A 31-year-old working adult probably shouldn’t admit to being a fan of professional wrestling. Certainly not in print, anyway.
(Does that count as an admission? Maybe? I’m not sure.)
Growing up a fan of the genre — I attempted to be one ironically, like a sports entertainment hipster, if you will — my favorite wrestling-related moments have always involved a “heel turn.” For the uninitiated, the “heel turn” occurs when a heroic wrestler makes a sudden swerve in character, either attacking a friend he should be supporting or coming to the aid of an “enemy” he should be fighting.
When it’s done correctly, the heel turn results in shock and anger among the fans. The most famous, of course, is when Hulk Hogan — the greatest hero in wrestling history — turned on his buddies at the 1996 Great American Bash, and formed the New World Order. Fans were so shocked and angry that night they pelted the ring with trash; I personally remember being genuinely angry about the whole thing, although I couldn’t say exactly why (note: I was 15).
From the point of view of the performer, the best thing about the heel turn is that it gives the wrestler the opportunity to play the villain. I have no training (or ability) as an actor — “Or as anything else,” said everyone — but it seems that playing the villain seems like the single most fun role to play on any stage.
My personal favorite villain of all-time was “Ravishing” Rick Rude, a wrestler whose entire gimmick involved coming to the ring flaunting his chiseled body, insulting every man in the crowd as an inferior, then disrobing. Fans would howl with boos, even as they inwardly chuckled at the spectacle.
As time has gone by and the world of media that covers politics and sports has become more ridiculous, it seems more people in more walks of life are embracing the role of the heel. At the recent Summer Olympics, the great Usain Bolt flatly boasted that he was the best sprinter in the world, despite not being the best at his country’s qualifying round.
So Bolt strutted, bragged … and won. The fastest man in the world backed up his talk, then soaked in the cheers.
In a weird way, Nick Saban’s return to Alabama was a heel turn of sorts. Universally respected for his football acumen and his accomplishments at LSU, Saban became the villain of the football universe after flatly stating he wouldn’t be the football coach at Alabama … and then going and becoming just that.
Being the villain of the football world seems to suit Saban and his squad, though: They are carrying two championship belts, after all.
Sometimes I wonder if some of these political debates wouldn’t be better if one of the candidates would turn heel. Though seeing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney bludgeon each other with steel chairs wouldn’t be much different than these attack ads.