watch from the wings and support. While that piece would be fun to write, it’s purely speculation and I don’t really like to speculate on things I have no real tangible information on. So this week I’ve decided to talk about the fan perception of WWE.
Specifically I want to talk about how a majority of fans in some respect view the WWE as heels. Not The Authority, not Sheamus, but the WWE as a heel organization. It’s something I’d never thought about until I started really thinking about how to get Roman Reigns over as The GUY! The reason a vocal portion of the fanbase won’t get behind him is because he’s viewed as the Chosen One. The next big star to lead the WWE into a new decade.
Why do some fans reject this so vociferously? We don’t accuse other TV shows of pushing an agenda in their storytelling, when in fact most shows do want to have a focal star much like the WWE does. That’s when it all hit me: The WWE is a heel, and many will reject whatever it is that they’re trying to accomplish because it is the work of a villain. It doesn’t matter how heroic you try to make Roman look on TV, because that portion of the audience has been conditioned to view whatever the “company agenda” is, as the work of a deceptive villain. What’s more interesting to me is that the WWE has conditioned them to view things that way.
For around 2 decades now, the show has revolved around an authority figure trying to push their agenda. The institution for most of those 20 years has been portrayed as villainous and deceitful. From Vince McMahon to Eric Bischoff to The Authority; heels have run the company in its most public forum on Television. It isn’t at all remarkable that in this day in age, with social media and more access to behind the scenes information than ever, that fans still view the powers that run the WWE in real life as villainous, and thus reject what their agenda is. Whether that be by booing John Cena and Roman Reigns (the guys the show revolves around, thus the guys the the villainous WWE wants us to like, so many reject them), or hijacking segments to push our agenda like fans did during one of the most fascinating WWE segments of all time, The Title Ascension Ceremony on Raw. The fact is that while they want us to believe that Roman Reigns and John Cena are battling “The Authority”, they are company guys, which ostensibly makes them heels by association to a portion of the audience.
Now the WWE doesn’t help their heelish perception in many cases in real life. For every touching story about them making a kid’s dream come true, there are the stories about people walking on eggshells, afraid to speak out of turn. Case and point, not only is there a story out there that Brad Maddox was fired for using the term “pricks” in a pre-dark match promo (which on its face seems egregious to the average human being), now there is a story that they are considering suing him because his new ring name, Mad Braddox, is too similar to the Brad Maddoz name which they own (rich coming from a company that brought in Bryan Danielson and renamed him Daniel Bryan). Stories like these don’t help the company’s reputation as evil any, and in fact reinforce the idea that the company is villainous, which the heel TV Authority figures have put in our heads.
Let me put it this way: If you had an older brother that was always picking on you and playing pranks on you and that you viewed as “evil”, you wouldn’t trust anything he wants you to do or tries to do for you. He could buy you and ice cream sundae and you’d reject it, because you think it’s all part of an evil plot. In case it isn’t clear, WWE is the evil big brother, Roman Reigns is the ice cream sundae, and the fans are the tormented little brothers.
This must make the show hard to put together. Everything that you’re doing needs to be subversive. Anything you’re trying to push to fans has to seem like you’re not trying to push it. It’s a big game of reverse psychology, and quite frankly, I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it. To act like you’re not into what you actually want to push as a main attraction is not an impossible thing to do, but it’s so damned tedious. For the audience as a whole to fully embrace Roman Reigns, they’d have to convince us that they don’t really want him as their next top star.
Now there are a few ways to combat this. Firstly, you can saturate the TV narrative with great characters, and literally be willing to adopt the viewpoint of your audience as it occurs, not unlike what they did with Daniel Bryan. Another option is to at least make it seem like guys are getting to speak in their own voices (a la New Day, who are over because they feel the most authentic). The other option is to exploit the audience’s love of the medium, and to turn the WWE babyface.
Right now fans view WWE and its representatives as villains because of the corporate structure of it. What if you turned this around and made those in charge protecters of the medium, which in this case is weekly televised wrestling (which we are all fans of). Make the heels be guys that are actively trying to ruin the institution that is the WWE, and the people in charge (the figures of authority) are trying to protect the WWE from these invaders and saboteurs. In a perfect scenario, the company chosen guy isn’t a trick or an attempt to push a nefarious and greedy agenda, but instead in a chosen champion fighting for the continued success of our favourite institution.
Now it’s hard to say exactly how you would go about making this happen. It isn’t as simple as installing a babyface authority figure. It would take planning and unbelievably great execution to get fans of the product buy in to the WWE’s face turn. That being said, until it happens, whomever the WWE pushes on fans as the next “guy”, will be rejected by a sizeable portion of the audience, because they will always be viewed as a trojan horse and an agent of the evil, heel empire, that is the WWE.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! Is the WWE a heel? Is this a part of why fas reject company approved focal points? How do you counteract the idea that the company is a heel to so many?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas imploring you all to go see Creed. It’s phenomenal! Conversely it’d be a good movie to borrow from when writing Roman Reigns’ narrative.