The Stomping Ground: WWE Heels – Last Year and Now (Ziggler, The Miz, Daniel Bryan)

Another week, another column. Welcome back to the ol’ Stomping Ground. You know me by now, so let’s get on with the show. Intros are overrated anyhow.

This past Monday night, Kyle Fitta delivered a piece about the state of heels in the WWE and how they’re currently being booked. Yes, I suppose you can consider this a cheap plug for his column. You’re welcome. His discussion rekindled a topic I visited in May of last year: that of the overabundance of heels the company was pushing at the time. Two weeks earlier, I talked about who I believed to be the top heels of the WWE after the 2011 Draft.

I suppose it won’t hurt to revisit that old chestnut, right?

Looking back at my “Top Heels” column (which you all should have done by now), I picked four names who I believed to be poised for great things as bad guys in the WWE. Of the four I picked, only one has dramatically improved and that’s CM Punk. Ironically, it was his anti-hero stance he took heading into Money in the Bank that rocketed his ass to the top, and he turned face as a result. I’m a bit embarrassed about what I wrote in regards to The Miz. Look, I’m human; I’m allowed to err. I claimed that, and I quote, “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.”

My apologies.

Anywho, way back when, one of my most popular columns involved me ranking the heel factions of the business using letter grades. I didn’t hear many people disagreeing with me, so I assume that I was in the ballpark as far as a general consensus is concerned. On that note, I want to spend this week rating the current crop of heels and see whether you agree with my rankings.

By the way…I don’t plan on going in-depth about my scores, like how I came to this conclusion, or why I feel this way, etc. It’s basically based on in-ring action, promo skills, and booking. I don’t want to hear “So-and-so is a much better wrestler than this guy. Why does he have a lower grade?” I believe you, but when “So-and-so” is booked to look like a douche, it hurts his heel run. So suck on that.

Daniel Bryan
How odd that a year ago I claimed placing him on Smackdown would allow him to run roughshod over the midcard, and here we are three weeks away from Wrestlemania with DB poised to defend the World Heavyweight Championship. When he first turned heel, especially against the Big Show, I thought it was too abrupt. Mark Henry was (and still is) injured and it looked like DB’s cash-in was an audible. It’s been three months and Bryan has become quite an entertaining cowardly heel. I still believe he’d work better as a dangerous submission specialist a la Kurt Angle or Chris Benoit, but I’m satisfied with what he’s become. If he were allowed to get legitimate victories more often, it would raise his grade.

Cody Rhodes
Last year I wrote that Cody Rhodes had been written off as the lesser of the Legacy cast-offs but quickly came into his own and surpassed Ted DiBiase. Of the four wrestlers I name-dropped, Cody is still going strong as a heel. He’s vastly improved on the mic, he’s much better in the ring, and he currently holds the Intercontinental Championship for 200+ days. However, I definitely see the other side of the coin. For the past few months, Cody has been stuck feuding with guys past their prime like Booker T and Big Show. An argument could be made that Rhodes has only been champ this long because the midcard on Smackdown is nonexistent. That’s not through any fault of Cody’s but it also waters down his matches when he has to work at a different pace to cover up his opponent’s ring rust/lack of stamina. I’d put him at about the same level as Daniel Bryan in terms of how his heel run is booked.

Chris Jericho
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m biased when it comes to Y2J. I love everything about the guy, and this has been a feud that I’ve been waiting patiently for. It’s a shame that he’s leaving soon after Wrestlemania which all but guarantees a CM Punk victory, but really…isn’t that the point? Jericho isn’t exactly a spring chicken these days, and who better to pass off the mantle of “Best in the World” to than CM Punk? He took it to another level with his promo about Punk’s dad on Monday and had a pinfall victory over the champ the week before. The only way I’d consider this current Jericho heel run to be perfect would be if he had won the belt at Elimination Chamber, thereby forcing Punk to chase.

Blech. His return to the mask was too little, too late. The ‘E should have fed midcarders to him long before he went after Cena because there was only one possible outcome to that feud this close to ‘Mania, and it happened in an Ambulance Match. He’s poised to be a stepping stone for Randy Orton now, so where the hell can he go from here? I’m severely disappointed. Other than his menacing presence and atmospheric entrance, Kane’s got nothing left in the tank.

The Miz
Holy shit, has this guy fallen off the radar! He went from winning the main event at Wrestlemania XXVII to not even on the card at Wrestlemania XXVIII. Short of fucking a teenage Stephanie McMahon, it doesn’t get much worse than that. There are rumors that he’ll get involved in the Cena/Rock match, but I think that would be a bad idea. Usually when you’re in a tag team and your partner fucks up (read: smokes pot and gets caught), you become the beneficiary of a bit of a singles run. How is it that R-Truth actually wound up better for it?

Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler has been a hot topic of discussion lately, and I think the reason why he hasn’t been pushed to the moon yet is because Jericho has the spotlight for Wrestlemania. Dolph’s in a holding pattern for the next month or so. He’s one of the few heels in recent memory who can lose a match and still look like a million bucks a week later. He has a certain charismatic side to him that is just waiting to show itself. As I mentioned in a comment somewhere on this site, take a look at his work on Z! True Long Island Story in the “Ask the Heel” segments. The WWE needs to let him off his leash and dump Vickie Guerrero. At this point he doesn’t need that heat magnet any more.

Jack Swagger
Who? The guy with a comb-over who was an afterthought after the ‘E killed Zack Ryder’s momentum? The guy who just lost the United States Championship to a sock puppet?

Drew McIntyre
It’s a bit unfair to rank him since the ‘E has seen to it to give him a losing streak gimmick, but for all intents and purposes, he’s been treated like a loser and his rating will show as such.

Jinder Mahal
Why am I bothering?

Heath Slater

Never did recover from his Wellness violation.

Mark Henry
Before the injury, he was built to look like an unstoppable monster. Since Vince decided not to let him heal up and just tease using him in matches before pulling him from the weekly card anyway, he’s faded pretty fast. Right now, he’s actually in a worse place than when he was a face on Raw. However, his title reign and level of dangerousness was actually handled decently.

David Otunga
Starscream is doing quite well in his little niche as Johnny Ace’s Number Two, which is where I think he belongs. He’s one of the few heels who seems to be doing well WITHOUT having to actually wrestle. Now if only his in-ring ability can match his physique…

Wade Barrett
The year 2012 was poised to be a huge year for Wade, if the direction of Money in the Bank is any indication. It sucks that his injury came at such a bad time, but perhaps there’s a silver lining. After his feud with Orton, Wade was falling into Dolph Ziggler’s holding pattern situation. He could have an interesting return later this year that could reinvent his character for the better. I think he was handled well despite the implosion of the Nexus and the Corre.

Evil Sin Cara has been stuck in a feud with Ted DiBiase over a stupid party invitation. It doesn’t look like the ‘E has any long-term plans for him because he hasn’t been on TV since Ted took a powder. He should have been placed in a stable with the Tag Team Champions, as that would have been more interesting.

Primo and Epico
Rosa Mendes does NOT have a flat ass, Kue! Honestly, this team has two things going for them: there are no legit threats to the tag division with the exception of Kofi and R-Truth, and Rosa Mendes as the manager seems to be a focal point (not that I’m complaining). Other than their two losses to R-Boom, this team doesn’t have any missteps that I can see. But you know something? Without a tag division, these guys are just treading water and their victories are sort of meaningless in that regard.


This poor guy has fallen nearly as far as The Miz. Had it not been for his ring presence and years of loyalty, I’m not sure he’d still be around right now. He started the summer months with a good feud with the Viper, but losing repeatedly to Orton made him look like a joke. Then he turned into this whining crybaby andd jobbed to Sheamus before he busted his ankle. Last May I would have given him an A- at least, but now?

Alberto del Rio
Holy shit, he took a nose-dive once CM Punk took off, eh? With the focus on Punk and Cena at the end of 2011 (Punk as the new top guy, Cena and his feud with The Rock), del Rio became a transitional champion when he had been built up to be so much more. A case of the right place, wrong time, if you will. I still think his ring work is great, but his storylines have been terrible. His injury all but guaranteed that his heat completely cooled off. With The Miz and Dolph Ziggler still on Raw after Jericho leaves, he’ll have to fight to become the top heel on the show.

Looks like a real sea of C ratings, right? I did say last year that too many heels spoil the pot (or, in Slater and R-Truth’s case, too much pot spoils the heel pushes), and we’re paying for it now. The main event faces are being treated as near-invincible and a lot of baddies that have been built up over the past year fell prey to injury or overcrowding. What’s in store for them now? We’ll have to wait and see where this year’s draft takes us. Maybe then I’ll reevaluate the situation and see what comes of it.

Agree with my ratings? Disagree? Want to add something/someone I may have overlooked? I suppose you could leave a comment. Just be sure to wipe your feet first.

Mike Gojira’s Fave Five

1. CB’s World: CB covers how the WWE, like an awkward teenager on prom night, can’t seem to close the deal (in terms of angles). Some good stuff there.

2. The Wrestling Backfire: Kyle Fitta’s column inspired The Stomping Ground this week. Go check him out.

3. Kue’s Korner: The Q-Man sort of “winged it” this week, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you have EXCUSES. Just like when he and Rhett Davis no-showed the scheduled tag team steel cage bout with me and Glazer. He name-dropped me again this week, so I guess a loving tribute is all I could really ask for.

4. The Air Up There: I think Blair is aiming for a Guinness World Record for the most variety in wrestling column titles or something. In any case, check out last week’s column where he chats about the WWE title belts and whether or not they are used to properly build new talent.

5. My Pinterest Is Piledrivers: This week, James Carter’s “pinterest” (God, I hate that word) is in Ted DiBiase and how he can be fixed. Good luck with that one.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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