When it comes to wrestling fans, patience is a virtue that does not apply to us. We think our favorite performers should be in the main event right out of the gate. If a character appears to be in a rut, we automatically want them to “turn” or something. In a society where all the information we could possibly want is available instantly at the touch of a screen, waiting on a story to build seems absurd. I see the chatter on social media all the time with fans saying, “The WWE’s storytelling is garbage nowadays.” This begs the question: Has the WWE lost it’s ability to tell compelling stories? Or have we as fans lost the ability to shut up and listen. One of the more memorable moments from a spectacular SummerSlam weekend was when Becky Lynch tore off on Charlotte Flair after losing their match. Almost immediately fans on social media applauded a new “Heel Becky!” When she appeared on Smackdown a few days later, she cut an excellent promo finally bearing her soul. Once again, almost immediately, hardcore Lynch fans were defiant in their position that they will refuse to boo the bad Becky. They would say, “This isn’t working! This is bad booking!”
It took 2 shows and literally 10 minutes for Becky Lynch to show a major progression in her character. It took 10 seconds for the fans to make up their mind that this was the wrong move. This type of knee jerk reactions aren’t helping anyone, especially Becky Lynch. The sample size is too small to cast it aside so flippantly. Is Becky Lynch really a heel? Who knows?! It’s barely been a week. Give it a chance to develop. Give her a chance to grow into her new persona. Listen to the whole story, instead of just reacting to the moment.
The same logic applies to everybody’s favorite superstar punching bag Roman Reigns. When The Shield reunited on Raw this past Monday to take out Braun Strowman, that was deep rooted heel stuff. Sure the crowd popped, the Hounds of Justice are badass. But fans still seemed to question the move, spouting off conspiracy theories that its all an excuse to get fans to cheer Reigns again. A 3 on 1 attack on a popular star is not heroic, especially when its objective was to protect ones championship. Maybe the WWE are finally positioning themselves for a change in approach. Maybe the good monster will have to face the evil champion. Maybe we just need to enjoy the ride.
In the long term is Reigns a failure as a babyface? To be honest I think the WWE has failed him. Think about the top guys in the company over the last 30 years and who they faced. Hogan had Piper. Bret had Shawn (and vice versa). Austin had Mr. McMahon. Cena had JBL and Edge. Who has Roman Reigns’ greatest adversary been? You could make the argument for Brock Lesnar, but his absence and lack of true sliminess pokes holes in that take. A hero is only as good as his villainous counterpart. If the WWE can’t provide Roman with a true dirtbag opponent we can all collectively hate, how can they expect us to have his back?
The fact is in this day and age the classic “babyface and heel” concept does not mean what it used to. Fans are too smart and will back who they want regardless of how they are portrayed on television. On the flip side, they seem to want to be told directly whether or not someone is good or bad. They can’t decide for themselves. Like they expected Becky Lynch to come out on Tuesday night and say, “Surprise I’m evil now.”
You can’t have it both ways. Either you pick the horse you want in the race, or do your job as a fan. Cheer the hero. Boo the villain. The WWE hasn’t changed their way of telling us who’s good and who’s not. We have changed how we process that information. Let the story simmer before you taste it and decide its trash. I promise you the experience will be much more enjoyable in the end.