Sunday Sermon: The Booking of Heels

Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow & Russ Morgan

Does the WWE have a problem when it comes to booking heels? That’s the subject of this latest Sunday Sermon as we look at the history of how heels are booked in the company and assess the successes along the way.

Craig: This Sermon sorta started towards the end of last week’s and it really got me thinking. The WWE is really bad at booking their heels.

Despite being the man in the WWE, Seth Rollins isn't being booked like he's the man.

Despite being the man in the WWE, Seth Rollins isn’t being booked like he’s the man.

Take Rollins, who should be booked as the number one guy in the company and as a flag bearer for the promotion. Instead, he’s sorta booked as a sort of wimpy/lucky champion. That has a place – hell, Honky Tonk Man did it well – but I just think it’s weak.

But it’s not a new phenomenon, I think the WWE really struggle when it comes to getting heels properly over at times. They have a fall back position of a heel Authority but even that’s rammed down our throats rather than being something organic.

At the moment I’m making my way back through PPVs from 1997 on the Network and, as I’ve said on here before, I love the Harts heel stuff but I’m not sure how much of that was even by design rather than falling in to place.

Going further back the WWE definitely dropped the ball with Vader, who was a monster in Japan and WCW but used poorly – sure the Kliq were probably responsible but still.

So what is it with the WWE and their heel performers? Is it just another part of the WWE booking that is poor or is their booking of heels worse than their other issues?

Brian: I agree with you up to a certain point. I agree about Bray having a Twitter account defeats the purpose of trying to make Wyatt a very complex and mysterious individual. You and I can agree with that because we came from a different era watching pro wrestling. Times…they are a changing…however and we need to either adapt with the times or become lost in the past. Wrestling fans nowadays are hip to the whole kayfabing and what not.

If Bray Wyatt having a Twitter account helps generate interest in his overall character…I think we need to just embrace that. I do disagree that he isn’t being booked properly as a heel. He is still mysterious, cuts top notch promos and doesn’t wrestle every week on TV. When he does finally wrestle…it becomes a treat…much like with Brock Lesnar…only to a smaller degree.

Would Roman Reigns have more success in the WWE as a heel?

Would Roman Reigns have more success in the WWE as a heel?

Jamie: I agree with both of you. Wyatt is clearly booked differently to other performers, but just not differently enough in some regards. He really should not have a Twitter account and he loses clean far too often. He’s treated as a monster most of the time, but when it comes time to fight he transforms into a mere mortal… shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I agree with you both regarding Seth Rollins too. His character works, and he plays it very well. His ‘weak’ booking reflects this. Problem is, it’s not the kind of character that one would associate as being the main bad guy. Brian did the hit the nail on the head though, a stronger heel would just become a fan favourite a la Brock Lesnar.

This is where WWE should take a step back and embrace organic characters that fans gravitate towards (Daniel Bryan) rather than push the characters upon us (Roman Reigns). Times have changed, fans are far more vocal about who they like, but WWE hasn’t changed. Their booking is still very much good guy vs. bad guy, but fans tend to make their own minds up these days. If fans want to boo Roman Reigns then just go with it. Rocky Maiva transformed when he was allowed to bite back at the fans. Roman Reigns could be the powerful heel at the top of the card WWE is lacking, but they are intent on him being a bland babyface.

Russ: Booking Rollings the way the WWE are doing is generating more and more heat for him. Rollings is going to be around a while and due to his physical stature, they are not going to push him as a monster. You actually have to give WWE some credit there.

Brian: I agree with Russ 100% here….Seth is getting good heel heat by being the wuss champion. It is something different from the way the other heel champions have been booked ie Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton etc…

Craig: As for Reigns, I think Jamie’s absolutely spot on. I think, short term at the very least, Reigns can be a star with the WWE but as a heel, not as a babyface.

I also think Jamie’s remarks about Wyatt are right, that he’s booked as a monster but when it comes to matches looks like a mere mortal. Ultimately, he’s lost too many matches to not be seen in such a way. I’ll say it again, it’s why the WWE needs jobbers, or at least use them occasionally. Have some skinny guy in a singlet lose rather than having Wyatt lose. It works for me.

Ultimately, I guess I’m not really sure the WWE is that good at booking heels. The Mr. McMahon character is, probably in my lifetime, the best heel I’ve seen but had it been against Daniel Bryan or something I doubt it would have worked.

Just how big an issue when it comes to heels is the lack of superstar babyfaces?

Just how big an issue when it comes to heels is the lack of superstar babyfaces?

Jamie: I’d echo those sentiments… and the heel authority figure still isn’t even a WWE creation. Granted Vince was absolutely brilliant in the role, but Eric Bischoff was a pretty decent authority figure in WCW long before McMahon left his announce desk to take bumps.

I think I’m right in saying that we all think Seth Rollins is probably the most effective heel in the company, right? That said, there’s clearly issues with the way WWE book their bad guys, but could these issues possibly be down to the way they book their good guys?

I said before that the notion of good guy vs. bad guy feels out-dated, or are there just no good guys worth cheering for? Brian correctly stated that fans ultimately cheer for strong bad guys, but would this happen against stronger babyfaces? The Rock was a monster heel and always got heat against Austin. In a more modern context, Bray Wyatt is a popular bad guy, but fans were solidly behind Daniel Bryan during their feud a couple years ago.

The way many heels are booked doesn’t help, but for me there is barely a decent babyface in the company for them to get heat against, John Cena included. The exception at the moment is Dolph Ziggler. Everybody loves Dolph, and Rusev is slowly but surely building himself back up as a result.

Brian: That is a great point…there aren’t many true “superstars” at the top of the food chain right now in the WWE. There is John Cena as the mega star…but after him…there is a drop off. I mean guys like Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose seem to be in limbo right now…even though we see them every week. Dolph Ziggler…while popular…is a mid carder right now.

That brings me to Rusev…they initially built this guy up as a one man wrecking crew…destroying everyone in his path. Now…he seems like a blubbering….mush who is more concerned about Lana then kicking Dolph Ziggler’s ass. With that said, even though fans do love him…Dolph would and has made a great cocky, arrogant heel.

Jamie: And that’s something currently lacking. Heel’s lose more than babyfaces, so to protect them they need an excuse to lose. Rollins has Authority backing, so he’s sorted win, lose or draw. Kevin Owens is a “prize fighter”, so can pick and choose when he fights and when he walks away. The Wyatt’s are, well, weird. Are there any other excuses currently used by other heel performers? A cocky Dolph Ziggler could just be caught ‘showing off’, so could be protected that way. A young, brash, heel could attempt to run before walking and be seen as naive rather than rubbish (Jordan and Gable in NXT spring to mind). You could even have those annoying, take a win any which they can heels that survive on count outs and DQs. All of these kinds of heels are currently missing from the main roster.

At least The New Day are currently filling the void of comedy heel tag team that can still wrestle a good match.

Craig: I think though that’s the crux: you need strong babyfaces to have strong heels and vice versa. There isn’t enough strength in depth on either side at the moment.

And how much blame for the lack of superstars babyfaces, or indeed heels, can be apportioned on to the bringing back of legends rather than investing in creating the next star?

Brian: I think that’s a very valid issue. The WWE brings in guys like the Rock, Undertaker, Batista, Chris Jericho…even Brock Lesnar and thrusts them immediately back into the main event instead of giving that spot in some cases to the younger, more active talent. If anything, these legends should be used to get over the younger guys and help build them up.

Jamie: Let’s just hope that is what WWE is planning for Night of Champions…… I’m not holding my breath though.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.


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