Does Heel Or Babyface Matter Anymore?, Working Stiff, My Take On TNA HoF, Wrestling Schools, Biggest Accomplishment

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During the 80s, or Hulk Hogan days, everyone rooted for the good guys and hated the bad guys. It seems like these days everyone picks their guy and sticks with them whether he's a heel or a face. For example, I've always liked CM Punk. Does it really matter nowadays whether a worker is a heel or face?

By large, the smarter fans (smart marks or smarks) do not care if a worker is a heel or a babyface, they care more about whether or not a worker is entertaining. That was one of the things WWE talked about when they originally turned CM Punk heel after a run as a babyface that saw him become an established main event talent. The thinking was that Punk's fans were going to be Punk's fans, regardless of the role he played on-screen. This is due to the fact that Punk has a large portion of the smarter audience and people like yourself, that are going to root for Punk no matter what. However, this does not include the mainstream WWE audience that is made up of a much larger demographic. While you or I enjoy workers for who they are as a performer, a large segment of WWE's audience cares very much about what happens on-screen and it determines everything from who they root for to whose merchandise they buy. You wouldn't believe some of the emails we get here about people demanding that Vince McMahon remove Triple H and Stephanie McMahon for what's "been done" to Daniel Bryan. The roles of characters on-screen absolutely still matter and kayfabe is much more alive than many realize. I'll also argue the smarter audience turned on Hulk Hogan much earlier than you might remember and a lot of people don't realize the business hasn't so much changed as much as they've evolved as they've gotten older. For example, when I was 11 years old kayfabe meant a heck of a lot more than than it does at 28. I've known pro wrestling was scripted for as long as I can remember but try explaining that to an 11-year-old.

When guys that have legitimate beef with each other do things ever get a little rough in the ring as a result?

Pro wrestling is just like any other work place. There are people that get along and there are people that can't stand one another. However, just because two people do not get along doesn't mean they do not understand they have a job to do. Are there situations where a match may get a little "chippy" or "stiff"? Yes and depending on who it is, depends how much someone can get away with. However, it's imperative that workers are able to overcome personal differences to do their job and someone doesn't want to get a bad reputation that they cannot be trusted in the ring. Getting the "unsafe to work with" label is extremely hard to overcome and there are actually people in WWE that people don't want to work with because of in-ring sloppiness. So to answer your question, yes things can get rough but most workers understand their job is more important than personal differences.

What's your take on the TNA Hall of Fame?

Let me start by saying I didn't like the Kurt Angle swerve at Bound for Glory. They're going to induct him, yet he doesn't feel he's worthy of the induction. What about the banquet the night before? I understand it's part of a storyline but in typical TNA fashion, they're invalidating an honor that not many people see as a viable honor in the first place. While you would think TNA would want to "play it up" to counter the push back, they're helping taking away from it. Regardless, and I mean no disrespect to Sting, the TNA Hall of Fame means nothing to me. It's just too soon for the company to be passing out "Hall of Fame" type honors. I realize they see what WWE does with their ceremony to coincide with Wrestlemania and are trying to recreate it with Bound for Glory weekend, but the WWE Hall of Fame wasn't created until 1993. WWE was originally founded in the 1950s so there was a good bit of history there before any such enshrinement took place. If TNA is going to do a Hall of Fame this early in their existence, how they can do it and not have Jeff Jarrett as the inaugural inductee is a travesty. Jarrett is the reason there is a TNA. End of story. If it weren't for Jeff and his father, none of these guys would have anywhere to work outside of the indies.

What wrestling training school would you recommend to someone that wants to become a pro wrestler?

I penned an entire article about this subject here at The bottom-line is you need to get trained by someone with a credible reputation. I give some names of schools in that article but the best advice I can give is where not to go. Do not pay anyone that never made it in the pro wrestling business. Only give your money to credible schools with credible pro wrestlers behind them. I don't care how much cheaper other schools are, you must go to a school with credible names backing them. While training is a big part of this business, a bigger part is who you know. You need to make sure you get into a school where there are connections to WWE and TNA Wrestling. There are actually schools that both major companies scout. This is where you want to be. You do not want to go somewhere that's off the radar because it's only going to set you back in trying to get booked on the indies. If I wanted to become a pro wrestler, I'd be checking with the Team 3D Academy, Lance Storm's Storm Wrestling Academy or Booker T's Reality of Wrestling Training Center. Do your own research but I can tell you success stories out of all three of those schools.

I know you said the Chris Benoit tragedy was your first major story. But what would you consider being your greatest accomplishment since entering the business?

My proudest moments as a pro wrestling journalist both involve The Rock. The biggest exclusive story we have had to date, and there have been several, is exclusively breaking the news of The Rock's return to WWE in 2011 (MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJOR (DID WE SAY MAJOR?) NAME PLANNED TO BE REVEALED AS THE WRESTLEMANIA XXVII GUEST HOST ON MONDAY’S WWE RAW FROM ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA (SPOILER)). This story was almost 4 years into my full-time career as a pro wrestling journalist but really shook up the business that we were for real. The next moment came this year when The Rock himself Tweeted a message at us that you can read here. To see someone of The Rock's magnitude not only show himself as a reader but compliment my work was a huge honor. It's a blessing to do what I do for a living but I couldn't do it without my amazing staff and the loyal readership of the website. It's you all that make it possible for us to be able to do what we do. It's an uphill battle getting established because of writers that have been doing this before I was even born, however, I work day in and day out to provide better information than anywhere on the Internet.

From the Ask WNW vault…

April 2009 - The MSG Incident: The incident happened at a WWE house show in 1996 at Madison Square Garden where Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels were working as babyfaces and Triple H and Diesel (Kevin Nash) were working as heels. At the end of the show, all four embraced as Nash and Hall were leaving WWE to go to World Championship Wrestling. All four were (and still are) very close friends and were known as the Kliq backstage in WWE. They are infamously known for their political stroke to be able to get in Vince McMahon's ear.

Want more Ask WNW? You can now Tweet your questions to Richard at using the hashtag #AskWNW and get an answer! The only condition is you MUST be following Richard

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Remember questions that are legible stand the best chance of getting answered. Check out the Ask WNW archive at this link.

Submit questions to: [email protected]!

  • Patrick O_Toole

    Does anyone feel that Kurt only said no so that he still might be able to get into WWE’s Hall of Fame?

    • I really think it’s an angle (no pun intended) but I know some readers feel that way. I just look at it as TNA being TNA. Devalue what’s already devalued.

      • Malboja

        Do you think that tna are trying to put angle in there hall of fame just to beat wwe to the punch so to speak ?

        • John

          Kurt Angle has been with TNA longer than he was with WWE. He is a 5x TNA Champion and has had many outstanding matches in a TNA ring… I think it’s fair to say that he has legitimately earned the right to be in TNA’s Hall of Fame, without them being accused of trying to get one over on WWE.

      • WrestlingFan4Life

        I thought perhaps Angle swerved the company, that perhaps this is not kayfabe. I thought Angle might actually feel that way, considering he just came out of rehab.

  • Thomas M.

    I am sensing some subtle changes on this site recently. I first noticed it with a couple cheap publicity articles disguised as “Richard Reacts” over the past month. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an increase of readers for this site that I love, but it felt lower than the high standards this site holds.

    The giant, bold eyesore (at least on the mobile site) that announces the Editor at the top of every page seems a bit much, as well. We already get Richard’s name and title at the bottom of every article he posts, and that works well enough for any other news site.

    Richard deserves all the credit that is due for his hard work. He has built this to be the only site that I will go for my wrestling news and commentary. I just fear it is slowly transforming into “WNW Starring Richard Gray”.

    From a multi-year premium member, and continuing subscriber, Richard’s humble attitude — which by no means am I claiming has disappeared entirely — is why I came to this site in the first place. I would hate to see it go away.

    • First, thanks for the kind words and for your support of the website Thomas. It is because of you we’re able to do what we are able to do and I sincerely mean it when I say, THANK YOU.

      I did make a change to the main logo to include my name at the top and let me explain why. There are a ton of places out there you can get your wrestling news but there are only a handful of places you can get first-run information. Most pro wrestling websites consist of second-hand information. I’m not going to be a jerk here, every site owner has their own set of goals and objectives. The point I want to make crystal clear to new visitors is we are different. Yes, I think our work speaks for itself, however, I want to really capitalize on the fact that this website is different. I want to brand beyond just another website, more than just another cog in the machine, but a place where the news and analysis is different.

      There have been other more subtle changes. Longer news posts, a renewed focused on details in Ask WNW, more opinion and analyst, less quoting from interviews, etc. So far, at least from an analyst standpoint, it’s working. We sure got Ryback’s attention, didn’t we?

      You’ve been here, you know. We want to continue to push that to the new readers. We’ve experienced tremendous growth over the past year, nearly doubling our daily output of visits. It’s imperative that when these newer readers come on they understand what they are getting.

      I understand there will be a segment that sees the changes as egomaniacal or an agenda that’s all about me but anyone that knows me or interacts with me, knows that’s simply not the case. Any time you deal with the public, you deal with criticism. A lot of times that criticism comes from people that not only do not understand what’s happening but that also do not know me. It’s frustrating but it comes along with the territory. This business isn’t for the timid and I learned many years ago that I couldn’t simply ignore this criticism or remain silent when challenged. I’ll always address the critics, respond to the haters and work daily to prove the doubters wrong.

      At the end of the day, I’m well aware not everyone can be pleased. This is when I say that my work can speak for itself. I’ll address comments like yours, email back and forth with someone, or whatever it takes but some people, there is no justification. They’re right and I’m wrong. And in that case, I put my work out there and politely say there it is. I enjoy doing what I do for a living but beyond being a journalist, I have to look at what can be done to help grow this website and that sometimes calls for changing the way the website is branded.

      In conclusion, I hope this helps shed some more light. If you, or anyone else, have a question I’m wide open. I respond instantly to email, I’m on Facebook, I Tweet. I’ve done everything I can to make myself available, so always look to utilize those channels.

      • Thomas M.

        Indeed. I understand that you can’t make everyone happy (myself included). Thank you for addressing my concerns. That alone gives me the confidence to remain a subscriber and come back every day for breaking stories and original insight.

      • WrestlingFan4Life

        You put out an excellent product, Richard. I am 46 years old and have been watching pro wrestling for as long as I can remember. I have seen it change over and over again; even America’s Hero, Hulk Hogan, did a heel turn. Was I happy about that? Absolutely not! Did it help the ratings? Absolutely! Change is a good thing, if handled properly. If you do not change, you become stagnant, and people will walk away. Keep up the good work.

    • Nick K

      Couldn’t agree any more, can’t blame him too much because ill say it without a doubt that this is the best wrestling site and he built that but hopefully the ego will cool off. Guy literally blocked me on Facebook overy sports banter and a playful shot about using hashtags on Facebook.

      • Again, please read my response. It’s not an ego thing, it’s a branding thing. I do appreciate the kind words about the site.

  • mike

    I wonder if it really bothers vince when fans cheer for the people who they should be booing. It amazed me when they kept ziggler heel after he won the title and when they kept fandango heel when his theme was getting he audience in. I would have immediately turned ziggler face after he won the title, it was way too obvious the fans wanted him to beat ADR and become champion.

  • AJ

    Richard, I think your article on how to become a wrestler is a bit outdated (no offense intended at all by the way!). I only bring it up because you mentioned to go to the Orlando or Tampa area because TNA and NXT are down there in Florida. Well, TNA has gone on the road, so I have to ask, would you still recommend going to Florida even if you’re only relying on NXT noticing you?

    • mike

      i would say yes because although tna is on the road, they,re not really going to be looking for talent on the road. If your based in florida you know tna is going back and forth there multiple times a year. so lets say tna goes there once a month thats 12 times you have a chance of being spotted a year ( at least). Now lets say your trying to get noticed in lets say new york. At most tna will go to new york once a year. so you have one chance a year to be noticed by them and even if you are noticed there, your pretty much going to have to move to florida to be local for impact. I look at it as if you knew where a wrestler trained pupils, would you go there to ask for lessons, or would you try and catch them whilst they are on the road. chasing them down, working out where they,re going to be and hoping you get a chance to speak to them.Plus if you were a territorial wrestler you would have to be really damn good for a tna scout to travel all the way across the country to check you our, where you could be an average to good wrestler in florida and get a scout to pop in and check you out easy as pie.

      • mike

        actually giving my opinion on this has given me a question i,d like to ask richard. Do you think the internet has helped less known stars find there way into the big leagues or is it making it hard for them. I refer to the steve austin documentary where paul heyman explains how today wrestlers go to twitter to vent their frustrations where steve austin did it on tv as part of his persona where if twitter had been around maybe he would have just ranted on there and “stone cold steve austin” might never have happened. i also think of how the pre attitude era stars weren,t so easily accessed, as in mick foleys matches or chris jerichos matches prior to being main players on cable television were only available to a select few via videoape trading so they became like a legend if you will as in “omg did you hear what mick foley did in that match” where now its more “check out this video on youtube and watch this guy do something” and millions of people have seen it and its not that special as its so easily available. i dare say most people would watch say mick foley go off the hell in a cell would think its amazing but then theres like 10 other clips attached to it of similar falls say through tables or off ladders so it becomes just another clip. What do you think?

  • Kyle

    The question from the Vault is my question. That’s so amazing to see that.

  • packerpf

    HOF idea has Dixie’s stupid ideas written all over it. Sting in that HOF is just a nod to make sure he gains some recognition this is a great wrestler who’s put it all out there for fans for almost 3 decades. As for the heel-face argument, it comes down to the build up and how the companies do it. WWE seems to have some clear heels and faces then their blenders, that’s how most companies should have it, but they still are struggling to create those once great heels they used to have.

  • Kid

    Baby faces and heels don’t seem to matter to some of us, i believe because of cena being pushed as the ultimate baby face for the past 8 years. I think I’ve honestly rooted for every heel against cena for the past 5 years. And from the sound of the crowd in all of Cenas matches theirs a giant group of people who feel the same. I’m not saying that’s the reason but I think that’s why allot of people root for the heels. Their sick of the corny pg baby faces

  • Jbreed

    Do people really stick with who they like whether their face or heel? CM Punk was used as an example but I noticed when he’s a face he gets the biggest pop from the live crowds but as a heel he gets booed out of the building.

  • wtf! McMahon

    Richard sucks