Nothing But Garbage: Part 3 – Say Hello To The Bad Guy

It’s October 1987 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Mecca Arena holds around 11,000 and people have bought tickets tonight to see a taping of the pro-wrestling show WWF Superstars. The weekly program had been created the year before to showcase the World Wrestling Federation’s hottest stars and tour the country for fans everywhere. The hour-long show itself typically consisted of some feature matches and wrestlers in-character talking to cameras or crowd to sell the audience on an upcoming pay-per-view event (a format which still holds today with RAW and Smackdown Live).

On this night, the fans had no idea what kind of incredible ‘sports entertainment’ groundwork was about to be laid.

One of the most high-profile wrestlers at the time was a sandy-bearded self-obsessed asshole named Ted Dibiase. He was better known as The Million Dollar Man and his ‘gimmick’ was that he was stinking rich and laughed in the face of anyone who wasn’t. He bought his way out of problems and as such, angered most of the stone broke wrestling fans in rural America who knew in their trailer-park-living hearts that they would never even approach that level of luxury at any point in their lives. Tonight however, Dibiase would go from a love-to-hate villain to legitimate monster.

During the taping, Dibiase stood up on stage in front of the crowd and started talking into a microphone. Immediately he is boasting about his wealth. His bodyguard Virgil (that’s a whole other story) is holding cold hard cash for the people in the audience to gawk at while Dibiase yells out amazingly insensitive lines like “Look at the poverty!” and “You people couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time”. The crowd boos like they’re supposed to and everyone is having a good old time.

Dibiase then makes a bet with the crowd. He offers someone to come forward to bounce a basketball for five hundred dollars. Gloating about his endless money to the filthy, disgusting masses and laughing like king of the shitpigs. Hundreds of hands go up in the air and he’s elated that he has exposed the crowd’s hypocrisy when they are faced with a bundle of cash. The Million Dollar Man has command of everyone.

A small boy is finally selected from the crowd and adorably, he says into the microphone that his name is Sean. Dibiase tells him that if he can bounce the basketball fifteen times, then he will hand over the $500. After a further insult from Dibiase (“I can tell by looking at you that you could use a lot more than five hundred bucks!”), Sean starts bouncing.

As he keeps control of the ball, the crowd starts to get behind him. Despite his very young age, Sean is doing it with relative ease. The general vibe of the segment starts to turn and a belief quickly emerges that hey, maybe the Million Dollar Man isn’t all that bad. He’s just showing off his money and giving this kid some of it. And Sean is getting there! That kid is better at bouncing a basketball than I am! You know what? I think everything will be okay!

On the fourteenth bounce, Dibiase kicks the ball away.

The crowd falls silent for a moment. Sean is stunned. The only sound is the voice of the Million Dollar Man. “Oooh, you didn’t get to fifteen Sean! And what that means is you got to learn a hard cruel fact of life. When you don’t do the job right, you don’t get paid.” Dibiase walks away throwing his head back with laughter. By this time, the crowd is basically calling for his head. He has suddenly become a legitimate real-world scumbag hated by thousands. And Sean just stands there. Eight years old, utterly confused and all alone.

From a character and story standpoint, Ted Dibiase betraying the innocence of small child is one of the pinnacle moments of being a ‘heel’. Heels, which basically means ‘evil wrestler’, are a crucial part of this business. It takes an element of the classic good versus evil framework and uses it to sell a wrestling match. After Dibiase screwed Sean out of $500, everybody wanted to him get his comeuppance. What’s his next match? I want to know about it right now because I will pay any amount of money to see this man get some payback. Sign me up.

In an instant, you’re completely invested in seeing Ted Dibiase pay for his cruelty. Not only is humiliating a child a low act, there’s no acting involved. The child feels the real inner pain while, unbeknownst to him, he is used as a tool for marketing. On several different levels, you’re angry and the only way to release your rage is to pay money to see the upcoming match in the hopes of seeing this monster of a man beaten senseless. It is a basic, lowest-common-denominator concept with several sleazy but self-aware tendrils creeping into your wallet. It is bewildering and more importantly, it works.

Thirty years later, tons of wrestlers who have played heels still say it’s some of the most fun they ever had in their career. They have said it gives them more freedom to experiment. If you’re a ‘good’ wrestler (or ‘babyface’, yes that’s the correct term), you can’t really make any mistakes. If you fall on your face or accidentally hit somebody too hard, that’s not really the most wholesome and hero-like thing you can do. But if you’re a heel, especially a chicken shit coward, you’ve got space to play it loose, try new things or sometimes, innovate on old classics.

That’s exactly what happened in October 2015. In the NXT development division of WWE, world-class wrestlers Sasha Banks and Bayley were deep in their months-long feud in Orlando, Florida. At the marquee event NXT Takeover: Respect, Banks (heel) and Bayley (babyface) were yet again in the middle of an incredibly exciting match (their second of the year) and were well on the way to yet again making women’s wrestling in the modern era rise heads and shoulders above most offerings in sports entertainment. Compelling action, fresh moves and exciting in-ring storytelling – easily proving they were two of the best in the business.

So a little background here: while Banks was all about strutting around and calling herself ‘The Boss’ because she’s so damn good, Bayley’s whole vibe was a fun-loving family-friendly facade wrapped around a highly-skilled and very respected wrestler who worked herself to the bone to achieve her childhood dream. And within her bright colours and big smiles, Bayley had an ace up her sleeve: a young girl named Izzy who was Bayley’s real-life biggest fan. Every week, Izzy’s parents would attend the NXT taping so their daughter could wear Bayley merchandise and cheer for her favourite wrestler in a way that made everybody’s heart melt. This was a slice of real-life innocence that all wrestling fans could get behind and enjoy. To some people, Izzy’s legitimate fandom outshined any cynical corporate greed that flowed like a river through WWE. She was the small but limitless soul of NXT.

Now back to the match. Due to Bayley’s family-friendly but also a highly-talented wrestler persona, fans of all ages and backgrounds liked her. But none more than superfan Izzy. So when Banks sets out to punish Bayley by throwing her against steel stairs and the huge video screen, everybody is on the side of the babyface. It’s around here that Banks becomes truly horrific. Izzy is already distraught by seeing her hero being thrown around and screaming in pain. And then Banks does this:

Let me explain. In her most terrible moment, with Bayley unconscious on the floor outside the ring, Sasha Banks snatches the hairband off the head of the small girl, mocks her emotional distress and then throws it back in her face while she’s bawling in the arms of her father. I mean, just look at this:

People across the wrestling world were stunned. Both from a legitimate concern for Izzy’s emotional wellbeing and also staggered in awe at a new untold depth that a wrestling heel had suddenly explored within the storyline of a match. Dibiase humiliating a child who didn’t know what was happening was one thing, but this was different. There was no indifference or acting here: Izzy was really upset.

Nobody expected it. It was incredible and Banks pulled it off in the most despicable way possible. When the camera captured Izzy’s real tears, WWE producers must have been running for the champagne. And with this newfound Evil Sasha on display, it was all the more rewarding when Bayley won the match through grit and determination. Fans were satisfied, Bayley was champ and this match was burned into the brains of fans everywhere. Because that is what a heel is for. To make you hate them. To get you to question the scripted nature of wrestling just enough so you will hand over your money to see someone get what’s coming to them.

Obviously, these are just a couple of exceptional examples. Most heel work is more predictable. It could be anything from ‘the evil foreigner’ attacking the American flag or a corporate shitheel who cheats his way to the top with backing from company executives. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But when it does, WWE make history.

Because it’s all for the cameras. Sean’s family received $500 before their son ever set foot on a stage and Sasha personally apologised to Izzy and her family after the match. But we’re still talking about manipulating the emotions of children and using them as a marketing tool.  You start to question everything and everyone. Are the parents complicit in some way? Am I a scumbag for enjoying it? Am I also being used and don’t know it? 

When a heel wrestler does their job in this way, it’s both despicable and amazing. Two terms that fit WWE perfectly.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Omoni Eboli says:

    Let me start by commending Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation for organising a programme that allowed people especially from the North to chat a
    new course for development.
    I also want to commend the organisers of the programme for
    a well done job in an effort to find a lasting solution to the security problems in the
    country most especially in the Northern states where many places were ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram.

    From a disheartening heart I can’t stand to admit what the former Governor of Adamawa State, MurtalaHammanyeroNyako said during the 2-Day Summit on, “Rethinking the Security and Development Agenda for Northern Nigeria,” organized by the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation in Kaduna.

    The former governor, who was the chairman of
    the occassion said he received only N45billion when he served as the governor of Adamawa state.

    His unchecked fallible utterances needs to be cautioned and his gullible lies against Adamawa state
    people is unpardonable.
    As one of the respected elders in the state, I am concerned to remind the good people of Nigeria that the former Governor was outrageous in squandering the coffers of Adamawa
    State with unnecessary bills without following due process is even a enough reason to
    charge him of financial mismanagement of public funds.

    The draft of white paper on the report of
    Justice Bobbo Umar Judicial commission of inquiry into the finances and human resources management of Adamawa State Government from June 2007 to June,
    2014 where the erstwhile Governor (Nyako) was the seating chief accounting officer showed that the accrued revenue of
    N461,978,392,597.35 whereas the accountant general gave the figure of N543,828,870,129.56 for the period of June,
    2007 to June, 2014.
    The two figures has shown that a difference of N81,850,477,532.21 is suspected to have been siphoned during the regime of the said governor.

    It’s radically disgusting for the noble man of Nyako’s worth to inform hundreds of people gathered for what they thought to
    be dignifying but end up given an unpardonable lie that he collected only ‘N45 Billion Naira’ as against N543,828,870,129.56 Billion Naira realised during his tenure as
    a governor.
    His life style as governor turned the state
    to a state of financial despair if 45 billion Naira was what he got as against N543,828,
    Based on Justice Bobbo Umar’s report, many people will be inquisitive to ask this question:
    Where is the balance of over 750 Billion Naira? It’s indeed conspicuous to
    say that Nyako has played Nigerians and as a matter of fact, his statement at that programme
    portrays a failing glory of Nigerian retired Military officers, serving and
    former Governors and to every well meaning and respected people of not only Adamawa
    State but Nigeria as a country.
    To further expantiate to the world that
    the former governor played with the truth, is the
    juxtaposes of his administration and that of Mr BoniHaruna,
    his predecessor and his successor, Hon. UmaruFintiri who took over from Nyako as
    Acting Governor after he was impeached, received
    about N30billion including special funds in 3 months that he acted.

    From 2008-2014 when Nyako’s purported impeachment took place, the state received an average
    of N3billion monthly from the federation account.

    The increase in receipts by the state under Nyako from the previous ones was because of the
    high price of crude oil which was over 114 USD per barrel.
    The estimated funds received by Governor Nyako’s government was
    N450b from the federation account. Nyako’s government also
    collected Adamawa’s share of Paris club refunds which was successfully fought for and established
    by the preceding.
    When still comparing BoniHaruna administration, which was
    then estimated at N258/USD, calculate this at today’s exchange rate of N350/USD.

    It is not on record that the receipt of this particular refund which was paid in instalments was reported to the people of Adamawa
    and appropriated by the State House of Assembly. Governor Boni received N114.8b in 8 years out of which about N32b was in his first 4 years
    (1999-2003). Out of this amount, salaries and leave grants
    alone took about N39b. The remaining amount of over N70b
    was for other recurrent and capital expenditures for 8 years.

    Yet Nyako accused governor Boni of diverting N50b out of state’s statutory allocation while in office then. What
    an irony! If Nyako got only N45b in 7 years, it means that he got
    about N600m monthly while the state’s salary bill for workers during his time in addition to his then ridiculous number of
    SAs was more than N1.5b.
    At this point one will be allow to say that Nyako was inconsistent with the truth.
    His administration was full of financial irregularities which need
    to be investigated by EFCC and other anti-graft agencies
    to ascertain the true status of his administration and the money he claimed
    he received, which contradicted the draft white paper
    on the report of Justice Bobbo Umar judicial commission of inquiry into
    the finances and human resources management of Adamawa State Government.

    It is also instructive to say that the glory
    of some of our leaders is on erosion. Our Leaders, elder statesmen and elders in the Land cannot say the truth even if it means saying it to fall
    into trouble. I see a serious decay, a fallen glory of some of our Northern senior citizens, I noticed a can of worms conceal in a glass
    cup of shame in their cupboards breaking it is a total disgrace to some of our so called leaders.

    Nyako is one among many of the senior men we have in this
    country that enjoy the good leadership of the late Northern Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, TheSardauna of Sokoto.

    Sardauna act of good leadership is what most people
    like Nyako enjoyed to be what they are. Throughout
    Sardauna’s life, record did not tell us he has ever lied or involved in any form of
    corruption. I consider the name “Sir Ahmadu Bello” with much reverence because of the
    magnitude of selfless service he rendered to humanity, seeing
    it as a diadem of his glory and is signifying the sovereignty of the many sacrifices he made
    to sustained a good name in the whole of Africa.
    The late Sardauna will never forgive the likes of Nyako in this country,
    because he thought them honesty but they turned
    the other way, he thought them sacrifice but they are
    not, he asked them not to steal but we keep hearing inconsistent figure.

    Sardaauna was a servant leader but some of our leaders today are our task masters, exploiting the wealth of the nation to empower
    only their families and friends.
    Rtd General Galadanci is a replicate of Sir Ahmadu.

    His fearless attitude, bold mindset made him to be right on time
    to declared that the gathering under Nyako as a guest
    speaker is a deceit considering his administration pitfalls while he
    was a Governor of Adamawa State and for him
    to lied that he only collected 45billion Naira.
    Galadanci said: “We are here deceiving ourselves. We Northerners like to lie to ourselves. All the beautiful papers presented and applauded woefully failed to address the real issues. Yet we all clapped for them. Let me ask; where is the the Chairman of BoT of this Foundation? Don’t tell me, he is in jail for stealing money of his people while he reigned as their governor. Even on this high table (points at the high table), there are people who have stolen the futures of their people yet, we are all here lying to ourselves! Our leaders in Northern Nigeria are thieves! They compete in stealing at any given chance. We must not continue to hide them.”
    I specially want to commend Rtd Brig. General Galadanci for being courageous enough to tell Nyako and
    other Northern leaders that they are worthless liars whose glory is suffocating in total shame with shading away their names on the good books written in goals and in pearls.

    – Baraka, a public commentator wrote in from Abuja

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