Last week on WWE’s Monday Night Raw this wrestler Sheamus (guess what country he’s from?) stole a Ferrari from Alberto Del Rio. He took it on a joyride. And when he brought it back, it was downright totaled. It was intended as revenge for the assault by Alberto Del Rio and he was intended to be cheered for it.
I mean, why else would would the good guy announcer try to pass this off as just a joyride? Sheamus is the hero. Del Rio is the villain. By simple character math, we were supposed to cheer the act.
But somewhere between conception and execution? It missed. Why? Because they forgot about one of the major keys to making a quality anti-hero. Put it simply, the villain has to be worse in the audiences eyes.
Let me take you back to the days of Stone Cold Steve Austin. He got away with a lot worse, and we cheered for him. Why? He was the one who faced the monsters. Between The Undertaker and the proxies of Vince McMahon? Stone Cold could do what he wanted. Why? He was the better man. He was the more admirable man. We liked his fearlessness.
And a part of the reason why CM Punk bogged down during the middle of his title run was the fact that he was up against an ineffectual sympathetic villain in John Laurinitas. He was so goofy and that made him likeable, it softened the edges of the Punker. Whereas a guy like John Cena, while also putatively a good guy, is the sort of guy that is booked to be such a sickeningly sweet jock hero that makes CM Punk fresh and interesting.
I appreciate that the WWE is still attempting to keep the shades of gray that made their last big run of the late 90′s and today. But the thing of it is? They’ve moved back from a TV-14 rated program to a TV-PG one. A little more clarity of the morality of the good and the bad guys is a need. PG wrestling works. You all need to do a YouTube search for something called Chikara Pro. So long as it’s good, right?
But bringing it back to Sheamus? Sure. He was assaulted by a car hood. But this isn’t 1920′s Chicago, and the hero isn’t supposed to bring a gun to a knife fight. The hero can be a bit of a bully, a bit of a jerk, and may have a smug smile that some of the more smart assed fans would wish their demise. But there is one thing that must always occur if you want conflict to be successful.
The good guy must be better.