From the NAI Archive - September 25, 2015 - Full Nerd Friday - How WWE can take a lesson from Dungeons and Dragons

I always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but I never got around to it.

Being of a creative and improvisational mind, D&D always seemed to be right up my alley.  Creating a character, a backstory, a code of conduct, yet doing my best to adapt to the situations that presented themselves - Nerdy, perhaps, but seems like a lot of fun.

The closest I came was in college, and if memory serves, one Doc Manson was part of that group as well.  We started making characters for ourselves (I wanted to be a Rogue-type, despite being one of the least stealthy people I know), but it fizzled out before it got very far.  I consider it a missed opportunity, though I’m pretty sure that if I had gotten into it, Mrs. Matthews wouldn’t be sitting in the other room, us being happily married for going on five years.

Why am I telling you this, besides to beef up my nerd cred and (possibly) score some brownie points with my wonderful bride?

WWE needs to take a lesson from Dungeons and Dragons.

No, nobody should be casting magic missles into the darkness (well, maybe New Day could), but one thing that D&D is famous for is not having simply “good” and “bad”.  They delineate between those who are evil because they, like the Joker, are agents of chaos and between those who break the rules purely for selfish reasons.  There are the rule-followers because they follow rules and the rule-followers who just do what they feel is right.

In WWE, we don’t really have that. . . Or at least, not as much as we should.  Doc and I discussed this a little bit on last week’s podcast, or maybe the week before that, talking about how not every babyface in the company needs to be filling wishes each and every day.

What made the biggest boom periods in wrestling interesting was that there were different kinds of heels and babyfaces.  You had Ric Flair and the Horsemen, but you also had Kevin Sullivan and Purple Haze.  You had Hulk Hogan and you had the Macho Man.  You had Steve Austin, The Rock and Kurt Angle, among others, all who may have been rulebreakers at one time, but none of them the exact same type of heel.

So, based off of yesterday’s column about my Top Ten talents I’d build around, mixed in with the great NAIborhood discussion over the last few days, and a dab of foreshadowing of my #FantasyBookingWrestlemania, allow me to present some options for current talents, and how they could be differentiated to perhaps bring more interest to the product.

John Cena is the epitome of Internal Good

This one is already happening, and has been so for a decade, hence our general boredom.  John Cena is the Hulk Hogan of our times, his “Never Give Up” is the training, the prayers and the vitamins all wrestling children of the 80’s were told to take each and every week.  Cena has a strong moral compass that leads him to seek to right wrongs and ensure justice.  He doesn’t do it because the rules of the land tell him to, he does it because it’s the right thing to do.

One of the problems with John Cena is that there was never a great yin to his yang, much the same way people are having issues with Rollins and the current main event tier right now.  Hogan had the Heenan Family and his ever changing cast of goons to battle.  Cena has had Orton, JBL, CM Punk (too briefly). . . and whoever else he fought during the decade or so I stopped watching wrestling.

Did he ever have a real nemesis?  Someone help me out.

Seth Rollins should be a selfish, overconfident babyface.

Yes, friends, I’ll be traveling down the Shawn Michaels road again with the NoseBreak Kid, and I’ll continue doing so until I see something that shows me that Rollins isn’t the next ShowStopper.

Contrary to Cena, who does the right thing even at his own detriment, Rollins should be following rules and defending the innocent, but only to a given point.  He should always have his self-interest first on his list of priorities, or at least the interest of his close friends and associates.

This makes Rollins a compelling character because we can see the moments where he decides NOT to do the right thing in order to put himself first.  He might even become a heel for a brief period if it serves his interests, as opposed to Cena, who never would.

Hence, again, why Cena can be boring.  He’s always going to do the right thing, and he’s almost always going to be successful.  Perfection is boring.

Kevin Owens should be, and is, a selfish heel.

Depending on your opinion, the batting average of WWE when it comes to character development varies, and while you might not be happy with the career trajectory of our IC champion, you can’t deny that he certainly is one of the most compelling characters in the company.

One of the reasons for that, besides Owens God-given charisma, is the fact that he’s got a definitive and rational reason for doing what he does.  He’s working to provide a better life for his family and to prove that he’s one of the best talents in WWE.  Can anyone fault him for that logic?

Owens is going to do whatever he has to do in order to fulfill his mission.  He’ll break rules, attack people, take the “cowardly” way out, but he might also help somebody unexpected if it’s a means to an end.  This is where selfishness comes in handy, just like with Rollins.  Owens could someday run out to save John Cena if it was part of a larger plan.  He’s always got his endgame in mind.

Sami Zayn should be a lawful face. . . Unless Kevin Owens is concerned.

In many ways, Zayn is a lot like Ricky Steamboat to me.  I think he’s always going to be a babyface - he’s just too talented, too charming, too “aww-shucks ma’am” to pull off a convincing bad guy.   Zayn will also have a moral code like Cena would, but he’s probably also always going to follow the letter of the law.  If the dirty heel gets to the ropes, Zayn will break the hold.  He’ll make sure the rulebook gets adhered to.

Unless he’s facing Owens, in which case he’s more likely to beat KO to death with the rulebook than stick to it.   When it comes to the ultimate betrayal that we saw in NXT, Sami Zayn will do whatever it takes to extract his vengeance.  He’ll break rules, defy orders, face fines and suspensions, all in order to get his hands on Kevin Owens.  That’s what makes his character great.

Roman Reigns should be a “Lawful” heel.

I firmly believe that Roman Reigns won’t become a legitimate main eventer, specifically in the eyes of the fans, until he turns his back on that crowd he currently walks through.  The WWE audience (or maybe just the IWC) won’t get behind him until it’s “cool” to do so.  If they keep him as Cena 2.0, or this “Big Dog” business, it won’t work.

Roman Reigns should be the new face of The Authority.  Let life imitate art - WWE wants him to be the next “guy”, so have them act that way on television.  Reigns should do everything he can to make HHH / Stephanie happy and keep himself on the path to greatness.  He should be Rollins without the whining.  He is not a cowardly heel, but he will follow orders if they lead to future title shots and more glory.

Oh, and he should be an on-screen partner of Eva Marie.  #EmbraceTheHate.

Dean Ambrose should be a chaotic heel.

As I said in my previous column and on Twitter a million times, the PG era is what’s keeping Ambrose back.  If WWE was willing to take risks, Dean is the man to do it, both in and out of the ring.  Everyone compares him to either Roddy Piper, Brian Pillman or Steve Austin, and all three of those guys were over because at any given moment, they could do anything.  Ambrose doesn’t have that right now.  He can do anything, just as long as it is previously approved by the censors.

In a perfect world, Ambrose is the personification of crazy evil.  He’s lighting things on fire just to watch them burn.  He’s coming out, beating down a random wrestler with a chair, then just chuckling to himself and walking away.  No reasoning, no rationale, just bug-nutty crazy.

At any given point, Ambrose should be capable of saying or doing anything.  That’s a compelling character.

Plus. . .

With Ambrose as the Crazy Heel, Reigns as the Authority’s heel and Rollins as the cocky babyface, you now have the potential for a Shield Triple Threat.  Book it.

Bray Wyatt should be the ultimate neutral.

This has been a long-standing problem with the Wyatt character, in my opinion.  He’s spent the last few years trying to “save” WWE from certain talents, yet they all have been good guys.  Isn’t that a little limiting?   Wouldn’t a better idea for Bray be that he’s trying to save WWE from evil, yet evil, in his warped mind, takes many forms?

Neutral, in D&D terms, means sometimes the character does the right thing, sometimes not.  This should be Bray.  Why couldn’t he try to save us from Big Show, who is a heel (last time I checked, anyway)?  Or Miz?  Or Rusev?  Or The Authority in general?  Just imagine Bray Wyatt coming out to attack Triple H (and if they wanted to push the envelope, Stephanie) because the WWE needs to be saved from its own power structure?

Bray Wyatt could be our Katniss Everdeen!

Warning!  Warning!  Nerd Limit Reached!

Apparently talking about wrestling, Dungeons and Dragons AND The Hunger Games in a single column breaks some sort of code, and being a lawful proponent of #PromotingPositivity, that means I’ve got to stop writing.

What do YOU think?  Is this one thing WWE needs?  How would you classify your stars?  Be Heard.
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