Smiles On Faces

Corbin Macklin


I've been thinking about this one for a long time. In wrestling nowadays no one really loves the babyfaces and no one really hates the heels. I'm not sure that this is because of how smart to the business fans are where we reject certain babyface pushes because it is "forced" or cheer for the heels and long for them to turn babyface. To address the "forced" thing: any time a wrestler is getting pushed it had nothing to do with fan reactions or anything like that, the company chose this wrestler and presented and pushed them a certain way. I hate when fans think certain pushes were "organic" because Daniel Bryan and CM Punk were two of the most blatant works in the history of the business. When you think back to the push of CM Punk, WWE let him cut a worked shoot promo that got over and is remembered as one of the dopest promos ever. They had him work the angle where he won the belt and then left the company. And really, it was downhill from there that he was literally back a couple of weeks later. Quick sidebar: if I could have fantasy booked that thing, CM Punk would have stayed away for many months while not under contract and done big matches in other promotions carrying the WWE Championship and WWE would not have had to mention what he was doing on TV. They could have gone forward with their own WWE championship and then you do the champion vs champion at Mania to determine the one true champion. And maybe resist the urge to have John Cena in the ring across from him in that spot. That would have been cool. Alas. So, on to Daniel Bryan... as I have written many times, WWE put every belt they have except the Intercontinental by the time that fans were convinced WWE was "holding him back" and "not getting behind him". What you meant to say was "they're not going with him as THE top guy" and think about this both hindsight 2020 in 2021 AND in the moment... Daniel Bryan is a great talent but no one's number one. Anyway. CM Punk cut a heel promo that got him over as a babyface. Daniel Bryan had been pushed for years as a top talent and rode the momentum of a worked "they don't want to push him" sentiment from the fans. This tells me it is still possible to get someone over as a babyface and get someone else over as a heel in this environment. The question is, does WWE even really get how?

Roman Reigns right now, is very much a heel. But he is also a cool heel. They make every single thing he says into a t-shirt. THIS IS NOT THE PRESENTATION OF A HEEL. HEELS SHOULD NOT HAVE MERCH. You can point to me all the many times WWE or other promotions were producing shirts and other merch for heels. That don't make it right.To skip right to my conclusion here: WWE is not setting up to make a new babyface star by having them beat Roman Reigns. At some point, someone will beat him but I'll bet you money it will be off the Money in the Bank or some other heel putting the screws to him leading to Roman turning face. Neither of those things would help a babyface get over as credible for having shot Roman the fair one and winning. Remember that time that RVD beat Cena... because Edge speared him through a table and Heyman counted the fall? Classic "protect the true top guy" finish. When CM Punk beat Cena at Money in the Bank, Cena was distracted by Laurinaitis going to ring the bell for a screwjob finish and then Punk retained at SummerSlam largely because HHH missed that Cena's foot was on the ropes. Most people don't remember these minor details. I do. I remember the match that solidified that Daniel Bryan was a top star in the company for real. He beat John Cena clean in the middle. No distractions, no foot on the rope, no nothing. Clean as a whistle. To be honest, when I look at the roster of SmackDown I do not see one wrestler I would WANT to be the one to get a clean win over Roman Reigns. Back in the old days of wrestling, people were not finding out once they arrived to the show that they were winning a championship. People knew not only that they were winning the title months in advance, they also knew when they were losing it. That much forethought was put into "I have this babyface in a program with this heel and the babyface will go over, to ultimately drop it to this heel who will transition it to this other babyface" or something along those lines. It's funny how much fans complain about Vince McMahon not changing his mind about obvious shit like "Roman Reigns is the biggest star they currently have" and then also complain that the shows lack direction and vision because Vince tears up Raw and SmackDown and they are still being written while they are on the air. The second thing is a valid complaint in light of the last point I just made. I would have loved a universe where WWE had just gone with their original plans of smashing Roman over back in the day and not pussyfooting around with it. Fans wish WWE would stop showing vignettes and shooting angles on TV just to have them dropped weeks later. I can't lie, everytime I see Aleister Black on TV I wonder if he'll stay on TV. He really is someone they could do some things with.

I was just on WWE's YouTube where they asked the question "what was the most memorable title change of the last decade?" My answer: the one where CM Punk was a transitional champion who held the belt over a year and lost to a guy who defended the belt twice and dipped. WrestleMania 37 made history. It is the first Mania where no part timers or legends participated in much less won matches going back a full decade. Edge might count as a part timer but at least WWE resisted the urge to put him over. Raw is garbage right now for one simple reason. Ok, two. One: our tribal chief only works Fridays. Two: it doesn't feel like anyone important is doing anything exciting on Mondays. Every week Drew is in a tag match or handicap match with jabronis. Randy Orton is in a tag team right now with Riddle. They keep showing whatever this is that Alexa Bliss is doing. Charlotte keeps getting added to championship matches. The problem in WWE is not that the talent isn't there. It's "what are you DOING with that talent?" They don't need to hotshot angles and gimmick matches. We just need reasons for the madness. When was the last time you heard someone say they hate the WWE in ring? What if the real problem is format? Going back to the Attitude Era, that was when you started to see more sponsorship which meant more commercials. You know the real reason the networks refuse to shorten the 3 hour Raw and 2 hour SmackDown? That would mean less commercials they get paid for. There was a time that there were no commercial interruptions during matches. Now there might be 2 or 3 commercials during a 15 minute tv match. If the match gets 15 minutes not including intros. I remember when not getting an entrance meant you were a jobber but now you often see pushed talents in the ring with no entrance. Then if you're only getting 4 to 8 minutes to have a match how do you build anything? How do you tell a story? What's the point in trying to work holds or single out a body part? No wonder like every match is a jumpstart with everyone running the ropes and doing every dive and used to be finishing move they know. Getting a few minutes only works when it's a squash meant to get someone over. I often see fans complain when their favorites are on the wrong side of a squash. All the tag divisions seem bad because they break up all the good tag teams. Earlier I said it was bad that Drew and Orton, two top guys are doing lots of tags. That is because tag matches aren't important in WWE now. In the 80s and 90s the main events of PPVs were tag matches with main event stars.

A lot of fans deride and decry WWE's "put smiles on faces" credo without realizing how much the product sucks because they're not living that shit. Be careful what you wish for. Bianca Belair is the only babyface champion in main roster WWE. The top star in WWE is a heel WWE is not going to supplant by building a bigger babyface. No matter how much you cheer heels, the simple psychology of LIFE is that you often see the bad guys win so it feels good when you see the good guy go over. If you go back to WrestleMania 2000 that was the first time WWE had a heel win at Mania. When you think about how fans felt about babyface HHH, Cena and Roman Reigns most of those babyface wins felt like evil prevailed to the fanbase.

One of the best recent WWE storylines was Kofi Kingston getting pushed to main events. I still say he's not at that level but that's not the point. I admit it was a great story. Vince McMahon personally resisted and opposed Kofi even getting a championship match so much on TV that people who have been watching wrestling as long as me were legit HOT every time he lost a match that meant he wouldn't go to Mania. They were tweeting WWE officials that they were racists and they might stop watching. I was amused bemused and confused. I was like "wow yall getting WORKED" LMAO. The best part to me, that was the shark being 540 corked... Daniel Bryan was the champion saying Kofi was a b plus player at best. I want WWE to show us they can get a babyface over without work making us believe they're shoot being held down by the office. PUT SMILES ON OUR FACES DAMMIT.