I've really enjoyed WWE's programming a lot more over the past few years (since 2010) than I did in previous years (2007-2009 in particular). One of the things I like the most right now is the fact that young up-and-coming Superstars are really starting to make an impact on the roster. Superstars such as Ryback, Curtis Axel, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro, and The Wyatt Family are all being prominently featured on WWE programming.
However, one thing I've noticed over the course of 2013 is the fact that WWE seems to be trying a little too hard to find their next top babyface star. Over the course of this year, we've seen a handful of heel Superstars transition, or try to transition, into babyfaces. Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and now there are rumors that Antonio Cesaro and even Damien Sandow could be in line for a babyface turn. Some of these turns have worked. It seems as though Dolph Ziggler is getting over well as a babyface. I personally thought that Alberto Del Rio made for a surprisingly good babyface for the brief run he had as a face. Cody Rhodes seems to be getting over as well. However, I feel as though The Miz trying to work as a babyface has been an epic failure, and after this week's episode of WWE Friday Night SmackDown where Damien Sandow was seemingly trying to work as the babyface against the heel World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, I have to wonder if WWE is starting to get a bit desperate to find their next top babyface along the lines of John Cena, C.M. Punk, and Daniel Bryan.
In 2013, WWE's heel-to-babyface turns have almost resembled the ridiculousness of TNA Impact Wrestling always turning everybody into a heel. The Miz in particular is a good example. There are some characters that just can't work as either a babyface or a heel. The Miz is a character that just can't work as a believable babyface. I feel that Damien Sandow is another one of these characters. His match against Alberto Del Rio on SmackDown this week just looked... awkward. There's really no other way to describe it. It was just awkward and just didn't feel right. It didn't look right on television.
It was reported a while back that with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon taking over WWE, both on television and in real life behind the scenes, that the next top babyface star that rose to prominence would most likely be the last one to be hand-picked by WWE Chairman Mr. Vince McMahon before he steps back and hands his company over to his daughter and son-in-law. While one could argue that Daniel Bryan and/or C.M. Punk might be this next top babyface, it appears as though McMahon or somebody else in WWE management is not content with just having John Cena, C.M. Punk, and Daniel Bryan as the top three babyfaces in the company. They seem almost desperate to try to find at least one more breakout star to be one of the top babyfaces in the company.
It was also reported that Vince McMahon's last top babyface could end up being "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus, who is already a three-time WWE World Champion, as well as a former WWE King of the Ring tournament winner and a former WWE United States Champion. Sheamus has had a successful run as a babyface over the past two years or so, but many fans have voiced their opinion that Sheamus is just better as a heel than he is as a babyface. This seems to be the dilemma with WWE's current roster: A lot of them just work better as heels than they do as babyfaces.
TNA has experienced the same problem over the past number of years, but the difference between WWE and TNA is that WWE has not yet gone completely overboard with their heel-babyface turns. TNA has turned everybody heel at one time or another and many of their heel turns have just made no sense whatsoever. WWE's recent attempts to turn heels into babyfaces have not always proven to be the best decisions, but still though, at least they haven't done anything completely outlandish like trying to turn Rey Mysterio into a heel. TNA has turned literally EVERYBODY into a heel at some time or another and it's gotten to the point where their programming has become so predictable and stagnant that I personally have stopped watching them.
So let's look at WWE's recent heel-to-babyface turns, in no particular order.
Lord Tensai has turned into Sweet T and is teaming up with "The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay as Tons of Funk. This is a far cry from how he looked when he returned to WWE in 2012 after spending nearly a decade in Japan. Still though, Tons of Funk has proven to be at least a halfway entertaining tag team to watch, and let's not forget that Tensai actually did have a similar gimmick way back in 2002 when he was teaming with Scotty 2 Hotty and was nicknamed "The Hip-Hop Hippo." And since WWE was just jobbing him out throughout 2012 anyway, at least now he and Brodus actually win occasionally and get to dance afterwards.
The Miz's transition from a heel to babyface was not a smooth one at all, even with WWE bringing in Ric Flair for a short time earlier this year to be The Miz's mentor. The Miz has not gotten much better since earlier this year. His inability to properly apply Ric Flair's Figure Four Leglock is just one of the many reasons why The Miz is just not believable as a babyface character. His overall demeanor and personality just doesn't seem to fit the qualities of a babyface, and considering how much time he's spent as a heel over the years, it just doesn't seem to make sense for WWE to try to push him as a babyface. Plain and simple: The Miz is a heel, so keep him as one.
Alberto Del Rio turned into a babyface early in the year when he defeated The Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship on an episode of Friday Night SmackDown. Many fans, including myself, had serious doubts about whether or not Del Rio could portray himself as a believable babyface. Although it did seem apparent that he was better as a heel, I personally was very surprised by how well he embraced his role as a babyface. He relied on his pure skill and technique to win his matches and was also able to get the crowd involved with chants of "Sí!", which was Del Rio's equivalent to Daniel Bryan's "Yes!" chants. The fans also enjoyed Ricardo Rodriguez's trademark introduction for Del Rio before his matches. Alberto Del Rio made for a surprisingly good babyface character and I wouldn't be too surprised if WWE tries it again at some point down the road.
Dolph Ziggler turned babyface when Alberto Del Rio turned heel at the Payback pay-per-view. Ziggler had just returned from a serious real-life concussion and WWE used this for the storyline of the match. Del Rio brutally attacked Ziggler's vulnerable head and finally finished him off with a straight kick to the face that knocked Ziggler out cold. The fans legitimately felt sorry for Ziggler, as he had once again been shorted out of a decent World Heavyweight Title reign. Ziggler's transition from a heel to a babyface was not the smoothest, but over the past number of weeks he really seems to have found his comfort zone as a babyface character. Most of the fans like to cheer for Ziggler because they appreciate his hard work, his dedication to the business, and his pure athletic abilities. Ziggler seems to be having some fun as a babyface right now, although Ziggler is another one who seems to be a bit more natural as a heel.
Cody Rhodes, much like Dolph Ziggler, is another Superstar who the fans seem to want to cheer for because of his dedication and pure in-ring abilities. The fans also respect Cody's family, as his brother is the legendary Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes and their father is the WWE Hall of Famer "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Cody spent years as a heel and became a two-time Intercontinental Champion in the process, as well as a multiple-time Tag Team Champion. But it seems as though the fans have been ready to accept Cody as a babyface and he is currently one of the top babyfaces in the company due to his recent rivalry against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and their team of mercenaries known as The Shield.
Antonio Cesaro has been impressing the WWE Universe as of late with his impressive feats of strength. He has used his finishing move The Neutralizer on some of WWE's physically biggest Superstars, including The Great Khali and Brodus Clay. And now he has added another weapon to his arsenal, the time-tested Giant Swing hold. This hold involves grabbing the opponent by the legs and overhooking the ankles as if going for a Boston Crab. But instead of turning them over into the Crab position, the wrestler will lift the opponent off the ground by their legs and swing them around in a circle. It's a move that's been done in the past, but Cesaro has really resurrected it and made it his own. And his ability to apply it to such physically large Superstars like Titus O'Neil and The Great Khali has made the WWE Universe take notice of the incredible strength of the Swiss Sensation. There have been rumors going around on the internet that WWE officials are talking about turning Cesaro into a babyface character. Could Cesaro work as a babyface in WWE? Only time will tell.
Damien Sandow's gimmick is that of an intellectual superior. He is the current holder of the Money In The Bank contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. But again, his entire persona is that of an intellectual superior who believes that he is far more intelligent than everyone around him. There are rumors that, for whatever reason, WWE officials want to turn Sandow into a babyface. How could Damien Sandow possibly work as a babyface? I'm sorry, but I just can't see it. Maybe Sandow and WWE will prove me wrong, but I see this turning into a bigger flop than The Miz as a babyface.
The Prime Time Players, Darren Young and Titus O'Neil, turned babyface immediately after Darren Young announced to the world that he is homosexual in real life. While I appreciate the fact that WWE is proud of Darren for having the courage to reveal this, the PTPs just turned into babyfaces overnight for no other reason than Darren Young coming out. They didn't even set it up with an angle or anything. They just came on television one week and started working as babyfaces. They seem to be doing a fairly decent job, even though I personally find their whole "Millions of Dollars" gimmick to be annoying whether they're babyfaces or heels. The fact that it's annoying makes me want to see them as heels rather than babyfaces, but again, that's just my personal opinion.
Mark Henry turned back into a babyface after being attacked by The Shield on Raw. Henry had a good run as a dominant heel for a few years, but the WWE Universe respects Henry as a veteran and it seemed as though they were ready to welcome him back as a babyface.
Nikki & Brie: The Bella Twins went back to being babyfaces after Divas Champion A.J. Lee called out the entire cast of the Total Divas reality show. The Bellas worked as babyfaces for years before in WWE, and their real life relationships with WWE's top two babyfaces John Cena and Daniel Bryan means that it would make sense for WWE to turn the Bellas back into babyfaces. I guess I'd say that The Bella Twins work pretty much equally as well as either babyfaces or heels.
I don't think I've forgotten anybody else. These are pretty much all the heel-to-babyface turns we've seen so far in WWE in 2013.
In closing, like I said earlier, I enjoy the fact that WWE is really giving a good push to the next generation of Superstars. But some of their heel-to-babyface turns, like The Miz and Damien Sandow, just don't seem to make much sense to me. I personally feel like having John Cena, Daniel Bryan and C.M. Punk as the top three is sufficient for right now, and they also have a good group of mid-card babyfaces with Christian, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, Kane, Zack Ryder, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, and maybe a few others. There's nothing wrong with experimenting and trying new storylines as long as they make sense, but why WWE seems so desperate to try to find another top babyface right now is beyond me. They have a good top three with Cena, Punk and Bryan and they can also call on any of the mid-card babyfaces at a moment's notice if/when Cena, Punk or Bryan ever get taken out of the equation, or if they just want to elevate the mid-card guys to the next level.
My closing thought/message to WWE: You have a fairly good thing going right now. Your babyface roster is okay. There's no need for you to panic and definitely no need to make heel-babyface turns that don't make sense and won't work. Don't be like TNA and do turns that make so sense whatsoever. Look at your current mid-card babyface roster especially. Guys like Mark Henry, Kane, Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes and Christian can be called upon to be main event babyfaces at any given time. It's better to rely on those guys rather than trying to make turns that won't make sense, such as The Miz and Damien Sandow.