(Photo credits: SEScoops)
The brains behind the many stories that WWE has to offer to its Universe seem to have run into a new formula for creating modern-day megastars that cater to the niche audience.
Throughout 2018, a distinct pattern has slowly emerged and continues to widen across brands as we approach the end of the year.
If a Superstar gets too popular, turn them heel. This creates a win-win situation for them because the “rebel” audience prefers heels to faces and the bosses backstage get a good villain for their chosen ones to fight with.
The formula seems sound on paper, but has it worked in reality so far?
To get the answers to these questions, let us wind back the clock to WrestleMania 34.
Shinsuke Nakamura, the charismatic and flamboyant King of Strong Style, first walked into the WWE as an immensely popular baby-face.
Nakamura, with his signature entrance and his mesmerizing theme, was a joy to watch and a fan-favorite to walk out of WrestleMania 34 as the WWE Champion when he faced AJ Styles in a dream match.
However, instead of a title victory, what we got was an earth-shattering heel turn from the King of Strong Style…yet everyone rejoiced.
Nakamura’s subsequent antics as a cold-hearted heel were in complete contrast with his former self.
However, the impact of this newfound villainy was unbelievably strong on the audiences.
This version of Nakamura was even more over than what he was as a baby-face even though he was quietly removed from the WWE title picture and failed to get the belt from a heroic AJ Styles, even with his mind-games and trickery.
However, as soon as this happened, he was put into the United States title picture and quickly became the Champion.
This move sent the fans home happy, the chosen one stayed atop and the heel underdog tasted some interim glory.
The success of Nakamura’s unique heel turn might have started a trend in the WWE.
At SummerSlam, a certain Irish Lass-Kicker finally snapped out of her complacent and moral goodness and finally got a taste of the dark side.
Becky Lynch turned heel in the WWE for the first time in three years when she attacked her former best-friend Charlotte Flair, who’d just “snubbed” her of a title victory.
What’s to be noted is that Lynch was the most popular female babyface on both the brands when the WWE decided to turn her heel.
However, this heel turn eventually created a morally ambiguous character that not only defeated the baby-face but also received the ovation of a hero when she lifted the Championship Gold above her head.
Lynch, just like Nakamura, was only stated to be an interim champion until the Chosen One [Charlotte in this case] was ready to take the title off of her.
Reports suggested that Becky was indeed going to lose the title to Charlotte come TLC, further providing proof to this theory.
However, this time around, the WWE’s little trick failed because the audience is adamant on having the Bad-Lass atop the Women’s Division.
She’s currently in a position where she has the attitude of Stone Cold and the underdog story of Daniel Bryan.
So far, the aforementioned formula seems to have failed to extinguish the Lass Kicker’s Straight Fire.
Another example of the same formula could be found in the case of Aiden English.
English was evidently the driving force behind the mind-blowing success of “Rusev Day” and everything that was followed by it.
He was the core reason why the Bulgarian Brute rose to fame and even squared off against The Undertaker.
Thanks to the success of this joint venture, Rusev also received several title shots, including one at the WWE Championship.
However, the WWE soon decided to slide this momentum under the bus while gifting it interim glory followed by perpetual obscurity.
English was turned heel and had a brief feud with Rusev…now both of them stand directionless on the blue brand.
Now, the same has happened with everyone’s favorite bearded GOAT – Daniel Bryan.
The tales of Bryan’s rise to fame and glory will be told for years to come and that alone is a testament to his immense popularity.
The fans always rile up behind the leader of the “YES!” Movement and frequently hijack shows with the thunderous YES! Chants, even today.
However, times have changed and so has the locker-room. With the Phenomenal AJ Styles being the face of the blue brand for over 2 years now, Bryan’s overwhelming popularity created a bipolar division on the roster.
Therefore, the WWE once again seems to have applied the same formula in this situation.
As seen on the previous week’s episode of SmackDown, Daniel Bryan turned to the Dark Side and also won the WWE Championship from AJ Styles.
Bryan has had issues with the powers that be as of late thanks to the Crown Jewel fiasco with reports even suggesting that WWE had no big plans for Bryan in the future.
Which is precisely why the heel turn was all the more shocking. Not only Bryan won the big one, he got the dream match against Brock Lesnar that he wanted for so long (and what a match it was at Survivor Series).
There’s a high chance that this is Bryan’s interim glory before his heelish antics allows the “Chosen One” to rise up and overthrow him.
The point being, the interim glory could be a well-thought move by the WWE to curb the gigantic momentum behind Bryan to allow their favored forces to grow – as seen in the cases of Nakamura and Lynch.
This formula comes in handy especially in today’s modern WWE wherein fans are extremely vocal about what they want to see on the product.
This could either be a curse for some Superstars or a blessing in disguise for others – but more often than not, at least the fans can’t complain that the product isn’t interesting anymore.
Either way, it is safe to say that this list is going to add more names to it in the future.