There was day in professional wrestling when having a clean-cut look, winning smile and sparkling personality got you over with the crowd. These wrestlers were models of what future generations wanted to look like, and parents wanted their kids to mimic.
Now, we live in a world whose deepest, darkest recesses are easily viewable through a plethora of online outlets to remind the human race that this look – this All-American, polished, virginal depiction of the good samaritan – is borderline futile. Those who embody this look tend to get little farther than the mail room, where the scumbag, “Rollins-like” heel gets the keys to the boardroom.
This philosophy might be a bit hyperbolic, but the clean-cut, smiling do-gooder is no longer an image that is being strived for. This truth needs to be sent in an email, a text message, somehow, some way to Becky Lynch, Apollo Crews and those like them who have potential to be dynamic contributors to WWE programming, but are instead in a smiling purgatory that leaves little room for development. The fans no longer want this; they want rebels.
It is almost comical that this sentiment has not been passed to Crews and Lynch, and to others strapped to the same anchor. WWE should have learned this lesson years ago when even its biggest Superstars, strapped to white meat babyface roles, were rejected by the fans.
Hulk Hogan might be the ultimate example of this. From the mid-’80s to the end of his WWE run in 1993, and also in the beginning of his tenure with WCW, Hogan was everything a “real American” should be. He said his prayers, ate his vitamins, kissed babies and the butts of the American public on his way to immortality.
However, as a new generation of Superstars that were more rebellious and athletic started to enter the professional wrestling mainstream, little by little, the Hulkamanics began to flock to Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Sting, among others. This progressing fan rejection (which was most apparent in his WCW run) forced WCW to turn Hogan heel, allowing to him to form the New World Order with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. If this move was never made, the entire landscape of the Monday Night Wars may have been dramatically altered.
Shawn Michaels and The Rock are also two Superstars that needed to break away from the traditional babyface roles, and they went on to spearhead the WWE as it went on to win the Monday Night Wars against WCW.
However, a more recent example of deviation from the face that led to immediate success is CM Punk. When he first arrived in WWE, he came in with a decorated independent wrestling background, but ironically was portrayed as a straight edge wrestler alone, rather than a straight edge wrestler who rubbed it in the face of the “drug addicts and alcoholics” that were in attendance during independent shows. As WWE World Heavyweight Champion, his reigns went over like a fart in church. Being simply a really good wrestler is not enough to be credible in the eyes of the WWE Universe. It was not until he was the leader of the Straight Edge Society, and later as the rebellious WWE Champion who did not pander to the crowd and went after “The Machine” that he began to construct his iconic, albeit brief, run at the top of the WWE mountain.
The white meat babyface is dead. Well-manicured, smiling do-gooders are no longer the image fans want in their WWE Superstars. Rebellious legends like Stone Cold Steve Austin, members of D-Generation-X, and (eventually) CM Punk have showed fans that having a dose of badass in your bloodstream is so much cooler than simply appearing to be “ready to fight and happy to be there.”
Apollo Crews, Becky Lynch and others stuck in the white meat babyface role are not doing their careers any favors by pandering. It is time for them to go back to the film room (or at least on YouTube) and take notes of those who came before them to observe what our generation’s babyface is: A good guy (or gal) who is not afraid to be bad.