Como estan, mis amigos? It is I, Mike Gojira, back with another enthralling edition of The Stomping Ground. We are five days removed from this year’s WWE Draft and it was quite interesting, to say the least. More on that later. Right now I have to get something off my chest.
Rhett “Rad” Davis! Jonah Kue! You two jabronies have been running your mouths for weeks about how you can take on a literary master such as myself and show just how good you can be, but the only thing you’ve been good at is running away! I challenged Rhett to a Steel Cage Match last Sunday and even invited Kue to watch but neither “man” showed one iota of courage because they didn’t make it. Something about it being Easter Sunday, I was told, but it didn’t matter to me! I ate my Easter dinner with my family inside that very cage! Sure, there were some awkward conversations and my sister wondered why there was a turkey sitting on a pole in the corner, but damn it I was there waiting! (It was a very nice dinner and the cage added to the ambiance, so thanks, Mom!) The next night I was viciously assaulted by two masked luchadores in my condo. I couldn’t be sure who it was, but I was sure that one of them spoke in alliteration and the other kept saying what they did was “Rad” before I blacked out. When I came to, the esteemed Pulse Glazer offered his assistance and so a tag team match has been set for the near future. That’s right: Mike Gojira and Pulse Glazer vs Rhett Davis and Jonah Kue, live on PPV!
My assault got me thinking about similar heel tactics in wrestling, and I realized that my topic for this week was staring me in the face the whole time. I discovered that, through my years of watching wrestling, I slowly but surely changed from a kid who wanted the faces to win to a young man who loved to cheer the heels and their antics. Now, the key to a good heel has always been their ability to rile up the crowd and make the fans pay to see them get their comeuppance. The ability to wrestle in the ring was not that big of an issue in the past, as the weaselly tactics of the heel often made up for their inability to put on a clinic in the ring. I’m not saying that most heels couldn’t get in the ring and wrestle; just that quite a few relied heavily on their actions before and after the match to increase fan hatred of them.
The current crop of WWE heels has shed that image altogether. Often we hear sections of the audience cheer and applaud these heels because they recognize true talent and are showing their appreciation for the heelish actions of the wrestlers. The following list is comprised of a scant few individuals who I personally believe are the best both in and out of the ring at getting the WWE Universe to love to hate them.
Alberto del Rio has done an awesome job as of late in getting the crowd to absolutely despise him. From his earliest vignettes to his immediately over feud with Rey Mysterio, to the injury of Christian and subsequent Royal Rumble victory, to his most recent promo involving Edge’s retirement, del Rio is the perfect smarmy heel. He is the classic stereotype of the man who has everything and looks down on everyone else as his peasants. It’s a simple character trait that never ceases to get old. JBL found success using the same gimmick, which took him from average midcarder Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw to the longest reigning WWE Champion in Smackdown history. If you asked me ten years ago if I thought a guy like Bradshaw would be World Champion-material, I would have laughed in your face. Here we are now on Smackdown with the same gimmick and it has worked for del Rio. Sure, he still hasn’t become champion as he claims is his destiny, but that’s only a matter of time. The last time the WWE pushed a debuting heel to the moon was Sheamus, and it took a while for him to be accepted as a credible threat. Del Rio can actually back up his big talk in the ring and has won clean over many a face. In classic heel fashion, he resorts to cheating when his foe is much more important on the WWE totem pole, but he is a great heel in that he honestly doesn’t need to cheat. To top it off, his entrance alone elicits boos from the audience because they can’t stand the smug look on Ricardo Rodriguez’s face or the flashy cars del Rio drives to the ramp. Del Rio is more of a classic heel as far as the WWE style is concerned because I have yet to hear any contingent of fans cheer for him in the slightest. Perhaps over time he can achieve that status. With his current trade to Raw, he is now open to a major feud with John Cena and will have more exposure as well.
Cody Rhodes is another great heel who has metamorphosed from the plucky, vanilla tag team partner to a sinister and brooding presence on Smackdown. I’ll admit that I thought DiBiase had the pedigree to make a name for himself while they teamed together as Legacy, but Cody has held his own both on the mic and in the ring and is clearly the one ready for a huge push. He hasn’t ridden on the coattails of his father or brother and the fans are actually cheering for his antics. Take a look at last Friday’s brilliant Smackdown promo in which he handed out paper bag masks to members of the audience. They EMBRACED the idea and wore the bags over their heads, joining in on the fun. These were no WWE plants, people; these were genuine marks who loved being a part of the promo. Not convinced about how over Cody is? Look back at his match with Mysterio at Wrestlemania XXVII and listen for the Cody chants. He quickly has gone from the one-dimensional narcissistic character (see Luger, Lex and Masters, Chris) to a deeply troubled young man. It took me a while to embrace this darker side as I was just getting used to the Dashing One, but I have to say I like the new Rhodes.
CM Punk has been an all-around cackling mastermind of a villain ever since he turned heel against Jeff Hardy on Smackdown a couple of years ago. He led the brilliant Straight Edge Society and was even willing to lose matches for his team in order to put them over, as he reportedly did for Luke Gallows in a match against DX. He had an amazingly creepy rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Mysterio’s daughter last year and stole the show at the 2010 Royal Rumble with a priceless mid-match promo. My only concern with Punk is that he seems to come out a loser in all of his feuds. He had a great series with Mysterio but ultimately lost his hair. The Big Show decimated the Society. The Undertaker destroyed him in their Hell in a Cell encounter. Now Randy Orton is poised to put the finishing touches on his desecration of the New Nexus at Extreme Rules. Punk has shown that he can bounce back from these losses and it’s obvious that McMahon is quite high on his abilities both in the ring and on the mic, but for now he is not the top heel on either show. That honor goes to del Rio and The Miz and until one of them steps down I don’t see Punk as champ anytime soon. Add to this the rumor that Punk may be gone once his contract is up and you have to wonder why he is being so underutilized.
The Miz has made such a huge improvement in the past two years that he is clearly a guy who “gets” the business. He worked his way up from announcing the Diva Search to become one of the most entertaining heels of recent years. Many assumed his Money in the Bank run would fizzle out, or that his first title run would be a fluke, but he has proven all the naysayers wrong. Unfortunately, unless del Rio gets involved, Miz will be stuck feuding with Cena for some time now, as his former partner John Morrison is in a feud with R-Truth.
Having not read the Smackdown spoilers, I wonder how the ‘E will handle the midcard title situation now that Sheamus and Barrett share the same show. Will Kofi get his win before jumping ship, or will we have an interesting setting where two midcard champions vie for supremacy?
Daniel Bryan is a good fit for Smackdown. With Raw being overly saturated by dominant heels and John Cena, he can now gain some prominence in the midcard scene on the blue show.
Someone please kill Michael Cole. He has gone from heel announcer to obnoxious piece of shit. Want to be a great heel announcer? Look at JBL, Bobby Heenan, or Jerry Lawler himself. They cheered the heels and booed the faces without making it all about them.
R-Truth’s R-Tirade got on my nerves fast. It was really a simple, generic heel promo with no real substance. I’m not convinced he can be a great heel without garnering a ton of “X-Pac heat.”
Funny story: the other day I was talking with my buddy, Mike Murphy, about the draft and he was being very negative. I told him I’d start calling him “Murphy Cole” and he said that was the worst thing anyone has ever called him.
Who to plug, who to plug…hmmm. How about a sprinkling of Sanders in The Rager, a dash of Leonard with No Chance, and an enormous helping of Glazer in Backlash as all three columnists throw in their two cents on the draft.
James Alsop returns with his brilliant article on Shakespearean drama in wrestling. Seriously, you HAVE to check it out.
I’ve also got some Jonah Kue for you, but if he’s anything like that Jonah Hex movie, stay away. Or click here. Whatever.
Frenemy Rhett Davis is back with the latest O’Really Report which you can check out here.
That does it for me this week. As usual, so long…
And thanks for all the fish.
Tags: alberto del rio, christian, cm punk, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, Michael Cole, Mike Gojira, R-Truth, sheamus, The Miz, WWE, WWE Draft