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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Heel Turns for the Ages #1

The first in a series of spotlights on heel turn moments. Character turns usually make for amazing wrestling viewing and I'll begin with a little flashback to...

CM Punk

Punk was really over in WWE after a vast rise on the new defunct ECW brand, he was even proclaimed 'The future of WWE' by Triple H (Trips picking upon a really vocal chant from the crowd), when teaming with DX at Survivor Series (2008 maybe). However he would go on to cash in Money in the Bank against a debilitated Jeff Hardy, much to the crowds confusion - it had seemed that Punk would build up to be a super face until this point (a tactic that has been repeated more recently with another internet darling in Daniel Bryan) - and I think the WWE played the slow burn turn really well, selling Punk as a conflicted young professional. All the while building to a supervillain in the making...

Here is the moment he properly turned;

Its interesting how truly shocked a lot of the crowd are. I really enjoyed this story arc, it was a really good year for the Smackdown roster too. I think a lot of people would disagree about that but it was a highly athletic roster and seemed to be really putting over believable main event caliber stars. This is a slight digression, but the WWE Brand Draft has really damaged the development of the roster over the last few years, I think the current roster would feel slightly more established if more time had been invested in the brand development..

CM Punk went on to develop his heel persona drawing on his Straight Edge background to become a preachy, greasy, sleezy, evil genius character. And he really got under the crowds skin. I remember really disliking the direction as it progressed, however with hindsight, it shows how successful that character was. He went on to form the Straight Edge Society, who were similar to Right to Censor from the around the end of the Attitude era.

Another interesting element of this heel run was how much the internet fan base supported it, an idea that links in to some of my ideas about the subjectivity of the heel position. To thousands Punk was still someone to cheer for, a trend that is continuing to rise, internet fans following and supporting heel roles (more on this another time). The Internet were so into 'Heel Punk' that even after his face turn last summer many were still making references and guesses as to when his face turn would commence. In case anyone missed it here's Punk kissing 'goodbye' to Vince McMahon and with him the WWE.

I'm sure we'll get another heel run or two out of Punk at some point over the years, but for now lets enjoy his title run, here's hoping he still has the title come Wrestlemania! 

edit: It should be noted that CM Punk's heel run during this period was also interesting as he took what should be a strong positive message - don't abuse your body with alcohol and drugs - and turned it into a preachy aggressive attack on the audience. There was a lot of humour and sarcasm  in this character that still makes Punk popular today and its really nice seeing the audience laughing along during some of those promos. This is a good example of a heel you love to hate, much like classics such as Ted Dibiase (Million Dollar Man), Ric Flair and arguably the current Daniel Bryan run.   

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