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The W - Pro Wrestling - Why do face/heel runs succeed or fail?
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RKMtwin
Boudin rouge








Since: 1.3.02
From: Denver, Colorado

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#1 Posted on
In lieu of recent rumors about the future of Randy Orton on the net lately and also discussion here about why his face run failed, why HHH's return as a face failed and so on, I was wondering:

Why is it that wrestlers can succeed as either a heel or face where others do not? And furthermore, how is it that certain wrestlers can succeed exceedingly well as one or the other while other wrestlers couldn't/can't draw any type of heat whatsoever if they slept in an oven while bread is baking?

The two things that I can come up with off the top of my head are 1)it gets over because a wrestler gets into the gimmick and places some type of conviction into their roles, and 2) it DRAWS MONEY.

So what do you think? Why can't Rodney Mack gain momentum while someone like the man known affectionately by some as the True Stupid Big Red Machine, Rob Van Dam (thanx emma and CANADIAN BULLDOG!) are almost pertually over as a face or a heel?



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geemoney
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Since: 26.1.03
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#2 Posted on
It also depends on how much the writers get into the gimmick. If they were pushing Rodney Mack into the main event each week, or giving him 3 or 4 segments per show, he may get over more. After a while of him being in several segments, layers and dimensions would be added to his character so he's not just known as "Angry Black Guy #1", like he is now, and maybe people would actually care.

(edited by geemoney on 3.9.03 1259)
SKLOKAZOID
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Since: 20.3.02
From: California

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#3 Posted on
I think it comes down to two thigns: conviction, as you said, and consistency.

When I think of failed heel turns, I have to think back to Sting's "turn" in 1999 as the definitive marker for why some workers just can't turn heel. When he would work matches as a heel, you could tell that he just didn't know how to work as one. Over the 13 years leading up to that, Sting has established himself as a likeable guy who wrestled for the fans. He built repoire over those years and earned the trust of those people that were his fans, much in the same way Ricky Steamboat did.

Sting didn't seem to be very into the heel role, which is where conviction comes into play. He'd been doing his thing for 13 years, it seemed to work, so why change it? It didn't seem like the fans had a whole lot of conviction to boo him, either.

Not only that, but WHY did Sting turn heel? Yeah, he's a heel, maybe he DID drive the hummer, but why? Because Hogan led the nWo and almost destroyed WCW, the organization Sting helped build? Is that really such a bad reason to almost kill Kevin Nash?

As you can tell, naturally, WCW booking at the time was going in about 80 directions at once and probably did play a factor into the failure of the turn, but could it have worked otherwise? Did the fans really WANT to boo Sting?

For the consistency part, Sting has to have an emotionally realistic motive for going heel, and he didn't really have one. That makes all the more harder to relate to the fans. If the fans want to kill the face, and another face turns heel on that guy, the fans are more likely to cheer the heel turn. See: Sting-Hogan, Austin-Rock at WMX7.

MightyBastard
Pinkelwurst








Since: 4.5.03
From: Cleveland, OH

Since last post: 3788 days
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#4 Posted on
    Originally posted by RKMtwin
    In lieu of recent rumors about the future of Randy Orton on the net lately and also discussion here about why his face run failed, why HHH's return as a face failed and so on, I was wondering:

    Why is it that wrestlers can succeed as either a heel or face where others do not? And furthermore, how is it that certain wrestlers can succeed exceedingly well as one or the other while other wrestlers couldn't/can't draw any type of heat whatsoever if they slept in an oven while bread is baking?




Well, I can think of a few reasons why a turn works:

1. The fans like/hate the wrestler in the way opposite the bookers intended. Examples include the Honky Tonk Man and Rocky Maiva as wrestlers who were both originally supposed to be faces, but were so hated by the fans that a heel turn was necessary. Once they turned heel, they were both incredibly over, because they already had a foundation of being booed by the fans.

The flip side of that coin is Steve Austin- the heel who is so cheered by the fans that he turns into a face by default. Randy Savage and Jake Roberts are two other examples I can think of of heels who were so cheered that they had to turn face.

2. The wrestler is very good at getting into his character, and is able to explain to the audience why he turned.

Mick Foley was a master at this. I never thought Foley could be a heel again after 'Dude Love' first appeared, but Foley is so good at telling a story (to the fans) that they were able to buy into his heel turn completely.

Steve Austin, while a fantastic wrestler, wasn't really able to convince the fans that he should be booed. That hurt him after his heel turn at Wrestlemania X-7.


3. The wrestler who was turned on needed an antagonist.

Sometimes a wrestler (face or heel) just needs an opponent. The turn isn't as much to help the wrestler who was turned as much as to help the wrestler who was turned on, for a good feud. Ideally, it helps both wrestlers.

Two examples are Paul Orndorff turning on Hogan (Hogan needed an opponent, Orndorff was floundering... bingo). And Ronnie Garvin turning on Dusty Rhodes at Great American Bash 1998- Rhodes needed a heel to face, Garvin wasn't doing anything, and this filled both shoes.



To be honest, I can't see HHH turning face. None of the conditions apply. The fans don't want to see HHH as a face- they want to see him beaten soundly. Not many wrestlers can explain the turn well enough to get the fans behind him, and I don't think HHH can pull it off.

In fact, he's probably the last person on the RAW roster that could turn face. Put him against any person on the RAW roster- is there anyone who would get more boos than HHH?





"Most human problems can be solved by an appropriate charge of high explosives"- Blaster, Uncommon Valor
ShotGunShep
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Since: 20.2.03

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#5 Posted on
Why can some actors only act well in one genre? Ability.
Hogan's My Dad
Andouille








Since: 8.6.02
From: Canada

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#6 Posted on
I think if the person has to fake it too much, it won't work. There's something to be said for good casting. Triple H isn't a good face because he's obviously a bad person. He looks like an asshole, he looks like someone that would watch a mugging and then laugh as he got into his limo. That doesn't mean he is that bad a person, but he looks like a jerk and that's how you should cast him. You wouldn't cast Jack Nicholson, who looks evil, as a hero and put him against the boyish leo dicaprio. It's too much work for the performers.

The only exception to this is the Rock, who acted like a jackoff and yet somehow was loved for it. This still blows my mind.



"Whatever I just posted above is what your mother said in bed last night."
ShotGunShep
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Since: 20.2.03

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#7 Posted on
    Originally posted by Hogan's My Dad
    I think if the person has to fake it too much, it won't work. There's something to be said for good casting. Triple H isn't a good face because he's obviously a bad person. He looks like an asshole, he looks like someone that would watch a mugging and then laugh as he got into his limo. That doesn't mean he is that bad a person, but he looks like a jerk and that's how you should cast him. You wouldn't cast Jack Nicholson, who looks evil, as a hero and put him against the boyish leo dicaprio. It's too much work for the performers.

    The only exception to this is the Rock, who acted like a jackoff and yet somehow was loved for it. This still blows my mind.

Umm, you're a contributor!?
You say, about HHH, "Triple H isn't a good face because he's obviously a bad person." Okay, wow that's fair. Then you say about him, "That doesn't mean he is that bad a person..."

And umm, Leonardo Dicaprio was the Villian in the man in the Iron Mask(as well as a hero).

The Rock acts like a Jackoff and gets cheers for it just like Stifler(Sean William Scott) acts like a Jackoff and gets cheers for it. People want to be a smartass, and they aren't afraid to be one. Plus they act "cool" when they do it.
SirBubNorm
Salami








Since: 2.1.02
From: Under the table

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#8 Posted on
    Originally posted by Hogan's My Dad
    "Whatever I just posted above is what your mother said in bed last night."


Woohoo! My mom has become a wrestling fan since she died.

Respect, likeability and believability vs the same of your current opponent (preferably in a long term feud) have tons to do with whether you're going to have a good face or heel run. As Piper has said in some form many times to Hogan, "Without me, there wouldn't have been a you"...

Of course, you also have to account for nostalgia and how good the storyline is.



Dilbert's Words Of Wisdom: You've just got to accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and others you're the statue.
darkdragoon
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Since: 26.8.02

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#9 Posted on
Part of the problem is that it's more muddled now...and there isn't much variety in the turns really...

Let's take Brock--his face turn was the usual 'got screwed.' Very limited on the mic. He has the offense to "clean house and scatter the heels" but even then it works better to destroy people.
madiq
Boerewors








Since: 27.7.03
From: Brooklyn, NY

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#10 Posted on
A few points:

1. To respond to an earlier poster, while Leo DiCaprio played the "heel" in "Man in the Iron Mask," he also played the "face". This is different from the situation that the poster above alluded to, i.e. Jack Nicholson (a guy with obvious "heel charisma") playing the face.

2. What people have to understand with the Rock is that he is a good-looking, smooth guy, one who might carry himself like an asshole, but not so much of an asshole as to be thought of as truly evil. Looking back at his character, one doesn't really think of the guy as evil, although at various stages he has committed bad acts. Like Sean William Scott, another fine-looking young man, plays Stifler, a prick who isn't SO hateful as to inspire deep hatred for the person's inner being, but merely a desire for karmic comeuppance, the Rock plays a heel always on the verge of that, "Aww shucks...you know we love you, dude" reaction. Kinda reminds us of a guy named Flair or another guy named Guerrero, huh?

3. Of course, the booking matters as well. A good feud DOES make a heel or face run go more smoothly. The Big Show, in his reinvigored state of heeldom, made a very good antagonist for Brock Lesnar, although his limitations as a heel, in turn, hamstrung the Lesnar face run. Brock Lesnar got over as a face just the way that Goldberg did, he kicked ass and took names and looked like a badass doing it. The Big Show was a heaping load of ass that was there to be kicked by Brock, but although he could be tossed around in spectacular ways, he could still get up to end the match with a chokeslam. The trouble is, however, we never had a reason to dislike the Big Show, apart from our intense desire to NOT see him as champion. But the booking was perfect: By constantly keeping him circulating around the uppercard and sniffing around the title race, he was able to tap into the hatred of the idea of him as champ, making an effective heel.

Brock, though, struggled as a face when positioned side-by-side with a charismatic face like Kurt Angle, in much the way that newly-turned Kurt Angle struggled when positioned with a firmly entrenched face Rock at the close of the Invasion angle. Instead of an alliance allowing the pair to share the positive reaction from fans, Brock was turned heel, and now Angle is his primary nemesis, but once again, we lack a defined reason to dislike the guy. His character doesn't have the depth to create a true organic heel turn. Perhaps had we been shown a glimpse of a character flaw, a fear of failure that forces him to retreat into a childlike state where he is easily led by more charismatic and evil individuals, we might see a Brock Lesnar heel turn as the result of repeatedly falling short of the standard of being "The best." Against that backdrop, it becomes logical that even though Kurt Angle might be his friend, being consistently outperformed by him might cause Brock to have a little bit of his goodness and patience chipped away, as he would struggle to find his "edge." This would allow someone to manipulate him, poison his ear if you will. A well-written storyline and well-booked angle creates an internal logic that reinforces a heel character, so that fans buy into his/her actions.

4. Triple H - I've said before and I'll say it again - was a good face. During the Angle-Stephanie love triangle, he WAS in fact the face. By playing the beleagured husband part to perfection, complete with the "Living Room," the interfering in-laws, and the rowdy friends upset that the Wife was spoiling their fine bachelor fun, Triple H became a sympathetic character, a guy that just wanted to go about being the best wrestler in the business, but was constantly being distracted. This was why his heel re-turn ("It was me, Austin, it was me all along!") worked so well. Unfortunately, when he tried to go face again, we were conditioned to distrust him, and when he showed minimal indications of heeldom, we bit. However, had he (a) Not been positioned side-by-side with faces with more momentum (Hogan, see above), and (b) feuded with heels who were more hated and established in their heeldom, we could've seen Trips as more likeable for his "WWE Desire." He had fought hard to come back from injury, fought hard to win the Royal Rumble, and fought hard to win the Undisputed Title. Had the WWE continued giving him hurdles and odds to overcome, we would've bought him and respected him for getting to the top "the right way." By turning him into a lame duck who had to cheat against HULK HOGAN (remember, the Rock, who seemed on the fast track to heeldom, beat Hogan clean at Wrestlemania), the fed cut the legs out from under him. Rock could afford to be booed for an entire match and again the next night, but end up staying face, but not Triple H.

Had the NWO, HHH's former friends, turned on him, and, motivated by jealousy over what he accomplished without them, screwed him out of the title, then THAT would have provided adversity for him to overcome in order to build a face reputation. Had Rock, his hated rival, been both the beneficiary of the screwjob and chosen for the NWO to lead it against HHH, it would've been the type of poetic justice that inspires sympathy for HHH and resentment for Rock, who could clearly generate heat as a "Paper Champion."

But I digress...

5. Some guys are well-suited to working as a face or a heel, because of either their mic work or their wrestling style. For instance, Scott Steiner's methodical wrestling style, along with his penchant for showboating and trash-talking during matches, sends subtle signals to fans that they should boo during his matches. Hurricane, with his campy posing, his highspots, and tongue-in-cheek chokeslam, is a born face; after all he's a superhero! Jericho constantly flirts with being a face, because he entertains us so, and John Cena is getting there. Rhyno, however, when he grabs a microphone, screams intense sadistic mentally unbalanced individual, which makes us want to boo him (but from a safe distance away).

When a wrestler is neither physically or verbally expressive, we as fans are kind of struck at a loss for how to react. If a wrestler lacks real personality, there is no context or lens to view the wrestling as a progression or reinforcement of the character. There's a symbiotic relationship, amd each part is necessary. For instance, although we get that La Resistance are Evil Frenchmen that think they are better than Americans, they don't get to exude annoying traits enough. They rarely get interview time where they might be able to bash the local town as inferior to [insert the name of French city], they don't insist that their weights be announced in kilograms, they don't give us promos in French, nor selections of French music or French poetry to be touted as superior to American arts. They don't even brag about their prowess with the ladies and imply that French lovers are better, alternating between trying to pick up American women fans and insulting them for not being "glamorous like French women." All of these tactics would be consistent with the characters that the WWE was trying to sell us: French guys that we should dislike AS FRENCHMEN.

Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade are at the other end: characterless. They wrestle as prototypical faces, but because they don't have any characters to speak of, they appear as bland. It'd be nice if they exhibited admirable traits, or in the alternative, if their ringwork was so impressive as to make us take notice, and WANT TO FIND OUT what makes them tick. This is how the Hardyz got over, as we liked seeing them wrestle, so we'd look for the glimmers of personality they showed. Those personalities reinforced the good traits we saw in the ring, and it fed into the team's likeability. The Jindrak-Cade combo doesn't even have a name, that subtle touch that signals to fans that the guys aren't jobbers. (Just think: If they were called The Rookie Sensations we'd be able to convey to fans that whatever they feel about rookies helps them understand what these guys are all about, and it becomes that much easier for their face run to work.)

In summary, the character and the skills of a wrestler provides the foundation, and the storyline and booking adds depth and strengthens or weakens the face or heel. The archnemesis or antagonist, and the relative strength of that character's heel or face status also plays a part, as does the face or heel status of a wrestler's playmates and proximates...
Hogan's My Dad
Andouille








Since: 8.6.02
From: Canada

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#11 Posted on
    Originally posted by kgriffey79
      Originally posted by Hogan's My Dad
      I think if the person has to fake it too much, it won't work. There's something to be said for good casting. Triple H isn't a good face because he's obviously a bad person. He looks like an asshole, he looks like someone that would watch a mugging and then laugh as he got into his limo. That doesn't mean he is that bad a person, but he looks like a jerk and that's how you should cast him. You wouldn't cast Jack Nicholson, who looks evil, as a hero and put him against the boyish leo dicaprio. It's too much work for the performers.

      The only exception to this is the Rock, who acted like a jackoff and yet somehow was loved for it. This still blows my mind.

    Umm, you're a contributor!?
    You say, about HHH, "Triple H isn't a good face because he's obviously a bad person." Okay, wow that's fair. Then you say about him, "That doesn't mean he is that bad a person..."

    And umm, Leonardo Dicaprio was the Villian in the man in the Iron Mask(as well as a hero).

    The Rock acts like a Jackoff and gets cheers for it just like Stifler(Sean William Scott) acts like a Jackoff and gets cheers for it. People want to be a smartass, and they aren't afraid to be one. Plus they act "cool" when they do it.



I was referring to his appearance. By "obviously", I meant his outward appearance, sorry if that wasn't clear.

And others have disproved your little Leo DiCaprio correction, so I guess I don't need to. I don't remember saying good-looking people have never been cast in antagonist roles, as you seem to be, in your celbatory out-of-context fashion, interpreting me to have done. I was simply saying it is better to cast people in certain roles based on their appearance. Triple H looks like a jerk, so it's best to cast him as a heel.

And yes, I'm a contributor.









"Whatever I just posted above is what your mother said in bed last night."
Lexus
Bierwurst








Since: 2.1.02
From: Stafford, VA

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#12 Posted on
For starters, as far as looks are concerned, George Steele and Mick Foley. Two gruesome, yet fiersome, wrestlers, but they got over as babyfaces. Outward appearances don't mean jack. In fact, if I remember correctly, HHH used to be a face in DX. Also, if I remember correctly, he hasn't had facial surgury, so by in large, he looks the same. Hell, Test looks dominant. Outward appearance has absolutely nothing to do with heelishness, the way you carry yourself in front of the fans does.

That being said...

Does anybody care to explain the Angle phenomenon? I mean, he was a good heel in the fact they played him precisely like Honky Tonk or Maivia. Now, he's a face because of neck surgury. The fans still chant "you suck".





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drjayphd
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Since: 22.4.02
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#13 Posted on
    Originally posted by Lexus
    Does anybody care to explain the Angle phenomenon? I mean, he was a good heel in the fact they played him precisely like Honky Tonk or Maivia. Now, he's a face because of neck surgury. The fans still chant "you suck".


Because it's just SO MUCH FUN. He's got the perfect theme song for it, too.



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emma
Cherries > Peaches








Since: 1.8.02
From: Phoenix-ish

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#14 Posted on
    Originally posted by drjayphd
      Originally posted by Lexus
      Does anybody care to explain the Angle phenomenon? I mean, he was a good heel in the fact they played him precisely like Honky Tonk or Maivia. Now, he's a face because of neck surgury. The fans still chant "you suck".


    Because it's just SO MUCH FUN. He's got the perfect theme song for it, too.
And he told us that we're supposed to! In the "I'm back" speech, along with "I really missed you guys", he also said that he even missed us chanting "You suck" at him. Then led us in a "You suck" chant. It's our little private pet-name kind of thing, just between Kurt & a few hundred thousand of his closest friends.

Kurt is charismatic (as madiq mentioned). While he was good as a heel, I think he's much better as a face. He's got a little of his own "superhero" thing going -- OK, Olympic hero -- you get the drift. And he just comes across as so damn likeable.
fuelinjected
Banger








Since: 12.10.02
From: Canada

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#15 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.15
The Rock got cheered because he was such an entertaining asshole. He verbally humiliated the faces and no one wants to cheer for a dork. Personally, I think his latest heel run was totally counterproductive and ineffective because he was TOO entertaining. It really didn't do Goldberg any help by Rock out-entertaining him. Scott Hall used to be the master of this little game. Make yourself look like the most entertaining and coolest guy in the world and the other guys look like a big dork instead of trying to be hated to help the other guy.

I think Austin's heel turn was so poorly timed and there was also no character motiviation, no reason for the fans to hate him. He had just come back from neck surgery and was getting back into top form. People were booing The Rock in the build up because he was stale. They were in Texas for christ's sake and they turn him heel. Also, if you're going to turn your biggest face with the most loyal diehard fans into a heel, you better damn sure have a face even remotely as over as he was. They didn't have one. Austin just turned heel and the fans saw through it and it was like pulling teeth to get people to boo him. It may have been funny haha but funny haha didn't exactly equal box office at all. Perhaps if there had been a natural progression from rebel Austin to corporate Austin, it may have worked but I doubt it and in return they pissed away months of making money with Austin as the comeback face.
ScreamingHeadGuy
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Since: 1.2.02
From: Appleton, WI

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#16 Posted on
Yeah, a turn's success is predicated on the cirucmstances under which it happened. If a wrestler turns "just because", there's no way anyone will buy it.

Likewise, once turned, a wrestler needs to be convincing in his new role.

As to why HHH didn't succeed as a face: no-one wants to cheer a guy just because his dog gets runover, or because he is upset at his wife. He just wasn't convincing in his new role.



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CANADIAN BULLDOG
Andouille








Since: 5.3.03
From: TORONTO

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#17 Posted on
I don't think you can generalize and say `a face run will work because of this' or `a heel turn won't work unless you do this'. There are so many different factors, not limited to:

-The wrestler him or herself; how much talent/charisma they have
-How willing a promotion is to get behind that person
-How the wrestler comes across on television (eg no reaction or huge reaction) in the earlygoing
-How willing other wrestlers to help the cause
-The promotion we're talking about and what they're likely to cheer or boo
-When the run happens. For example, Steve Austin probably would not have been a major face in cartoonish Hogan-era 80's; Tito Santana would get little reaction today, and may have ended up a heel.
-The gimmick they're using.





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