It’s not real heat, it’s X-Pac heat, they say. Shane McMahon is awful. Shane McMahon is boring. How does WWE not see this?!
This is the refrain across the internet and the number one hivemind feeling. Try to voice your even mild enjoyment of the work Shane McMahon is doing and you’ll be downvoted on Reddit to oblivion and called unspeakable names on Twitter. So is it true? Is Shane McMahon awful?
Yes, but in the best way.
Shane McMahon is the greatest heel WWE has had in about 20 years.
But muh X-Pac heat!
Everyone gather around the ancient 35 year old wrestling fan. Sit, my children.
A long time ago (the Attitude Era), in a ring far, far away, there was once a wrestler named X-Pac. He basically was Degeneration X personified. Triple H let him in as a henchman, and he fucking LOVED being in Degeneration X. Man did he put his all into those “Suck Its”. He really did nothing else, and nobody could stand him as a singles star. He was routinely booed no matter which side of the heel/face dynamic he stood.
There is this idea of “X-Pac” heat, which is super-smarky talk that basically means “We aren’t booing this guy because he’s a great heel, we are booing him because we just don’t want to see him on our show.”
This of course flies in the face of the logic that you are not supposed to like the heel!!!
Ask yourself this very simple question:
What reaction does WWE want you to have to Shane McMahon?
The easy answer is: WWE wants you to boo Shane McMahon and want to see Roman Reigns defeat him.
Can we all agree on that?
Good. Mission accomplished.
For Christ’s sake, they dropped “ROMAN” chants on Shane not once, but twice in a row. Both during Monday Night Raw and Stomping Grounds. Since the mega-push started in 2015, can you even NAME when you heard Roman chants? The cancer return, for obvious reasons. I seem to remember “Thank you Roman” chants when he beat the living shit out of Sheamus and Triple H at Vengeance in 2016. (Sheamus, of course, being way ahead of his time as far as true heels).
Anything else? They wouldn’t chant “Roman” in fucking Samoa, and you know it.
They are chanting “Roman” not because Reigns character has undergone an overhaul, or even because his booking has undergone a change – they both haven’t – they are cheering Roman because Shane McMahon is executing a heel masterclass and you don’t even realize it.
The rare heel that makes both casuals boo because of the story, and internet smarks boo because they feel he is “undeserving”…which is the entire goddamn point!
“B–but Cowboy, the fans were chanting “NO MORE SHANE” during Raw, how about that!”, you cry.
Yes, you’re right. The crowd was so engaged by Shane that they went out of their way to start a fucking chant about how much they hate him.
You’re being worked by Shane, and instead of being bitter about it, instead of being upset that you can’t do a wink-wink Oh I sure do hate that Kevin Owens WINK-boo, just appreciate what the man is doing and the work he’s putting in.
But “Cowboy”, I want a heel that I love, and also WANT to see lose to the babyface!
Don’t we all. You can’t have it. At least not now.
One of “Cowboy” Bob’s favorite wrestlers of all-time was Triple H, just as the very start of his main event run. The “My Time” Triple H.
The “McMahon-Helmsley Era” Triple H.
He was somehow a bad-ass, a coward, a cheater and a hilarious wise-cracking heel all at once. And he was legitimately funny when he wanted to be.
I remember one night The Rock was in the ring, pulling off an outfit only The Great One could. A light, cheetah-print jacket. Triple H walked out and said “Hey Rock before we get started, I just wanted to say that I passed an 85 year old woman in the back, she wants her jacket back.”
So why were we able to get such an enjoyable, yet hatable, character?
Because Triple H is facing off against The Rock. The Rock in his fucking prime.
Why was Shawn Michaels able to be a cocky, wormy, hilarious weasel of a heel?
Because Shawn Michaels was standing across the ring from Bret “The Hitman” Hart or Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hall of fame level babyfaces.
The Rock, Stone Cold, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan – these are babyfaces so phenomenal that they can absorb witty lines from the heel, because nobody is going to out-charisma any of them.
To paraphrase Rick Pitino when he had that meltdown about coaching the Boston Celtics in the late 90’s –
The Rock isn’t walking through that door. Stone Cold Steve Austin isn’t walking through that door. Bret Hart isn’t walking through that door. Hulk Hogan isn’t walking through that door.
We have what we have. Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins – whether it’s the fault of the performers, or the fault of the writing, or the fault of the booking – these guys cannot overcome a compelling heel.
I think AJ Styles is so good at wrestling that he should be nominated for an Emmy. I’m not even kidding. That being said – if it’s vanilla AJ Styles vs wise-cracking, hilarious Kevin Owens, surprise surprise, I want Kevin Owens to win. I want the dude who makes me laugh to win.
When Kevin Owens had his run, we would all marvel at his funny heel antics in the ring. “He just gets it” was the common refrain. Despite that groupthink opinion, the truth is, Kevin Owens really didn’t get it at all.
He’s the heel. We all secretly loved him while pretending there was this faction of fans who just hated his dastardly antics. “We’re in on the joke, those marks aren’t.” That faction of “marks” didn’t exist. He gets a monster pop then, and he does now.
Samoa Joe tries his best to be a hated heel. But he’s a bad-ass with great lines that gets gasps out of the crowd. We love Joe. That’s a terrible heel.
Maybe someday a babyface will rise that will reach levels of charisma that can overpower the “funny” heel. Personally, my money is on either Velveteen Dream or Matt Riddle.
But until somebody walks through that door and proves it – heels have to get booed. It’s the bottom line.
Shane Is Great. You Just Aren’t In On The Joke.
There’s also the false narrative that Shane is “boring”.
The BEST – IN THE WORLDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD shtick is hysterical.
Now he’s added to it by conducting the announcer like a fucking maestro. It’s glorious.
Every single major victory Shane has had is by the most pathetic circumstances. (Of course, aside from beating poor, poor Dolph Ziggler clean as a sheet at Crown Jewel, but he was a babyface then.)
He beat Miz because Miz superplexed him off of a scaffolding at Wrestlemania, and Miz just happened to fall in the wrong position.
Shane beat Miz again in a cage match after accidentally falling to the floor.
Shane beat Roman after Drew McIntyre blatantly interfered and Claymore-Kicked him. Then sweaty, red-faced Shane got on Drew’s shoulders and celebrated like he just won the Super Bowl. This is epic heel stuff, man.
He also had Miz beat up by Drew badly before their Smackdown match, and then declared “Okay you know what start the match now” and quickly choked him out.
Finally, stop saying Shane “isn’t even a wrestler”. The way you people describe Shane, you’d think the dude looked like Drake Maverick. He’s just as big, if not bigger, than most wrestlers and he’s paid his dues 10 times over.
Shane isn’t trying to make you laugh. Shane isn’t appearing on Up Up Down Down and showing just how great of a guy he really is by talking about his love for Street Fighter II. Shane isn’t dropping smarky-pipe-bombs. And he isn’t throwing out bad-ass lines that make the crowd shriek in a “holy shit, did he just say that?!” kind of way.
Shane is trying to get you to hate him. And he has wildly succeeded.
Who else is a true heel?
Shane is the greatest heel in WWE. But surprisingly, he isn’t alone. The following are doing some excellent work:
Oh how I love when somebody proves me wrong! Balding, biker Baron seemed destined to be released when he lost his Money in the Bank shot and was put in a glorified jobber squash to start Summerslam against John Cena.
Then he shaves his head, gets put in the “Acting General Manager” role and skyrockets.
This is a heat fucking magnet. Now THIS is a guy who “gets it”. He isn’t trying to get himself over. He is trying to be the biggest dickhead possible, and his music elicits Pavlovian response boos that I have not heard in years.
It’s no coincidence that Lacey and Baron Corbin are both teaming for the two top titles in the company at Extreme Rules, as Lacey Evans is right behind Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey as far as first-year superstars who just instantly caught on.
Her sassy southern belle character is sensational. Not only is it condescending and hateful, but watching her wipe her armpit sweat onto a napkin she pulls out of her crotch and shove it in a babyface’s face is fucking LEGENDARY. This is 1980’s level shit that would make Andy Kaufman himself smile in the afterlife somewhere while probably trolling an angel.
She does everything she can to get heat on herself, and she deserves the title.
It is an out and out crime that The IIconics are not on television enough. They need to have a female version of the Honky Tonk Man Intercontinental title reign. They need to avoid defending the belts as much as possible, and squeak out victories in the slimiest ways possible until we are just foaming at the mouth for them to lose to a worthy babyface.
What I love about this team is that both of them are equally as good. I feel when a tag team comes about, it’s natural for a fan to wonder “Who is the Michaels, and who is the Janetty?” With the IIconics, I immediately assumed the “Michaels” would be Peyton Royce, with Billie Kaye as the “Jannetty”. I don’t believe that’s the case.
Billie Kaye has mastered the “annoying voice” and both stars don’t throw out funny jokes – they throw out jokes so fucking awful that they are funny. Huge difference.
She tries. It’s difficult for Alexa because she is so mind-blowingly gorgeous that you can’t help but cheer her, but she has kind of a reverse-John Cena aspect going for her.
When John Cena comes out, he’s such a master of the microphone that the crowd is booing the shit out of him, singing “John Cena suuuuucks” to his music and throwing out WHAT chants. By the end of the promo they are cheering him taking out the heel.
Alexa comes out to cheers, but give her the mic, and she’ll have them booing her out of town in minutes.
I always say – there’s a reason that Alexa Bliss has 5 championship reigns and Bayley has 2, while Bayley can run circles around Alexa in the ring. Alexa Bliss is a heel mastermind on the mic.
The Immortal Stephanie McMahon
Finally we come to the all-time G.O.A.T. heel. The heel that has the entire internet eating out of the palm of her hand whenever she damn well pleases. A heel so great that her wonderful older brother could only DREAM to aspire to.
Stephanie says to boo and you ask how loud.
Her voice. Her facial expressions. Her taunting lines to the crowd.
I just bask in admiration of Stephanie. My favorite is how she comes out in front of crowds in Chicago, just waiting for those “CM Punk” chants.
One night she dropped “Yeah, Daniel Bryan, see, all of these people want you to quit, just like CM Punk did.”
Last year, after Punk’s embarrassing UFC debut, she pulled out this gem: “Hey guys if you can keep that up for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, you’ll last even longer than CM Punk did.”
Remember when she trolled the rabid pro-Daniel Bryan crowd by coming out Yes-ing? Pure gold.
Not unlike Batman at the end of The Dark Knight, taking the fall for the murders in a thankless heroic act, Stephanie McMahon does not care that you hate her, she just wants the babyface cheered.
So now what?
You’re going to sit in your high chair, open your mouth, and wait for the delicious spoon airplane to deliver a heaping helping spoonful of Shane-O-Mac right into your mouth. But don’t worry, you’re going to like it.
Once the comeuppance finally arrives, and it will, you will find yourself rabidly cheering Roman Reigns like you never thought possible.
“Hurr durr but I’m not watching”.
Yes, you are. You’re watching. Either you’re watching, or you’re complaining about something that you have never seen and lying. Which is it?
“But people are tuning out.”
People are tuning out because we live in an era with 1,000 different options at your fingertips. The ratings may, in fact, never recover. People certainly aren’t in love with the product and specifically tuning out for Shane.
There’s a reason why Kevin Owens is in throwaway tag matches. There’s a reason why Samoa Joe has the WWE record for most title shots without a victory. There’s a reason why Elias only has a 24/7 title to his name.
A heel should not have best-selling merchandise. A heel should not make you laugh. A heel should not have you gasp at how cool he is.
A heel should make you hate his guts and most importantly – above all else – make you want to see the babyface defeat him.
That heel is Shane McMahon, and you’re giving him the exact reaction he wants out of you.
Shane McMahon truly is the best in the world.