At the beginning of 2018, the second most “over” babyface in the company was turned heel. You may recognize “turning heel” as that feeling Big Show gets in his stomach every other week that turns out to be gas. The idea is that WWE focuses on one top babyface at a time, and if someone gets “over” enough on their own the WWE will turn them heel so that they don’t cut the top babyface’s momentum but also so that it keeps them relevant in storylines.
A lot of writers, even on this site, compare turning a babyface heel to The Rock’s transformation. Unfortunately, what most people fail to take into consideration is that the Rock’s story arch started over 20 years ago and ended 15 years ago, and since then there has only been a handful of people who rejuvenated their careers from turning heel. It’s not a magic bullet. Not everyone is a Rock, Punk or Daniel Bryan. Some people are like Kane, Mark Henry and Big Show who turn heel every full moon and revert into a babyface the next morning – a completely lateral move that leaves a lot of schizophrenics scratching their heads. Often, people are more like Braun Strowman, Ryback or Nakamura – a heel turn that sets them back a few decades into generic heels for Hulk Hogan to roll over.
As soon as Braun Strowman was turned heel Roman Reigns discovered his cancer was back and, oops, the WWE accidentally forgot to keep the fans happy. Within a month the WWE switched Braun Strowman into a babyface, again, with no motivation to do so because the WWE can’t get out of this mindset that two people can be the top babyfaces without one of their characters getting butthurt in the process. So, in one year, Braun Strowman teamed with someone’s child to win the WWE Tag Team Championship and then threw the WWE Universe under the bus for a heel turn. Like adopting a child and then shaming children for existing without parents. Then, Braun Strowman was injured and there wasn’t enough KY Jelly in the world to prepare the WWE for what life was handing them. Since they spent years building up only Roman Reigns at other wrestlers’ expense, they didn’t have anyone to keep the momentum going.
It’s too early to really say whether the WWE is serious about changing things up a bit. It’s not an overnight process. However, Mandy Rose in a towel is an excellent start. That’s true about anything really, though.
Student: “Sorry, my dog ate my homework, but here’s Mandy Rose in a towel.”
Teacher: “Well, you’re off to an excellent start. I think that deserves a big D.”
Student: “I’m only getting a D?!”
Student: “No, she’s getting the D. You get an F. It’s still turned in late, Johnny.”
When the McMahons came to the ring and told everyone things were going to change for the better it was hard not to get flashbacks of 2014 Triple H, COO. A character talking in character about things only his character could do while pandering to the fans who wanted to believe there wasn’t a character in the middle of the ring. Why is the WWE so obsessed with authority figures that even when they’re trying to tell the fans that shit won’t suck anymore they can’t help but whip out the ole “generic authority figure” dong?
The first time CM Punk said something that just felt off-script was probably the worst thing to happen to promos in the PG era. It’s like a cake that you find out later was laced with laxatives. It tasted delicious and we all talked about how great it was. Then, after the taste washed out of our mouths and we sat down to reflect on the true meaning of cake, we shit our pants.
All these years later and we’re still shoving our faces full of a shit inducing pastries. When John Cena belittled Roman Reigns for his poor promo skills, we all shared a nice laugh. I mean, can you believe John Cena said that thing we were all thinking? Then John Cena rode off into the sunset and we were left with a guy who we were just told by the most over person in the WWE that his promos suck. At one point, we called this “burying” talent. Triple H would do it and he would receive major backlash for it. But then CM Punk did it, and we all liked CM Punk, so now its acceptable to go off-script (even though, irony of irony, CM Punk’s promo was most likely not off-script at all), even if it means burying the talent in the process.
Recently, (January 7th, 2019) Paul Heyman exposed Braun Strowman for his promo skills. At several points in the segment, Braun Strowman stared uselessly at the titantron as if he didn’t understand why Brock Lesnar was now 30 feet tall or why half of his body was missing. As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough without any help, both Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar kept snickering to themselves like the bullies in a high school who tripped the handicap kid and now feel pretty good about themselves. It’s pretty genius of Heyman and Cena to do these things, honestly. If you embarrass your competition and disguise it as you’re just testing them, then the WWE will be more willing to bring you back in the future when no one cheers for the person they just ridiculed after they leave. If for any reason you’re not convinced that it was off-script or that Braun sinking wasn’t part of the plan, notice that Braun told Lesnar that he’s tired of him hiding behind Heyman. Heyman then giggles like a girl and says, “I’m actually behind Lesnar right now,” or something stupid like that. Again, the type of humor you’d expect from someone who just tripped a kid on crutches. “See you next… FALL.”
We already knew Braun Strowman was terrible on the mic, but he was given a pass because his promos typically didn’t exceed more than two sentences and one of them was a catchphrase that was three words long. Braun says each word as if he’s about to bite into an apple. He calls people childish names and recites both sentences as if he’s reading off a cue card. We already knew that, and if we knew it then the WWE damn well knew it too, which makes putting him into that situation that much more bizarre. In case you missed the segment, here it is verbatim:
Paul Heyman: What do you have to say about that?!
Braun Strowman: …
Paul Heyman: …
Braun Strowman: ARGH BAH BARGH DA DA DAAAAGH. GET. THESE. HANDS.
You’d think that would be the only time that had happen on that specific RAW, however, maybe you didn’t hear me earlier mention how bad John Cena is at this? Drew McIntyre is in the process of getting himself over as a heel. For someone reading off a script nearly word for word (you can tell), he’s doing pretty good. Cue: John Cena’s humor. Drew McIntyre is on a roll pointing out how he doesn’t care about the silly things everyone else is bringing up about John Cena including his stupid haircut because he’s taking this serious. Then, John Cena interrupts to bring up his stupid fucking hair. Drew stands there speechless, unamused, and the hamster running the wheel inside Drew’s head is now dead. That one line now stands out in a segment that was supposed to be taken serious like John Cena’s bald spot in the middle of JBL’s haircut.
Tim Rose is a freelance writer and photoshopper, full time accountant, and temporary cat scratching post. Follow him @timrosetweeting won’t you?