Whether people loved or hated The Walking Dead’s season opener the majority agreed Negan is a bad dude. In a single episode (arguably two) he made Rick Grimes his bitch. That’s not an easy thing to do. He’s a heel in a textbook way that reminds wrestling fans of an age before merchandise sales, catchphrases, and comedy writers dictated how WWE presents bad guys. He’s the type of heel wrestling has needed for over a decade and WWE has 3 people they could go all the way with, if they wanted to.
Before we get to the three let’s look at the top heels in WWE. AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho are all workhorses and respected by the hardcore fan base. Even the casual fans are finding it hard to boo these guys. Even if you look at TNA they’re no different with Broken Matt (Hardy) and Brother Nero (Jeff Hardy). They’re heels by means of casting but one of the most popular duos of all time and one of few entertaining aspects of iMPACT. I love what they’re doing, but that is the issue. Heat is the gas that runs the engine of wrestling and there are no true heels at the top of the wrestling business.
Indeed, there are wrestlers on the WWE undercard or middle of the pack that are gaining steam, but they will likely be fed to WWE’s chosen few. It’s the way the WWE has done business, ever since the WWF days (and some may argue, the WWWF days). I get the final destination is the big showdown where good defeats evil, but things need to breathe and develop to really get good. Russev had six months of build and a six-month US Title reign before getting pounded into oblivion by John Cena. He could have been a top tier heel for years but he’s been drifting ever since. If Walking Dead were WWE, Rick would have Negan’s head and Lucille on a shelf in his home in Alexandria, by the mid-season finale in three months. He would hug Judith and “Coral” while another bad guy knocked on the gates of Fort Grimes, ready to take the fall. If WWE would commit to a long term “heel-to-beat” it has to be without immature jokes, without “tweening”, without posing for Komen or Make-A-Wish or Conner’s Cure. They have to be as bad as Negan, and there are a few who could be that guy by WrestleMania 33.
The charisma of The Shield was being called the next Brian Pillman just a few years ago. WWE took a crazy character and turned it into a zany caricature to make children smile. WWE doesn’t need Akeem the African Dream right now; they need a One Man Gang. Ambrose is challenging for the title as a baby face and it’s not resonating with fans. Last year, during the Roman push, I was at a Smack Down taping and the crowd was a sea of Ambrose Asylum shirts. The main event of that show, Ambrose versus Rollins, garnered the show’s highest (Sci-Fi) rating in some time. Now he’s struggling to stay relevant. He has to go in the opposite direction he’s headed and he has to make big moves.
Give him a stable. Give him a weapon. I don’t care if it’s the barb-wire bat like Negan, he’s used it before. Take him back to his Shield roots. Give him underlings. Forget the “5-Star Meltzer Matches”. Let him tell the fans he refuses to dive on his head for them. If he does risk his body it will be to injure someone or win. I’m thinking Raven and The Flock but bigger in scope and importance. Hell, have him recruit half the roster and let a baby face fight to get to him. Let him take scalps and end careers. Daniel Bryan is expecting a child soon, let Ambrose turn on Bryan and send him home for a while. Let him pull Nikki or Brie, or Cena as a surrogate of Bryan into the feud. Next time Cena leaves for a few months let it be fueled by an Ambrose hit. Instead of bringing back Goldberg to fight Lesnar in a snooze-fest you could have had Goldberg trying to get to Ambrose. Instead of Rock coming back to steamroll the Wyatts, Ambrose could sacrifice him to break the spirit of the people. Or maybe it’s for revenge after giving everything he had to the fans and being left with nothing in return. You have to go all the way, though. It’s what Bray Wyatt should have been all along. It’s right up Ambrose’s alley if they want to walk that dark path.
When Brock was a heelish, part-time, prize-fighting champion the hardcore fan base complained the whole time and anticipated someone taking the title off of him. When they picked someone to take the belt off of him it was a convoluted mess and the effects are still being felt today. With one or two more years on Brock’s contract, how do you make the most of a guy who already seems unbeatable and works a few days a year? What else do you do with a guy who ended the WrestleMania streak? Put the title on him and make Heyman the mouthpiece. Brock doesn’t care about 5-Star matches. Brock doesn’t care about Suplex City any more. He’s in it for the money and to make everyone fear him. He’s there to rule on high and dominate the entire WWE. Instead of the WWE Universal Title being the direct focal point of Raw, it’s the number one contender spot. Brock is still the Pay Per View draw, the guy for big box office, but you’re putting importance on those fighting for the chance to fight Brock (and, indirectly, still on the title itself). Brock is Zeus (the god, not the actor/wrestler) and the contenders are dying for the right to stand on Mount Olympus, let alone fight an unbeatable champion. They could erect statues of Lesnar along the entrance way. Put beastly banners up around the arena. Turn WWE Raw into the symbolic altar of the beast. Let Heyman host an occasional sacrifice of some local talent instead of another appearance where Brock bounces in place behind a spitting, screaming Heyman. Make it big, go all the way. Find a guy the fans organically get behind and nurture his push with the fans’ growing support. Imagine if The Beast rules WWE Raw. What will happen when the Beast meets The Demon?
Though I’m reluctant to suggest a non-wrestler in this role I don’t see anybody else who is either polished enough, a big enough star, or good enough on the mic to carry this. Paul has history with the McMahons and it makes more sense for him to take over the company than anybody else. Let Brock unseat Stephanie and Triple H (I know, fat chance) and use the Universal Title/Brock to control Raw. Just when the fans are happy to be rid of The Authority they pull the rug out from under us by mauling a beloved baby face. Give Paul an army, and though I loved the original, please don’t call it the Dangerous Alliance. Don’t call it anything. Let Paul continue to be the heel he has been. Let him continue to rub the Streak in our faces. Much like the NWO, let his control and fear of his secret supporters breed paranoia across both rosters. You never know if someone is a Paul Heyman guy (or girl) until it’s too late. Let The Club take people out, not focusing on winning, but creating chaos. Paul is like pirate Davey Jones, WWE is the open sea, and Brock is his Cracken. Brock would be a focal point, not the focal point. Heyman would unleash him as necessary to keep the WWE brass and roster in constant fear. Hell, leave Brock as a special teams player/attraction/hit man and make Roman the Universal Champion. Put him over Owens, Zayne, Rollins, everyone the hardcore fans love. No GM or Commissioner or Chairman could control them. Paul Heyman has had his vengeance and ruled atop the wrestling world. And instead of changing the business as he claims he would have he just sells out and tries to maintain his power. When the time is right a baby face fights up through the army and slays the Beast. When the Beast is slain he still has to try to beat the man on top of the world.
I’m not a booker, wrestling luminary, or behind the scenes guru but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s not working. The three ideas above are just that: ideas. They’re opinions from a wrestling fan. If the 30 writers, Hall of Fame agents, and billionaire Chairman come up with better I say great. They should come up with better ideas than a guy who has been a passive observer for almost three decades. The point is there are serious options available to take what makes a character like Negan work and apply it to one of their own. Comedy has its place in wrestling but I’m sick of heels I can’t hate and “top” heroes I can’t like. The above scenarios would also serve to utilize stale talent to establish the new regime, allow for use of new talent who have been lost since the call up, breathe new life into acts that need a fresh approach, and establish a heel’s heel at the top of the mountain. I’m not suggesting WWE copy The Walking Dead. I’m just taking the successes TWD have had and applying it to WWE.
Did I miss someone else who could be a Negan-like heel? Let me know and state your case below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be discussing this on an upcoming episode and if an idea strikes me we will talk about it and credit you. Leave your information with the idea so we know who to shout out and subscribe to our show so you don’t miss it.