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WWE babyfaces: what's the high water mark for crowd support?


Pinc

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Getting the whole audience to unite in support of a top babyface has always been difficult, but seems to have become perilously so in the post-smart mark age of hijacked Raws and 'dem wans'. That said, the stars do occasionally align in just the right way to unify an entire arena behind a good guy, and it's these moments in wrestling that I love the most. What would people say is the high water mark for WWE's blue eyes in terms of crowd support in the last decade or so?


 


Personally I don't think anything beats CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011. The pops for his entrance, big spots, and the finish were ear splitting and persistent, and most impressively the crowd were chanting for him throughout the show during moments that were nothing to do with him. It wasn't because the show was boring either, in fact it was one of the best in living memory. The buyrate may not have been anything special but among the people who did pay to see the show (which is more what I'm getting at anyway), whether that was on PPV or in the arena, Punk was king that night.


 


I think you have to go back to The Rock's title win at Backlash 2000 to see a WWE babyface with that level of support going into any situation, though there have been some worthy honorable mentions since then. After thinking about it for 10 minutes or so I could see arguments for Austin at Mania X7, Triple H's Raw return ahead of Royal Rumble 2002, that Eddie Guerrero hometown edition of SmackDown in 2003-ish, Batista's first Rumble win in '05, RVD at One Night Stand against Cena in '06, and the Daniel Bryan furore around Rumble 2014, although the latter case is a bit apples and oranges as the actual crowd reaction was a negative one.


 


I wouldn't include the previous Bryan shitstorm after the Sheamus match at Mania '27, since he was meant to be a heel at the time, and for the same reason I'm discounting Hogan at Mania X8 and Lesnar the night after Mania 28. I'm sure some would argue that Benoit and Guerrero's title wins deserve a mention, but I never felt that they united the fanbase in the same way as the moments mentioned above. Same with Goldberg in the Chamber at SummerSlam 2003, good effort though it was. I wasn't watching much SmackDown around the time of Jeff Hardy's big run in 2008/09 (or whenever that was), so I may be excluding something significant from there.


 


What does the forum think? Are any of the examples I've given out of place? And am I forgetting anything that deserves to be in the conversation?


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Jeff Hardy in 2008 was a special type of babyface. He used to get shockingly great reactions at the time. Smart fans, women, kids and teenages with black nail polish in rain coats united in their love for young Jeff. He dove off things, he was good looking, he had the colourful gear. Everyone got something out of him if you were a fan. There's legit credible debate that Cena was number 2 in terms of popularity across the board at the time. If there's ever been a George Best of wrestling he was it. If you want to talk about someone with the world at his feet who fucked it away he's the man. He's a guy who they just ignored his bad habits and restarted his push when he came back from suspension. Didn't even punish him most of the time. They were in love with him. He could have been the man, because it was Shawn and Triple H who felt they were the ones put him over, so he'd have been the king if he was on the ball. If the top players reckon they had a hand in making you, you'll always get special treatment.

 

Sort of proof that it takes a certain character for that spot. Hardy could have had it, but he didnt want the schedule or the legacy. He's happy in front of an empty building for TNA when he really should have still been at least the 2nd top babyface in the world.

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Batista during and after Evolution the first time around was definitely something special, and he was even a great example of how WWE can choose not to fuck up a guy's momentum the instant they turn him face - he wasn't cheesy, he was always bad-ass, low-key likeable and as Vamp says, he had people crying when he had to vacate the title. You couldn't get that with everybody, and that includes a lot of elite main eventers.

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Sort of proof that it takes a certain character for that spot. Hardy could have had it, but he didnt want the schedule or the legacy. He's happy in front of an empty building for TNA when he really should have still been at least the 2nd top babyface in the world.

 

I've always wondered by Jeff left WWE when he did and always figured he'd be back. I didn't realise it was his doing though, I just presumed that Vince wouldn't want someone on top with Hardy's vices.

 

Back on topic, suprised Austin hasn't been mentioned yet. Go back and watch the two PPV's after Mania 14. He's crazy over. Anything he does gets massive cheers.

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The first bit of wrestling I watched since the 2003 Summer Slam was the 2008 Royal Rumble, and the rise of Jeff Hardy played a big part in getting me back into the product. 2008 was different to now, you had genuine top stars knocking about - Undertaker, Triple H, Jericho, Orton, HBK, Edge, Batista, Mysterio etc - and Jeff Hardy somehow was a bigger star than all of them. 2008 was a great year, looking back.

 

We've not seen anything like Jeff Hardy since he left. Nobody in WWE has been able to draw in so many fans since he left.

 

In terms of a one night deal, I'm not sure I've ever heard anything like the reaction Punk got in Chicago. Proper felt like Punk was Steve Austin that night.

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Re: Pinc and CM Punk at Money In The Bank 2011

 

Whilst he did some great work in the lead up to the show, and the crowd was great on the night because it was the hometown boy going for the title. Had that show been in a different city, let's use last nights venue of Memphis as an example, would it have had the same effect?

Don't get me wrong, it's one of the best crowd reactions I've heard in years, you don't get pops like that much in the modern era, and I'm sure that that was exactly as they had planned it, but had it been somewhere else the reaction could have been very different.

Look at the reaction to Reigns last night in Memphis compared to a month earlier in Philadelphia

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Re: Pinc and CM Punk at Money In The Bank 2011

 

Whilst he did some great work in the lead up to the show, and the crowd was great on the night because it was the hometown boy going for the title. Had that show been in a different city, let's use last nights venue of Memphis as an example, would it have had the same effect?

Don't get me wrong, it's one of the best crowd reactions I've heard in years, you don't get pops like that much in the modern era, and I'm sure that that was exactly as they had planned it, but had it been somewhere else the reaction could have been very different.

Look at the reaction to Reigns last night in Memphis compared to a month earlier in Philadelphia

 

I don't disagree with any of that but I'm not sure what your point is. Of course Punk being in his hometown was a big part of the story, but one can always deconstruct the reasons why a particular crowd was especially passionate on a given night (that's partly the point of the thread). That doesn't detract from how special a reaction it was.

 

Also you're sailing a little close to the wind regarding Fast Lane spoilers with your last sentence. Careful now.

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I posted the other week about basically having a man crush on Jeff Hardy in that 2008 era. He was straight awesome. Too bad the singer was outed as a rapist/kiddie fiddler whatever, because that "Rooftops" promo was the best bit of babyface hype WWE have given anyone in seemingly forever.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSUnr7S78WQ

 

It's a pity they wound up chucking his big WWE title win on the December PPV, really the only misstep on WWE's end with Jeff.

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As a one-night crowd reaction thing, you'd have to give it to Punk at Money in the Bank with his hometown crowd. As well as him being a Chicago boy, and Chicago being a DW crowd, the circumstances made the outcome unpredictable. 

 

Daniel Bryan at last year's WrestleMania was a good one but had the large stadium working against it, and it not being his hometown, and everybody knowing well in advance that he was leaving with the belt.

 

The Rock at WrestleMania 28 as well, but again, the stadium thing.

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