TCWNN #27: A Vintage Heel

I have a new favorite heel in the WWE.

It’s not Dave Batista, though he has been absolutely spectacular as a Kanye West styled douche over the past several months. His departing promo on this past Monday’s Raw was priceless; threatening to sue everyone from the WWE brass to the fans, decrying the unfairness of duct tape and vehicular homicide, and pitching a terribly terrific temper tantrum when told he’s expected to compete… all from the confines of a wheelchair (there’s something about heels freaking out in wheelchairs I find hilarious; TNA put Ric Flair in a wheelchair for a while there, and it was so great, I never wanted him to leave). But alas, he took his basketball and went home. He quit the WWE, and as many of us know, he’s done in reality as well, at least for now. So my favorite heel is going to have to be someone else.

You’d think that next in line would be CM Punk. Setting aside the surefire heel heat of telling a crowd that their beer means they’re weak, and my own personal prejudices (having been Straight Edge for over 15 years, the “Straight Edge means I’m better than you” cult leader gimmick is a sure fire hit with me), the main reason I hold Punk in such high esteem is his mastery of even the subtlest of heel mannerisms. Whether it’s pantomimed gestures or mere dirty looks, all of it is just perfectly smarmy and dastardly. And his crew of Serena and Luke Gallows (plus mysterious masked man) compliments him perfectly (and to think I once dreaded the prospect of them giving him a stable of Straight Edge wrestlers). A giant skinhead and a hair metal chick with no hair… it’s both ridiculous and perfect. But it’s not Punk. It’s not Chris Jericho or The Miz either. In fact, it’s a dark horse contender, who has only recently swept into the WWE and taken the crown.

That dark horses name is Michael Cole. Not the Michael Cole of Monday Night Raw, but Michael Cole the announcer of NXT. If the WWE still believed in heel managers, they’d have a great one on their hands.
Oh, to be sure, I had my doubts. If you go back and read my initial column regarding WWE NXT, I found Cole’s heel aggression towards Daniel Bryan to be bordering on overwhelming. Well, I am not a man who is afraid to eat his words. I have come to love and enjoy Cole’s over the top revulsion at the claim that Daniel Bryan was the best NXT rookie, let alone the best in the world.

It was really this past week’s in ring confrontation between Cole and Bryan that pushed me over the edge, in part because of the EXCELLENT video package that preceded it, with its slow motion, black and white zoom in on a cackling Cole. And then when we got to the ring, Cole was doing the ultimate in cowardly heel actions: hiding behind 4 bigger (and presumably stronger) men. And then he began to talk. And he was the smuggest, smarmiest man you could ever see. As many have mentioned, he seemed to be channeling an Attitude era Vince McMahon (ironic, considering how many times the internet has come down on him for being, as Daniel Bryan put it, “a parrot” for Vince McMahon). It was almost surreal to see so much charisma, after having gotten so used to the forced laughter of “Vintage” Michael Cole on Raw. And after having his apology yanked out from under him, he raged on Bryan for making excuses for his getting cut from NXT instead of taking the criticism and accepting his role in his failure.

And that’s what all three of my favorite recent heels have in common: the steadfast belief that they are in the right. And in fact, they actually are.

Dave Batista SHOULD be upset that duct tape and vehicular homicide resulted in two World championship losses. CM Punk is RIGHT when he says that using drugs and drinking too much is bad for you; he goes over the top with it but at the base of his argument is a kernel of truth. And Michael Cole is CORRECT when he slams Daniel Bryan for not being able to take criticism. He’s CORRECT when he says he shouldn’t be attacked at the announce table for voicing his opinion. He’s RIGHT to demand an apology. He was even justified in bashing Bryan while commentating, because Bryan never backed his hype up in the ring. Michael Cole is actually right about everything.

It’s vintage heel motivation, and it works. Look at back at some of the classic heel turns in pro-wrestling history, and you’ll find the heels belief that he’s in the right at their center. Mick Foley turning on the ECW fan base, for example, or practically every one who ever turned on Hulk Hogan for hogging the spotlight.

Like I said: vintage heel motivation. And it’s just the thing to keep Michael Cole from becoming a vintage punchline.

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