The Art of Character Work in WWE - Triple Threat POV | Smark Out Moment

The Art of Character Work in WWE - Triple Threat POV

Posted by Dallas Allsopp Thursday, May 6, 2021

Welcome to another edition of Triple Threat from Smark Out Moment, where three of us get together to discuss three questions based on one big topic going down in the week of professional wrestling.

This week, Dallas Allsopp, Greg Coleman and Robert DeFelice discuss the art of character work in WWE.

WWE often comes in for criticism in regards to the strength of character work. In the 80's, big men were all the rage, whilst cartoony characters were in vogue in the 90's. Nowadays, character work seems to be weak point of the current WWE product, but is this criticism really justified?

Question 1: Who currently has the best character in WWE? What is it about their work that makes it so successful?

ALLSOPP: Hands down, it has to be Roman Reigns. The Tribal Chief is simply the best character in WWE, something that I never thought I would say a year ago. His heel work is so effortless yet effective, whilst the shift in his in ring work cements the transition from mega face to ultimate heel. The manner in which he controls Jey Uso is highly satisfying, whilst his insistence on being acknowledged is inspiring. I love heels over faces as a standard rule, but oh my, Reigns is just superb!

COLEMAN: Roman Reigns by far has the best character in WWE. What has made it so successful is the way that Reigns has fully embraced the role, whilst being given all the tools available to give a great heel heat. His WrestleMania performance and post WrestleMania promos should be a master class in heel work. The man created a t-shirt with the image of him pinning Edge and Daniel Bryan stacked up. Reigns talks about how dominant he is whilst completely disregarding how much Jey Uso has actually helped him win matches. Paul Heyman is the additional mouthpiece to put him over and get heat. Overall, just excellent character work.

DeFELICE: Roman Reigns is the easy answer, and I would also say Charlotte Flair for the same reasons. Right now, they have characters that are believable and play off a lot of real life criticisms that are hurled at the performers. I do believe that they run the risk of getting old quickly, especially in the case of Reigns, who really needs somebody hot to come along and dethrone him whilst he's still hot, but right now, these characters are untouchable.

Question 2: Who currently has the most disappointing character in WWE? Do they have the potential to re-vitalise their character?

COLEMAN: The Fiend!!! A character that was once the best character in all of WWE has been reduced to basically Bray Wyatt playing dress up to lose matches. WWE has completely removed every menacing, dominant, and fear evoking element from The Fiend. He’s lost more than he’s won recently, and none of those losses have meant much of anything in the grand scheme of things. If I’m Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, or any of those wrestlers that were fed to The Fiend during his early run, I would want to get my wins back.

DeFELICE: It's Bray Wyatt. It's consistently Wyatt, no matter the iteration of character. Here is a guy who should have, by this point, main evented several WrestleMania's and should be reaching early Undertaker status, as he has been with the company for eight years already. However, in reality, constant stops with his pushes and constant character changes that amount to nothing but, “here is a great idea on paper, let's botch the execution,” represent one of the most disappointing character parks in modern WWE history. There's always time, but they're quickly running out of it when it comes to Wyatt.

ALLSOPP: I’m going to say Shayna Baszler has the most disappointing character. She was the dominant Queen of Spades in NXT, but from her debut on Raw to today, she has been an unmitigated failure. I don’t care how strong her partnership with Nia Jax has been perceived at times, she is a failure. She does not carry the threat she should, and I dare say this a problem that cannot be arrested. There would need to be a long period of rehabilitation to turn her into a threat again, with a character deserving of her stature, but I have no confidence WWE has the patience to do this. The Queen of Spades is simply no more regal than a pretender to throne at the moment.

Question 3: Does WWE have an overall problem with sufficiently setting up the character work of their wrestlers in an effective manner? Does NXT help address some of WWE’s issues with character work?

DeFELICE: NXT is a different beast from the main roster. Whether or not they are supposed to be all equal to one another is irrelevant, because the fact of the matter is, it's just a different animal altogether. Unfortunately, since NXT has made the move to two hours on primetime, I have started to notice some of the flaws and creative that are ever-present on the main roster peeking their heads through on NXT.

That being said, because NXT is a completely different animal, I'm willing to see where it goes because they have built up good faith over time, and they do address some of the problems in storytelling and character work that are frequently present on the main roster. Ultimately, it starts at the top, and something needs to be done. I hope that something is done very soon.

ALLSOPP: I think character work is extremely hard to pull off successfully in WWE. Aleister Black currently has a retooled character being built up on SmackDown, for which I am cautiously optimistic. But we’ve been here before, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that WWE will piss up any potential it has against the wall. Sadly, NXT succeeds in building compelling characters, only for them to fail on the main roster as they are not afforded the same time and care. Look at Keith Lee, Andrade, Mia Yim, Shayna Baszler, Asuka, Kairi Sane, The Authors of Pain, and The Viking Raiders to name just a few casualties of WWE’s indifference to character work. NXT sets them up well, only for WWE to cripple any real potential they have.

COLEMAN: Yes, WWE has a problem with sufficiently setting up character work effectively, largely because they appear to be impatient as far as really letting characters grow and develop over time. The greatest example of this is Bray Wyatt. Wyatt was built up and presented a threat and a potential top heel. However, every high profile match he’s been in he has lost. NXT does a much better job of developing characters because they see it through. Asuka was built as a dominant character and remained as such during her entire NXT career. She was undefeated for almost three years, just to lose to Charlotte Flair and become an afterthought. If I was in NXT, I would beg to stay in NXT unless the money was needed.

Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?

Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!

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Dallas Allsopp is a writer with two main interests, Pokemon and wrestling. He has been writing for a few years for his own personal blogs and is now taking his passion for wrestling and putting it into his writing. You can follow him on Facebook.


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