What WWE Can Learn From Comics by Howie Mandella

If you haven’t seen the movie Deadpool yet and are concerned for spoilers, don’t worry. I won’t be revealing anything major from the movie (not really a big Marvel/DC guy), but I will be making some comparisons between the character himself to today’s heels and babyfaces. Recently, veterans of the wrestling business have been defending the traditional face and heel dynamic; connecting the good guy/bad guy relationship with that of popular superhero movies. They say it always works and it always will work. Maybe in some instances that’s the case.

Take Daniel Bryan, for example. He’s someone that people got behind for the simple fact that he was a good guy who worked his ass off in the ring. What got people behind him even more was fans truly believed he was being held down by the machine. However a guy like Daniel Bryan, who is (for the most part) universally liked, is a rare occurrence. Natural superstars that can truly captivate the masses come few far and between. From the beginning, the majority of fans agreed that Bryan was special and feared that the machine would hold him back. Fast forward five years later, and the majority of fans still agree that he’s one of the best performers of all time, and his retirement is a major loss to the business.

However normally, people don’t agree: wrestling fans especially. John Cena and Roman Reigns are two of the best, most recent examples of superstars that come with endless debate. You could argue that both have been (and are being) shoved down fans throats relentlessly. You could also argue that the two are simply doing their best and don’t deserve the overt criticisms. The truth is we’re all not going to like everyone, because…well people are different. Some of us drink different cups of tea. We eat differently today, having access to a variety of different foods. We have different tastes in music, engage in different hobbies. It’s the very reason why the internet is home to many mindless debates about the most minuscule of issues. Find any meme that has to do with anything on Facebook, then check out the comments section.

Today’s society is all about individualism, so why can’t we get that in more of our superstars? Why are fans that reject cookie cutter babyfaces automatically categorized as “smarks” that live to “hijack shows.” I’ve written an article in the past about distinguishing clear hijacking from just fans expressing their opinions on the show. This piece was inspired by some comments Mark Madden recently made on Jim Ross’s “The Ross Report” podcast. Give it a listen; he makes a few valid points, but most of what he says may challenge you. What challenged me the most was how he writes off today’s crowd saying it’s full of 85% smarks. He went on to mention Disco Inferno and how he’s said that today fans go to shows just to hijack and ruin it. Madden continued by projecting the Mania crowd will be full of people just waiting for Roman Reigns to win so they can crap all over it. I personally don’t understand why there’s been a persecution of vocal fans and not a persecution over the way these stories are being told.

Is it because some fans prefer Ambrose over Reigns? Is it because everyone isn’t sitting on their hands with their mouths open ready to be spoon-fed the latest telegraphed story that induces no type of emotion (besides frustration)? Just watch last week’s RAW. When it’s good, the people will tell you. When it’s bad, they will also tell you. Certain cities have always been considered “smarter” than others, but fans across the country have been seemingly indifferent towards the product before last Monday’s RAW. Madden has it right when he says no one is over, but he needs to get in touch with the eclectic nature of fans today. There is no more “IWC.” A lot of the same people who are on the internet expressing disdain for today’s “always beats the odds” faces are in the crowds. They’re paying for the WWE Network every month. They’re buying the merchandise of the superstars they WANT to see. Everyone likes nobody.

Deadpool is continuing to break box office records, and it wasn’t all special effects and inside jokes. Marvel “gets” it when it comes to character development. Deadpool is not a role model, but instead someone who walks to the beat of his own drum. From taking advantage of blind old ladies to beating up pizza delivery guys who creep on girls, Deadpool is everything that the “good guys” WWE want you to embrace are not. His uphill battle throughout the movie isn’t easy and he doesn’t always win right off the bat. He distinguishes himself from the rest of the X-Men because he’s free and isn’t tied down by ridiculous superhero “norms.”

Why is it that our babyfaces rarely ever get angry? Why is are the promos so scripted to the point where barely anyone sounds believable when they’re talking? They’re not selling anything. Why do we gravitate toward Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens moreso than the more vanilla characters in WWE? It’s because to some people, the anti-heroes and villains are their superheroes. It’s hard for the average person to get behind someone who looks like a million bucks and is never worried about what happens because he knows his position is safe. Very few of us can relate to someone who’s all clean cut with no cracks in their armor. You could that wrestling has always been about larger than life personas, but how many of those are truly around in the business now? You can’t get fans invested if there’s no type of connection between them and the character who’s supposed to represent them.

Morality should be alluded to but not taught. Morals are merely values that individuals conceive through the way they are raised, spirituality and/or personal experience. If a superstar attacks another from behind, the commentators will tell you the attacker is wrong. Even if the man he attacked had a championship that’s been alluding him all his life. This superstar has wrestled for over 15 years and has never gotten a chance at the title, and the only way to get it was by taking it. The champion, on the other hand, has had everything pretty much handed to him up to this point. He was handpicked by management to be the next big thing and has always just been in the right place at the right time.

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The face/heel dynamic between the two wrestlers that the commentators painted for us doesn’t seem so black and white when you take a deeper look, and it doesn’t have to be. What is right to me, may seem wrong to the next person and vice versa. Characters should be molded with their own morals, with the good and bad lying in what is ethical. Would the superstar who attacked the champion also attack a defenseless human being? Would the champion not be the attacker if their roles were reversed? These characters are scratching the surface; and in a world full of terrorism and idiots like Donald Trump, it’s going to take more than dirty ring tactics to draw legitimate heat.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, in my opinion, is the greatest superstar in WWE history because he was the most over babyface, yet he was far from a proverbial “good guy.” Austin towed the line, pushed the envelope and didn’t give a damn who he offended. The end justified the means whenever he was able to stick it to Vince McMahon. They can try to re-create the magic of that with The Authority, but it’ll never work for as long as robot Roman Reigns is at the helm. He never demands anything. He never goes on a hunt. He’s just there waiting to see what they will do to him next.

If they ever want to get him or anyone over, the presentation of these guys needs to be more organic. We need more layers in the superstars we’re meant to truly get invested in. There needs to be more perspective woven throughout our storylines, and if 5 hours of television a week isn’t enough there are countless other platforms that can be better utilized to fill in the gaps. The amount of time that Marvel and DC put into their comic book characters have almost everything to do with the hype the surrounds their projects. Diehard fans know what they can expect from everyone, while the casuals feed in due to curiosity based on that diehard excitement. Everyone may not like it, but everyone is watching. I for one, haven’t read any of the comics and still the Deadpool character was able to grasp me. He’s relatable. He’s flawed. He’s not always right. He’s real. Can we get more of this in today’s product, please?