A babyface boom in WWE

The "Celtic Warrior" Sheamus during the WWE Smackdown

The "Celtic Warrior" Sheamus during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium in Durban, South Africa. (July 8, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

As I’ve written here a few times over the last week, I’m no fan of the WWE’s centerpiece storyline right now involving the political struggle for power, which I think if convoluted, unfocused and distracting. But watching the opening segment of Raw this past Monday night, I did very much appreciate one thing: WWE has quietly put together a solid core of top babyfaces.

Just a few months ago, WWE was hurting for good guys on top. After John Cena—who is paradoxically both WWE’s most beloved and despised character by different segments of the audience—there was a huge drop-off to the number two good guy, Randy Orton, who was still behaving as a heel well after officially turning. Call me old fashioned, but fantasizing about giving your grandma your finisher does not a babyface make.

The rest of the lot consisted of aging part-timers like Rey Mysterio and the Big Show, or entrenched mid-carders like Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston. Were Cena and Orton to have been sidelined simultaneously, WWE would have been in a world of trouble putting together viable main events.

While not exactly the height of the Attitude era, WWE has made strides in rebuilding its crop of protagonists, as evidenced on Monday night when Cena, C.M. Punk and Sheamus all came out in a show of support for their embattled Chief Operating Officer, Triple-H.

Although neither ever actually “turned,” both C.M. Punk and Sheamus are obviously, officially babyfaces now, as evidenced by their participation in the segment, and their recent opponents and feuds. And both have exhibited the necessary amount of toughness and charisma to hold down the babyface side at the top of the cards, if called upon.

More importantly, WWE’s top babyfaces have, as of late, been actually behaving as babyfaces. They smile, talk about fighting for honor and respect, and express their gratitude to the fans. And—gasp—they smile. Even Orton has been showing off his dimples as of late.

At the same time, WWE’s crop of heels have been doing their job admirably, as well—particularly on the Smackdown side.

For my money, Christian has been the top heel in all of wrestling in 2011, exhibiting all the attributes that you look for in a villain: Smugness, cowardice, dishonesty, and an inflated sense of worth. Mark Henry has been an entirely different kind of villain—more Big Van Vader than Christian’s Roddy Piper—but has also been tremendously effective as a massive, unstoppable bully. Over on Raw, Alberto Del Rio has been playing his role of the arrogant aristocrat world champion well.

The characters are all in place. Now they just need some good material to work with.
 

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