Six turns to the dark side in three months. Is the WWE landscape turning darker or is there hope to be found?
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
The views and opinions herein are those solely of the author and may not necessarily reflect those if the rest of the human race.
Toward the end of his most recent independent run, Kassius Ohno (FKA Chris Hero) was a member of a rather prominent tag team. Not the lamented Kings of Wrestling, but another with Aleister Black (FKA Tommy End).
The two notable strikers had a different vibe about them when they were together. They seemed more serious and more dangerous than any other team. Their formidable nature was very much present in the name they chose as a unit: “Heroes Eventually Die.”
While the two are in a much better position to reunite than the Kings, it is not so much the reunion of that team that permeates the WWE landscape lately. More than that, it is the name. A name that has become more a declaration of the state of the company in the latter part of this year.
It’s began back in August when the plucky Becky Lynch had enough of her best friend, Charlotte, seemingly stealing her spotlight. Lynch turn on Charlotte in rather explosive fashion. But that would only be the beginning of seeing those we love turn to the dark side.
One of the biggest mysteries of the summer, as Mauro Ranallo called it, centered around who attacked the aforementioned Aleister Black in NXT. The answer to that mystery, shockingly, was Johnny Gargano. One of the most beloved personas on the yellow brand had also seemingly embraced his evil side. Acting completely out of character, he viciously assaulted a fellow performer in an act more befitting of his mortal enemy, Tommaso Ciampa.
Athletes across the pond weren’t safe, either. After the remorseless Coffey Brothers attacked Mark Andrews and then “Flash” Morgan Webster, the gruff but lovable Wolfgang seemingly came to the rescue. However, Wolfgang joined the Scottish brothers and turned his brutishness on Webster.
One of the worst betrayals in recent memory happened when absolutely no one was expecting it. The same night the Shield had to disband again after Roman Reigns had to announce he had a potentially fatal opponent in the form of Leukemia, Dean Ambrose sealed the fate of the trio. After winning the Raw Tag Team Championships, Ambrose assaulted his championship partner on live television, potentially ending one of the most dominant trios in wrestling once and for all.
The tide of evil would not be stemmed there as, in a span of 5 days, two more of our heroes would fall by their own hand.
Leading into the Survivor Series, Daniel Bryan grew weary of playing by the rules in an effort to continually garner fan support. Bryan reached out and took what he felt should have been his all along – the WWE championship. Behind the referees back, Bryan landed a low blow on AJ Styles in order to beat him for that title. And because that act of unsportsmanlike conduct was not enough, he then proceeded to stomp AJ’s head into powder after the match was over.
At the Survivor Series, it was the once betrayed Charlotte that took matters into her own hands. During a physical and evenly contested match with Ronda Rousey, Charlotte snapped and the match ended when Charlotte attacked Rousey with a kendo stick. Not satisfied with the brutality she had already handed out, Charlotte continued the vicious assault with a steel chair, including an attempt to break Rousey’s neck and put her out of the sport once and for all.
There is a stark, hopeless lesson to be learned from these for once fan favorite personalities: heroes eventually die.
Wrestlers switching sides is far from a new phenomenon in wrestling. Many central narratives in wrestling dating as far back as the fifties centers around the alignment of any given performer. Fan-favorite or rule-breaker, face or heel, good guy or bad guy. To change from one to the other is a common story trope in pro wrestling.
But lately, it feels as though more and more competitors are taking off their white hat and donning a black one instead. Maybe it’s the current social climate or a byproduct of society. Maybe it’s as simple as knee-jerk, reactionary booking. Whatever the case may be, fans are becoming more accustomed to a simple yet scary truth.
Heroes eventually die.
What will it take for hope to re-emerge? What will it take for these newfound villains – or maybe others already skulking in the shadows – to turn back toward the light? Will they see the error of their ways? Or will they convince more to join them?
Like many famous stories in popular culture, things always seem darkest before the dawn. Maybe that dark cloud will eventually burst and let the sun shine through on these for once again. Because, while heroes eventually die, they may also be reborn.
Michael Melchor is the Executive Editor of TheGorillaPosition.com. He has been a writer and editor for various publications and websites for more than 20 years including BackStage Pass magazine, 411Mania.com, PanelsOnPages.com, 1Wrestling.com and the Miami Herald covering music, comics and – of course – wrestling, all from a different perspective.