Monday, April 7, 2014

Instant Feedback: We Are All Heyman Guys and No One Is a Heyman Guy

Someone check to see if Heyman's tongue is actually made of silver
Photo Credit:
Paul Heyman was the most hated man in the building. Paul Heyman was the biggest hero to the crowd. One man sparked a wildfire of cognitive dissonance within a wildly enthusiastic crowd. The idea of alignment may not be dead, but Heyman has now become the mascot for its shrinking relevance. Granted, a post-Mania crowd is hardly a good-faith test subject. The fans at a given post-Mania show are a pastiche of those fans, the ones who do things like #HijackRAW or chant for JBL, and WWE's narrative may have empowered them to act out. Then again, the same fans who went nuts when Antonio Cesaro announced he was a Paul Heyman guy had just gotten done throatily booing the same mouthpiece for BRAWK LESNARRRRRR and his annihilation of the Undertaker's Streak.

The big question will be asked of the vocal minority (majority?) that is setting policy for crowds to follow in the future. Are these fans becoming smarter, so to speak? Not smart in the way that the hot take slingers of the Twitter/blog world refer to hardcore fans, but smart as in perceptive. Is the genpop developing nuance, or more crudely, are they able to compartmentalize better and realize that the people aren't painted in all black or all white anymore. If crowd intelligence evolves to a point where the most vocal people within said crowds start to cheer or boo causes rather than names on the marquee, then wrestling itself might be able to evolve into forms unenvisioned by even the most forward-thinking critics.

Whether the company leads towards a more complex system of alignment, the crowds are signifying a sea change. Notice that both last night and in the early stages of the trios match tonight, the Greek chorus didn't chant "CENA SUCKS!" in response to the "LET'S GO CENA!" chants. Those calls were strictly pro-Wyatt. Of course, vestigial "CENA SUCKS!" chants happened tonight, but those catcalls will need to peter out rather than die cold-turkey. Still, fans are starting to cling to corporeal forms, not just the absence of the bodies of the existing stars. Now, more than any time, is a key point in the timeline to gamble and try the concept of an outright tweener.

I would be remiss without noting that Heyman is not the first person to try such an amphoteric approach to character execution. Triple H straddled the fence, and he failed miserably. Then again, Heyman could read The Scarlet Letter on a live mic and have the crowd thinking it was an interesting piece of literature instead of insipid bullshit foisted upon high school students. Then again, the key for this whole machine to keep working lies in an old Heyman booking philosophy. You play to strengths and hide weaknesses. Luckily for WWE, Heyman's biggest weakness is hidden as long as he's kept out of accounting.

Triple H is at his best as the rolling tank with the exposed exhaust port, something he's shown over the last two days. He can't be the evil dick in one breath and the benevolent boss in the other. Heyman, conversely, is such a snake oil salesman, an opportunist if you will, that he can inflict selective amnesia on any group of people. He can be the advocate for the man who broke the hearts of Undertaker fans everywhere and the rock upon which the King of Swing (and Wrestling, and Trios) can build his palace. Every wrestling fan is a Paul Heyman Guy, and simultaneously, none of us should ever want to be a Paul Heyman guy ever again. When you have a performer who can create that dual reality, then of course making a lush grayscale palette is going to look easy as boiling water.