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    Monday, September 13, 2021

    Heels Season 1, Episode 5 Review: Off-Script

    It's Monday, you know what that means. Stan Sy here tagging in again for Smark TV as we break down the fifth episode of Heels.

    For much of Heels' maiden voyage, we've seen these very human characters being fleshed out to a point where we can't just simply label them as babyfaces or heels. But after this week's outing, the show's firmly established who the real heels are: Wild Bill Hancock and Ace Spade.

    If I were a wrestling promoter, I wouldn't want these two anywhere near my company. Professional wrestling has always been a business that heavily relies on trust and professionalism. Hell, the word "professional" comes first in "professional wrestler." It's in the job title. That's because anytime you get in the ring, you're literally putting your body and your livelihood in the hands of your opponent, your proverbial dance partner. That's also why, if you're a wrestling promoter, you'd never want any unpredictability in any of the people in your company.

    Jack Spade got all of that and then some this week, and it all started with Wild Bill Hancock and his thirst for attention. The episode opened with his non-apologetic press conference, in which his misogynistic rhetoric was still on full display. And then, he tried provoking Jack to get a spot in the DWL. But it was his conversation with Crystal Tyler during the DWL event that served as the catalyst for the biggest events of the episode.

    To be fair to Wild Bill, he seems to have a real eye for talent. That's why he recognized Ace as the one to watch in the pilot, after all. But he also sees something in Crystal, and that's why he encouraged her to finally speak up and use her voice. He knew she was more than a valet—that she could hold her own as a manager or even a wrestler. But was he right to basically tell her to go off-script and cut a promo when that wasn't her role on the show? Of course not!

    Even though Crystal seems comfortable in her developing friendship with Bobby Pin, a lot of it is rooted in her running away from the pain Ace had caused her. There are still some lingering feelings and resentment between Crystal and Ace, which obviously bled into the kayfabe, resulting in the fiery promo she'd cut during the main event. Did it feel good to see Crystal have her moment? Hell yeah! She made for a sympathetic babyface in the episode against Tricia, Ace's new fling and valet. I was rooting for Crystal when she tied her hair back to show more of her face as Wild Bill advised her to.

    But was she right to have gone into business for herself? No. And she did go into business for herself because she, too, was dealing with the anger from Ace's actions. However, that doesn't excuse what she did, especially considering the sequence of events directly resulting from it.

    Meanwhile, Ace was a little manbaby about everything related to Crystal. Here's a guy who didn't want to see anyone else succeed but himself. He knows Crystal's got some actual talent, but if he can't have Crystal as his subservient fuck buddy, then he wouldn't want her getting any opportunities to shine. And now that he sees her being happy around Bobby, Ace found it in him to be a real-life heel and messed it up for Crystal and his fellow wrestler.

    Everything Ace did in this episode was wrong. There's no justifying it. Yes, he's a man dealing with the trauma from his father's passing. But he's been taking it out on everyone around him, and his self-destructive tendencies have led him to actually hurting other people. When Ace got in the ring with Bobby Pin, he hit his opponent with stiff shots, did a superplex off the top of the cage—another no-no because Bobby (who is a rookie, mind you) had never done that move before—and then capped it off by breaking his opponent's leg with that heel hook.

    There have been many stories throughout wrestling's rich (and dark) history of wrestlers legitimately hurting their opponents for one reason or another. There's no excusing it, especially in smaller promotions, where wrestlers actually have full-time jobs and can't rely on their shitty indy salaries to put food on the table. Ace's emotional fit of rage jeopardized another man's livelihood, and that should never be okay.

    All of Jack's anger towards Ace and Wild Bill was entirely justified because whatever happens in a show ultimately falls on the shoulders of the promoter. But the larger point here is that what Wild Bill, Crystal, and Ace did violated the foundational tenets of pro wrestling as an industry: that it's a business built on trust. These three broke that trust this week. And for what?

    It was all so Wild Bill could satisfy his lust for fame and glory now that he's on the decline as a shell of a man. The episode ended with the old coot hijacking the show to get himself over with the fans. Sure, he's still a star in Duffy. But it was all self-promotion for Wild Bill, who just wanted to hear the crowd roar for him one more time. The worst part was that it didn't even seem like Wild Bill realized how he'd caused everything, let alone be remorseful of his actions. Now I really want to see Jack kick this old man's ass.

    In the end, Jack and Willie got what they set out to bag at the start of the episode: a slot at the Georgia State Fair, where the DWL can perform in front of 10,000 people. The DWL regulars definitely had something to talk about after the event. The State Fair organizers were certainly captivated by what they'd seen. But it came at the cost of everything Jack held dear. People in his company violated that necessary trust in wrestling. He realized his brother was an entitled and unprofessional little shit. And his son Thomas witnessed him getting physical with Ace at the hospital, which could fracture their own relationship since the kid looks up to his uncle Ace so much.

    This is why going off-script in wrestling is never a good idea. Even when something doesn't go horribly wrong, there's always the chance that something could. Even when someone doesn't get hurt, you can't ignore the possibility that someone could have been hurt. And you can never take that risk because the most important thing in wrestling is trust. To honor that trust is to be half of what it takes to be a professional wrestler. That's the reason why "professional" comes first in the job title.

    Cheap Takes from the Cheap Seats

    • I really appreciated Diego and Rooster's mini-story this week. I loved how it was structured such that they foreshadowed someone going into business for themselves during the show, and I was already wondering what repercussions that might have. It was great that they called an audible to their audible in the ring and went with the planned finish, showing us that they were the red herring for the larger swerve later on.
    • Staci being her own woman and standing up to Wild Bill, even while at her day job, is a mood. We need more Staci in our lives.
    • I may have spent this entire column dunking on Wild Bill because he's such a heel. But he did say one thing during his press conference that stood out. His comments about big corporations profiting off the broken backs of men and women for decades echo long-standing rhetoric from retired professional wrestlers. Of course, we all know what this is referring to. As a fan, you can't help but lowkey agree with Wild Bill here because he does have a point. It sucks knowing that after his company made so much money off his abilities, they cut bait on him the first chance they got. Then again, that's also what he gets for being a goddamn PR liability.

    Images from Heels and Starz


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a TV and events host, a freelance writer, and a podcaster. His podcasts include On Deck with Stan SyNow Steaming: A Tsinoy Podcast, and The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX Philippines. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match.
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    Item Reviewed: Heels Season 1, Episode 5 Review: Off-Script Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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