Rescued From The Scrappy Heap: Professional Wrestling
Here's one to blow your mind, action movie fans: when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson debuted in the WWF in '96 as Rocky Maivia, his super-nice-guy persona was hated by fans despite everything the WWF did to make him a big deal, due to a combination of Hype Aversion and the fact they perceived him to be a phony (no one could be that nice). After being sidelined with an injury, he came back as member of the heel group Nation of Domination, with a new Jerk Jock attitude. He's a charismatic, funny guy with a real gift for speaking, and once he was freed from being so milquetoast he was able to use those skills to put on some of the best trash-talking in wrestling history. Fans were very entertained by this and started cheering him, which launched him into superstardom.
There's a reason that WWE's "SmackDown!" brand (even when it was just a second show for a unified WWF) has always been named after one of his catch phrases.
And the really funny part? By most accounts Dwayne Johnsonactually is as nice as the Rocky Maivia character was.
ECW's Tommy Dreamer began as a green suspenders-wearing pretty boy that the fans hated. ECW was starting to be known as the blue-collar hardcore promotion people know today and Tommy stuck out like a WCW reject. He gets put in a "Singapore Cane Match" where the loser gets caned by his opponent. He lost to the Sandman, who went to town on Tommy with his now famous cane. By the third strike Tommy's back was bleeding but he wouldn't stay down. After the tenth shot, he stumbled to the mic and defiantly cried, "Thank you, sir. May I have ANOTHER?!", which he promptly got. At the end of the caning, Tommy walked over to Sandman and told him that he took Sandman's best and was still standing. It was the first step to Tommy becoming the poster boy of ECW.
The whole concept of WWE "Divas" that emerged some time in the late '90s to early 2000s, including the "Diva Search", was reviled by many wrestling fans who, while certainly not averse to looking at beautiful women, generally preferred to see actual wrestling matches using up the shows' airtime. However, some time around 2006, these "Divas" started to become actual wrestlers instead of just eye candy, which led to a revitalization of the women's division. The most surprising example of this was Candice Michelle, who rose to fame as the model from the GoDaddy.com Superbowl commercials. Sure, they're still annoyingly called "Divas", a lot of them wrestle fairly predictable matches, the "Diva Search" still tends to be a waste of time, and there are still pointless titillation matches that only serve to insult the intelligence of the male viewers, but the situation has still improved drastically. These days, almost every "Diva" also trains to be a wrestler.
However, the NWO eventually managed to turn the entire WCW into a giant scrappy: they changed Hogan from boring Invincible Hero to boring Invincible Villain, when what they should have done was removed the boring and invincible bits.
John Cena was, for many people, way on top of the Scrappy Heap during his initial push (and subsequent first title reign), when he was booked as unstoppable. He was often booed even as a face, and the amount of heat he got on the One Night Stand PPV was brutal. Arguably it wasn't until his feud with Edge and a long series of subsequent good matches (and improved technical skills) that many Internet smarks warmed up to him. On the other hand, a lot of people took a perverse pleasure in some of the more virulent anti-Cena reactions, since the people who were booing him were also fuelling a massive rise in WWE attendance during that period.
Cena had also gone through the process once already, with his original smiling babyface character being rescued by dressing like Vanilla Ice on a Halloween show and then running with the concept. The irony is that his massive popularity in the role is largely attributable to the fickle Internet fans who booed him later on.
Cena's been doing that for years, almost to the point where it's part of his gimmick. It started during his feud with Kurt Angle during that first title run:
Cena: You get mad when these fans chant 'You suck.' Half the people out there think I suck.
As of July 23rd, 2011, he's also gotten a BIG SHIFT. He's gained more of an edge and lost most of his plain vanilla straights by showing his backbone (in the sense that he wouldn't be known for kissing Vince McMahon's ass after the end of his match with CM Punk in Money in the Bank 2011), actually calling out on Vince for all the crazy stuff that's going on, and is also more about getting a fair fight even if people try to screw things up.
Cena's year-long rivalry with The Rock also gave the WWE's flagship hero his hottest run as a character in ages. Whilst not turning outright heel, his brutal cutdowns and dislike of Dwayne Johnson lit a sizable fire under him. He even cut a few old-school raps when verbally shredding his opponent. Sadly, once the feud was over (Rock won a clean contest at Wrestlemania) Cena went back to his kiddy-pandering ways and it's led to unbearable television. Fans are hoping a renewal of his rivalry with CM Punk will salvage him again.
MVP was at first a Scrappy to many Internet fans as well, who argued that if Chris Benoit couldn't pull a good match off him, no one could. Then he got into an inferno match with Kane... and not only did quite well for himself during the match, but took the match-losing burn on his back. Suddenly many of those same people were all over him.
And then those fans who hadn't been convinced by the inferno match soon rallied to his side after his Wrestlemania XXIII match against Benoit, where MVP displayed a surprising aptitude for mat wrestling he hadn't shown before. This match was a lot better than MVP's debut outing against Marty Garner at No Mercy 2006, which sparked the "if Chris Benoit couldn't pull a good match out of him" train of thought in the first place.
When The Miz came to the WWE, he was a very annoying Diva Search host who was so bad that he was blatantly reading his lines off his arms. Most felt that he hadn't paid his dues and was only there because of his Real World "fame". When he was put in the ring, he wasn't very good at that either. He started to show mild improvement as he got drafted to ECW, but most felt that the TV time should have gone to anyone more talented. Case in point, he was voted to be CM Punk's challenger for the ECW title at Cyber Sunday because the Genre Savvy fans knew that Miz would never win the ECW title. His rescue would start when he and John Morrison were randomly thrown together and won the WWE Tag Team titles on their first night as a team. A few weeks later, WWE.com posted the first ''Dirt Sheet'' and The Miz and Morrison duo became a sensation almost overnight. The Dirt Sheet videos coupled with Miz's drastic improvement in the ring while tagging with Morrison turned Miz from a Scrappy to a possible future main-eventer, United States Champion, and Money in the Bank ladder match winner who ultimately cashed in said briefcase on November 22, 2010 to become the most must-seeWWE Championin historybecause he's the Miz and he's AWESOME!
The Miz and Morrison tag-team also helped out Morrison (although not to the extent it did The Miz). John Morrison was in limbo following losing the ECW title to CM Punk, a run that was cut short due to an ill-timed Wellness Vacation. In addition, many fans did not buy the former Johnny Nitro as an ECW champion (this was when WWE was still considering it a "World title"), and many fans were still bitter from him being a less than stellar replacement for Chris Benoit. The Miz and Morrison team allowed Morrison to gain some much needed credibility. Attempts were made to avert the Breakup Breakout syndrome that affects popular tag teams.
Vickie Guerrero was brought into World Wrestling Entertainment during a feud between Chavo Guerrero and Rey Mysterio during what was termed Eddiesploitation, eventually turning heel and siding with Chavo. Fans hated her and not in the way they were supposed to as they found her annoying. Then WWE decided to team her and Chavo up with top heel Edge in a stable known as La Familia and make her the General Manager of Smackdown. During this time, they intentionally played up her annoyingness, making her more shrill and having her loudly exclaim "Excuse me!" Because of it, she's now one of the biggest heels in the company and regularly gets what can only be described as nuclear heat. The reason for her push is due to Vince McMahon, who is said to be one of her late husband Eddie Guerrero's biggest fans.
The now-infamous "NXT Invasion" of the June 7th, 2010 WWE RAW is notable for not just rescuing one or two wrestlers from the Scrappy Heap, but the entire cast of Season One... redeeming weeks of mediocre TV and turning seemingly poor wrestlers or no-charisma spot monkeys into superstars with tremendous heat in mere minutes.
Michelle McCool was previously the Creator's Pet for most of 2008 and 2009 as your basic bland heel and it didn't help being wooden and robotic on the mic. Then they paired her with Layla and created "Team Lay Cool", and she became a parody of the Alpha Bitch and was involved in one of the more interesting women's feuds with Mickie James. She has a real gift for comedy and is now much more interesting to watch. Her Sueishness also took a hit when Beth Phoenix started beating her regularly.
His and Josh Matthew's recentcommentary on the third season has been considered the only reason to watch the show.
And again after Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack. He was praised over he handled the situation, which also turned him face again.
Trish Stratus is rightly remembered as one of the greatest female wrestlers of the last decade. But, would you believe that when she first showed up in wrestling, she was generally detested? No wrestling ability (she botched a catfight once), somehow even less charisma, and those dorky cowboy hats. And she was managing T&A - Test and Albert. Fans used to joke that her gimmick was *wears a cowboy hat*. She started breaking out of it during T&A's feud with The Dudley Boys. First, there was the table lingerie promo. Then, she earned some credibility by getting (legit) injured by a powerbomb through a table from Bubba Ray Dudley, and rehabbing it instead of just leaving the business.
Tyler Reks. When he debuted, he had a surfer gimmick and was generally disliked, despite being a good guy. He disappeared from TV after a few months. However, he returned about a year later, sporting a new look of wild hair, beard and a new intense personality. He immediately qualified for Team SmackDown at Bragging Rights and has remained fairly successful since.
It doesn't hurt that he's a damn good power wrestler, and unlike a lot of WWE's heels looks genuinely intimidating. His finisher being the BURNING FREAKIN HAMMER... sort of, might have something to do with it.
Many ECW fans had lost major respect for Mike Awesome for jumping ship to WCW while world champion, and he was greeted with massive heat at ECW One Night Stand. After an awesome match against Masato Tanaka, fans started chanting "This matches rules!" and he along with Tanaka got standing ovations. Even Joey Styles, who made some controversial remarks during the match had started to commend him.
The Bella Twins. Their gimmick had grown stale and they were going absolutely nowhere, mainly being used as arm candy for the Raw guest hosts. It started with Nikki Bella turning heel during NXT and shocked the world by revealing how good she was at it. Then she and Brie were turned fully on Raw and adopted new bitchy personalities as well as using the twin switch as a heel move. Both of them are now much more interesting because of it.
Brie had a raw deal after the heel turn as she couldn't quite cut it in the ring. She was finally rescued from the heap in 2013. Her sister was out with an injury and a surprising Heel-Face Turn allowed Brie to improve her wrestling. She was very well received during her Divas' Championship push against AJ Lee.
Similarly Melina Perez returned from her ACL injury as a loose cannon in the ring and unable to pull off the same high flying moves she did as a face. Then she was turned heel and we saw the return of the bitchy and arrogant Melina we had all loved from her MNM days. And as a heel she switched her wrestling style to more grounded submission-based moves and is much better in the ring because of it.
Titus O'Neil in WWE NXT Season 5. Known as the one in season 2 who had the worst record, tripping during the barrel challenge, and "Make it a win!", before ultimately being eliminated first; in season 5 he returned and became a dominating force who easily became the most over rookie of the season and is ahead of everyone else in the standings by a mile.
The Hart Dynasty in early 2010 were about as bland and average as it got when it comes to generic heel teams but their angle with Bret Hart and Heel-Face Turn made them go from dead crowds to standing ovations. While WWE dropped the ball by splitting them up, it did wonders for Natalya who even got her hands on the Divas' title.
R-Truth following his heel-turn. Prior to it, he was something of a Scrappy for the IWC, and only got a Cheap Pop when he did his "What's Up" Chant. After his heel turn, everyone completely 180'd on him and he now gets one of the largest responses from crowds than nearly everyone on the roster.
The WWE Creative department at times have been more ballyhooed than any of the wrestlers and have been the scapegoat for many of the controversial and maligned storylines in the WWE. While still a source of derision, former WWE creative writer and Paul Heyman understudy Dave Lagana's I Want Wrestling podcast (sadly removed after Lagana took a job with TNA) helped make past writers more sympathetic in their dealing with the micromanagement of their equally decisive boss and his "gladhanding, nonsensical, douchebag yesmen", offering in-depth interviews with wrestlers, bookers and other producers and using maximizing the use of Twitter for live commentary of shows and PPVs.
Even Sean "X Pac" Waltman can be rescued. On a few different occasions in WWF/E, he briefly overcame his heat just by finding his workrate and wrestling a good match. One was a singles match with Eddie Guerrero and one was a tag match where X-Pac teamed with Jeff Hardy against two Alliance wrestlers. Later in 2011, Waltman decided to do three shows with CHIKARA. He reverted to the 1-2-3 Kid gimmick (even going so far as to shave his beard). He worked hard on all three matches. Lost his trios match although he didn't drop the fall, won a 4 way dance with Amazing Red, Obariyon, and Frightmare with a top rope X-Factor, and in his third match put over popular indy wrestler El Generico. Afterwards he claimed he'd had more fun wrestling for Chikara than he'd had wrestling in years.
Sheamus is probably the crowning example in recent years. A passable heel whom many thought was only in the main event because Triple H liked him gradually improved in the ring over the course of the year but then he got his Heel-Face Turn. Nobody could have predicted how well he could play the face role, oozing charisma and showing how athletic he was in the ring. It's translated to the crowds as well since he's gone from nearly no reactions to standing ovations. And he managed it all without any Badass Decay.
David Otunga was long disliked for his poor in-ring ability and dull personality, but more recently has been rescued by his new gimmick that plays up his real life Harvard law background and transformed him into an entertainingly slimy toady for John Laurinaitis constantly sipping from a thermos of coffee and sporting a dorky bow tie. He has also improved enough in the ring to now be passable, so he's no longer painful to watch in a match.
Brodus Clay got his start as a dime-a-dozen monster heel on NXT and Smackdown before disappearing. Vignettes popped up around late 2011 hyping up his return, focusing on his status as a monster. Then the vignettes stopped and no sign of Brodus, eventually becoming a running gag that his debut on Raw was being held off. Fans, meanwhile, could not care less, not wanting to see Clay on television. When he did return, he was given a new gimmick as the Funkasaurus, with a new hometown of Planet Funk. He immediately became over with the crowd as happy-go-lucky disco dancer (with two sexy female backup dancers) doing his same routine, but with added jiggling and gyrating.
TNA Knockout Velvet Sky was a huge scrappy when she was in the Beautiful People, hated for her patchy ring skills and the fact that she was Ms. Fanservice and nothing else. Then after a Heel-Face Turn she improved in the ring and it's safe to say she's one of the biggest stars they have today. She was even cheered going against miss popularity herself Mickie James.
WWE NXT itself. It started as a competition with somewhat iffy matches and annoying, overly long challenges and was generally regarded as a poor replacement for ECW (a show/brand that was itself eventually rescued after being widely panned when it first started). Eventually most people lost interest and after Smackdown was moved to SyFy NXT lost its slot in the middle of its third season and made Internet only. It got even worse during the fifth season that brought back previous contestants with the pointless stated goal of the winner getting on season 6 and seemingly having no ending; about the only bright spot was William Regal on commentary. Eventually, however, any pretense of it being competition was dropped, Regal was made the matchmaker, everyone involved in the show went all-out on cheesy soap opera stuff and previously personalityless bores managed to find new life (Johnny Curtis as a meatheaded creep who asks girls if they wanna get weird, Maxine as the scheming femme fatale and straight (wo)man to Curtis' bizarreness, Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks as a pair of brutish oafs, etc.). It's since started garnering a bit of a cult following.
Even more so in season 6 after it moved to the intimate Full Sail University and essentially became FCW's replacement. Nowadays it has been called the best show WWE is currently making, thanks to a combination of multiple factors such as a more streamlined and less bloated format, the lack of invincible supermen and flat-out jobbers, an unbelievably talented and hungry group of Superstars (including indy darlings such as El Generico/Sami Zayn and Pac/Adrian Neville), a much more developed and respected Divas division (talented wrestlers such as Emma and Paige are only the beginning, with this comic highlighting how much better NXT treats its Divas, their matches and their championship, and how the change between NXT and the mains shows is mind-boggling), more interesting and various characters (Emma as a dancing goof, Tyler Breeze as a vain model, The Ascension as dark cult members, Bo Dallas as a fake nice guy, Enzo Amore as a Jersey boy, Sylvester Lefort as French Jerk incarnate, Adam Rose as an Aldous Snow expy) even things such as the entrance music is seen as better than what the main shows are doing.
Maria Kanellis did this to herself after she was released from WWE. Many Diva fans had assumed she was using WWE as a stepping stone and considered her a Diva-Search bimbo. However after watching shoot interviews and getting to know the 'real' Maria, she gained a lot more fans. And it translated to the ring when she returned to wrestling with FWE.
Crimson in TNA. The plans to turn him into the next Goldberg did not go down well with the fans, leading to X-Pac Heat and the abortion of the arc at Slammiversary 2012. But a year later, after his debut in OVW and his work as part of the Coalition, people are calling for his return.