Adam Rudman, Alberto del Rio, Big E. Langston, Big Show, Bray Wyatt, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Extreme Rules, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Paul Heyman, Payback, Randy Orton, RAW, Ricardo Rodriguez, Shaemus, Shawn Michaels, Smackdown, Steve Austin, The Rock, Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania, WWE
The WWE is facing a growing problem within their programming recently. No, it’s not John Cena. The problem I’m referring to isn’t even the lack of new talent ready for the main event. The babyface machine that produced Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, and most recently John Cena is broken.
I won’t even waste my time on the John Cena issue. His struggles with a large portion of the “WWE Universe” are well documented. However, let’s take a look at the other babyfaces currently residing near the top of the card in the WWE.
You could argue that the way things are structured currently, that Randy Orton is the number two babyface in the company. He’s coming off a pretty convincing victory over Big Show at Extreme Rules in his hometown, a luxury not usually afforded to performers in the past few years (see Jim Ross in Oklahoma, and most recently Natty in Calgary this week on RAW) and is constantly booked in a semi-strong manner. Is he over with the crowd though? Sure he garners a pop on his entrance, and his rehash of the DDP gimmick gets the crowd on their feet when he hits the RKO, but there is still a large portion of the audience that’s bored with him. Orton himself has come out and said that he works better and prefers to be a heel, and not all the time, but sometimes that shows through in his performances. Let’s not forget he was one of the two “sports entertainers” standing in the ring when the Fandango-ing frenzy broke out. Which a small part of the blame can be attributed to Orton himself as he had to break character to ask Shaemus for a line queue. Sure, the post-WM crowd is a little smarter than most, but for an entire crowd to decide what was presently going on in the ring was unimportant, it speaks to something.
I think Shaemus slides into the 2b slot here with Randy Orton. Although the Shaemus character as a whole has been terribly confusing as of late. During his feud with Mark Henry, the roles were completely reversed without any recognition of this by announcers. Shaemus was utilizing heel tactics, such as dropping the tug of war rope allowing Mark Henry to fall on his ass, while Mark Henry was inspirationally hauling two tractor trailers in the back parking lot. For a company that embraces the Be-A-Star campaign as they do, it seems in bad form for their babyfaces to be acting as bullies. As noted prior, he was the other “sports entertainer” in the ring for the Fandango-ing craze. I will give him credit for having fun with the entire situation on Twitter the following day, but the fact remains, the crowd just didn’t care. At this point, I think the best thing for both guys would be to officially form “Celtic Viper” (or whatever you want to call it) and to have a “Rated RKO” type run with the team as heels.
Alberto del Rio
Wow. Where do we start here? This was a trainwreck from the get-go. He hits Santa Claus with his car one week, and the next week he’s the new Latin American babyface extraordinaire? With the lack of rhyme or reason that was put into this turn it was doomed to fail from the start. New theme music and a bevy of new t-shirts are not going to get a guy over. When you’re in a segment with Jack Swagger, who is obviously a heel, and the crowd starts chanting “U-S-A”…. there’s been a misstep in the process somewhere. I think there’s a huge opportunity for them to do something fun with Ricardo, but I’ll save that for another post.
Just when you think the del Rio experiment was as bad as it could get, you have The Miz. They trotted Ric Flair out to bestow the Figure-Four upon him, and botched attempts aside, it still hasn’t paid dividends. Mizanin has his moments, I guess, but all in all his star is not rising at the rate that some (myself included) thought it would when he made the babyface turn.
Surely, somewhere in the company there’s a babyface that’s over right? You’d be correct. The detriment lies in the fact that neither of them (yes, there’s really only two) are anywhere near a main event program.
Jericho is without a doubt the most over babyface in the company at the moment. He gets a pop on entrance, and the crowd is with him with everything he does in the ring. The problem of course being that he’s not a full-time competitor. His schedule seems to have expanded on what it originally was coming off of WrestleMania, but you still can’t build around a guy who’s only doing a few shots at a time.
Team Hell No always gets a pop when they come out, but that’s not even the true guage of Daniel Bryan’s popularity amongst the masses. When Daniel Bryan receives a hot tag from Kane, nine times out of ten, it’s the largest reation of the entire evening. When the rumored split of Team Hell No was originally spoken of, it was thought that Bryan would inevitably turn heel. At this point I think the plan has to change, I think Kane has to turn, because they can’t afford for Bryan to be a heel right now. Bryan much like Jericho hits a interesting cross-section of fans, he’s appealing to the average fan, but is also adored by the internet fans, or the “smart marks”.
With such a glaring lack of babyfaces the crowd really wants to cheer for at the top of the card, I believe you’re left with one of two options. Two men off of TV, one that the crowd has cheered before, and one that it seems the crowd is simply waiting to cheer for.
Punk hasn’t been on TV since the night following WrestleMania. That night he seemed to kinda take his ball and go home. A long (in wrestling terms) absence though always leaves the door open for a babyface return. He will no doubt get a pop upon his return (especially if it’s held until the Payback PPV in Chicago) and a simple slight of Paul Heyman would turn him babyface with little to no effort.
The unfortunate concussion situation could lead to a very interesting situation upon his return. With Big E. Langston already gaining a victory over Alberto del Rio, it could lead to a bit of tension with the champ. After a few weeks absence, you could have Big E. Langston claim he’s more than a flunkie, turn on Ziggs with AJ soon to follow.
With presumably a new head of creative intact with the firing of Adam Rudman, I feel like the tides are starting to turn. The introduction of Curtis Axel, followed by the recently advertised introduction of The Wyatt Family, leads one to believe that a new wave of talent is going to be introduced and pushed. The question remains though, can they find a top babyface that’s TRULY over with the crowd?