For years, fake wrestling didn’t really have heels.
Some performers were more heel than others. But few truly went for that kind of heat, or hate. Heels shouldn’t have catchphrases. Heels shouldn’t have merchandise. Too many faux heels tried to split the difference. Heels shouldn’t provide anything that is memorable in a favorable way.
For a while, WWE had two legit heels: Edge and Chris Jericho. Others may have thought they were heels. They weren’t.
The concept of the “cool heel” got legs, however unintentionally, with Ric Flair. “Stylin’ and profilin’.” “Space Mountain.” “To be the man…” Combine that with Flair’s look, his clothes, his success and his performance level, and c’mon: Who’s NOT going to root for that?
The nWo kept it going, especially early when Hall and Nash carried the ball. As with Flair and The Four Horsemen, the nWo created an interesting dynamic, often splitting the crowd in half and providing electricity like you’d find at a real sporting event held at a neutral site, like a Super Bowl.
It was great because it was new, and against the grain.
But ultimately, the idea of the “cool heel” hurt the industry, because A) it blurred the distinction the entire idea of fake wrestling is built upon, good vs. bad, and B) too many “cool heels” were lame-ass, jive-ass, obi-wan-jobronis who didn’t know how to be cool and thus sacrificed their ability to be heels. (See Orton, Randy.)
Fake wrestling now isn’t exactly flush with legit heels. But WWE has C.M. Punk, the Snidely Whiplash of fake wrestling (I mean that in a good way). WWE has Paul Heyman and, by extension, Brock Lesnar. WWE has The Shield, three guys addicted to bullying. Impact has Bully Ray, THE BEST HEEL IN THE BUSINESS. It’s a shame Impact has no babyfaces.
Punk has merchandise. Strike one. He has catchphrases, but delivers them in a way that makes you want to shove them down his throat. Punk has ZERO REDEEMING QUALITIES. He’s a…well, a punk. Brilliant.
The Indian summer of Heyman’s career has been simply awesome. He never should have been out of wrestling for one minute, but committed an unforgivable sin: HE KNOWS MORE THAN VINCE. He’s a classic heel manager, using words to elevate a guy who can’t talk (and one who can).
WWE has to be careful with The Shield. They’re becoming one-trick ponies, and we’ve all seen the trick. I know they like Roman Reigns’ look, but he might be the weakest of the three. Use him to build the others. The Shield have to participate in the singles scene, and soon.
That brings us to Bully Ray. Who thought this could happen?
The former Bubba Ray Dudley lost weight, polished his in-ring performance and improved his already considerable promo game. In a little over two years, he became the prototypical heel, but there is nothing cool about him. He’s the schoolyard bully who always kicks your ass, partly because he’s a badass and partly because he won’t ever give you a fair fight.
The Bully Ray-Hogans feud is amazing and compelling, yet frustrating. The lack of logic used to get from Point A to Point B defies description, but it GETS HEAT. The venom spewed back and forth is first-class, but there’s NO MATCH. The build sells, but there’s NOTHING TO SELL. It’s just another way to keep the Hogans on TV, front and center.
Bully Ray has done most of the heavy lifting in this feud. He’s the one generating the heat. That means IT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE AGAINST SOMEBODY ELSE. THERE COULD HAVE BEEN A MATCH. Certain parts of Impact TV have been entertaining. But it all winds up wasted.
It’s a shame. It has to be its own reward. Impact needed something more tangible. Meantime, enjoy Bully Ray. When he calls Hogan “Dad” was that sarcastic sneer, I want to punch him. Getting me to have sympathy for Hogan is something I thought impossible.
Bully Ray is the best heel in fake wrestling. DDMe yoga is the top babyface in fake wrestling. They can’t have a match, either.
Follow Mark Madden on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX