Psychology in wrestling isn't working a leg, though it might be, if the leg is worked over well enough and the babyface sells it like it's about to fall off.
Psychology in wrestling - which is why this pandemic era even at its best is bittersweet in a way that's just easy to ignore now, because the stark truth makes it that bit more difficult to play along - is in the successful manipulation of the audience as measured by volume.
This is why Bret Hart Vs. Steve Austin from WrestleMania 13 is such a masterpiece. The reaction those two men sought posed a significant challenge. The objective was to transform Steve Austin from heel to babyface - superstar babyface, no less - in an almost insidious way. Hart couldn't just work heel. That would have felt too transparent, too much like an insult to the intelligence. They had to show, not tell, in the way wrestling is or was largely so incapable. The fans had to reach out to Austin because his character wasn't one to slap hands with the front row. The development had to be organic. This was pivotal. This was achieved.
This - and the desire for it to unfold as it did - is what separated Hart and Austin from...
10. Triple H Pretends To Retire, Nobody Cries
At SummerSlam 2012, Triple H lost to Brock Lesnar.
It was a well-worked and logical match that carried some of the pejorative connotations that go along with the faint praise even before one considers that WWE didn't mention Lesnar's major battle with diverticulitis in the build. When Triple H (slowly) targeted Lesnar's gut, his work didn't command a heightened atmosphere. He didn't convince the LA fans that he had unlocked the secret to felling the 'Beast', though that might also have something to do with Lesnar losing his return bout.
He didn't fell Lesnar; he lost, and when he did, he retreated up the entrance ramp with tears soaking his eyes, conveying the idea that this was his final match. In what is at the very least a damning assessment of his babyface run, there was no disquieting atmosphere for him to register, though he did anyway. HHH cried, as if to communicate to fans that No, sorry guys, this is it.
The fans communicated back the following message: "lol f*ck off if you ever do a retirement match there will absolutely be a massive motorbike at WrestleMania".
So what gives? Was he always a better heel?
Or, as a premier main event talent, was he just not that damn good?