Now that Smackdown has lost one of its last remaining heroes when Christian went over to the dark side, that leaves only man left to fight back the hordes. Raw has only one hero remaining as well, John Cena and Randy Orton have been cast as the last heroes, the landscape around them is filled with would be marauders, bandits, and backstabbers. This is nothing new for wrestling/sports entertainment; there have always been more heels than babyfaces. I’m just having trouble remembering when there were this many heels and this few top babyfaces. Sure, you can argue that Rey Mysterio is a babyface but come on he isn’t a top wrestler anymore, he’s more of a Jean Claude Van Dam. Never really an A-lister but close enough for a short time that we have to mention him. Kofi Kingston isn’t ready for the main even role, so he’s more like Chris Evans (haven’t heard of him, he was Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies, and has enough charisma to carry a movie on his own and will be a big star some day). Kofi and Evans are up and coming babyfaces who need a few more blockbuster matches/movies to solidify them as main eventers. So we are left with a void, only two men remain for us to cheer for at the top.
So what does that make Randy Orton? Who is he in the landscape of action heroes left alone to fight off the rest of the world, or in this case Smackdown? Take a look at the landscape of Smackdown and you’ll see a plethora of would be bad guys, you have giants (Khali, Mark Henry), up and coming schemers looking to carve their own way in the world (Cody Rhodes, Sheamus), and a veteran good guy who lost his mind after one too many failures (Christian). So, who does Randy remind of me of? That’s an easy one, pre-meltdown Mel Gibson. For those of you too young to remember Mel Gibson as anything other than the crazy, anti-Semite, who yells at his pregnant mistress, let me fill you in. At onetime Mel was the perfect anti-hero actor. The Mad Max trilogy was some of his best work, no one pulled off the brooding, devil may care attitude quite like Mel Gibson did as Mad Max. Just like no one in the WWE plays the quiet assassin, viper like Randy Orton. The parallels go beyond the Mad Max character however, because Mel Gibson showed off his action hero chops in the Lethal Weapon franchise. Gibson played an unstable cop who played by his own rules, you know before that was a cliché. At any one time you thought he was capable of anything; always on the edge. He wasn’t quite crazy and he wasn’t quite sane, it was a perfect blend of nuts and inner strength we needed from a hero. Randy Orton tows the same line, even his theme music implies something is off about Randy “I hear voices in my head, they talk to me,” that opening line says it all about Orton’s character. When Randy gets that look in his eye, drops to the matt, starts pounding his fists, and coils up for the RKO something just seems unstable about the whole situation. Randy’s character blends all of the things we loved about Gibson’s character Sergeant Riggs. Oh we aren’t done yet with the similarities between our two heroes, how about Gibson’s character in Braveheart? William Wallace was a thief, vandal turned good guy only by circumstance not because he changed in any fundamental way. Just like Randy was a heel, a snake in the grass, but Randy didn’t change who he was. No, he didn’t change at all and yet we cheer for him now. Why, what changed about him that made us start cheering him? The answer is simple, nothing. Nothing about him had to change, we just grew to appreciate his hard work, and the fact that he gives every match everything he has. Sure there were some subtle changes, but nothing that would justify the 180 we did as wrestling fans. Just to wrap up the whole William Wallace, Randy Orton corollary, both were betrayed by friends who thought they were doing good for their kingdom/careers. Robert the Bruce betrayed William Wallace for the good of his people at the battle of Falkirk (again this was in the movie, not real life. In real life Robert the Bruce hated the English more than Wallace did, okay enough with the boring history lesson). Randy was betrayed by his good friend Christian in the battle of we need to further this amazing rivalry and we can’t do so if one of them doesn’t go heel, or something like that.
So now that we wrapped up our Smackdown hero, where does that leave us with John Cena? John Cena’s character has his own bad guys to face, and there are more of them then Randy has to deal with. You have real honest goodness proven bad guys, like Lex Luther (The Miz), brilliant schemers who will do anything to win. He has to deal with an honest to goodness “crazy person” Hell bent on taking everything from him, like every clichéd bad guy in the last fifty years (R-Truth). Also like Orton he has to deal with several up and comers looking for his title, (Del Rio, Swagger, and Ziggler). So, who does John Cena remind me? Well again personal issues set aside again, he reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Early in Arnold’s career he took on some edgy, bad guy roles. In the Terminator, he was the perfect killing machine, hell bent on finding and killing Sarah Connor. In one movie role Arnold become a mega star, and launched him into nearly every action movie for the next decade. Cena burst onto the WWE landscape as an edgy heel who immediately took on one of the top dogs in Kurt Angle. Cena wasn’t yet an action hero, but he was quickly becoming a star as a heel. Arnold never developed into a very good actor but his movies continued to succeed and gross insane amounts of money. Cena never really developed into an in ring master, but his t-shirt sales and ppv buys started going up. Then something strange happened, Arnold started taking less edgy role, after less edgy role. He gained the kid demographic, but he lost his action hero fan base, when he started doing movies like Kindergarten Cop, Jingle All the Way, and Junior. Just like, when Cena dropped the rapping that made him famous and became an over the top babyface that alienated the older crowd that liked him in the beginning.
Two heroes set against the backdrop of Raw and Smackdown. The WWE is in need of more babyfaces at the top. It is so easy to be a heel, all you have to do is be a selfish prick. We are all capable of being selfish pricks, who only care about ourselves. It’s easy to be hated, but it’s much harder to be liked, without it coming out as forced or clichéd. You use to be able to show up wearing Red, White, and Blue, high five a few kids and people loved you. Not anymore, now you have to actually try to be a good guy, without it looking like your trying to be a good guy. In the world we live in, which is a very cynical one, we want someone who does the right thing but does it in a cool hip, anti-establishment way. This of course is thanks to Stone Cold, The Rock, and HHH. Those three guys changed what it takes to be a babyface, and it’s very difficult to get to that level. Look at Christian, didn’t he come off so much better as a heel than he did as a babyface? He seemed more comfortable in that role. Everyone does, it’s just easier to be hated. The WWE needs to do a better job of training these guys not only how to wrestle, but how to get over with a crowd. Daniel Bryan, Drew Mcintyre and Swagger should be three huge babyfaces, but not a one of them can get over with a crowd on the mic. So they put two of them as heels, and the Bryan as a babyface who says nothing and will be destined to be a mid-carder with the talent of a main-eventer. Like I said in the opening you need more bad guys then good, but we need more than two good guys for a product to be successful.
Thanks again for reading and if you want to get in contact with me you can do so by emailing me here: email@example.com or you can bug me via twitter @JaredGebhardt. As always, I try to get to every single email and tweet I get.
The Wrestling Genius: Jared Gebhardt