The Getting Over series aims to detail the psychological rules that the world of pro wrestling has developed over the past 100 years to draw the biggest houses and biggest fan reactions possible.
Rule No. 1 - It's all about the money
Rule No. 2 - Fans will hate a heel more if he can make them respect him
Rule No. 3 - A baby face should be billed as a believable underdog
Rule No. 4 - Always exaggerate, even when the truth is impressive
Rule No. 5 - A heel should have no redeemable qualities
Rule No. 6 - A heel should use flawed logic to justify his actions
Stone Cold Steve Austin is considered arguably the most popular wrestler in the history of the sports entertainment business, but his career wasn't trending anywhere near this direction during his first six years in the squared circle.
Some of this inability to get over had to do with Austin, who is a great solo artist, being stuck in a tag team (The Hollywood Blonds) and factions (Paul Heyman's Dangerous Alliance and the bombastically named Stud Stable), as well as being hamstrung by his initial WWE moniker of The Ringmaster.
As much as those elements held him back, what Austin really needed to hit his elite stride was some assistance from the next rule in the Getting Over series.
Rule No. 7 - A great babyface needs a great heel to truly get over
This rule goes back to the ancient proverb of one being able to judge a man by the reputation of his enemies. An audience can see the average heel defeated on a daily basis, and can even see some main event heels vanquished on nearly every pay-per-view.
What they really want to see is the comeuppance of an unbeatable heel whose awful actions can turn an indecisive crowd into an angry mob.
Austin certainly had that type of enemy in the form of Mr. McMahon, whose overbearing, power-hungry character drove fans to the edge of their seats with rage. It's why those fans flocked in record numbers to buy Austin's gear after Stone Cold did things like pouring cement into McMahon's Corvette, giving The Corporation a beer bath and helping shave McMahon's head at WrestleMania 23. Austin finally had a heel capable of provoking his Texas Rattlesnake character into full rage mode that got that persona over to an extent that the wrestling world hadn't seen before and hasn't seen since.
The best enemies are former friends
To say the sons of Fritz Von Erich were primed for superstardom with the fans of World Class Championship Wrestling in the late 1970s and early 1980s would be an understatement. David, Kerry and Kevin Von Erich were young, energetic and athletic talents with the aesthetics to win over the ladies and the toughness to get the respect of the men.
Even with all of these factors working in their favor, though, by late 1982 the Von Erichs were languishing in matches against foes such as King Kong Bundy, The Great Kabuki and Bill Irwin. Taking nothing away from this trio, they weren't the caliber of heels capable of moving the Von Erichs up to the status of elite babyfaces.
That all changed when The Fabulous Freebirds moved to WCCW in October 1982.
The early on-screen friendship that developed between these teams was necessary for the Freebirds' eventual heel turn, but what really made this feud work was the push the Freebirds had received on Georgia Championship Wrestling just before making the move to WCCW. The GCW show was one of the first nationally televised pro wrestling programs, so when the Freebirds won that promotion's NWA National tag team titles in the summer of 1982, it proved to the viewing audience that this was a powerhouse team.
This is why when Freebirds leader Michael "P.S." Hayes was first introduced to the WCCW audience as a babyface, he got immediate cheers from the crowd. Hayes got even more positive reaction when he informed the fans that his Freebird brother Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy would soon be on his way to join him.
Since the WCCW's spectators were already familiar with the Freebirds' in-ring greatness, it took minimal effort to get them to believe the men from Badstreet USA would be a real threat to the Von Erichs' WCCW hegemony. That reputation and the infamous cage match on Christmas night in 1982, in which Hayes and Gordy turned on Kerry Von Erich by hitting him in the head with the steel cage door and costing him an NWA World title victory over Ric Flair, was all it took to spark the feud that vaulted the Von Erichs into stratospheric heights of popularity.
There can only be one at a time
In looking over the history of heels who are hated enough to push a babyface into box-office status, it quickly becomes clear that there is usually room for only one of these heels in a promotion at a time.
There are exceptions to this rule -- most notably Shawn Michaels' concurrent elite heel run next to Mr. McMahon during the Attitude Era -- but by and large the "one at a time" tenet holds true.
This could be a problem in today's WWE. Brock Lesnar's recent Survivor Series loss to Bill Goldberg shows that Lesnar still has the kind of heel credentials to move a great babyface into potential WrestleMania main event status, but as long as Lesnar fills that role, it will be next to impossible for someone else to take it over.
Since Lesnar works a part-time schedule that had him wrestle only 13 matches in 2016, he simply is not in the ring or on RAW or SmackDown enough to get the full value from the No. 1 heel spot. Unless or until that changes, it could be a major factor in preventing some of the WWE's top babyface talents from reaching their full potential.