WWE Discussion: Are Heels Being Used the Right Way in WWE?

Here is the question that I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago: Do you think WWE is doing a good enough job in building up heel performers or is it a problem right now?

As you might expect, there were a lot of different answers to that question, so what I’ll do is include a lot of those thoughts and my reactions as well. However, first I’m going to offer up

MY TAKE

I grew up on bad guys in wrestling. Roddy Piper annoyed me because he never shut up. The Undertaker scared me the first time I saw him on camera. Jake Roberts was the most evil man on planet Earth when his snake Damien bit my favorite wrestler Randy Savage in a WWE ring. Ted Dibiase was such a jerk when he would get a little kid to dribble a ball with a promise to pay him $100 after his 10th dribble and then kick the ball away. I hated it back then, but it’s funny now. Ric Flair was a conceited jerk that bragged about how rich he was and how awesome he was, but he always backed it up. That was then and this is now. Are heels in WWE being used the right way and can we really compare them to heels from the past?

I’ve thought about this for a few days. I think a lot of WWE’s heels are very good performers. However, they aren’t always acting like true heels. AJ Styles was the best wrestler of 2016 and spent a little over half of it as a heel, but he also was cheered a lot by the fans. As much as I love my fellow Canadians Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, they throw in so many jokes or do so many things to make the crowd cheer them (such as Jericho’s list or saying “it” to draw a laugh) that it’s hard to call them pure heels. There is no way Roddy Piper would have done that. I assure you that Jake Roberts wouldn’t do it either when he was a heel.

The best pure heels in WWE right now are Charlotte and The Miz with his wife Maryse. They never try to suck up to the fans or make one liners to try to pop the crowd. They always act like total jerks that the fans hate even though we can all see that they are awesome overall performers. Charlotte is a cocky woman that has an undefeated streak in PPV title matches. She mentions it all the time and people hate her for it, but it’s exactly what her character should do. Miz is doing a good job of using logic in his promos and sometimes BSing his way through things. Again, that’s what a heel should do. Lie, cheat and steal – the Eddie Guerrero mantra that he did as a heel and guess what? It turned him face.

There are two “new” heels that have a lot of potential right now. They are Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin. Strowman hasn’t been pinned on Raw since the brand split and is consistently booked like a strong performer. Baron Corbin has suffered some losses, but is generally pushed strong. I think both guys are going to win major titles this year (WWE or Universal) and it’s necessary for WWE to do that because they need to elevate different people – especially heels – to that level.

I think WWE has a talented roster of heels right now. It’s much better than when Cena was feuding with the likes of R-Truth or John Laurinaitis in PPV matches. It’s just a matter of finding ways to make them more hated without the fans cheering them. I know fans like to cheer people that are cool, so they will gravitate to heels because a lot of the faces are boring. That’s just how wrestling is. I miss the heels that knew how to generate the kind of heel heat that would make me smile to see them get beat up. There is another aspect to it, though. We have reached the point where a lot of us have seen so much wrestling and reached a point in our lives where we aren’t going to react to that kind of thing the way we used  to.

I don’t think there’s a heel problem in WWE. There’s a lot of talent on the heel side. A bigger issue is a lack of cool faces to rally behind. That’s another topic for another time.

Let’s get to the reader comments.

 

READER TAKES

Reader comments will be in red and blue fonts while mine will be in the (black font). Let’s get to it.

Shawn Collin
No. They build them up by making them need help in every occasion, which makes them look weak.

(A basic answer to the question. That’s really it in a nutshell, but there are others with more opinions too.)

Daniel Mount
I think there needs to be more monster heels. Guys like KO and Rollins when he was heel immediately turn chicken bleep when they get the belt. Having a cowardly heel is fine, but there needs to be balance. I hope Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin get that unstoppable booking.

(Agree. That’s why I kept saying Strowman should have won the Rumble because it would have been huge for him. It’s not because I’m a Strowman fan necessarily. It’s more about the story of having a dominant heel that makes it hard on others.)

Evan Fjellin
Hard to be a monster heel nowadays, because the ‘smarks’ will wind up cheering them. Owens gets a fair amount of cheers, as well as Jericho. Eventually Strowman will as well.

(That’s a fair point. Fans cheering heels too much does make it a lot more difficult.)

Rick Bulow
They are decent. not like they were during the Rock n’ Wrestling days (where they built up genuine heels like the Heenan Family, Volkoff, Iron Sheik, and others) but they are manageable. Though at times it is hard to root for some heels like Orton, Styles, and (now due to his being almost legendary) Jericho.

(Some of those heels are great as you said. It’s definitely harder to boo them.)

Cory Frizzell
I wish KO was booked more serious especially considering he has an upcoming match with Brock at a live event. Don’t get me wrong, I love his comedy segments with Jericho, but it really pains me to see him whining backstage to Stephanie so hard about not wanting to face Braun Strowman. I miss the badass Owens who was out for destruction. He wasn’t afraid to powerbomb MGK off the stage or come face to face with Cena. That moment where he took out Cena, stomped on the US Title, then raised the NXT title was one of my favorite things ever.

(All good points. I think with KO a problem has been feuding with the likes of Reigns and Rollins, who WWE always wants to protect as superhuman faces. Owens couldn’t beat either of them clean and it just led to matches that weren’t as interesting as they could have been if he actually won clean.)

Jeff Johnson
I think they’ve done a really good job with Braun Strowman, and they are heading that way with Corbin too. As for NXT, I think they’ve done a great job with Bobby Roode. They’ve made his entrance “glorious” so that it appeals to all fans, but he’s still enough of an arrogant prick that he gets booed. I think overall the heel side of the company is good. I do wish they would book Owens better, but him just being champion is good enough in my book.

(Fair points. I like Roode a lot, but he gets cheered way more than a typical heel. Part of it is the entrance and the song, which are cool. He does act like a heel during matches.)

Mark Tallentire
The way I interpret a good heel is by how much I hate them! Back when I was younger, heels like Triple H, JBL, Edge etc were superb because I always wanted them to get their asses kicked! They very rarely lost the advantage over their babyface opponent and then it was always special when they did.

(Those three guys were all smart heels that had a lot of cheap endings. Triple H did have more clean wins than most heels while JBL and Edge had a lot more that were lucky similar to what we see from Owens today.)

Andy Savieo
What I want is a heel that goes out and wins. No help, no cheating needed. He’s not a coward, he doesn’t run. He’s good and he knows it. Sounds like Lesnar, but full time.

(They’ll do it at the midcard level like with Neville right now or Charlotte if you want to count the women’s division. It just doesn’t happen as often higher up the card and in main events.)

Ryan Petrynka
A great heel is someone who grates on me, who is so annoying that I look forward to seeing him finally get beat up. The Miz plays that role perfectly. He shoots his mouth off, has a hot wife, acts like a conceited jerk, backs it up most of the time, and when he can’t he runs away. In my opinion, The Miz is the best heel in WWE right now.

(I agree with a lot of that. He had a tremendous run in the second half of last year and into this year.)

Kevin Curtiss
Absolutely not if we’re talking from the perspective of a mid 30 year old fan. True heels off the top of my head, and I mean those that you genuinely despise. The Miz, Sheamus, Rusev. Then there are guys you hate just because they suck. The Ascension, Shining Stars, Titus O Neil. If you’re looking at it from the point of view of their target audience, they have plenty of heels. My nephews are eight and nine, they absolutely hate Kevin Owens. Hate him.

(I liked that you mentioned reactions of kids because we sometimes forget who WWE is trying to target a lot of the time. We love Owens as adults, but kids are going to hate a guy like that and it’s easy to see why, so in a lot of ways WWE is doing it right.)

Rik Shaw
It’s interesting that all the title holders right now on Raw are heels. KO is a good example of what the company is doing right. Cheap wins to defend the title (even though it’s a bit too often). I think the company has more of a problem with faces. If they push a face too much then it doesn’t work because the fans recognise the blatant attempts to make us want to like and cheer for these people. But then if these people had heel turns we’d cheer the living shit out of them. Reigns’ popularity would most likely benefit from a heel turn. I’d personally love to see a heel run from Cena before he calls it a day, but whether it would work (given his lengthy run as the biggest face in recent history and all his wish granting antics) is another story.

(Cena going heel is probably not going to happen, but I think with Reigns it’s possible. If Reigns went heel I think he’d do a great job of it too. With that said, fans would probably start cheering for him more as a heel than as a face because it’s the cool thing to do.)

Gabriel Jones
No. A heel is someone you can’t wait to see someone beat them. The guys nowadays are too concerned with being over with the snarky fans. And even ones that do gain any ground, you know it’s just a matter of time before Cena or Reigns makes poop jokes about them.

(Good point in saying that the heels are concerned with getting reactions from the snarky fans. As much as we love Jerico as a heel, he is catering to us a lot and not always being a true heel.)

Kitch Kitch
I think they are doing a much better job then they were a few years back. It’s tough to get true heels when 3/4 the crowd is cheering for you. Owens does a great job never making you question if he’s a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” (Inside the ring) Jericho I’ll always love because when he’s a heel he plays a heel outside he ring as well. It’s great. People think he’s a jerk. It’s his role and he does a damn good job. AJ has been doing a good job playing a heel. We all know how nice of a guy he is. He’s done well. All three of these guys deserve a shout out. They get cheered every single night and do a good job at what they do.

Braun and Bray…coming along. Bray is great. But he’s so all over he place. Braun, he’s got it. Just needs a little bit more. But I enjoy watching his character come along.

Miz and Corbin…I truly enjoy watching both these guys be jerks. It fits them naturally.

(I agree with a lot of that. They are definitely doing better than they were a few years ago. Over five years ago they had the likes of R-Truth, John Laurinaitis and Big Show as PPV opponents for John Cena in main event matches. They are in a better spot today that’s for sure.)

Brigid Martinez
I think it’s lacking a little bit. Miz is great, but other than that I can’t really think of anyone else who stands out as being really good. I’ve said this a lot, but it seems like WWE is afraid to be too “edgy” so their heels don’t really have the same effect. They don’t piss me off and make me want to see them get their asses kicked. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and I expect too much out of my wrestling.

(That’s a very good point in terms of WWE being afraid to be too edgy. They really aren’t trying to push the envelope much at all, so the heels are pretty basic in a lot of the things they do. They won’t use aggressive language and weapons are not used as much either during attacks.)

Matt Quinn
Braun, Corbin, Charlotte, Alexa Bliss, Neville, and Miz have all been built (or rebuilt) very well. Joe and The Revival would be here too, if you want to include NXT.

Owens, Jericho, AJ, and Bray are great, but they’re not pure heels. Owens and Jericho don’t always talk like heels because they make too many jokes. AJ doesn’t work like a heel, his offense is too exciting. Bray tries to work like a heel, but just look at his entrance. Bobby Roode would be in this category except it’s very similar to Bray’s problem.

Guys like Rusev, Sheamus, and Gallows & Anderson have the potential to be great heels, but have been held back by poor booking.

(You did well in terms of pointing out the names. I just don’t know if any of them are truly standout heels that can separate themselves from the others by being jerks. None of them are getting 1985 Roddy Piper or 1999 Vince McMahon kind of heat. Maybe that’s not possible anymore. I don’t know.)

Tommy Dinardi
The problem most of the time with WWE is they try to force someone the crowd loves as the heel (in the past: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler; more recently, Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles, KO & even Tye Dillinger circa 2-3 years ago). Other times, they have someone who has gotten all the heat in the world and end up feeding them to Cena (Umaga being one of the prime examples, more recently Rusev).

However, for once, I won’t blame WWE on this one. There are too many circumstances out of their control, they just have to learn to take advantage of these perfect storm scenarios more. Like right now, The Miz & Baron Corbin are proving themselves to be the best heels in wrestling and have finally gotten that recognition. Now it’s in the hands of booking, which really could go either way: If Rusev hadn’t been beaten time and time again by Cena, he might still be a credible threat in the WWE/Universal Title scene instead of the continual Booking Rehab 101 he gets stuck in.

(Good job in bringing up Rusev. I feel like he has been booked so poorly in the last two years that it has done major damage to him and I don’t know if they can get him on the right path again. I really help so. What you said made a lot of sense. Well done.)

Jason W. Boyd
I think right now there is no difference between a face and a heel. Not a huge difference at least. During the Attitude Era you had clear cut. Everyone loved DX and Austin while people even clearly hated great heels like the Rock and Undertaker. There was a clear difference.

Now the IWC makes almost everyone a face. No fault to WWE, but the internet darlings blow the roof off cheering when heels come out. Top heels like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins (when he was heel), and Randy Orton gets huge cheers when out performing. Top faces like John Cena and Roman Reigns gets 50/50 with louder boos than cheers. You have guys do too much flip flopping like Kane, Big Show and even Jericho. You have debuting NXT stars that are heels gets cheered like Samoa Joe. You have teams like Gallows/Anderson and Cesaro/Sheamus that fans don’t know who to get behind.

There are a few faces the fans will not boo and heels the fan will not cheer. They will never boo American Alpha, Sasha Banks, or Bayley. Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, or undertaker. They will never cheer the Miz or Charlotte. Those two have built their own heat. My point is WWE doesn’t have much control anymore. It’s all in the fans choice.

(That’s the main reason why I set up this discussion. To try to figure out it’s a talent issue, a creative issue or a fan issue – it’s a bit of all three really.)

Swastik Rath
Yes, I think WWE is doing a good job at it. I think the heels are outperforming the faces at the moment. The Miz has been killing it for one year. AJ has been phenomenal. Wyatt is now a prominent heel figure. Owens has always been a great heel performer and will gain more heat when he betrays Jericho. Jericho is still the best in the world at what he does. Baron Corbin has proved that he is at the top of his game. Strowman has been booked in the best way possible after the brand split as a monster heel. Also Ziggler has just turned heel and is gaining momentum. Neville has turned the tides in his favour as a heel. In NXT, Roode is glorious. Among women, there are Charlotte, Mickie, Alexa, Natalya, Nia Jax. So, yeah. WWE is doing a great job at it.

(There’s a lot of good talent that you named there and a lot of them get consistently strong heel reactions. Other get cheered, though.)

John Villarreal
Jericho and Owens have worked well together. They remind me of the Two-Man Power Trip but a lot funnier. I think Strowman, Corbin, Neville, Wyatts, Miz are doing their best within their roles. A.J. Styles is the best heel in the company despite his babyface style. Rusev is the biggest waste of a talent on the roster at the moment. I would love to see Rusev & Lana team with the Authors of Pain and Ellering and call it Devastation Collective or something when they eventually move up. I’d say at some point next year Rusev should get put in that Main Event scene again when Brock is gone as lead heel on Raw.

Strowman is what Vince could have got out of Warlord, Corbin is basically what they wish Titus was, Neville reminds me of heel Dean Malenko in WCW, but is a much better storyteller, in the domination regard. WCW Cruiserweights never had an angry heel Cruiserweight champ that worked. Wyatts story has worked for me. Slow storytelling, long drawn out, old school story with a great payoff coming. It will serve as a great launching point for Orton’s rejuvenated babyface run. It will make Wyatt the Champ if only for a short time, which is long overdue. Too bad Miz is saddled with this WM story, because his momentum will be all but dead by Wrestlemania and he hasn’t proven to me that he can carry a shitty feud like this. I’d prefer to see him and Cena one on one as opposed to the rumors. Like, why didn’t we get Dusty/Macho Man? We got Dusty & Sapphire vs Macho & Sherri…NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(You really broke it down well. Agree about Rusev as I have said elsewhere on here. I think the performers are doing the best they can, but sometimes the material is such that it makes things difficult on them.)

Jeremy Turner
I guess when the Miz is the most effective pure heel in the company, there’s a problem. That’s not a rag on Miz, who’s been knocking it out of the park lately. Just a commentary on the rest of the heels, who seem more like comedy acts or tweeners anymore.

(It took him some time to figure it out too. This version of Miz is different than his rise in 2010-11. He’ll have more staying power now. Your point is a good one too.)

Mike Hogan
The problem isn’t no heels, it’s no faces. Heels have more distinctive characters and gimmicks – faces should too though. The heels are interesting, and developed, of course they’re going to be cheered. You need a good face to make you want to cheer them, and the problem is all faces are booked the same. 50/50 booking doesn’t help either. Heels should go on runs and have a face to vanquish them at the end.

(That last point is the basic way to book pro wrestling. They just don’t do it enough because of the 50/50 booking you mentioned.)

Ian Huntley
It seems to me that they are always trying to re-light that Stone Cold Steve Austin match and get a badass that the kids can cheer for. Not many people get to be themselves – they’re the “new” Austin, the “new” Rock, the “new” Lesnar. The other ones are stuck with one-dimensional gimmicks, like, “I’m a big Russian guy,” “I’m an annoying Guy Fieri douche,” or “I weigh under 205 lbs.” The New Day is one of the few original, multi-faceted concepts going in the WWE today.

WWE isn’t in danger of losing its audience to competing promotions, but it is losing their attention. There are other shows to choose, and the Internet makes it possible for people to follow tons of promotions.

The WWE formula is a formula for a reason. It’s really not going to change until Vince either faces genuine, threatening competition or dies – which are the only times the WWE changed in the past… from the death of Vince, Sr leading to the Superstars era to the stiff competition from WCW leading to the Attitude Era. It will take that level of a shock before you see anything revolutionary in WWE.

(I agree with a lot of that. They are always looking for the next Stone Cold without realizing that they lucked into it because he was just a guy that worked his ass off that got a chance to do some unscripted promos and have great matches. Now, every single promo is scripted and there doesn’t seem to the be authenticity that Austin had.)

James Ferriman
I’m a fan of the heel work going on right now. I think Dolph Ziggler heel run so far has been INCREDIBLE! Reminds me a lot of CM Punk’s heel run when he was paired with Paul Heyman in how legitimately it comes across. The Miz has obviously been stellar too. I definately think SD has far, far better heels than Raw. Raw has comedy heels in Jericho and Owens but could do with a few more no nonsense heels too. Samoa Joe’s call-up is a good start!

Despite all of this, all of this is fairly flawed as the biggest and ironically unintentional heel they have right now is Roman Reigns.

(Let’s end on that one. Imagine being a new fan, tuning in during the Royal Rumble and hearing that reaction for Reigns. You would think he was the biggest heel. It just shows how weird wrestling is today.)

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There were a lot more comments on the Facebook Page. I’m sorry for not including all, but it would take hours for me to do all of that. I’ll try to set up “WWE Discussion” topics once in a while so that people can talk about them on there as well as here on the site.

Let us know what you think about this topic and I’ll check in to see your thoughts as well.