It's a great time to be a pro wrestling fan.
Having invested in the product for roughly 30 years (holy shit I'm old), I know when to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. This happens to be one of those times. After all, we're gearing up for the "Road to WrestleMania," which is supposed to be the best time of the year.
It's understandable then if you, as a WWE fan, were expecting them to paint by numbers until Royal Rumble.
But that hasn't been the case, at all. For as one-dimensional as Ryback is, he's been mostly aces in a prominent role. Team Hell No delivers again and again (and has for months), and did you see what The Shield did at TLC? Meanwhile, up-and-coming stars like Antonio Cesaro continue to shine and Dolph Ziggler is finally getting his push.
There is very little to complain about.
Except, I think, the inability to establish identifies in the battle between good and evil. I know I'm supposed to cheer for Ryback -- just as I know I'm supposed to boo the Big Show (despite marking out for his mega-chair). But what the heck is the deal with John Cena? Or AJ Lee?
And what's up with Alberto del Rio?
"The Mexican Aristocrat" has suffered from one of the worst face turns in history. I'm not even complaining about the way it was hastily assembled and hurried into place. Sometimes, you have to call an audible and switch things up when your front line falters.
Yes, I'm looking at you, Rey Cara.
Historically, the recipe for a face turn is fairly simple, especially when you're portrayed as a big dumb oaf like The Great Khali, or even Andre the Giant. You keep losing, your manager slaps you in the face, screams obscenities at you, pushes you to the brink -- until you grab them and inflict damage.
Voila! Good guy!
Unfortunately, it's not always that simple. You can forgive a galoot that appears to be half retarded, but what about a guy who you know has a brain? Let's face it, Alberto del Rio can wrestle AND he can cut a great promo, like when he would grab random Latinos in the audience and yell "Where's your papers?!?"
That's a lot of damage to undo.
I understand why he's being asked to elicit cheers, despite his desire to remain heel (more background here). But if you insist on making the change, then goddamn it, do it right. Del Rio was one of the most sinister villains in all of WWE, meaning a heroic act of equal magnitude was required to sell the fans.
Like saving Ryback from The Shield, which could have led to a triple threat match with another top face.
Instead, Del Rio gets The Miz. The fucking Miz. And to make matters worse, they feud with 3MB. Here's a news flash, creative, unless Heath Slater is getting squashed by relics, nobody gives a shit about him. And I won't even mention Ginger Mahal or Drew McInwhatever.
Why not wait and have him save Ric Flair in Philadelphia. Woo!
I know it sounds crazy, but if you want people to cheer Del Rio, then how about putting him with wrestlers who actually get cheered themselves? When is the last time you popped for The Miz? Is he even a face? Then, to add insult to injury, the hot tag goes to the Brooklyn Brawler and Tommy Dreamer.
I smell a burial.
I'm almost cynical enough to believe the gang backstage is setting him up for a failed face turn, just so they can wash their hands of the responsibility, like "Hey, we tried to make you a face and you couldn't get over." Cena can't get over either, but when you sell a zillion dollars in merchandise, it doesn't really matter.
Therein lies the problem.
I believe you can sell just as many t-shirts, mouse pads, night lights and whatever the hell else the WWE store is hocking -- maybe even more -- if you give the crowd what they want. But more importantly, by giving it to them when they want it.
Having Ziggler turn face and go over on The Big Show is the right move. Having The Rhodes Scholars stay heel and go over on Team Hell No is not.
Well, "the pink and the stink" (the best thing Miz has done in his career), like Kane and Daniel Bryan, are booked as heels but getting a babyface reaction because, well, Damien Sandow is gifted and Cody Rhodes has the worst mustache in the history of push brooms (hey, sometimes that's all it takes). Whatever, it still works.
Take note, WWE.