How The Elite Failed at Being Babyfaces
The Elite are responsible for a new era in Pro-Wrestling we never thought we would see again. Because of Being The Elite and All In, a new wrestling alternative rose to provide fans a way out from WWE. I was particularly tired of WWE and wanted something new. When I began to explore wrestling outside of RAW and Smackdown in 2016, my attention was captivated by New Japan Pro-Wrestling and the antics of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. I fell in love with BTE, Wrestle Kingdom, All In, and how The Elite sparked a revolution for the wrestling business. And yet, despite all their critical acclaim, they make terrible babyfaces.
The Elite was once New Japan’s de facto bad guys. Cool, calm, confident, and full of themselves. They were NJPW’s New World Order who excelled in getting the Japanese Fans to hate them. Yet, they were also the coolest wrestlers on earth to the Internet Wrestling Community. Myself included; we saw The Elite as our clique and supported them no matter what. So, when AEW started and The Elite were the protagonists it worked for a little bit. Then we found them less interesting over time and wanted to see AEW’s new faces succeed instead. The Elite were/are so good at being baddies that asking us to cheer them is jarring. It’s almost like giving John Walker a TV show despite him acting as insufferable as possible.
Let’s start with Kenny Bi-God Omega. As a babyface, everyone and their mother claimed Kenny was missing something. That spark was gone from the former “Best Bout Machine.” The thing is that Omega started AEW, not as The Cleaner, but as Seth Rollins. An extremely talented wrestler poised for the main event. Unfortunately, like Rollins, Omega had trouble coming across as endearing and compassionate. He felt entitled, smug, and jealous even before his partnership with Hangman ended. Babyfaces work when they genuinely act like real human beings without it feeling forced, which is a very hard line to walk in Professional Wrestling. Fans liked Omega more so for his amazing wrestling ability rather than his actual character, which is why he needed to turn heel to win the world title. Never forget that in 2018, while Omega was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the storyline was him manipulating Kota Ibushi for his own personal gain.
The Young Bucks were somehow even worse. The Jackson Brothers are proclaimed every week that they are ‘the best tag team in the world.” They insulted Hangman for months and influenced his insecurities, they acted/are acting like selfish brats to Brandon Cutler, they kicked Cody out of The Elite for some reason and whined whenever they didn’t get their way. Even as babyfaces, The Bucks touted their success all over AEW and it got annoying real fast. The Young Bucks have so much entitlement running through their veins that Alec Baldwin would seem humble by comparison. When they turned heel and made their entrance with the most pretentious ring gear ever made, it felt like the real Young Bucks were home. Personally, I hope they never turn babyface again. It’s no secret that when The Young Bucks wrestle heel, the matches are so much better. They get into an excellent groove and know to control a match like no one else.
Cody Rhodes is an odd case as he is no longer with The Elite. Rather, he is in his own separate universe with The Nightmare Family. I wanted to touch on Cody for a bit as he is the one remaining member of the main four of The Elite that is still ‘babyface.” Truth be told I love Cody and really enjoy his work as a storyteller. However, he is really pushing it when it comes to being a good guy. From his self-indulgent entrance, to his Roman Reigns-esque spot at AEW Revolution, to his comparisons to Caesar. Cody acts more like Ric Flair than Dusty Rhodes. He says he is not an egomaniac, yet he has to make everything about him all the time. Unlike Kenny and The Bucks, Cody still has a chance to steer the ship on the right path so long as he gets rid of his worst habits.
Only Hangman Adam Page is the one (former) member of The Elite that genuinely behaves as a babyface fans like. The beer-drinking Anxious Millennial Cowboy is AEW’s future star and, aside from Jon Moxley, the most popular wrestler on Dynamite. Hangman is extremely relatable, filled with self-doubt, on an odyssey to prove himself against everyone who doubted him. Find any AEW related Reddit thread and there will be a ton of support for Page to become world champion. Hangman resonates with fans because of his humility, his flaws, how he was treated by The Elite. The Young Bucks were bad friends to Page. Kenny used him for his ego like he did Ibushi. When Kenny and Hangman lost the tag titles, the Canadian Coward abandoned his partner immediately afterward. His current friendship with The Dark Order is a must-see weekly highlight and the best thing going on Dynamite.
Now, The Elite, sans Cody and Hangman, are heels and they are reinvigorated. Kenny Omega is AEW’s top heel and the promotion’s World Champion. The Young Bucks finally embraced Don Callis to bring back their PWG and ROH success. The Young Bucks vs Pac and Rey Fenix was absolutely a five-star match no doubt about it. Kenneth Omega is in the middle of what will be the best AEW World Title run until Hangman. The Elite are more successful, natural, and interesting than they were a year ago. As a viewer, I am now more excited for Dynamite to see if The Elite will get their asses handed to them. If Kenny or The Bucks try to turn babyface again next year, then they will need to learn from their mistakes and give the audience more to invest in them to truly be the protagonists instead of the antagonists. Otherwise, we might have to start calling this company Dark Order Wrestling.