Madman Genocide: The State of WWE Heels
Every three weeks, my day job grants me a glorious four-day weekend. During this time, I take it upon myself to find a new book to read, preferably one that will enlighten me. Yes, even “Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo” enlightened me. It sunk me deep into Russo’s psyche and writing style realizing that what I see on TNA is exactly how he thinks: sporadic, fragmented and hyperactive.
As I strolled through Books-A-Million in the massive complex of capitalism and body odor called ‘The Mall’, I came across “The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels” by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson. It has been less than 24 hours since I’ve purchased it and let me just say… my views and understanding of professional wrestling in general have not only been verified but compartmentalized.
“The Heels” is a terrific encyclopedia diving into the psychology of the professional wrestling heel, their advantages over babyfaces within the industry, their responsibilities alongside those same babyfaces, and the multitude of personalities they can choose from or even emulate from past heels.
I highly recommend finding this title, but before you thumb through the table of contents to find notable names and just read about them, read the introduction. The introduction alone opened my eyes to the world of the heel, how those days of lore and grandeur have passed us by and may never return due to the state of our media and the wrestling community in general.
Within the confines of the book, you come across a categorization of different types of heels. Aside from the authors’ listing of the top 20 heels in professional wrestling history, they give us seven different categories of heels so that we can better discern and differentiate. Most heels are a combination of many different styles but they are also dominant in one. According to Oliver and Johnson, these are the 7 groups of heels:
Wrestlers who threw the rule book out the window while applying foreign objects to the foreheads and torsos of their opponents.
Perhaps the most common villain in the postwar world, wrestlers adopted Japanese, Russian, and German guises to disgust and incense patriotic fans, even though most of these wrestlers were true Americans or Canadians.
Wrestlers who employed a variety of holds and technical wrestling skills when they weren’t cheating behind the ref’s back. Within the profession, these grapplers were often referred to as “smooth” wrestlers or “wrestling heels”.
The most well recognized category of wrestling villain is probably the bleached blonde, narcissistic, pretty boy, who has headlined cards from the time of Gorgeous George to today’s Ric Flair.
Wrestlers who were best known for hard-hitting, brawling, slugging, realistic-looking action. For tough guys, fisticuffs came as naturally as a Stetson to a cowboy, which is an archetype many tough guys portrayed.
Wrestling can be larger than life, and monster heels often were ‘larger’ than wrestling. Three hundred-pound behemoths have been a draw for years, in part, because of their seeming invincibility.
Some wrestlers have a knack for understanding how and when to manipulate a crowd, even though it might just be through a raised eyebrow or a turn of the head. While every heel is a conniver or a sneak to some degree, some performers stand out for their ability to master audiences.
Looking at these seven definitions, it dawned on me; who are the personifications of these heel archetypes in WWE?
Before we jump headfirst into the debate, let me start by mentioning that four of today’s top performers are already mentioned within the book. Randy Orton and Edge are considered top Egotists, Kane as Monster, and Triple H as Conniver. Argue all you want but that is what Oliver and Johnson contest… don’t shoot the messenger.
With that said, here are my current picks for the top seven categorical heels in WWE today:
The Foreigner – Alberto Del Rio
It is very difficult to designate a top foreigner heel in today’s WWE. For roughly the past 6 years, the only country that is represented by those who scoff at American values and tastes seemed to be Canada. However, for the past 6 weeks, we have been introduced to a self-made, highly-motivated, intellectually superior individual in Alberto Del Rio.
As he lauds his own accomplishments, he belittles those who do not have the capacity both mentally and physically to create their own. While this can be seen as sort of an Egotist, his thick accent and personal Spanish-speaking ring announcer make him easily reviled by the ‘fat and lazy’ American audience.
Even deeming babyface and fellow Mexican Rey Mysterio from the ‘infested streets of Tijuana’ plants him into Foreigner Heel territory, drawing heat from those within the Mexican community.
The Technician – Chris Jericho
“Ask him!” While it can be argued that maybe CM Punk or Jack Swagger should take top billing in this category, there is no question that Chris Jericho deserves this moniker. Utilizing the most essential of wear-down rest spots in conjunction with his tried and true moveset (Lionsault, springboard dropkick, etc.); Jericho is the definition of “Wrestling Heel”.
The Monster – Kane
There is no other performer on the WWE roster right now that can take this title away from Kane. I dare you to find another heel that can overshadow this psychopathic, sociopathic, serial killer-esque gimmick combined with a massive near 7-foot, over 300-pound frame. Unfortunately, within WWE’s PG-marketing paradigm, we may never see another unsettling character like Kane again.
The Conniver – CM Punk
Of all the heel categories, this was one of the toughest to find an example of because of all the different performers to choose from. In my eyes, this was a coin flip between CM Punk and The Miz but Punk takes this namesake due to its definition.
There is no other performer on the WWE roster that can elicit a reaction from the crowd just by the look on his face or the gesture of his actions quite like CM Punk. If you need proof, feel the hatred of his match against Rey Mysterio at Over the Limit earlier this year.
The Egotist – “Dashing” Cody Rhodes
Personal grooming tips aired weekly on Smackdown, a ring entrance that involves looking into a ‘digital mirror’ with vanity, and an in-ring style that involves him protecting his face from the destructive punches his opponents dish out; what other reasons do you need?
Will he be a main eventer? I hear many saying ‘probably not’, but who knows. Within time it could happen. Just because Rhodes is not a main event talent right now does not mean he doesn’t deserve the ‘Egotist Heel’. Compared to fellow Egotists like Ted DiBiase Jr., Drew McIntyre, and Dolph Ziggler, Rhodes stands above all showing off his perfectly groomed nostril hair.
The Tough Guy – Sheamus
While it can be argued that he should be the ‘Foreigner Heel’, Sheamus is above all else a ‘Tough Guy Heel’. While some basic strikes could be seen as futile if utilized by some, Sheamus’ size, facial expressions, and vocal punctuations make them exponentially more vicious.
A hammer-like, double-axe handle blow to the face… a move as simple as a kick to the face considered a crippling finisher… there is no question Sheamus is WWE’s ‘Tough Guy Heel’.
The Madman – *Blank*
There is no such thing as the Madman in WWE anymore. With the PG-marketing paradigm in place, a mass cleansing of characters was set into motion. Gone are the days of over-the-top foreign object use. Blading and bloodletting is now quickly met with towels and tape from ringside attendants rather than depiction and exploitation from ringside cameras.
These days may return to WWE, but it will not be for a very long time; at least not until this crop of fans they are baptizing become as old as we were when we were introduced to ECW.
“Who would get these heel labels in TNA?” I hear you asking.
None of them. I dare you to even attempt to figure out who is babyface and heel in the first place within TNA.
Until next time, mouth-breathers!
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