You can't have it both ways.
Earlier this week on Monday Night RAW, WWE finally acknowledged -- with a little help from the interrupting Randy Orton -- that Dave Bautista's return to the squared circle following a four-year absence hasn't exactly been going according to plan.
Not that it took much to sabotage it.
The artist now known as "Bootista" got a decent pop when he hit the ring back in January, but his first lap out of the gate was a tepid feud with Alberto Del Rio. To make matters worse, he followed that up by taking the Royal Rumble, at a time when anyone other than Daniel Bryan winning was likely to be strung up in WWE's town square.
Yeah, the same "D-Bry" he once bagged on for winning the title.
Bootista is not a face. But on the other hand, he's not really a heel, either. Not because I signed Vince McMahon's declaration that faces and heels no longer exist, but rather because "The Animal" has been acting like a Grade A dickhole. He wanted to come back to a hero's welcome.
Instead, he's been getting eviscerated by fans at every turn (and not all of it is his fault).
I'm sure it's a tough pill to swallow. He certainly puts up a good front, with his muscular physique and fuck-you demeanor, but the worst feeling in the world is to be someplace where you're not wanted. To that end, he's lashed out at the
failures fans on Twitter (example) and even gotten into confrontations at live events (pic).
Psssst ... you're doing it wrong.
This is not a new phenomenon. When he was slated to make his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in late 2012, UFC fans straight-up bombed him on social media, and his response was to challenge them to a fight at his jiu-jitsu school in Tampa, Florida.
The message was simple: Respect him, or get hurt.
From the looks of it, his WrestleMania 30 match is still on against Randy Orton, now that Undertaker has been paired off with Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan is slated to throw down opposite Triple H. "The Viper' is supposed to be the villain, but Bootista's reception has been forcing a reversal of roles.
Fans even went so far as to cheer for Alberto Del Rio on Monday, to give you an idea of where we're at.
That led Bootista to tell the world -- as he slobbered on the stick like a gassed St. Bernard -- that he doesn't care if he gets booed or cheered, because he's keeping it real and we have to DEAL WITH IT. You're a legitimate tough guy, we get it, but this is the land of make believe.
Have a little fun, whydontcha!
In fact, I think he's missing out on a tremendous opportunity. You know what makes people who hate you, hate you even more? When it doesn't bother you. Or better yet, when your hate makes them happy. Earlier today, Bootista called WWE fans "losers" because they booed him.
C'mon man, this isn't personal.
You're playing a role and while sometimes they don't realize it, so are the fans. How about changing "You're a failure as a human being," to something like "Sounds like someone is jealous they don't look as good as me in skinny jeans." Shit, I'd have him wear those jeans at every show.
The tighter, the better.
And when the fans start booing, have him toss his opponent out of the ring and break into that impromptu machine-gun shtick like he does during his ring entrance. There are so many ways to capitalize on the boos and spin them into positive heat. After all, we are stuck with him for the next two years.
No, pointing out your own sign doesn't count.
I've heard the argument that Marvel wants to avoid turning Bootista heel because it needs a positive image for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, where he plays Drax the Destroyer. Good plan. Hopefully they haven't been watching him on TV or following him on Twitter.
Truth be told, I don't dislike Bootista.
What I do dislike, is his inability to commit to a character, in either direction. Sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt. I get the sneaking suspicion that he's not going "full WWE" in hopes of retaining some sort of silly street cred among his tough-guy cronies outside the world of sports entertainment.
Maybe he tells them he's only doing it to promote the movie, because WWE went PG and he's too cool for that stuff.
But like I said before, you can't have it both ways. If you want to come back and be a top guy, then you have to be ready to carry all the baggage that comes with it. Bootista thinks he's keeping it real by staying true to himself, but in the process, he's failed to stay true to the fans.
And they can break you just as easily as they can make you.
I want to see Bootista succeed because I think he can add a little muscle to the main event scene. But big Dave is an anachronism, a fatigued and abrasive mule who wants to play the game his way. That's all well and good, but don't expect us to play it along with you.
Which is a shame, because I think deep down, most of us want to.