Why big heel factions are one of wrestling's greatest assets
Heel factions are the bread and butter of professional wrestling.
In the modern era of professional wrestling, we generally have a great deal to be excited about. The WWE Network is flourishing, the quality of wrestling has improved substantially and the brand split has been a pretty solid success story so far.
All in all, it's a great time to be a fan, and sports entertainment is in one of the healthiest positions it has been in, in years.
But sometimes, it's nice to take things back to the good old days. Every now and then, we see a nostalgic moment on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live, with old legends returning to put over the stars of tomorrow. Hell, sometimes we even get match stipulations that are much more suited to the Attitude Era than the New Era.
Then you have the storylines. One of the problems over the last few years in comparison to the past has been the absence of solid and well-built storylines.
That's not to say we haven't seen a few, especially on the blue brand as of late, but nothing has really grabbed the attention of the crowd and created a global buzz like they used to back in the late 90s.
It's the sad truth. There are certain aspects that you just can't manufacture in the present day, and it's a shame to see. However, what you can do is take a simple idea or two from the past and morph it into the present day with relative ease.
It sounds odd, but given the level of experience behind the scenes at WWE, it should be well within their realm of capabilities.
In terms of top ideas that seem to work no matter what generation utilises them - big heel factions stand out above the rest. We're talking the Ministry of Darkness and NWOs of the world, although we do realise that they were flawed in their own right.
Such a simple idea creates a chain reaction of good things that can spread throughout the entire company, and it can all begin with a two-minute segment that leads to the formation of a new wrestling super power.
After all, it's the kind of thing that provides relevance for everyone involved in the story. Whilst you may have been lingering in the mid card or performing on Sunday Night Heat a few weeks prior, being inserted as a cog into a grand heel stable can add to your credibility instantly.
It gives different superstars something to do, no matter how large or small they currently are, and creates alliances that would have otherwise only been possible in video games.
Then you've got the merchandise to consider. If you were a wrestling fan in the mid to late 90s, the chances are that you saw how big of a global merchandise brand the New World Order had become. Despite being the supposed "bad guys", they were entering the stratosphere of pop culture without even really trying.
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People were buying shirts, bags, jackets and all sorts of other items in order to fit in with this "renegade" group of superstars.
If you find something that's fresh and cool in wrestling, you run with it, and that's what big heel factions are great for.
You have so many different elements in play that you can churn out that money tree for as long as you need to, and people will keep coming back so long as the product they're witnessing is of an average-to-solid standard.
Plus, the storyline potential with factions is limitless. It can go on for as short or as long a period of time as you wish because it doesn't rely on one specific superstar. If the champion gets injured, it’s fine - you stick him on promos for a while whilst everyone else does the dirty work for him.
If that doesn't work, you shift the hierarchy around to the point where you can give another guy a chance to shine.
You could have four or five different feuds going on at any one time, and even if one member loses, it will be cancelled out by another being victorious. It's that sense of overwhelming odds being faced by the good guys that makes the weekly product all the more intriguing.
It's also relatable for fans who are opposed to the group, too. When the cocky heels receive their eventual comeuppance, it proves to be one of the most effective moments on the wrestling calendar, because people are invested.
If you give them simple stories to run with, like a big heel faction, then you can pull so many different people into the forcefield of greatness that you're creating. Controversy creates cash, as Eric Bischoff once said, but so does something else - logic.
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