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Rescued From The Scrappy Heap / Professional Wrestling

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  • 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 The 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 Johnson actually 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 Superbowl commercials. Sure, they were still annoyingly called "Divas", a lot of them wrestled fairly predictable matches, the "Diva Search" continued to be a waste of time, and there were still pointless titillation matches that only serve to insult the intelligence of the male viewers, but the situation still improved drastically, with almost every woman also training to be a wrestler.
  • Neither Naoya Ogawa nor Gary Steele were well praised during their 99 reigns as NWA World Heavyweight champion, the former being called outright terrible either as a wrestler and or for destroying the New Japan career of the much better received Shinya Hashimoto and believed to have only gotten the belt because he was the Pet Project of Antonio Inoki. Steele meanwhile was dismissed as unconvincing. Ogawa at least was a legendary judoka and, morality aside, went over a legit wrestling legend just to lose the belt to a non notable challenger in a three way. Ogawa's reputation would improve when he left New Japan and formed a Tag Team with Hashimoto, then became one of the front runners of the bizarre but beloved Fighting Opera HUSTLE. Steele would redeem himself in fans' eyes through his work in the NWA's first European member, UK Hammerlock, which also involved encounters with Hashimoto.
  • A return snipe that TNA fans usually only get from its more immediate rivals (ie CWF Hollywood, ROH, PWS), the "Better than the divas!" chants generated by Gail Kim's matches with Taryn Terrell and Angelina Love in 2014 had fans of NXT putting forth Paige and Charlotte as counterpoints.
  • The famous New World Order stable was in a big part, a way to rescue the boring Invincible Hero Hulk Hogan from the Scrappy Heap. 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 main event push (and subsequent WWE 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 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.
    • The 2015 US Open Challenge. Cena had an open challenge every week on RAW for the US Title ever since he won it at WrestleMania that year, and proceeded to have awesome matches every week with the underutilized talent of the main roster. Alongside giving much needed prestige to the title by making it so visible on TV, it also kept him away from the world title scene. Even the smarks started looking forward to it, partially because RAW has become unbearable and the Open Challenge was one of the only consistently good things that was happening on the show every week. When Cena dropped the title to a returning Alberto Del Rio so he could take time off to film a new tv show, fans (not just the kids) were genuinely saddened but appreciative enough of all the hard work he's done this year to recognize that he deserved it.
  • Montel Vontavious Porter 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 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, posted the first ''Dirt Sheet'' and 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-see WWE Champion in history because he's the Miz and he's AWESOME!
    • 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.
    • The Miz came back to scrappy territory for many...until August 23, 2016, where he chews on Daniel Bryan after the latter calls him a coward because of his simple style. Where Mizanin counters with him saying that his "boring WWE style" was the reason he wasn't injured and forced to go to retirement unlike Bryan. Combined with a feud against Dolph Ziggler which was liked by a lot of people a managed by his real-world wife, Maryse, has made The Miz back to be awesome for a lot of the fans.
  • 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 Onenote ... 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 LayCool", 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 became much more interesting to watch. Her Sueishness also took a hit when Beth Phoenix started beating her regularly.
  • Michael Cole's Face–Heel Turn on WWE NXT to being essentially a Troll to the Internet Fanbase and Indie Fans has ironically gained Cole more fans in the process.
    • His and Josh Matthew's recent commentary 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.
  • Shelly Martinez had reputations as Kyra's inferior counterpart, to Mercedes's inferior tag team partner, to that creepy thing that hung around Beth Phoenix and Idol Stevens, to a dull spot in TNA's otherwise then new and promising knockouts division. Despite this, she stuck with wrestling, gradually winning people over. Her match with Serena Deeb was seen as evidence the Pro Wrestling Syndicate's "BLOW" shows were not going to be total train wrecks.
  • 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 also 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 shocking 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 became 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.
    • Nikki has gone through the full cycle of this trope in her WWE career. She was always the more popular of the two for years. But around her heel turn in 2014 and eventual push as the longest reigning Divas' Champion, she developed many detractors - both due to initial Narm in her feud with Brie, accusations that she was getting pushed because of her relationship to John Cena and general Arc Fatigue in her title reign. After taking time off to recover a neck injury - and fans growing tired of Charlotte (whose title reign created a similar Arc Fatigue) in the spotlight, hatred towards Nikki died off. Her 2016 return was very well-received, especially when she stayed away from the title picture and put the up and comer Carmella over repeatedly in their feud.
  • 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 (archived here 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 Talia Madison was a scrappy since her first pay per view appearance and 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. After a supposed Heel–Face Turn, that saw people mostly in support of supposed heels ODB and Jacqueline, Sky suddenly started getting over, improved in the ring and it's safe to say she became one of the biggest stars TNA ever had. 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 personality less 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, Kevin Steen/Owens, Prince Fergal Devitt/Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe, and Pac/Adrian Neville), a much more developed and respected Divas division (talented wrestlers such as Tenille Tayla/Emma and Britani Knight/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) which in particular made the homegrown talent incredibly popular even things such as the entrance music is seen as better than what the main shows are doing.
    • Likewise the brains behind of NXT's current form has also been rescued from the Scrappy heap, which wouldn't be unusual if said brains was wasn't Triple H. If you were to ask a smark in 2012 whether would they want Triple H, the King of Burials and the master of the Reign of Terror, to take over the WWE's operations, it would be either a confused or negative response. Now post-NXT and burying jokes aside, many are practically begging for Vince to step down have Triple H take over with Stephanie. But most of all, Trips and Steph's ascension to the throne would rid the company of Kevin Dunn, Vince's right-hand man, the creator of Katie Vick and the Diva Search and one of the most despised men backstage in wrestling and the current Big Bad of Scrappies in WWE Creative.
  • 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 ROH (as her boyfriend's va…no, manager) and 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.
  • When Drew McIntyre arrived in WWE at the end of 2009, he was near-universally reviled by the "internet wrestling community", as most people found him to be very boring on the mic and in the ring. However, after he lost the intercontinental championship and was pulled out of the spotlight, he became somewhat of an ensemble darkhorse, joined the unexpectedly popular jobber stable Three MB, and eventually succeeded the ever popular Chris Hero as EVOLVE Champion after his release and return to Galloway.
  • Bo Dallas. At first, fans didn't care about him. Then once he got pushed into the 2013 Royal Rumble (over more IWC-liked stars such as Kassius Ohno or Bray Wyatt) and came off as incredibly green, fans turned on him overnight. His feud with Wade Barrett that followed was so horribly received that he was immediately taken off screen and moved back to NXT. And when he won the NXT title, fans literally turned their backs on him. Then Dallas was given a Face–Heel Turn and given the gimmick of a wannabe hero. Fans fell in love with him and he made his proper main roster debut in 2014 as one of the biggest Ensemble Darkhorses in the company.
  • It might be shocking for fans to believe this but Charlotte was widely held up as the most useless NXT Diva after she debuted. Although playing a Face, she came across as a Designated Hero and appeared to be being protected in the ring. Fans also worried that she didn't have any of her father's trademark charisma — especially after her first pitiful attempt at cutting a heel promo. Then she had the NXT Takeover match where she defeated Natalya Neidhart to win the NXT Women's Championship. All the indifference was immediately forgotten and Charlotte was held up as a top Diva in the making. However, after being called up to the main roster in mid-2015 and eventually degenerating into a Flair clone, she has slid into Base-Breaking Character status. As of a Face–Heel Turn, she has shaken off some of her heat however.
  • The New Day debuted as the squeaky clean faces that while met with some initial support quickly turned sour as they were booed at nearly every appearance. A Face–Heel Turn led to them gaining more of a personality and also being allowed to introduce more ideas of their own. That combined with several good matches with Tyson Kidd And Cesaro made them one of the most popular teams in years. At the October 5th 2015 RAW they beat down home town hero John Cena, fan favorite Dolph Ziggler and legends The Dudley Boys to a chorus of "New Day Rocks!"
  • Carmella struggled to connect with crowds when she first debuted on NXT. The problem was that she was the Token Evil Teammate to Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Fans found her arrogant princess character grating, and felt she didn't fit in with Enzo and Cass's act. NXT seemed to change tack and Carmella Took a Level in Kindness to be more openly supportive towards Enzo and Cass. She became a Face properly, showcasing herself as a Plucky Girl much better than an Alpha Bitch. She now gets great reactions.
  • Matt Hardy, after years of being a punchline within the wrestling world, snapped after losing a match to Jeff Hardy, labelling himself "BROKEN" and became obsessed with enacting vengeance on his brother, vowing to "delete Brother Nero". Fast forward to late 2016, and he's quickly risen to become one of the most popular wrestlers, with many citing both the gimmick and the angle involved with it as the best thing TNA's ever done in years. Seth Rollins started a "DELETE" chant by simply saying the word "obsolete" in a backstage interview. Considering how long wrestling fans outright mocked Matt, this is a massive turnaround.