In each and every
Book It we help the struggling WWF creative team with a few ideas on
how to get talent that has been stuck in a rut over with the WWF fans.
What do the following wrestlers have in common?
Andre the Giant
King Kong Bundy
Big John Stud
Tiny "Zeus" Lister
The Big Show
For starters, they
are all huge. Andre and The Big Show are the biggest men ever in the
ring, but Yokozuna and King Kong Bundy could probably claim the title
of fattest. Another thing they have in common is that none of them can
actually wrestle. Okay, you could make an argument for Sgt. Slaughter,
but King Kong Bundy and Lex Luger were brawlers at best and large rock
'em sock 'em wrestlers at worst. Despite their girth and lack of technical
wrestling skills, what all of these men have in common is that they
were memorable heels.
The WWF in the
1980s was full of guys like them. They'd show up for a few televised
events and squash some no name wrestler you'd never heard of. If the
crowd got behind their heelish ways, then the bookers would put them
in a feud with a top baby face. The baby face would endure vicious beatings
and underhanded tactics but would eventually triumph because the good
guys always win.
Hulk Hogan made
this formula famous. The WWF would feed him heel after heel and he'd
beat them time and time again (the secret is to not punch him when he
starts to "Hulk up".)
III Hogan faced off against Andre the Giant. Andre's health wasn't good
and he had trouble moving around in the ring but Wrestlemania III remains
a crowd favorite and Hogan's match with Andre may be his most memorable.
Andre was given a huge push in the months prior to Wrestlemania, with
every trick in the book used to get Andre over as the most unstoppable
monster ever. He was given Bobby the Brain Heenan as his manager in
order to generate more heat. And when Hogan's good finally triumphed
over Andre's evil, the crowd and the money went sky high.
The WWF built up
Sgt. Slaughter in the same way. America was riding a patriotism high
back in 1991 as the U.S. was in the midst of fighting Desert Storm.
Vince McMahon was quick to capitalize by having one proud patriot wrestler
turn heel. Sgt. Slaughter would carry his Iraqi flag to the ring and
talk about how much he hated Americans. After much ado, Hogan finally
beat Slaughter in the ring at Wrestlemania VII. While not as fondly
remembered as Wrestlemania III, Slaughter's heel run remains a good
example of how to build a quality opponent for a company's top baby
When I say there
is a formula for building a top heel, it's really more of a checklist.
First, the heel has to look imposing. Lex Luger had a quality physique.
Yokozuna had pure body mass. Andre was simply enormous. Next, the heel
has to show how dangerous he can be. This was easier in the 80's because
the regular television shows were mostly just a known wrestler fighting
an unknown wrestler and the heel could come in and destroy the poor
fellow. The announcers would talk about what an irresistible force the
new heel is. Next, the heel, traditionally through the use of a manager,
talks about how he's going to destroy the good wrestler and take away
everything he loves (title, money, etc…).
Finally the heel
wrestler does something so evil that the good guy can't help but take
notice and commit himself to stopping the heel wrestler. Fans eat this
The same formula
applies not just to wrestling but to movies as well. Darth Vader looks
imposing. Vader kills some Empire lackeys. Leia and Luke talk about
the evils of the Empire. Vader talks about wiping out the Rebellion.
Vader destroys Alderaan. Vader fights good and good wins.
But times changed
and so does wrestling. The WWF cast aside their traditional formula
in search of other ways of creating heel superstars. However, here we
are in 2002 with Hulk Hogan riding a wave of nostalgic popularity that
no one could have predicted. The WWE is struggling for a new direction
to take the company in. Instead of looking for the "next big thing,"
they might want to look at the "next big thing" they already have and
kick it old school. I'm talking about Brock Lesnar.
Since Brock debuted
in the WWE, he has been built up by the announcers as a ring monster.
His first few months showed that, as he continued a Goldberg-like tear
through the mid-card. His opponents got in little or no offense and
Lesnar always left them clinging to life. Since then Lesnar has started
facing off against bigger opponents. While getting wins over them, Brock
spends his share of the match selling his opponents' moves.
Brock needs to
be built up using the old formula of "create-a-heel" and maybe then
the WWE can recapture that good vs. evil feeling that used to have fans
screaming in the seats.
For starters, Brock
needs to go away for a few weeks. When he comes back, Paul Heyman can
talk about how they've spent the last few weeks training. They looked
over old footage and spent even more time in the gym. Paul whipped and
tortured Brock to the point that Brock is akin to an angry dog. Brock
no longer has any weaknesses in the ring. He is now a pure, focused
trained monster that Paul is unleashing on the WWE.
Next Lesnar has
a series of matches. They all happen about the same way. Lesnar lets
his victims get in the first few moves, which he doesn't sell. Then
Lesnar destroys his opponents in a way that makes it look like a Mick
Foley highlight film.
check. Devastating in the ring, check.
Jim Ross and Jerry
Lawler get across that this is the new Brock Lesnar and that he looks
even better and meaner in the ring. Who will stop him? Lesnar continues
to mow through WWE superstars. Rob Van Dam gets thrown around like a
rag doll. Lesnar leaves The Undertaker bloody after a backstage brawl.
Some wrestlers even refuse to fight Lesnar for fear of their lives.
This continues on for about two months until a hero emerges.
Who better to take
care of this monster than the monster slayer himself, Hulk Hogan? Hulk
does his usual "whatcha gonna do" routine and talks about how he's been
saying his prayers, etc… A match is signed for the next big pay per
Fans will be waiting
for Hogan to "Hulk up" and defeat Lesnar as Hogan has done so many times
in the past. And that my friends, is why Hogan will lose the match and
be left laying in the ring, bloody and defeated.
Heel does something
no other heel has done, check.
Finally, our real
hero reveals himself in the form of The Rock. Rock promises to stop
Lesnar and make him pay for what he did to Hogan and the rest of the
WWE superstars. A pay per view match is booked and hyped as the biggest
event of all time. They fight and The Rock wins. The fans have seen
evil squished and good triumph. Pass the Kleenex.
The one downside
to this method of booking a heel is that once they have been defeated
their careers never quite reach the same height. Sgt. Slaughter pretty
much retired. Andre floated around in the tag team division before dying.
King Kong Bundy now works the indie circuit and Zeus made Little Nicky
with Adam Sandler.
Odds are Brock's
stock is going to drop in the same way. His next feud should be with
Hogan because Hogan has "unfinished business." Hogan can beat Lesnar
as kind of a bonus good defeats evil storyline. Where Lesnar goes from
there is up to him. These feuds may be the peak of his career or maybe
he is the "next big thing" and this is just the beginning. Either way
the WWE has used a time tested and proven formula to give themselves
a little focus when they desperately need it.