World Wrestling Entertainment broadcast their Monday Night Raw television show live from Indianapolis, IN, on Monday night, and oh my, did they ever use that location to their advantage.
Trolling the local sports teams is a tried and true method for what's known as "cheap heat," whereby a heel (a bad guy) works the crowd into a frenzy against him without really doing much. Wearing a Yankees jersey in Boston, or saying "I can't wait to get out of this city, just like (player who left via trade or free agency)" is guaranteed to elicit the response that a heel is supposed to get.
On Monday, however, the WWE turned it up to another level, just a few days after the Pacers had been eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
First, there was Damien Sandow (a formerly serious bad guy turned hilarious character actor) pretending to be Lance Stephenson (see the video in the post below).
Obviously, Stephenson's antics in the playoffs became a bit of a lightning rod, and it's fair to assume that many Pacers fans grew irritated with him. But he's still their guy, so making fun of the player and his antics is a great way to rile up the crowd, wherever they land on Stephenson as basketball fans.
When Sandow, as Stephenson, proclaimed LeBron James as "the greatest player in NBA history," well, the crowd had heard quite enough, making them putty when a good guy - even one as exhausted as Big Show - came out to put Sandow in his place.
And then, there was Bo Dallas.
For those who are unaware, Dallas is a new character to the WWE, debuting in the past few weeks after months of motivational vignettes hyping his debut. The character is a fantastic heel - equal parts Tim Tebow and John Cena, Dallas is an uber-inspirational, straight-off-the-Wheaties-box athlete, except he's way over the top with it, incredibly cheesy and completely lacking in self-awareness.
And so, when he told Pacers fans that the reason the Heat won is simply because their players BO-lieved more (his eponymous motivational message to fans and opponents), the crowd could not have been more annoyed. Which is exactly the point.
And he did all of this while Pacers forward Chris Copeland was sitting in the front row.
Dallas didn't get his comeuppance like Sandow did, but that's more of a long-term business decision as the company establishes the character. There's also something to drawing out said comeuppance, making it all the sweeter to fans when he eventually gets his.
Yes, the timing of the event being in Indiana was coincidental and lucky, but WWE and two of their most creative heels turned that stroke of luck into crowd-exasperating gold.
Feature photo courtesy of Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports