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R.I.P. "babyfaces" and "heels"

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    Posted: 29/October/2006 at 14:22
A lot of arguments regarding pro wrestling, "sports entertainment", or whatever you want to call it still revolve around the notion of babyfaces and heels. (Just for clarification: "heel"=bad buy, "babyface"=good guy). But, one thing that I have noticed (and I'm going to pick on the WWE for the purposes of proving my point) is that as far as the new generation goes, I truly believe that the era of the babyface with certain exceptions is dead. (Or, more specifically, the era of babyfaces playing up to the crowd is dead!)
 
Completely dead.
 
Let's take a look at John Cena's charcter as an example. When John Cena first started getting over with the fans, it was in the role of the heelish white rapper. This is what brought him to the dance,  and this is what the fans found entertaining. This is probably what also increased merchandise sales, and improved TV ratings over at Smackdown at the time. But, once Cena DID get over, they shipped him over to RAW, and gave him a straight up babyface rule.
 
Needless to say, the consequences haven't been exactly rosey since then. In fact, what has happened now is that the audience has backlashed against this character (which may have been a shift just to promote the movie...hey, we'll never know), and even others that are talented as heels probably won't be able to put him over as the good-guy, straight up babyface that everyone is supposed to cheer for. (IMHO: KFed is the last resort, folks. If a celebrity like him can't get Cena over, no one will.)
 
So, what truly is the problem here? Should Edge be blamed for not being able to get Cena over? Should Triple H be blamed? In my opinion, no, they should not. Edge is a talented wrestler....so is Triple H. I think the REAL problem lies with the expectations of the crowd, and how the powers-that-be want to cater to this crowd.
 
Often times, you'll see a wrestler start to get over with fans (just like Cena), and as soon as he does, then there is an urge to change the character slightly in order to play up to the crowd. IMHO: Maybe this is just me, but the crowd doesn't want to be played up to anymore. The crowd doesn't care about "good" or "evil", and we haven't for a long time.
 
We just want to be entertained. That's the bottom line.
 
If there is a character, or a performer that is out there as a heel, and is starting to get over with fans, why change this? Furthermore, what rule in 2006 states that you have to have "the good guy" and "the bad guy"? This territory of thinking is nothing new....in the 1990s, the Outsiders and the NWO pushed huge ratings over the argument that getting over with the fans, and entertaining them is more important than trying to squeeze guys into roles of "good" and "evil".
 
Another example? Chris Jericho. CJ was very entertaining as a heel. But, as soon as they tried to "make" him a babyface, he lost his entertainment value. He didn't cut with the crowd anymore, showboat, or try to irritate other people. Hence, he didn't draw like he once did. I am of the impression that if they ever tried this with Mr. Kennedy from Smackdown, the exact same effect would be in place.
 
It seems to me that in 2006, there should be a reconsideration of getting away from old styles of thinking that still exist today. Instead of "babyfaces" and "heels", performers should just continue to use whatever got them to the dance in the first place, and roll with it. Would this mean that you might have 2 "heels" feuding? Sure, why not? What rule is there that hateful guys can't hate each other? If both guys are cheating to win....well, that's a case of one-upsmanship, and that isn't uncommon in regular sports. What if it's a question of "pump and feed" segments in a match? (Usually, the heel feeds the crowd by beating up on the babyface until the crowd starts cheering for the babyface's comeback in the match.) Why couldn't they just trade off, or alternate that every other match?
 
Isn't it almost a foregone conclusion that there is going to be a mixed crowd anyway?
 
Here's my point. Maybe I'm grossly overstating this, and maybe it's wrong for me to assume I can speak for others here: But, entertainment, and having entertaining people is far more important than trying to provide a good vs. evil morality play. If someone like Mr. Kennedy goes over, keep him as is...have him feud with another heel. Let the chips fall where they may.
 
One could argue this, of course. Someone could point out "Well, look at Hogan. Look at Sting. Those guys are way over as babyfaces." Keep in mind though that they are from a different era, and the crowds were different. Someone else could point out and argue "Well, look at Rey Mysterio. He's a babyface." That's true, but Rey will always be the natural underdog in most feuds because of his size. As noted, there are exceptions to the rules. NOTE: Thereare also some natural heels as well who will never get over. But, as aformentioned, there are exceptions to the rule.
 
But for the rest of them? I think they should get really creative in the booking, and just let the characters be as bad and as boisterous as they want. I don't know if I can really overstate this, but we, the subscribers of pro wrestling, don't care about "good and evil". We're going to mark out for whomever we find is entertaining, and this certainly includes characters with absolutely no redeeming values to them at all.
 
And, there's no point in changing a good thing, and something that is profitable once everything starts clicking between the performer and the audience.
 
(OK, then what about new terminology? Well, you could call it a game of "oneupsmanship", or, you could argue that during certain times in the feud, you've got a "perpetrator", and "victim".)
 
 


Edited by sentryofdoom - 29/October/2006 at 14:34
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote admin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29/October/2006 at 14:37
In all my time watching wrestling, i have mostly cheered for the heels. These days it seems like a lot of fans are jumping on the band wagon and liking them to be "cool". For example their was one instance a fan mentioned about Wrestlemania 18. Two Rock fans were in the crowd (mother and young son). They went to cheer Rock against Hogan. The crowd chanted "rocky sucks" so the mum joined in. The son asked his mum why she was saying that as a Rock fan. And her reply was to fit in the crowd. That's pathetic if your a follower of others. If two heels go at it then it's got to be two worthehile ones to jeep the crowd interested if their "favourites" aren't in the match.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sentryofdoom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29/October/2006 at 14:43
Originally posted by Admin Admin wrote:

In all my time watching wrestling, i have mostly cheered for the heels. These days it seems like a lot of fans are jumping on the band wagon and liking them to be "cool". For example their was one instance a fan mentioned about Wrestlemania 18. Two Rock fans were in the crowd (mother and young son). They went to cheer Rock against Hogan. The crowd chanted "rocky sucks" so the mum joined in. The son asked his mum why she was saying that as a Rock fan. And her reply was to fit in the crowd. That's pathetic if your a follower of others. If two heels go at it then it's got to be two worthehile ones to jeep the crowd interested if their "favourites" aren't in the match.
 
Well, that's the point I'm trying to make....the days of crowd favorites (or, pushing someone as the crowd favorite) are over. Furthermore, I don't think the crowds want a fan favorite...they just want to see something entertaining. Furthermore, if a heel is "over" on the crowd, and there's a hardcore fan base, then it's not going to matter who they put him (or her) up against....there's still going to be a mixed reaction.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/October/2006 at 13:38
The concept of babyfaces and heels is still firmly intact. The thing is that wrestlers change from one to the other much more rapidly.
It used to be that a wrestler would stay a heel or a face for a long time, sometimes even their whole career. Now a wrestler can change from face to heel and back several times inside one year.

Its good because the wrestlers are less one dimentional. If someone is a bad guy, something happened to make them bad.

The problem is that charcaters seem so inconsistant.

Also its tough to have a heel vs heel or face vs face match because one of the wrestlers almost automaticly has to turn or the match will suck.

Personally I like to have a few neutral wrestlers. They don't go out of their way to make the fans hate them, but their not above taking few cheap shots if the outcome of the match is in question. (That's why I liked the APA, they could be good or bad guys depending on who was buying their beer that night)

Also I think its also a little cheesy that all the faces seem to get along, and all the heels seem to get along. Especially when they bounce between heel and face so rapidly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sentryofdoom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/October/2006 at 14:54
Originally posted by The SteelDragon The SteelDragon wrote:

The concept of babyfaces and heels is still firmly intact. The thing is that wrestlers change from one to the other much more rapidly.
 
This is true, but one thing that I push as the biggest argument over this is that you're never going to have another straight up babyface who can draw like Hogan or Sting did. The audience has sort of moved on past that, and in fact, most people these days mark out for the heels...not the babyfaces. It does beg the question whether or not someone should challenge this concept on a whole.

It used to be that a wrestler would stay a heel or a face for a long time, sometimes even their whole career. Now a wrestler can change from face to heel and back several times inside one year.
 
I won't disagree with this. But, at the same time, I do wonder if the days of the big draw babyface are dead and gone. 

Its good because the wrestlers are less one dimentional. If someone is a bad guy, something happened to make them bad.

The problem is that charcaters seem so inconsistant.
 
And, that's it right there. A lot of times, guys start to get over as heels. And, as soon as they're over, there seems to be this urge to make them respectable babyfaces. I don't think the crowds are into that anymore.

Also its tough to have a heel vs heel or face vs face match because one of the wrestlers almost automaticly has to turn or the match will suck.

Personally I like to have a few neutral wrestlers. They don't go out of their way to make the fans hate them, but their not above taking few cheap shots if the outcome of the match is in question. (That's why I liked the APA, they could be good or bad guys depending on who was buying their beer that night)

Also I think its also a little cheesy that all the faces seem to get along, and all the heels seem to get along. Especially when they bounce between heel and face so rapidly.
 
I guess if there is anything else I can offer towards the death of the babyface (with the exceptions of a few people who can still do it, ala Mysterio), I'd state this: If you look at the WWE, their top babyface is supposed to be John Cena. He did everything he could to endear himself to the crowd. And, the harder he tried to be liked, the more the fans started to boo. And, what compounded it was the fact that Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, and Edge all TRIED to get him over as the babyface...it didn't happen. Most people I know mark out for the heels....they're the more entertaining personalities. I truly believe that if wrestling is going to turn the corner, they should give some serious reconsideration towards this whole concept, and doing business like they always did. (In fact, don't see why 2 heels can't engage in a game of oneupsmanship, anticipate a mixed crowd, and swap back and forth towards feeding each other to the crowds. It would certainly throw everyone off guard...)


Edited by sentryofdoom - 30/October/2006 at 14:55
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/October/2006 at 15:11
Originally posted by sentryofdoom sentryofdoom wrote:

This is true, but one thing that I push as the biggest argument over this is that you're never going to have another straight up babyface who can draw like Hogan or Sting did. The audience has sort of moved on past that, and in fact, most people these days mark out for the heels...not the babyfaces. It does beg the question whether or not someone should challenge this concept on a whole.


The "white meat" style babyface is out at the moment, but given time it will be back.
Austin and the Rock both had very successful runs as anti-hero style babyfaces.
You might not have a face on top as long as Hogan was, but that's because careers are getting shorter and shorter. With the bigger risk and higher impact moves of today, a 30 year long wrestling career is a thing of the past.
People marked out for Gorgeous Goeorge, Terry Funk, Abdulla the Butcher, and Buddy Rogers; back in the day; that didn't kill faces back then and I doubt it will today.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sentryofdoom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/October/2006 at 15:20
Originally posted by The SteelDragon The SteelDragon wrote:

Originally posted by sentryofdoom sentryofdoom wrote:

This is true, but one thing that I push as the biggest argument over this is that you're never going to have another straight up babyface who can draw like Hogan or Sting did. The audience has sort of moved on past that, and in fact, most people these days mark out for the heels...not the babyfaces. It does beg the question whether or not someone should challenge this concept on a whole.


The "white meat" style babyface is out at the moment, but given time it will be back.
Austin and the Rock both had very successful runs as anti-hero style babyfaces.
You might not have a face on top as long as Hogan was, but that's because careers are getting shorter and shorter. With the bigger risk and higher impact moves of today, a 30 year long wrestling career is a thing of the past.
People marked out for Gorgeous Goeorge, Terry Funk, Abdulla the Butcher, and Buddy Rogers; back in the day; that didn't kill faces back then and I doubt it will today.
 
Oh, I have no doubt that this stuff goes in cycles. But, I do believe that before the audience is ready to start supporting babyfaces again, they're going to have to complete the cycle with the heels and the anti-heroes, and this hasn't happened yet. In fact, it seems that the audience is ever more inclined to cheer for the heels vs. the babyfaces. (In other words, the audience is still responding to the anti-hero...so much now that I don't think someone else is going to get over at this point.)
 
As for the careers of these guys, I think if it's a question of more and more dangerous spots, a lot of companies are going to have to reconsider their schedules. Otherwise, they're going to have to work to push drawing superstars with more and more tenacity, and expect a higher burnout rate. (On that note....I'm glad the WWE cancelled ECW house shows for the time being. I don't know how someone can do a brutal match with chairs and tables more than once a week without getting injured, or being strongly encouraged to abuse drugs to mask the pain.)
 
I think on this note, I'm going to create a poll just to see where people are at.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Raven Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06/November/2006 at 07:49
I've noticed that all of the faces in WWE are shit wrestlers (with a few exceptions, like DX, who shouldn't be faces anyway, the stupid pricks) eg. Cena, Batista, and all the heels are good wrestlers eg. Edge, HHH (he should be a heel, he does that better). With the exceptions of people like Benoit
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rico Len Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/September/2018 at 14:49
So obviously this topic isn't a new one, the discussions started on this site 12 years ago.

But there is a lot more talk about it lately as to how things ended up the way they have today. Where people cheer the heels and boo the faces. In fact a number of journalists, including Tom, have said there are no faces and heels. The thing is though, this statement breeds more confusion than anything.

Even the most filthy casual can tell the difference between faces and heels even if they don't know what the words mean. Just look at a 6-man tag and you can see who is who. I keep hearing "Roman Reigns is the biggest heel in the industry today" but he is getting booked alongside the most popular good guys and WWE has a strong narrative that not so subtly says "cheer this guy!" and "boo this guy!". 

No one will boo Becky Lynch? Then she's a face right? Wait, except she's been booked to face off against people we're supposed to like.

So what does that really mean??? There are no more faces and heels anymore? Vince himself has said it, all while the fans are complaining about him "shoving John Cena down our throats" so that seems pretty contradictory doesn't it?

Now yes, the fans will boo who they like and cheer who they like, but why not use that and cater more to THOSE fans? If the casual fans are so 'casual' wouldn't that just make them sheep that just do what the fans who actually think about things (sort of at least) do and cheer or boo the same people? 

When was the last time WWE actually followed the "vocal minority"? What happened when they did?

And that's another thing, people talk about the hardcore fans being the vocal minority but I don't really buy into that story anymore.

Hardcore fans are whom, exactly? The ones that follow the storylines? Go to the events? Buy the merchandise? And what??? What separates them from the casual fan? Apparently it's fandom itself. Casual fans are the people that don't give a shit and just come to live events for a good time, that being go to the show, get the food and drinks, and people watch, but who cares what actually happens? These are fans??? Really? If this is what actually defines a casual fan then the product doesn't matter so why not make it good enough to appease the hardcore fans?

Ultimately these two topics, which at first seem so different are VERY CLOSELY linked to one another to the point where you can't talk about one without talking about the other. A face and a heel? To whom??? Because the casual fans are allowing their faces and heels to be dictated to them while the hardcore fans are making up their own minds as to who is face and who is heel.

So what is it? Are there faces and heels? If so, then how do they get defined, and by whom?

And another important question, why is it that WWE seems to be the only company that really has this problem? You certainly don't hear about people complaining about the top babyfaces or heels NJPW or RoH, or Impact, do you? … or do you???
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4 of em Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02/September/2018 at 17:26
Very well written Rico. I'm done with the subject. As a very old school fan , I respect your writings and thoughts on the subject. Thank you
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