There's a famous scene (of many) from Seinfeld in 1995 where Cosmo Kramer has hired Jackie Chiles to represent him in a case against Java World. He spilled coffee on himself while attempting to smuggle it into a movie theater under his coat. Here's the relevant line from that episode, entitled "The Maestro":
"Do you know what a balm is? Have you ever seen a balm?"
After seeing the immediate reaction to some - though not all - fans following the Styles/Cena bout last night, it was this quote that came screaming into my cranium. After a tremendous piece of storytelling between these two, AJ Styles went over due to outside interference following a ref bump. He pinned John Cena, but only because He Who Must Not Be Seen took the Magic Killer from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Everyone was up in arms on my timeline, with some asking in exasperated fashion, "Why can't WWE just let AJ get this one clean?"
I answered them the same way I'm going to respond here today, and I'm going to do it as if I'm Jackie Chiles once he realized his huge settlement might be about to go up in smoke.
Do you know what a heel is? Have you ever seen a heel?
The greatest villain is the one you know could stomp your hero into another universe, but still takes the low road. So many antagonists cheat, because they can, not because they have to do so. In the case of last night's match, AJ Styles was struggling to finish John Cena off, though he dominated roughly 75 percent of the performance. That was the narrative. AJ was the better wrestler, and had Cena scouted to perfection, but John's heart, his will, replicated that of Hal Jordan wearing a fully charged green ring. He's been WWE's superhero for over a decade, with the occasional brawl against a Brock Lesnar, where sometimes even his best isn't quite good enough.
For AJ Styles, whose persona only a month ago revealed itself to be a bit of an ass, he's still in the process of making those who are at least open minded about the subject, hate him. He's the guy who took a cheap shot at Cena after luring him into a false sense of security. He broke up with his running buddies, only to lead to The Club actually becoming...The Club.
In a match he controlled and in a match where Cena did an excellent job at ensuring the Cenation bought Styles as a legitimate threat to the spinner belt throne, the last thing we needed was for AJ Styles to go over clean. This man is trying to sell himself as someone who would tie your husband or wife to the railroad tracks just for five extra dollars in his own pocket. He did it beautifully at Money in the Bank. He was an arrogant prick, but one who backed it up. He was Draymond Green in the first half of Game 7, or if you're a Dubs fan, he was LeBron James in Game 4, or after the glower to Stephen Curry in Game 6. He annoyed the hell out of Cena's fan base, because he proved he wasn't a liar. AJ Styles is indeed "phenomenal."
Mission accomplished. AJ Styles is over, both as a credible professional wrestler, and as a world class Massengill container. He couldn't get that three count on Cena, and in the first moment that presented itself, his pals cleared the lane for him. That jack wagon! What a bastard. I sure do hope John beats the piss out of him next month, or tomorrow night on RAW.
How many times did Ric Flair win important wrestling matches clean, at any point in his career, when he was a true heel Horseman? How many clean victories did Triple H obtain in his biggest matches, where the sledgehammer never appeared or Stephanie didn't pull a referee out or he didn't at least use a low blow during the set-up to the finish? How many times did heel Rock screw over Ken Shamrock in their mediocre Intercontinental Championship feud in 1998? How often did the nWo EVER win clean?
Just because we love AJ Styles in the ring and want to see him win, that should have absolutely zero bearing on the results of his matches, other than win or loss, and often not even using that metric. He cheated. He screwed over John Cena. He didn't get an honest win. So what? He also acted like a sleazeball in New Japan, whenever it was necessary.
If you want to point to Kevin Owens, feel free, but let me remind you that what made that victory last May in Texas so special was the surprise factor. I predicted it, but I was still stunned, and was in a state of shock that it came via a clean three count off the Pop Up Powerbomb. I could not believe it, and neither could you. And, that was undeniably the right call, because KO has a losing record on PPV, including three straight to new WWE Champion, Dean Ambrose, but he's still a threat to win every match in which he's booked.
But Kevin Owens had no friends. He couldn't cheat, other than maybe an eye poke or putting his feet on the ropes. If that character had Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian as travel partners and on camera buddies, KO would have used them if he had to, or maybe even if he didn't. Plus, there's the whole idea of Kevin Owens being a sort of miniature Brock Lesnar, more of a bull than Styles in five inch lifts.
AJ is a heel, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, this business has blurred those lines so badly and Vince McMahon has done his damnedest to turn the entire pro wrestling industry into a bad WWE motion picture, but his company also still generally relies on the idea of face and heel. This isn't a treatise on who should be what, but on the difference between WWE's business and what you see from many Indies or even some of the superfeds so many hardcore fans salivate over on a daily basis.
Face vs. Heel makes money, and in WWE, especially when one of the two participants is John Cena, it takes underhanded stuff to really try and generate heat. Could AJ Styles have beaten John Cena clean? Sure he could have, we all recognize that as a potential alternate Money in the Bank timeline. But, as Anderson and Gallows look poised to be the team to finally dethrone the New Day, The Club must look strong, and must also look devious and doubly dangerous. Now everyone gets it. That's these guys' M.O. They'll do anything to win, rules are merely guidelines at best, and F.U. if you get in the way. These three descriptors share one commonality. Each is something a fiend would pin to his refrigerator. It's an appliance he or she stole from a neighbor.
Once again, allow me to ask those who are still miffed and are reading this with smoke pouring from their nostrils, arms folded tightly over one another...
Do you know what a heel is? Have you ever seen a heel?
Jackie Chiles' next question to Kramer is, "Didn't you read the instructions?"
Pro wrestling blueprints are clear as day. If you're a heel, outside of a very select few (usually due to size or relative stature of your dance partner), cheat to win.
Why leave it up to chance if you don't have to do so? That's for idiots.