C.M. Punk has turned heel, and convincingly. His ambush of The Rock on Raw #1,000 stunned the marks; his announcers’-desk interview on Raw #1,001 clarified any doubt. (Though everything he said about “Dwayne” was, well…true. Wasn’t it?) SAY HELLO TO THE BAD GUY!
Punk’s not easy to turn heel because HE’S SO GOOD. At one point, it became impossible to turn Ric Flair heel because marks were going to cheer him NO MATTER WHAT. They became Flair fans, not wrestling fans. This aggravated Flair no end, because he far preferred heel, often insisting on walking that side of the street even when it worked to his detriment.
To Flair’s credit, he’s such a good heel he got the fans booing anyway…for a second. Then, they would think as one: “Wait a minute…why am I booing Ric Flair? I LOVE THAT GUY.” So they’d start cheering Flair…which would aggravate, say, Dusty Rhodes no end.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Not with the great ones. Wrestlers with weak or even mediocre characters need to be clear-cut face or heel. Wrestlers with strong characters can polarize fans to one extreme OR the other, creating strong feeling among all. That’s all you want: STRONG FEELING.
Consider John Cena. Half love him, half hate him. But they all yell his name.
Some marks will cheer Punk no matter what. Punk hasn’t yet accrued the respect of Flair (or Steve Austin, who found himself in the same situation when he got super, super over). But there’s no doubting how good he is, and “Best in the World” has become a self-fulfilling brand.
Good. The idea is to get over. Context dictates face or heel. Let Punk be Punk. No need to have him set fire to an orphanage. His turn was easily and effectively absorbed by his character. He’s made the belt important, too.
I like that his heel promos ring true. You can be a heel and tell the truth, as long as they’re unpleasant truths.
SPEAKING OF HEELS…
It looks like Impact is going to re-sign Bully Ray. Smart move. To lose a major star to WWE just when the program is markedly improving would be a big blow internally and in terms of public perception.
The legal brouhaha between WWE and Impact likely made it difficult for WWE to ink Bully Ray. It’s certainly delayed Flair’s return there.
But, money and scheduling issues aside, Bully Ray is better suited for Impact. WWE, not often crazy about recycling, probably would never give him a push similar to the one he enjoys with Impact. Bully Ray would be just another mid-card guy in WWE.
He deserves better.
Bully Ray’s career is having an incredible rebirth at 41. I consider the Dudley Boyz a badly overrated tag team. As one of their co-workers once said, “They think they’re the best. But they’re a lot closer to the worst.” They were cartoon characters who acted like they really won their pretend titles.
But, as a single, Bully Ray has lost weight, sharpened his look and sharpened his act. He’s not going for any cool points. He’s an old-fashioned hardcore heel. Bully Ray looks scary, he talks scary, he is scary.
I loved his feud with “Joseph Park.” “GET THAT BASS OUT OF YOUR VOICE!” We live in an age of bullies. An age personified by Bully Ray. “Be a Star”? Bully Ray IS a star.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m.weekdays on WXDX-FM, Pittsburgh, PA(105.9)