Faces, Heels, and Throwing Shades of Gray
Two weeks ago the inaugural edition of the CLASH! went down, and it will appear in the history books as what may be the only time Greg and I actually agree on something. Well, maybe not the only time, but the topic of the rematch clause (which was ALL OVER the place on WWE television the week after the column ran, including one match that was indeed a cash in of the clause) isn’t really very polarizing. Some like it, some don’t, but nobody is really all that passionate about it. It exists and, while it’s used a lot, I think we’ve all come to live with it. In the grand scheme of things, is it really that important?
To put that to rest, that means that the first ever Chairshot CLASH! had a verdict of agreement. Greg and I walked off into the sunset arm-in-arm and reminisced about the good old days when good guys were good guys, and bad guys were bad guys, and there was never anything in between.
Chairshot CLASH! Verdict Count
Week 1, Rematch Clause: AGREE (1)
Oh… wait — what are you telling me? Shades of gray aren’t a new thing in wrestling? There’s surely something different going on that has caused people to end friendships, file for divorce and, now this is only a rumor, resort to defenestration in relation to this heated topic for conversation. Indeed, when wrestling was arguably at its most popular in the late 1990s and the very early 2000s, good guys weren’t always squeaky clean and bad guys weren’t always the devil himself. In fact, one guy, a squeaky clean former Olympian who advocated abstinence outside of wedlock and was a literal example of someone saying their prayers and drinking milk to keep a healthy body — was one of the top bad guys in WWE!
Indeed, things are different now. The idea of babyfaces and heels is a bit confused these days, especially in WWE. It’s pretty clear when it comes down to it, who is on which side of the coin (just look at any lumberjack match, for example) but there are some outside factors (the vocal majority of the live audience, for one) that muddy up the subject. I think that sets it up enough. Greg and I have a lot to talk about, so let’s just jump right in.
It’s week two of the Chairshot CLASH! Will we both use our heads?
Here’s what I’m thinking about. We’ll start as fresh as possible. Becky Lynch. She’s been a fan favorite since she debuted on the main roster just over three years ago. And throughout the entire ride, all of the ups and all of the downs, the crowd has been very vocally behind her without fail. Live audiences, social media, you name it — the people loved Becky Lynch. WWE actually created a poll asking fans if they have been rooting for Becky all along, or “only until Charlotte Flair got involved”. The wording makes no sense. What, exactly, are they asking? Did I always support Becky Lynch, or did I support her until a few weeks ago when Charlotte weaseled her way into the title match at SummerSlam? So are they asking if I stopped supporting her when Charlotte returned and instead jumped on the Flair train?
Very confusing language. Either way, as of late Tuesday night, the poll was 94% to 6%, with the vast majority voting that they have been rooting for Becky from the beginning. They did a similar thing on social media, posting a graphic asking us to “Be honest” — were we supporting Becky the entire time she was chasing after the title? Good lord, does it get much more desperate than that? Oh, and that didn’t go very well either. Pretty much everyone said that yes, they have and will continue to cheer Becky on.
The crowds in Brooklyn (twice) and Toronto are clearly on Becky’s side, believing that she is the victim of nepotism. Becky worked her ass off to get her opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the SmackDown women’s division. Charlotte came back from an injury after losing the title and losing in her (contractually obligated) rematch to (at the time) current champion Carmella — and all she had to do was ask Paige for an opportunity, and she got it? It’s ridiculous. Why would anybody cheer for that?
For Becky, my argument isn’t that the booking is bad (although it is) and it isn’t that the fans are hijacking the show by cheering the bad guys and booing the good guys (that’s not what’s happening here). I’m going with coherent logic. My argument is that Becky is completely right to be upset about what happened and she’s getting payback on a woman who stabbed her in the back once before. Charlotte has proven to be a liar, cheater, and manipulator. Becky has earned everything she’s gotten and after having a rough patch, finally earned her way back to the top only to be kicked off the mountain by someone who didn’t earn a chance to climb up with her (despite what nonsense Road Dogg might tell you on Twitter).
This is a really hard topic for so many to discuss. Mainly because nearly every single one of us grew up on faces and heels. I know I did. I can remember the first time I actually favored a heel: the show where “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff turned on Hulk Hogan. I felt like Orndorff was right about Hogan hogging the spotlight and not caring about his friend. And that’s the thing! Heels usually tell the truth, but we hate them for it.
When I first discovered the NWA, Ric Flair was already the man. And he was OVER as hell as both a face and a heel. Didn’t confuse me one bit. He had fans in the Techwood Drive studios, they all wore black suits and would throw up four fingers when Flair was out. One was actually a manager at the local Virginia independent I regularly attended, named Keven Kelly. Great old school heel manager, carried a golf club with him.
Fast forward to SummerSlam and beyond, and Becky Lynch has “turned heel.” She’s mad at Charlotte for stealing swooping in and stealing her spot, and she’s 100% right about it. Suddenly the fans that loved and supported her are supposed to boo? I don’t know about that, bro.
With Becky and Charlotte, I have seen a lot of talk online about how we could be on the way toward a double turn similar to Bret and Austin in 1997. I honestly believe that they might actually go that direction. I mean, I’ve honestly believed a lot of things would happen that didn’t really have a snowflake’s chance in hell, so this might be another addition to that list, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t just go in that direction. Turning Becky into an angry, fired-up anti-hero instead of the happy-go-lucky babyface could be a big, big deal for the women’s division as a whole. It’s not a situation like Roman Reigns, where there are legitimate business reasons to keep him where he is.
And of course, that brings us to a very contentious topic. The current Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. I don’t think we should spend a ton of time talking about this since pretty much everybody’s opinion has been put out there and nobody is budging, but we’re reasonable guys. I’ll try to be as brief as I can, but I don’t know how well that will turn out.
Roman is an extremely good professional wrestler. He’s top tier. He deserves, based on performing in high-pressure situations over and over again, the spot that he’s in. Anybody who disputes that doesn’t deserve to be part of an adult conversation. WWE is an extremely profitable company, and with good numbers on the stock market and a freakin’ BILLION dollar deal with Fox, they are obviously doing something right. There’s no disputing that, period. But let’s take money out of it because I want this to be a discussion about the wrestling that we’re watching on TV, not all of the shit that we shouldn’t be worrying ourselves about. We aren’t making money from WWE, so I don’t believe it to be a legitimate part of a conversation regarding the entertainment factor. The goal is to entertain as many people as possible, right? You can. But you have to do it the right way.
Now I could be totally wrong, and maybe I am. Based on the history of WWE, I believe I am right, but we’ll never know.
If they turned Roman heel at the beginning of 2016 instead of force-feeding him to us, he could be a legitimate babyface by now and the story they told with him and Brock this year would have actually been amazing instead of one of the biggest, wettest farts in history. No guarantees, obviously, but it fits into the narrative you brought up, Greg.
Roman was wronged: Seth Rollins turned on him to kill The Shield. Seth stole his moment by cashing in MITB at WrestleMania. Sheamus did the same at Survivor Series, and then Triple H did it AGAIN at the Royal Rumble. And all the while, the crowd was actually turning on him. It was the perfect storm. But they decided against it because they already made up their mind. If the crowd didn’t feel sympathy for the guy after being fucked over FOUR TIMES, it just wasn’t going to happen.
Instead of having Triple H win the Rumble and the title, Ambrose wins it. Roman feigns happiness for his Shield brother’s accomplishment, but then out of anger, jealousy, and frustration, he absolutely mauls him. The crowd boos Roman like they want to, Dean gets even more over, and then you get the crowd to hate Roman even more by having him defeat Ambrose clean in the middle at WrestleMania. I got into a bit of fantasy booking there, but the short of it is that Roman had a perfectly good reason to turn heel and they had a perfect babyface foil for him. At some point, there would be an organic reason for the two of them to join forces again (the way Dean reluctantly did with Seth last year) and then Roman gets cheered by everyone. The haters were given the outlet to get the boos out of their system, and everybody wins.