At Odds with Wrestling Homework: Heels Episode 1

This is a different homework assignment for the week. Usually Joe and Adam of the At Odds with Wrestling podcast assign a wrestling event for each other and the listeners to watch. This week is the debut episode of the new Starz TV show, Heels. I watched it without knowing anything other than TV’s Green Arrow, Stephen Amell is the star and it’s about wrestling.

Honestly, after watching the first episode I’m not sure what I think. It wasn’t what I expected, for sure. There’s some interesting wrestling moments, but obviously the show is about something so much bigger. But what?

First the wrestling, because that’s what we’re here for. Amell’s character, Jack Spade, inherited his father’s independent wrestling promotion, Dewey Wrestling League. Jack is the main booker, spends the money, and is the current champion. Most of the guys live in the same town and that is part of the story I’m sure we will see more of later. Wrestling is “real” but this is also your neighbor, the kid you went to school with. Jack’s brother, Ace Spade, is the top face and might have “it”. He’s being looked at to “go north” and he knows it. Problem is, he’s an asshole. He feels like the whole town, maybe the whole world, owes him something and he’s going to take it. Ace feels like he should be champion, everything should be about him, and his brother is just jealous and standing in the way. There’s a rough scene in a local grocery store where Ace is just the biggest jerk anyone has ever met, hours before he’s expecting these same people to cheer him. That story alone is fascinating and I’m curious where it will go.

But even bigger is Jack’s own story. I mean the show is called Heels. At first I’m seeing Jack as being a heel to help. He will take all the heat, and all the hate, to help make his company bigger. He’s burdened with his brother. He has to be a one man show. A tragic hero. But no, he’s just as bad as his brother. It manifests in different ways though.

Jack puts himself first through the company. I have to write, I have to buy stuff, I have to miss obligations. No you don’t. He chooses to. He chooses to be a martyr for DWL because it is all about him.

Jack’s wife feels unappreciated and is begging to help. His son thinks Ace is a hero. Jack has an assistant or something and I’m not quite sure what her deal is yet but while she gets him moving it is still his final call. There’s a rival promoter who will feature more in the next episode. There’s an alumni talent who made it big and is now back in town pumping up Ace. All of this leaving Jack thinking it’s all about him. His wife, his kid, his company, his town. It is up to him to save it all when in reality if he could let go of some control and have other people help, he might actually move further forward than he is on his own.

I listen to Kevin Smith’s Fatman Beyond podcast and one of the things his co-host Marc Bernardin has taught me is finding the truth in the story. What is the point, what is the journey, what is the bigger human story that is being told. This isn’t a show about wrestling. Wrestling is the platform, the McGuffin, the 450 springboard from which to tell another story.

So I think this is a story about two warring princes. Their father, the King, has passed. Both feel a legitimate claim to the throne but only one can have it. One is already ruling and will not be questioned. One is looking to other lands and greener pastures to see if he can rule and over shadow his brother.

Look at any old article when wrestling was huge and you’ll see the staff writer call it an Elizabethan drama with headlocks and spandex. Heels is actually going to do that. The valet’s story is going to get more interesting. There’s going to be a death. There’s going to be a downfall. There isn’t going to be a true good guy in this.

But, there’s also lots of shows like this too. The only difference here is the wrestling angle. From Game of Thrones to Sons of Anarchy I’ve watched people war over their turf. Episode 1 was interesting. Episode 2 has to really hook me and let me know why this version of the story is different and demands my attention. The wrestling alone isn’t enough to stick around for the season.

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