No Chance – A Tale of Cheers and Boos (John Cena, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton)

Columns, Top Story

At WWE Night of Champions 2012, there were two really big “Boo/Yeah!” moments on the show (that thing where two wrestlers trade blows for thirtyish seconds so that the crowd can alternate “Boo!” and “Yeah!” depending on who is getting hit.) Not an uncommon thing to see in a WWE match and usually not something worth mentioning, but this time was different. Not once, but twice this past Sunday, when that moment popped up the crowd was booing (and by default, also cheering for) the wrong guy. First up we got cheers for Dolph Ziggler and boos for Randy Orton when they traded blows, and then later on that night, the same thing happened with John Cena and CM Punk.

Now I don’t think that either Orton or Cena was really getting booed on Sunday. (Well Cena was, but no more than usual) But the fact that they were both put up against extremely popular heels means that the two top guys in the WWE both got booed by a PPV audience, something that I am sure the WWE would prefer not happen. So I have to ask, why is the WWE so insistent that these two guys still be heels? What does that really help?

Lets take Punk first. Punk’s heel turn has, it would seem, come from Cena needing a heel to face for the title. And many are expecting that this is all going to play out in an extended storyline that will last until at least January, when it will also begin to involve The Rock again, and then most likely play out until WrestleMania 29 and possibly beyond. But with all of this, why has the WWE decided that in order for this to work, Punk needs to be booed? It has been said on multiple occasions that Punk and Cena is the closest thing that the WWE has right now to The Rock and Stone Cold. So why doesn’t that formula work anymore. The best playground arguments I ever had about wrestling growing up were all variations of “Who would win in a fight? Face A or Face B?” Why is it not ok to simply have two faces, both cheered by the audience, that quite simply hate each other? Even when both Cena and Punk were faces, the were still wildly different characters. But even then, as long as they were both faces, they still had to have a begrudging respect for each other. I want to harken back to the very beginning of Rock’s return, before WrestleMania 27. For a few weeks there that’s what we had, Rock and Cena, both faces getting cheers, each legitimately disliking the other.

Punk’s current motivation, his quest for respect is not an inherently heelish one. His face turn last year was based around citing problems in the WWE and the fact that the Championship match was ever not the main event (not to mention for eight straight months) is a genuine problem. On the eve of a CM Punk DVD about to be released, why does the WWE suddenly want us to dislike and boo Punk? Why can’t he simply be what he is anyway? A face wrestler for everyone who chants the second half of “Lets Go Cena/Cena Sucks.”

And now we move on to Mr. Ziggler. I readily admit that I don’t remember much about Ziggler’s career at the very beginning. The first thing that I really remember him being in was a few backstage scenes with Vickie where she was hitting on him and he was putting up with it to further his career. (I seem to recall some sort of tool belt existing at one point) But Vickie took that C level Ziggler and took him all the way to the main event. A few years, some hard work, and lots and lots of magnificent selling later, and we have a fan favorite who is easily one of the best workers on the roster right now. Yet we are supposed to continue to boo him. Even as fans cheer him on, we get commentary telling us to listen to all the “Lets Go Sheamus” chants. (Of which there are none.) Why is it so important that this guy continues to be a heel? Does he make a great heel? Unquestionably, probably one of the best, but like Punk, I don’t think this character that is working so well for him right now is necessarily stuck as a heel. How many faces in WWE past were characters that started off as heels only to get so popular, that fan cheers forced a face turn?

As of late, the WWE face wrestlers all seem to display variations of the “For the fans” and “Spirit of competition and sportsmanship” attitude. A cocky and confident face that shows off in the ring, and constantly spouts off how incredibly good he is could be just as successful, and get just as big a reaction as any “gee shucks” face. So, even though she was a big kick-start for his career, it’s time for Ziggler to drop Vickie. After all she’s really the only part of his character that gets booed anymore, and Vickie is the kind of heel heat that you need to give to a wrestler who’s getting a much smaller reaction from the crowd.

Joel Leonard reviews the latest movies each week for Inside Pulse. You can follow him @joelgleo on Twitter though he's not promising to ever tweet anything from there. Joel also co-hosts the Classy Ring Attire podcast and writes the No Chance column on Inside Pulse as well.