Baron Corbin sucks. That’s what WWE wants us to think of him, and by and large, that’s exactly what fans say when they see him appear on their screens.
And that’s good, right? Corbin is a heel. We should hate him.
Crowds boo him, so there should be a ton of interest in his Universal Championship match with Seth Rollins at WWE Stomping Grounds, right?
Well, that’s where it gets complicated. Baron Corbin is a symptom of a much larger problem. WWE doesn’t know how to book its heels. At this point, it looks like WWE doesn’t know what a heel is. We’re here to help, though.
Let’s take a deep dive and find out why the Baron Corbin experiment needs to end and why WWE refuses to pull the trigger.
Heel Heat And Credibility
Before we go any further, let’s take a step back and define just what a heel is in pro wrestling terms.
A heel is, for all intents and purposes, the bad guy. He’s the antagonist to the babyface (the good guy). The heel should get the boos at the expense of the good guy. We should look at him as a threat, and we should fear for our hero when he’s in the ring with the heel.
Baron Corbin gets boos, and he’s continually at odds with the good guy. But no matter how many times WWE tries to convince us that he’s a threat, we don’t buy it.
And the reason is that it’s not just the fans who think Corbin sucks. Apparently, it’s the writers do, too.
Corbin won the men’s Money In The Bank ladder match in 2017, despite not having any real heat with anyone. He was just some dude who showed up from NXT. The audience for the main roster shows barely knew his name.
When he tried to cash in the briefcase, WWE immediately made Corbin look like an idiot. Corbin couldn’t get the job done against Jinder Mahal — another “top heel” that fans hated for the wrong reasons — and lost via a distraction roll-up.
Fast forward to this past WrestleMania. We’re supposed to hate Baron Corbin because he retired Kurt Angle. The two had a long-standing feud from when Corbin deposed Angle as the Monday Night Raw general manager.
That should be the ticket to instant credibility, right? Corbin beat Hall-of-Famer Kurt Angle. Except Angle was half a man at this point. Angle’s “farewell tour” featured three-minute matches that exposed just how many steps the Olympic Hero had lost.
How much credibility is Corbin really supposed to have after breaking an already-broken man?
So, to recap our recent Baron Corbin history. We have a guy who lost a gimmie match to a distraction, whose main beef with his opponent was the status of an “authority figure” job, and who ended the career of a walking cripple.
Let’s break Baron Corbin down a little further. Who is he?
Because there’s more than one way to characterize a heel. There are the cowardly heels who get their heat by talking a big game but always duck the big challenge. But when they step in the ring, they bring the fire, and they cheat to win. Think Hollywood Hogan in the nWo days.
Some heels are monsters — they don’t necessarily have a personal grudge with anybody. But they have a goal, and the babyface is an obstacle to that goal. That would be your Brock Lesnar-type.
And you have your base-level heels. The ones who talk smack to the crowd, insult the local sports teams and make cracks about the fans’ intelligence. And that’s all they do. They go out to the ring to rile up the crowd, usually in the opening match. Elias is a good example.
To recap, we have Hulk Hogan, one of the biggest draws in the history of professional wrestling. We have Brock Lesnar, a legitimate badass who could rip your head off. And then there’s Elias, who — um — who, when he’s in Dallas, he hates the Mavericks.
The problem with Baron Corbin is that he occupies none of these spaces. He talks trash at the crowds, but he isn’t positioned as a curtain jerker. The guy is clearly a coward, but he never ducks the fight. Corbin is hyped by the announcers and his opponents in promos as being a badass. But he doesn’t come across that way in the ring.
He’s neither fish nor fowl. Corbin talks a big game, doesn’t duck the big fight, and still comes out of it looking like a joke.
Aside from the announcers telling the audience they should, no one knows why they’re supposed to hate him. So they don’t. Baron Corbin doesn’t get boos for being a bad guy.
Corbin doesn’t get “Yeah, kill him Seth!” boos. He gets “Ugh, this again?” boos.
It’s certainly not intentional, but WWE has more or less sabotaged the career of Baron Corbin. He’s not a guy without talent. Corbin can go in the ring well enough. A lot of wrestlers have done a lot more with a lot less talent.
But is he a legitimate world title contender? No. Because he hasn’t been positioned that way. And now the poor guy’s credibility has been damaged to the point where he isn’t a real challenger to the Intercontinental or United States Championships.
And what’s worse, Corbin almost took a few guys down with him. In the lead-up to WrestleMania, he was part of an informal faction with Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre.
Lashley was fortunate enough to escape unscathed, mainly because he was the Intercontinental Champion at the time. And he had a feud with Finn Balor for a long time that had legitimate heat. McIntyre, meanwhile, drew the “Roman Reigns return match” straw, and that got him out of Opening Match Jail.
But in the weeks leading up to the show of shows, six-man tags with Corbin, Lashley, and McIntyre vs. Insert Three Random Babyfaces Here were the norm. Lashley and McIntyre had heat siphoned off just by association.
Now let’s bring this back to this coming Sunday, where Corbin will challenge Rollins for the Universal Championship. WWE has gone out of its way to continually remind me that Brock Lesnar could cash in his Money In The Bank contract at any time.
Am I really supposed to worry about Baron Corbin when the Beast Incarnate is lurking around the corner? WWE set the guy up to fail just because they need an opponent to fill the gap.
Might as well use this poor schmuck that people boo on sight for the wrong reasons.
None of this is Corbin’s fault. He was a guy who didn’t have a whole lot of heat when he was in NXT, and there was no reason to call him up to the main roster. There’s a lot of that going around, but that’s a subject for another sermon.
As I said, he has talent, but WWE is wasting it in the wrong places.
At this point, the only proper way to use Baron Corbin is for him to a foil for R-Truth, WWE’s favorite lovable but easily-confused dance-break enthusiast. Throw Corbin into the mix with Truth and Mahal for the 24/7 Championship and give the guy a chance to build himself up to the midcard level.
The main event is a pipe dream for Corbin. It’s not going to happen, and it’s folly to assume otherwise. But there’s a place for him to chase the 24/7 title or even in the tag team division if they can find a decent partner for him.
Baron Corbin sucks, but he’s really the victim in this situation. Corbin is a guy who cuts an okay promo, who can do decent work in the ring, and can get easy, cheap heat. None of that says “main event talent.”
And for them to continue to use Corbin in this capacity does a disservice to him and to the dozens of wrestlers who could credibly occupy his spot on the card.
At Stomping Grounds, Seth Rollins is going to defend the Universal Championship against Corbin. And when the match is over, no one will care. Why should they? It’ll be another outing where Corbin comes up short, and the Universal Champion will have beaten a nobody.
Also, considering Raw just did its lowest non-holiday rating ever as reported by Dave Meltzer, a guy like Corbin — who we established the crowds do not care about — shouldn’t be anywhere near the main event.
And for the love of whatever, why is he wrestling in slacks and button-downs?!
All images courtesy of WWE.