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Thread: Take Up Thy Wrestling Boots and Walk #220

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    Take Up Thy Wrestling Boots and Walk #220

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this some time ago, but I wasn't very keen on it, and I just let it rest. But in the end having written it, I thought it was a shame to have it just sitting on the hard drive, and I should probably post it and see how it goes down. If nothing else it ends a long spell of not posting a column, which is no bad thing in itself. So yeah, I hope you enjoy, but if I'm a million miles off the kind of quality you've come to expect from a TUTWBAW then by all means, let me know in complete honesty.



    I’ve not written a column in a while now. My last attempt at a series bottomed out quicker than the NWA revival in the 1998 WWF. But despite that, I thought I’d make my 4000th return to the CF as I’ve had a thought that’s probably too long for the WWE forum. So let’s see how this goes and who knows, maybe I’ll find the necessary energy to try this more often.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about the moral compass of wrestling. Not of the industry, but of the product onscreen. The way the story is usually told is that in the 1990s wrestling flew out of its orbit, and the poles that governed this world were reversed. Good guys became bad, and bad guys became good. The fans themselves even became the bad guys, and wrestling was changed for ever.

    I don’t want to overplay my hand in everything that follows so I’ll acknowledge before I start that there is a degree of truth to this. I mean, sure, the fans wearing NWO shirts were definitely playing into an idea of themselves as ‘cool heels’, and the same is true for the earliest Austin 3:16 people. But regardless, the extent of this as a true ‘sea change’ is massively over-exaggerated. For one thing, those fans have always been around, and you can just take a look at the Horseman fans of the 1980s to see an earlier, example.

    The thing that often flies under the radar now is that at the height of Austin’s peak, he was unambiguously a babyface, and so were the fans. That he did not act as a babyface had in the nineteen eighties is irrelevant, as each act can only be judged within the context that it actually takes place. The real flip that occurred had nothing to do with either the wrestler or the audience; the company itself had turned heel. With the benefit of hindsight this has proven to be to the detriment of both WWE and TNA a long time after the Attitude Era came to an end. But when it worked, Austin only really took on Vince because McMahon stacked the deck against Austin when he failed mould him into the kind of champion that fit with his ideal image.

    There was a version of Steve Austin in the WWF that is harder to pin down, and that doesn’t fit within the framework that I am establishing here. But by the time of his peak popularity, that version had already passed into the ether of history. Austin’s tweener-ish ways of 1997 basically end with his interruption of Mike Tyson, if not before. From that moment until he sides with Vince at X-7, Austin becomes a defender of what is right: sort of a Redneck Avenger.

    The real sea-change is that until that point, the moral certainty of the company itself was never in doubt.

    This change in something so fundamental to the product had consequences far beyond one feud and the biggest star in wrestling. Right at the heart of the matter is the upheaval that turned RAW into the kind of show it is now, and main event wrestlers into the kind of superstars that they are today, and somewhere in that mix is the fundamental reason why the WWE struggle to put together consistent programming anymore.

    And the reason for that is that almost every face is a heel, and you only have to alter the spin at the most subtle level on almost every heel to make them a babyface.

    There is no better example of this than Roman Reigns. The WWE have had all manner of problems over the past eighteen months or so but the biggest one is that over the past couple of years Roman hasn’t been able to consistently shake off the boos and become the real top babyface star that the company want him to be. Sure, he’s shifting the merch and the younger kids like him, but the crowd are actively hostile to him in almost every arena in the country. Some people like to suggest that this is because he has been so obviously handpicked for a role that, in the first instance, he so clearly couldn’t handle. There is some truth to this. Only the most one-eyed person would suggest that Roman was even in the top five most talented guys in the company when he was first pushed to the moon.

    But let’s not oversimplify things, because there is much more than that in play. If that were all people had against him, Braun Strowman would suffer even greater afflictions, because he has been exposed more than once. While it’s almost certainly a factor, the real motivation for anything is almost always about the way the various elements are handled. And the truth is, Roman hasn’t been written as the good guy they want him to be. After the break-up of the SHIELD, Roman basically left Dean Ambrose to seek revenge alone. He didn’t stand by his buddy, who’d also been betrayed – at least not in any meaningful sense. They teamed together once in the rest of 2014, following the split.
    And sure, you might point to the fact that they had the two men team together a fuck-load in 2015. But this was a marriage of convenience, and one that was far too late. Once it was apparent that Roman wasn’t working out how they wanted they made an effort to have Dean’s popularity rub off on Reigns, but by then it was a horse-bolting/stable door kinda deal.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, and you’ve got the way he has acted in 2017. All of that gave, for a short time, some people renewed hope that the Reigns heel turn will be coming sooner rather than later. If his conduct with The Undertaker was designed to get fans to warm to him, then it qualifies as some of the most bizarre booking in history. Good guys – hell, decent people – don’t brag about retiring 50+ year old legends, and if that’s consistent with your character then you’re not a good guy, pure and simple. If that isn’t enough of a red flag, let’s not forget that he couldn’t get the job done against Braun Strowman, and then acted like a model sportsman by trying to MURDER the man who’d just beaten him.

    And this isn’t just a bookend deal, taken from the beginning of his solo run and his most recent days. We can look at the run in the middle, too. The tiniest bit of research turns up all kinds of stuff that people might have forgotten. Remember when he insulted Daniel Bryan when he was the fan’s favourite? Or how about when he dismissed the fans opinions in an interview, bragging that he was just a ‘guy getting rich’? What about winning the Superstar of the year, voted for by the fans, and basically no-selling it?

    That’s before you get into the history of unprovoked attacks (the most notable of which was against AJ Styles, who had just used his own stroke to save Reigns from an attack by Gallows and Anderson) and interrupting events for no good reason. Was there really any justification in his interrupting Rusev and Lana’s wedding, other than they are ‘bad guys’ and he’s a ‘cool face’? I think not.

    Taken in the round, the obvious answer is that Reigns struggles with the audience as much as because he has been presented as an arrogant, entitled piece of shit, as for anything to do with his status as the chosen one. There is no reason to invest in him as a good guy who just isn’t that good, and it seems incredibly harsh to blame the performer for failing in the role when the writing for him has been so bad.

    I am not the first person to point out these issues in Roman Reigns characterisation, nor am I the first to note that this issue predates his run on top. Lest we forget, John Cena has, since his last babyface turn in the early part of the millennium, been about hustle, loyalty and respect; the face of the company, the quintessential white-hat or blue-eye.

    But dig a little deeper and he’s got a shocking track record. He’s as big an opportunist as any heel, accepting matches that put his opponent at a huge disadvantage, such as the bouts with Rollins and Mysterio. And everyone remembers his dalliance with Eve Mendes and his effectively cutting the nuts off Zack Ryder’s career. But there are also numerous examples of his escalating things to the point where you’d feel sympathy for the heel, or of his whining about a result. And how many times have they set Cena up against what can only be described as ‘old men’, and non-wrestlers at that? There’s a well-established tradition in wrestling of devious people being beaten by those far bigger and stronger than them, and the likes of Bobby Heenan have always had to pay for their crimes eventually. Hey, with enough provocation Hulk Hogan could get away with throwing Sherri around. But Cena has been too willing to attack people older and weaker than him across the course of his career, and it’s never presented as ‘comeuppance’ in the same way that it was in an era when heels had legitimate heat.

    So what list of crimes do you have in good-guy Cena’s career, in the final reckoning? It includes Blackmail, extortion, bullying, manipulation, psychotic battery (see the JBL I Quit match ending), and poor sportsmanship, both in attacking referees and complaining about results. And this is the man who many would have us believe is a ‘white-meat’, uncomplicated babyface.

    One final example is Randy Orton, just this past summer. Orton’s career makes very little sense because he has flipped roles almost as often as Big Show and Kane, but we’ll keep things simple and ignore the constant heel/face flips that Orton has done for a moment and just look at his behaviour since Wrestlemania. The feud with Jinder Mahal dominated his 2017. In comparison with Cena and Roman this example isn’t as clear cut in the first instance; they have offered some kind of justification for why he hates Jinder, but given that Orton had only a few months earlier betrayed Bray Wyatt he is hardly in a position to get salty with Mahal about that. In fact, you only have to tone down Jinder’s rhetoric a touch, and give him a clean win over Orton to take the title, and what you’d have instead is a foreign star who gets booed basically for briefly speaking in another language despite bringing a bit of Indian pageantry and glamour to Smackdown. And all of that was generally interrupted by Orton. And lest we not forget, he’s also attacked Shinsuke Nakamura for literally no good reason at all since he’s fallen away from the title picture.

    These are just three examples, but the trend is much more widespread across the roster. Did Enzo really need to interrupt Miz and Maryse’s announcement that she was pregnant? Why should we cheer for Dolph Ziggler trying to have both Lana and Summer Rae on the hook at once? And I don’t for the life of me see why I’d cheer for Jason Jordan when he ditched his mate and broke up one of the most popular tag teams in the company because he found out Kurt Angle was his daddy, although in this last case there’s a good chance that this is a slow burn into a heel turn.

    Now, it’s not solely a problem for contemporary wrestling: there’s an element at which this has always been the case. You can find plenty of shady acts by Hulk Hogan in his 1980s run. The reason they had to get so many monsters through is it’s the only way that you can have him look like he isn’t beating up someone so much smaller, and as I’ve already mentioned he hits Sherri Martel enough times that you can’t look at it in quite the same way once you get to the twenty-first century.

    But this is, in the end, as much a question about how you get there. Hogan’s more questionable acts happened once in a blue moon, while the rest of the time he was presented clearly as the good guy. He had his interview time and said his piece, but he didn’t go looking for trouble, didn’t badmouth other wrestlers, and didn’t interrupt their important moments. He was the good guy because they pulled that shit on him. Owen sneak-attacked Bret, not the other way around; Vince stacked the odds against Austin and Rocky, but their babyface incarnations didn’t take unfair shortcuts because they had something to gain.

    For many, the Attitude Era is seen as something fundamentally different and as something that changed wrestling beyond measure. Kevin Nash is an example of this, and has compared his own run with Roman Reigns, saying that being that guy is difficult. I think a fair simpler rule actually holds true for both: that it’s very difficult to get people to love you when the material you are given to work with, sucks. But even for those people who do believe that things were changed massively by the late nineties, then the Attitude Era is over, and many of the after-effects have been felt for too long. If anything, the thing they have in common is that Diesel was a hero for the eighties caught in the mid-nineties, while Roman is a post-Attitude hero in a whole new world. Now it’s time for the era of the ‘too cool for school’ babyface to come to an end, too. If babyfaces are to be cheered, they do not need to crack jokes or demean others. They need people to believe in them, and to feel for them when they are ill-treated. In many ways it is the simplest of equations – but it is time for the good guys to just be good.
    Last edited by Prime Time; 01-19-2018 at 12:12 PM.



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  2. #2
    "Diesel was a hero for the eighties caught in the mid-nineties, while Roman is a post-Attitude era in a whole new world"

    Proof that Vince has always been out of touch?

    Nothing wrong with the quality here, the content is pretty well thought out too.

  3. #3
    Senior Junior SirSam's Avatar
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    I really loved this column and am very glad you posted it.

    It is interesting that while you were talking about Roman's struggles as a babyface you didn't mention that Dean got hot essentially on a traditional babyface progrsm: he was betrayed by his best friend and screwed at every turn by his adversaries who outnumber him but he kept fighting anyway.

    A bigger point though that I don't think can be overstated is what you said about the company turning heel. What it has done is set up the company itself as the ultimate bad guy and so not only can the faces not get over properly the heels are relegated to second worst on the show and instead of the show being about the wrestlers it becomes about the General Manager or President or whatever else you want to call your authority figure. That is a big change for a wrestling show to make because that is when it moves from the focus being on the in-ring action to the backstage stuff.

    I think to a certain level it also subconsciously reinforces that the backstage element of wrestling is more important than the actual in ring work even outside of kayfabe so we end up with an inordinate amount of focus on backstage politics in general wrestling coverage.

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    Samuel Plan
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    I'll be honest with you mate, I struggled through the first of this; there was a definite sense of you stuttering a little into your groove in a certain sense. When you got there, though, it was typically top flight stuff.

    I do of course, as you may be aware, take a different view of your central point. I agree totally with your implied disdain for the effects of Attitude, and I share much of that sentiment. To a certain extent, I've also felt for some time that wrestling needs to get a little more retro so that it can move forward again. There's a real sense of sterility there now.

    I guess where we disagree is that I'm a believer in the need to scrap outdated notions of heels and babyfaces and move to a more malleable view of character. Let characters be what they are, determine story development by their nature and fans can react how they will. Sadly, the writing needs to get a whole lot better before I can hope for that though and I'm unconvinced it ever will; not until they realise the sports entertainment view of things is dead in the water.

    I also vehemently disagree on the point about Diesel being an 80s hero, or the implied idea he was only given sucky material to work with. Just, no.

    Thought provoking read as ever mate. Always good to see you drop something on the CF.

  5. #5
    The Brain
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    I thought this was really interesting, Pete. I miss seeing this kind of highly introspective, metaphysical wrestling talk more often. I like to try to get into the ether and figure out the currents of wrestling, past and present.

    I'm more with you than 'Plan in the idea that more traditional booking would be a godsend for WWE. Theoretically the idea of ditching heels and faces has always appealed to me, but as 'Plan himself mentioned the writing isn't there to support it right now.

    Then again, is it really true that Hogan's shady actions were a rare occurrence? Watching back through the Heenan series, it's shocking how often he cheats in his matches, or shows bad sportsmanship or makes a heel turn look justified by his own assholish actions. People went along with it because, hell, it was Hogan, and he was just that damn charismatic. Even at the height of his babyfacedom, I think people just liked seeing him be a dick to others. It was quietly part of his appeal.

    On the other side, I think I go with 'Plan on the idea that Diesel wasn't a man out of his time, or at least not completely. Nash lacks something basic to be at the level he was often pushed at, I think, though I do agree his WWF booking didn't always do him favors.

    Lots to mull over here, man, especially in regards to the Roman Reigns talk. I do wonder if WWE had handled the original Shield break up better, if he'd be in a much better position today. People point to the infamous Rumble as the moment people really started going hard against it, but the seeds of that were planted when he essentially seemed to give no shits about losing his allies in dramatic fashion.

    Anyway, I'm glad you took this column out of mothballs and posted it. Great to see something from you in this neck of the woods, you know?

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    DynaBill: Thanks man, kind of you to say. I don't know if I'd say Vince has always been out of touch, but if you wanted to say that you could also add that of his two biggest stars, one of them he effectively bought whole from the AWA and the other pretty much fell into his lap and made himself a star. So, while I think Vince has a pretty good nose for following the money once he is on the right track I am not sure there's any real evidence he knows how to give people what they want in the first place, until it's made completely obvious.

    Sam: Thanks for the kind words here. As for all you've added to this, I don't disagree with any of it, I think you are completely on the money. It's kinda tiresome, to be honest, to have the eyes always backstage constantly.

    'plan: Well, I asked for honesty, so thanks for providing me with it!

    I don't know if we disagree so much as you think. Where I do disagree is in calling faces and heels outdated, and that's for two reasons. One is that it has the potential to tip very easily into a kind of elitism. And the other is that it implies there is something new about it. We've done this go around before, I know, but if you watch back to a lot of WCW stuff, especially under Bischoff, they were doing exactly the kind of thing you are talking about through their midcard twenty years ago. It's not like it is a new idea to move away from face and heel, it's just not one that has ever featured prominently for the WWE which has always been wedded to some version of that paradigm.

    That is why I said that I think they need to be genuinely good, here. Not because I think that doing what you are saying is wrong, but more that I just don't see it ever happening under Vince McMahon. I wrote this within a particular framework that they are using and I can see them using, but if you wanted to recast that final line so that it could be inclusive of the kind of thing you are talking about here, it would read as something more like 'know what you are trying to achieve with character, and then write in a way that gives you a realistic chance of achieving it.' That's what I don't think they've been doing for some time now.

    As for Diesel... he was given sucky material to work with, but not on the level that Roman is. The difference is Diesel totally had some great plots, and some great matches in that run. I loved a lot of that time, my favourite time in wrestling. But from the minute he won the title, he had his nuts cut off. The things that had made him popular in the first place were stripped from his character. There's a great interview via satellite between Diesel and Bret that sums it up in the run up to Survivor Series 1995 - Bret's working way more tweener and he kills it, while Nash is struggling with the role he had been asked to play. Knowing where he'd take his heel character, and how he'd get over in the Wolfpac three years later, you know that something has gone wrong there. While Diesel had some nice things to do, the character itself was mishandled. I think that much is obvious.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and the honesty.

    Mizfan: As I've said in the comment directly above to 'Plan, the whole reason I took the line I did rather than the one he suggests is because I believe that what I'm talking about is more likely. Does wrestling need faces and heels? Probably not, to be honest. But I don't think the WWE in it's current incarnation would have the first clue of what to do without that framework to work in.

    I think Hogan's stuff was a lot rarer, mainly because you didn't seem to see him as often. Y'know, you see Roman Reigns maybe 60 times a year in the current climate, whereas you maybe saw Hogan... 10? So even if it happened, it was spaced out more, or at least that's my recollection of it which might be wrong. I also believe that in more cases than not, they did more to mitigate it. It's maybe hard to see going back to it now with the preexisting feeling that Hogan's probably a dick, but back then it always seemed like there was always a reason that it wasn't Hogan's fault that people kept turning on him. Y'know, he never just hit Sherri, she always got major heat on him first; he never just bullied people, they were always doing something to antagonise him - 'asking for it'. A lot of that is questionable now but it did mean, within the context, that you kinda got away with it. Roman and Cena have often been denied the same level of 'righteous dickishness' and consequently have just been dicks.

    I actually don't agree on Nash - especially in the WWE stuff, I think he was very well positioned. I mean, you could have gone with Bret or Taker, but equally there was no reason not to go with Diesel, and the matches with Bret and Shawn in particular prove that protected enough (as was the paradigm) you could have him in that role perfectly well. But he got over as a bit of a badass and quickly became smiley Diesel. And that neutered him pretty effectively, at least until he snapped at the Survivor Series and got his guts back in a flash. But he turned not long after that anyway.

    You are probably right on the Shield breakup, though what's come after has done nothing to undo that damage. Anyway, thanks for the kind words, and for reading.



    I did try this in part to see if shaking off the rust would get the old juices going again. While it's been nice to post it and have a bit of chat, I'm not sure that it really has stirred anything in me. I have a feeling very much like I did in early 2008, and not to get all dramatic and all but I kind of get the feeling that I don't really think wrestling at the moment is really worth writing about, and if I'm feeling like that then I imagine I can't really do justice to the reader. And as to the future, I've learned over the years never to say never with me and the CF but trying this has clarified a few things in my own head, and maybe fifteen years of writing TUTWBAW is time enough to let it rest. We'll see, I guess.



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  7. #7
    The Brain
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    I think Hogan's stuff was a lot rarer, mainly because you didn't seem to see him as often. Y'know, you see Roman Reigns maybe 60 times a year in the current climate, whereas you maybe saw Hogan... 10? So even if it happened, it was spaced out more, or at least that's my recollection of it which might be wrong.
    I may have a skewed view of the time period because I have the luxury of checking out a lot of the MSG/Boston/Maple Leaf/Philly/etc shows that weren't available nationally, so I've seen a lot of the guy in that period and he does seem to find a way to be a dick in just about every single match! But I also think you're right that they did more to mitigate it. I wonder though, do you think it was also easier to mitigate in that time? The 80s weren't exactly an empathetic time for America, once somebody was labeled the "bad guy" it was pretty much carte blanche to do anything to them. Nowadays there's a lot more contrarians (myself included!) ready to point out that maybe Hogan shouldn't have fucking ruined Andre's trophy ceremony, or maybe he should have picked up the phone when Orndorff needed help, or maybe he shouldn't have said he stares at a picture of Miss Elizabeth in a bikini every time he works out... and so on, and so forth!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizfan View Post
    I may have a skewed view of the time period because I have the luxury of checking out a lot of the MSG/Boston/Maple Leaf/Philly/etc shows that weren't available nationally, so I've seen a lot of the guy in that period and he does seem to find a way to be a dick in just about every single match! But I also think you're right that they did more to mitigate it. I wonder though, do you think it was also easier to mitigate in that time? The 80s weren't exactly an empathetic time for America, once somebody was labeled the "bad guy" it was pretty much carte blanche to do anything to them. Nowadays there's a lot more contrarians (myself included!) ready to point out that maybe Hogan shouldn't have fucking ruined Andre's trophy ceremony, or maybe he should have picked up the phone when Orndorff needed help, or maybe he shouldn't have said he stares at a picture of Miss Elizabeth in a bikini every time he works out... and so on, and so forth!
    Yeah, I mean the thing that you always have to remember is that no one would have experienced wrestling back then in the way you are watching it, so you're looking at it through very different eyes - in fact, you're not really getting 'the product' as intended, so much as a collection of alternate versions of the product, if that makes sense. I never felt that Hogan did ruin Andre's ceremony, though. His celebrating with Andre was, as far as I can remember anyway, substantively no different to Andre crashing Hogan's locker room with the champagne bottle. Dare I say it, you may be bringing Hogan hate to that one?! I can't say that I remember the other two - Orndorff was before my time so although I've seen it years later, it isn't seared onto my memory as much.... and I may have just erased the Elizabeth line out of self-preservation. Mind you, if I think back to the way he used to talk, it probably still did get a little gloss - I don't remember it as I say, but I'd be willing to wager a small amount that there's some line about her being 'an inspiration', and although it doesn't take a lot of reading in to get a sexual meaning, it probably doesn't jump out at you so much in context as it does years later... especially when we know that Savage was a bit of a psycho about Liz, which I don't think people outside the business knew until later.


    But yeah, if you see all of the little things from all the different nights that were each only shown to a select audience, it probably makes them all jump out a lot clearer. I actually did a quick search on a random year, and it turns out that Hogan was probably having up to around 30 televised and PPV matches in the first couple of years of Hulkamania, but it was down to around 20 times or less that you'd see him by the time I had any clue who he was. By comparison, before the roster split Roman Reigns worked over 90 TV/PPV matches in 2015, and then around 50 in 2016. Even with the full split and illness for 2017, he still did 40+. 25% more exposed at his least and Hogan's most, and nearly 500% more at Hogan's least and his most. Crazy.


    Enjoying this, mizzer. Like old times!



    @lopprimetime

  9. #9
    You are a really talented writer, so I hope this time you stick around again. You had a way to putting things into a unique context that I never really thought about. Fans as heels themselves makes a lot of sense and I never characterized the business that way, but the way you put it was perfect. It's hard to think of each era being mutually exclusive from the other, but I suppose it's true.

    I think the real turning point for me as a fan was 1992 when our hero Hulk Hogan was thrown out of the Royal Rumble by Sid Justice and fans cheered. I was like 9 at the time and I kept thinking how much of a dick Hogan was for getting that pissed that he was eliminated fair and square. Sid was dumb to engage him in a war of words, but for Hogan to try and throw him out solely out of sheer bitterness was a weird thing to see.

    As far as the attitude era, you're right. I think the that specific era was a statistical outlier as far as ratings and interest and when you look at the current product, it lines up just fine with every other era but that one as far as people watching the product. The older fan still tends to be too ratings oriented but there's so many other streaming options now that how we view things has changed. Nielson ratings were the be all end all of gauging a product and it's just not like that anymore.

    Fun read. Thanks for posting.

  10. #10
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    Thanks, TIIM. You're spot on about the 1992 stuff by the way, that hit me wrong even at the time. I could honestly take Hogan leaving after the defeat to Undertaker and not returning until 2002. But that's just me!

    Glad you like it mate. I don't know if I will be writing again anytime soon but nice to know that there's people out there who could be interested in seeing it.



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  11. #11
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    I remember something very similar to the central point of this coming to mind when Sheamus was headlining on Smackdown against ADR and stealing his car so he could eat Mexican food and shit in it. I think it's been a problem within WWE for such a long time now, and they're so used to writing these 'anti-hero' guys who aren't really 'heroes' at all and are far too 'anti' for it to work that it's simply never going to change.

    Ultimately, I think it is an Attitude Era hangover and one that nobody's taken some seltzer yet to relieve. It's not exactly a massive surprise that the three most successful faces in NXT history have been Sami Zayn, Bayley, and lately Johnny Gargano - people who have been defined by their struggles and failures as much as they have by their successes, and who have never 'gone dark', for want of a better way of putting it. Perhaps it's time that the main roster recognised that and started to use it as a character trope more. One thing's for sure is that having Bayley as a sassy babyface didn't work and damaged that character far more than any 50:50 booking did.

    Maybe they need to recognise this and flip the mould a bit. Equally, Roman seems to work when he just shuts up and punches 'bad' dudes in the mouth in the ring - which I suppose is the same core booking idea as that, just that he isn't as vulnerable as the three listed people above are. WWE seems to forget far too regularly that when we were all super into the Shield, and super into Roman, he was a sort of 'punch first, ask questions later' kind of guy. In some situations - Rusev's wedding, to borrow your example - it doesn't work. But there were very few people who would have argued that the end of TLC 2015 wasn't great, with Trips getting his just desserts from Roman and that being it.

    There's a great point here, and maybe - just maybe - those NXT characters are where Triple H sees the future of faces in WWE. If so, it suggests we might see a change in how they come across in the coming years. But until then I fear WWE is too bedded to the idea that this is what worked in the Attitude Era so it's what will work again. Which...man, that's tough to reason with, it really is.

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