In 2001, at Wrestlemania X-7 (totally more edgy than that lame number “17”), Stone Cold Steve Austin nearly made Jim Ross have a brain aneurysm by “SHAKING HANDS WITH THE DEVIL HIMSELF!!!”, Vince McMahon. His hated rival, of course.
This was a great swerve, and it actually told a phenomenal story. Stone Cold Steve Austin, arguably the single greatest drawing WWE superstar of all-time, was subtly losing his fanbase, and his edge, to The Rock.
Terrified of losing on the grandest stage in pro wrestling history, and being unable to put The Rock away by traditional means, he had to lower himself to do the unthinkable – align with the dastardly Mr. McMahon in order to once again secure his precious WWE Championship.
Wrestling doesn’t really get much better writing than that. I mean just last year we had a storyline where a midget stole a guy’s robe and took a piss on it. So what was the problem?
The problem was simply that Stone Cold Steve Austin as a heel is essentially just Stone Cold Steve Austin. The character, as a babyface, would hurt other babyfaces, flip off the crowd with middle fingers and disrespect anybody and everybody. So the new heel Austin would…hurt babyfaces, flip off the crowd with middle fingers and disrespect people?
Now, admittedly this did lead to some truly hilarious moments, like Stone Cold’s bizarre behavior and buddy-comedy relationship with Kurt Angle. But as a heel turn, it was an out-and-out disaster and quickly forgotten about months later.
So how could it have worked? If they listened to good ol’ Cowboy Bob, that’s how.
Here’s how this should have gone down. I swear this would have worked:
Stone Cold is not seen for 2 weeks. I know, I know, if something mildly entertaining happens on Raw we are saturated with it for 8 segments over 3 hours. But just go with it.
Finally, he’s advertised for Raw. Vince McMahon comes out. “Ladies and gentleman, finally to address you, coming off his triumphant victory over The Rock, we have YOUR WWE Heavyweight Champion, who has been asked to be addressed as…Steven…Quincy…AUSTIN!”
Out comes “Steven Quincy Austin”, no longer Stone Cold. This is Austin who hasn’t shaved his head in a few weeks, so he has the horseshoe look around his head. Goatee is gone, to satisfy his boss, Mr. McMahon, who likes a civilized, clean-shaven champion.
He gingerly heads to the ring, and calls for, not “Steve-weisers”, but a bottle of wine.
“If all of you want Steven Quincy Austin to take a sip of this delicately aged Savignon Blanc, give me a Heaven’s Yes!”
THIS is how you get this character over as a heel. Segments over the next few weeks of Stone Cold winning his matches (“The Stone Cold Sleeper”) and immediately rolling out of the ring to douse his hands in Purell. Getting Vince coffee on the way to the arena (“You’re the best boss in the world, and that’s the bottom line!”) and fake-laughing at his jokes like Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.
Go all-in. A burial of the character, you ask? Hardly. How much dumb shit in wrestling have you forgotten? Do you remember “Kane, he violated me!”?
No, of course not. We wrestling fans have the memory of a fish. (Do fish have bad memories? I have no idea.) We are all collectively about to forget that Bray Wyatt has been jobber to the stars for 4 solid years because of this amazing Firefly Funhouse gimmick (holding my breath, though).
In 6 months, Vince comes out, needs help with something, and turns to find a freshly shaved-head Texas Rattlesnake to kick him in the stomach and stun him, and the crowd is more than happy to forget.
Heels Should Be Booed
This is a concept that both infuriates me and comforts me as a fan even in my old age. Even the smarkiest of smarks, the fat neckbeard next to you at the urinal in the HUG LIFE shirt complaining about Sanity getting buried, gets worked by true heels.
True heels are the ones you hate, or think are “Boring”. Fake heels are the ones you love and want to see win the title ASAP.
Baron Corbin is doing some of the best work in all of WWE. Somebody made a “Borin’ Corbin” sign a few weeks ago. Some would say this is an indication that he is incredibly boring. I say it’s an indication that somebody cared enough about Baron to buy posterboard and make a sign to tell the world how boring they, in fact, believe he is.
Shane McMahon is currently executing true heelness to perfection as well, as the BEST…IN THE WORLDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD.
And his sister, the all-time grand master of heels, the legendary Stephanie McMahon has been working the entire internet for nearly 20 years. The Modern Day Majaraja Jinder Mahal and Sheamus get special mentions for this as well.
You’re SUPPOSED to hate a heel. You love Kevin Owens because he’s hilarious, witty and legitimately funny. He’s a horrible heel. Samoa Joe does some despicable antics with impeccable timing and great one-liners. We would all love to see him get a title run. Terrible heel. We all look forward to Elias’ hilarious songs and we scream that WWE stands for WALK WITH ELIAS in unision. Million Dollar Man, he is not. The Miz ended up being so on point and likable as a heel that he turned himself into one of the shittiest babyfaces in recent memory.
Here’s the real problem. We are used to funny, wise-cracking heels that we enjoy seeing, and also enjoy seeing the babyface defeat.
For example, I used to be an enormous Triple H mark when he first hit his stride as a main event heel. Specifically the “My Time” era and McMahon-Helmsley Era. He was a hilarious, wise-cracking heel. I remember one night The Rock came out wearing a silk, light jacket with Cheetah print. Triple H started his promo by saying “Before we get started, Rock, I ran into an 85 year old woman in the back, she wants her jacket back.” I laughed my ass off.
However – he can do this, because he is facing THE FUCKING ROCK. This is The Rock. In his prime. You can have all the funny lines you want, but you are not matching The Rock in charisma.
Similarly, you can love cocky, dickhead Shawn Michaels in Degeneration X all you want – but he can be as likable and funny as a heel as can be, because he’s facing Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The apex of awesome babyfaces.
The Rock, Stone Cold, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Chris Jericho etc…these are babyfaces so extraordinary that they can absorb hilarious heel antics and still keep you on their side.
Whether it’s bad performing, or bad writing, vanilla AJ Styles, Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns are going to have a hard fucking time getting cheered while Kevin Owens, the hilarious dude with a mastery of one-liners who makes me laugh every week, is opposing him. Man, wouldn’t it be great to have the belt on that Owens guy, so he can crack me up every show in major segments?
This is why WWE has evolved to heels like Shane, Baron and Jinder.
Just remember as you watch the shows and run to Reddit to complain about “X-Pac” heat that you’re giving WWE the exact reaction they want out of their character. And no, it’s not “making you change the channel”, and you know it.
If you’re booing Baron Corbin, he’s doing a damn good job. And if you would’ve booed Steven Quincy Austin, give me a “Heaven’s Yes.”