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EFEDDING AS A BABYFACE

brusch

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Hello! Hi. Cheers! My name is Ben, also known as Brusch on the fwrestling forums. You may know me as the handler of Leyenda de Ocho, NFW’s Triple Crown Champion and otherwise “Broken Spanish Nerdy WTF Luchador”; or, as Malcolm Joseph-Jones, former EPW Television Champion, a heel-turned-babyface because it turns out people cheer badasses (more on that later); or even perhaps as the handler of Henry Keyes, of a short-lived Defiance run, yet another babyface. It turns out I write a lot of babyfaces when it comes down to it – and one thing that I’ve always found interesting in the hobby (whether reading the boards or listening to the famed efedguerillas podcast) is that SO MANY handlers prefer to write heels. It makes sense! Heels aren’t limited by rules, heels can exhibit every broken “jesus fuckwit what the hell is that” fantasy a writer may have – but does that mean it sucks ass to write a face? HELL NO!

I’ve gotten a request or two to write on my perspective on how to effectively write a babyface as an efedder. Take this column as you wish – I’m a fella with only 2+ years of efedding experience, but folks seems to like what I write (and if you don’t, that’s probably fair, because if everyone did that means someone’s blowing smoke up my ass). I do not mean for this article to be an end-all-be-all, because how COULD it be; it is merely my perspective on how to write a compelling babyface efed character that your friends don’t fucking hate because they’re a piece of shit.

1) BE HUMAN
What I really mean by this, is have flaws – RELATABLE flaws, that your rabid fanbase can attach themselves to. It’s not just a matter of “I’m a small guy and that means I’m an underdog” – it’s psychological. Maybe you have an inflated definition of what “success” means – maybe you have this one thing that’s always going to be a trigger for you to lose your shit even if it works against you – maybe you’re a diehard romantic and can’t let something go even if you should. Babyfaces get emotional. Babyfaces have genuine motivation based on the imperfect and wildly erratic human qualities they posses – even if it results in egg on their face. Why isn’t John Cena universally cheered? Because he’s Superman. Don’t be a Superman babyface. We cheer because we hope, not because we expect. And even if you’re right – even if you’re 10000% correct in your assessment of a situation…EVERYONE hates a smug, correct, motherfucker.

2) THE CHASE IS BETTER THAN THE PRIZE.
Heel champions with face contenders are always going to be more compelling than face champions with heel contenders. It’s a gut thing that’s hard to articulate; but we root for babyfaces as they climb the ladder, as they go from scrub to title contender; it’s the story we’ve been told all our lives in TV and film. The problem is, the movie ends when the hero wins; we don’t get two hours of film after the good guy saves the day. Why?

We want to see the hero win. We don’t want to watch the hero REIGN, because it’s boring.

THE HERO BEAT THE BAD GUY, where’s the next bad guy because I want the next hero to beat that guy…THERE HE IS, COME ON NEW GOOD GUY. It’s the reason that, even if a face wins a major title, he or she so often turns heel in the middle – fans want to see a new hero climb that ladder.

If I’m going to go with the Leyenda de Ocho video game gimmick, it’s perfectly clear – video games end when the villain dies. No genuine epilogue. No true, honest-to-goodness reason to believe Mario can run the kingdom. We engage the babyface for the chase – and, we engage the babyface in the climax. WE DON’T ENGAGE THE BABYFACE AFTERWARDS. Because we’re ready for the next one.

3) ACTUALLY BE A GOOD DUDE
How many times have you seen a babyface shit in a heel’s car, or kick someone in the balls, or exude a smug sense of superiority in their writing? ALL THE GODDAMN TIME, AMIRITE?

The biggest issue I see that keeps faces from getting over in their fed – people want to be Stone Cold. People want to be The Rock. “The badass” babyface is an incredibly compelling gimmick, when pulled off correctly. The critique I’ve found is that it’s usually a problem of motivation; what are you rebelling against? What great injustice exists where you must throw down your human form and emerge as a patriarch of boots-up-asses?

Stone Cold didn’t emerge out of thin air. Neither did The Rock. They saw a massive, game-changing evil and rallied against it, and that’s how they got their badass babyface fire. Going into a match and saying “I kick every ass in the world” means you’re a braggart – it doesn’t mean you’re a good guy. You need to give a reason why people should be on your side – even with your flaws, even with your shortcomings. People will follow a strong flawed man long before they’ll follow a perfect man.


So, there you have it – my opinions on the rules an efedding babyface must follow. But the point of this article is simple; it’s not as restricting as you might think! I genuinely believe that if the majority of us writers sat down and wrote “us” as an efed character, we could come up with faces. The allure of heeling out is real and badass – but you can create amazing, unique stories as a face too.

Do you have additional thoughts on writing babyfaces? Reply below! As I said, I’m not the end-all-be-all.

Thanks for reading.

- Brusch
 

Deacon

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I won't wax long on this reply, but the one idea I wanted to toss into this particular ring is how heroes, whether they be movies, TV, books, wrestling, whatever... are a result of our values at the time. They reflect what we believe we want.

If you read any of the Greek classics, you see heroes that are not only flawed, but RIDICULOUS by modern standards. Achilles, anyone? Yet, the Greeks valued a concept of perfection, not morally but in deeds (fighting, romancing, etc.). If you achieved this perfection, you were to be admired.

Take Austin, as well as most of his ECW precursors had done in their respective pond. He was anti-establishment, but mostly, he was a reaction to people irritated w/ their boss. I can remember Austin starting his rise and I HATED him. Yep, he got huge cheers, but I was still firmly in Hart's camp. To me, the biggest mistake WWE made w/ that whole storyline was making Hart act the heel instead of just being a guy w/ a separate agenda/view, and allowing the two types of wrestling fans be represented. Of course, w/ the amount of money Steve and WWE collectively made from that decision, I would understand if I'm wrong. But from a pure storyline view, I loved Hart until it became Canada vs. USA (ridiculous move).

I doubt Austin would work in the current state, at least not w/o some definite tweaking. He hit on a pulse of the public consciousness and they exploited it. At some point, another character will do this, and again, we'll clamor to that side if it fits our own views.
 

LQJT86C

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Right on, Brusch. It's amazing that a guy like you who's been in the hobby for 5 minutes gets it, but people who have been doing this forever and a day are still trotting out the same old garbage.

A lack of good babyfaces has been a problem in this hobby since Chad rolled his first pair of dice, and it's for all the reasons you mentioned above. But I want to take it one further and delve into why people can't seem to keep their faces FACE.

I really believe that 90% of handlers just RP their idealized selves. They get on here, fill out a bio for STEVE FRENCH, BABYFACE FOR HIRE, cut a few good-guy promos that seem alright, then they go back to their real lives. Their boss talks down to them, doesn't aptly reward them for shuffling papers correctly, and instead of telling off the boss they say, "Steve French would have quit and found something higher paying!" When the doctor tells them they are going to fall into a diabetic coma and die by age 35 if they don't cut the calories, they say "Steve French would never fall into a diabetic coma so young!" They get cut off on the highway, "Steve French wouldn't stand for this!"

So after an entire week of such treatment, babyface handler X gets back on here all juiced up, and when I pitch an angle for my heel to make their babyface look stupid in the interest of the ultimate payoff down the road, the handler goes, "STEVE FRENCH DOES NOT LOOK FOOLISH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!" Well, fuck you and fuck Steve French, we're just trying to tell a decent story. What, my heel is supposed to get one-upped by the face for three months worth of cards AND lose the payoff match? This is probably why so many faces get booked to lose. Bonus points for picking up the Trailer Park Boys reference.

You know who the best face of all time is? Shane Southern. The handler wasn't afraid to have Shane look like a dopey fucking bastard at all times, which made it fun for all the heels in CSWA and NFW to fuck with him. And that's probably why he was booked to win 90% of the time.

I'm not saying a face needs to be Opie, but the whole good person/bad person dynamic is that good people follow the rules even if it doesn't work out for them all time because they believe in living honorably. Bad people are bad because they have no honor. I realize there are massive gray areas here, but to your point, wayyyy too many characters live in those gray areas. Criminals should always be one-step ahead of the police, because there is no limitation to how they operate. Police have rules to follow, and generally speaking, society does not like police who break the rules (we think we do, but practically speaking nobody wants to deal with an asshole rogue cop because more often than not, they are shoving plungers up minorities' asses rather than breaking the law to reign in kingpins).

What is my point? I don't know. Just...you can't all RP babyface CM Punk. The face who never gets outsmarted works best when paired with a chickenshit heel, but if you're chasing a monster or devious mastermind heel, you need to seriously stumble at times, and get your ass kicked a few more before the ultimate payoff. I cringe when I see booking like "Heel attacks face one week, but face gets his revenge next week! And they keep doing this until the payoff match." What's the payoff if I get to see the face clock the heel over the head before the match? I personally don't think the face should so much as touch the heel until the match, but that's me.

The question of face chasing heel champion or vice versa is an interesting one. I think they both work. Look at 80s/90s WWF and WCW for a stark contrast to compare. WWF always had the heels chase the face champion (Hogan/Savage/Warrior/Hart/HBK/Austin vs. Monster Heels), whereas WCW was the ultimate "faces chase the heel and never quite beat them" fed (Heel Hogan, Flair, Nash etc. vs. Luger, Sting, Goldberg). WCW never stuck with face champions for too long.

Anyway, great post Brusch!
 

SenorJames

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I pretty much only play babyfaces at this point, mostly because I'm not good at the talky talk stuff, though I think you're wrong about a strong babyface champion. Sometimes you want the conquering hero to have a good run before dropping it. That's not to say you're point is entirely wrong, it's clearly subjective and dependent on the character/writer and their ability to play it.
 

brusch

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I pretty much only play babyfaces at this point, mostly because I'm not good at the talky talk stuff, though I think you're wrong about a strong babyface champion. Sometimes you want the conquering hero to have a good run before dropping it. That's not to say you're point is entirely wrong, it's clearly subjective and dependent on the character/writer and their ability to play it.

You may be correct on this! I think it does require a compelling heel that poses a legitimate threat not only to the championship, but some specific weakness the face champion possesses. It's a 180 dynamic in storytelling, and it's a major challenge for a face handler.
 

User Poets

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I think the issue is that too many people have two-dimensional thinking when it comes to babyfaces; they either need to be god and apple pie hero types, or they need to be anti-authority badasses. A good babyface needs to have an unselfish world view and the strength of character to fight for it against all odds.

Of course, a good hero needs a good villain for balance, and that's where too many people think the villain needs to be chickenshit comedy, one dimensional "kill everything" monster, or "too cool for school" heel whom the handler thinks everyone should love to hate.

I typically ran Eli Flair as someone who mainly got over for his workrate: he was the upper midcard guy who worked his ass off and got a run in the main event. But other than his CSWA World Title run, all of his World Titles were necessarily short: like Foley's second book, the World Title went to him as a "lifetime achievement award" type thing that was for storyline purposes. I turned him a few times here and there and it was typically running the same type of character, with two exceptions. When he was a heel, Eli would 1: shit on the fans instead of show them respect, and 2: try to cripple his opponents instead of just beating on them enough to win.

Impulse was a little trickier, I was figuring out how to run him while I was running him. Katz really focused things when he had him refuse to take a victory due to interference, but that ended up being a base-level focal point for far too many of his opponents: "I'm going to make you break the rules!" His journey was a little more organic, he went from wide - eyed, optimistic babyface to a cynical Ronin type because of the way he was constantly disappointed by the wrestling business - but he was able to keep his integrity intact all the way through to the end.

Great post, Brusch.
 

fugginVOSS

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I think you're definitely on point, Ben. Hollywood and traditional storytelling really leads us to believe that the only story to be told IS the hero overcoming the obstacles. There's no establishment of what happens once they succeed. I don't recall any story where it goes on about life after the conquest. I think the closest we've come in recent times was Daniel Bryan (but that got cut short).

But that's cool thing about literature and this game, right? You can challenge story telling and do it the way you want to do it. I definitely see where you're coming from with the Ocho stuff at the moment. And that is interesting given the last promo (and the trigger for this, too, I dare say).

Maybe you're just looking at it the wrong way?

Once the babyface is on top of the world, the protagonist is themselves right? Maintaining being a good dude in spite of everything which comes at them. Maintaining their ability to be likeable and all the things they were as the fought their way to the top. They're not so much just battling that other guy trying to take what's theirs but their challenging their own psyche to not change. Maintain their humility. Or whatever it is that makes them them.

For me, I've always struggled to write as a babyface because I genuinely do not connect with other people's feelings. I connect with heels easier especially because of this. I find it easier to write them because I really am not interested in how other people feel about stuff. I think that's part of the connection to be able to WRITE as a babyface. You need to understand how the things you do impact the feelings of other people. Once you can do that, you can connect on a deeper level and make a meaningful babyface work as opposed to writing in crowd pops because they're face. Heels don't need to connect on an emotional level to be successful. The great ones do, but it's not mandatory.

Good topic, Ben.
 

User Poets

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An addendum (again)...

I think it's a great story when the babyface takes shit and takes shit and takes shit, then overcomes the heel in the blowoff match, but if the heel gets too much on the babyface without any sort of payback/retaliation - even non physical payback - then the babyface risks being turned into a joke that nobody can take seriously.

Although this is mainly the domain of writers who try too hard to write "the cool heel" who is somehow always a dozen steps ahead.

Newsflash: a character who always "knows the answers" is always poorly written. No exceptions.
 

Ford

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They key difference I see between a baby face and a heel is this:

Win lose or draw, the baby face enjoys his time in the ring w/ the fans.

A heel is only happy when he wins, whether it's a pinfall, a beat down, or generally "pulling one over" on a face.

The key point of seeing a babyfaces enthusiasm in the ring vs not having it is why a guy like Daniel Bryan gets over, while say, Kofi Kingston did not.
 

brusch

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They key difference I see between a baby face and a heel is this:

Win lose or draw, the baby face enjoys his time in the ring w/ the fans.

A heel is only happy when he wins, whether it's a pinfall, a beat down, or generally "pulling one over" on a face.

The key point of seeing a babyfaces enthusiasm in the ring vs not having it is why a guy like Daniel Bryan gets over, while say, Kofi Kingston did not.

The best babyface reaction Kofi ever got was when he was in that short feud with megaheel Randy Orton a few years ago (I want to say 2011?), and when Kofi went crazy and boom dropped him through a table in Madison Square Garden. A wrestler's emotional investment is a powerful tool!
 

Ford

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Kofi may have been a bad example as I remember hearing about his run against Orton being good. But go back further and look at Bret Hart vs Lex Lugar. One guy loved wrestling, the other didn't. It was plain as day and the fans can feel that energy, even if you don't mean to radiate it.
 

JarrodR

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An addendum (again)...

I think it's a great story when the babyface takes shit and takes shit and takes shit, then overcomes the heel in the blowoff match, but if the heel gets too much on the babyface without any sort of payback/retaliation - even non physical payback - then the babyface risks being turned into a joke that nobody can take seriously.

Although this is mainly the domain of writers who try too hard to write "the cool heel" who is somehow always a dozen steps ahead.

Newsflash: a character who always "knows the answers" is always poorly written. No exceptions.

Hence the reason the booking of the nWo could never last long term without imploding the way it did. Or any batch of "cool heels" really. There's always a point of diminishing returns if you let them run rampant for too long without a true babyface coming along and putting them in their place.

Look at the nWo again. People were ready for Sting to swoop in and take down Hogan and put a big hole in the nWo but WCW kept putting it off....and putting it off....and putting it off until it didn't mean nearly as much as it could have. Plus, it had the added benefit of crushing the heat of every other babyface on the roster.

Now look at the HHH/HBK era DX. They didn't draw a ton either at first....until they had Austin to come in and put an end to their bullshit and finally overcome their odds. That's when DX's heat and meaning was at its highest.
 

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