What makes a person evil? Is it the way they kidnap the boss’s daughter and force a marriage upon them? Or is it the way they beat up their cousin inside of a red cage in order to gain their obedience? If these examples seem wildly-outlandish to you, it’s probably because you’re unfamiliar with the world of heels (bad guys/girls) in professional wrestling. Peacock’s new docuseries WWE Evil takes a look at some of the most evil folks ever to grace the squared circle.
Season 1 of the Peacock original consists of eight episodes, with each episode coming in at around 45 minutes, dissecting the career of a specific wrestler–or in one episode, two wrestlers. GameSpot was provided with seven of the eight episodes in Season 1. The episodes offer a look at wrestlers from various ages, starting with Hulk Hogan in the ’80s and leading up to Sasha Banks and Roman Reigns in the ’20s. Here is who is featured in Season 1.
WWE Evil episodes:
- “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan
- The Miz
- Sasha Banks
- Brothers of Destruction
- Randy Orton
- Stephanie McMahon
- Ric Flair
- Roman Reigns
WWE is no stranger to docuseries. In the past–primarily on the WWE Network–there have been plenty of docuseries covering characters, stories, and generations from the world of WWE. As these films have evolved, WWE has been trying to emulate ESPN’s wildly successful 30 for 30 series, but it’s always failed in something as simplistic as appealing to a broader audience. The vast majority appeal to hardcore fans–primarily those more up-to-date on the current product.
WWE Evil, however, has a much broader appeal, which is exceptionally suitable for your average viewer or even someone who doesn’t know a lot about the business at all. It’s easy to follow, introduces the characters, their history, what makes them bad, and is digestible.
The Peacock series tries hard to reach people who aren’t “in the know,” and why wouldn’t they? The streaming service paid WWE a lot of money to get the promotion’s streaming rights, so why not actually promote it with an original series covering some of its biggest moments and stars? Is it successful in that aspect? Absolutely. Will it turn off wrestling fans who know all these stories already? No. We’re marks and will eat it up because the appeal is also in hearing WWE superstars, journalists, and behind-the-scenes folks also tell the stories you know by heart.
One thing WWE Evil does very well is that it doesn’t treat the viewer like an idiot. It’s 2022, and the world of wrestling being enveloped in mystery isn’t a thing anymore. We’re all aware these wrestlers are playing characters. They’re not pretending they are from Samoa and don’t speak English outside of wrestling. We’re aware matches are predetermined. We’re aware that we’re getting what is essentially a stunt spectacular on TV–without the safety padding. While wrestling isn’t fake by any means–those mats are not soft–it is dramatized storytelling, whether that story is told on a mic or in the ring. WWE Evil isn’t trying to convince us that every punch connects 100%. During Randy Orton’s episode, it’s explained that wrestlers often portray themselves with the volume turned up to 10. On Stephanie McMahon’s episode, she constantly refers to what happens on TV as happening to the Stephanie McMahon character.
WWE Evil is about dissecting the heel. There are things in wrestling heels can do that will always work. The Miz episode gets deep into the importance of being cocky, annoying, punchable, etc., in order to turn the crowd against you. It has worked with so many others, but The Miz has made it his calling card, and the way he breaks it down is fantastic. And every episode has a few of those moments, where the person behind the character discusses their thought process behind “being bad.” It’s fascinating.
Additionally, the series digs pretty deep into what was going on behind-the-scenes, letting each wrestler tell their story, even if it doesn’t make the person behind the character look good. Hulk Hogan’s creative control contract, The Miz being barred from the locker room, and Randy Orton slapping interviewers are all part of the journey for these wrestlers. Yes, the show may be a docuseries, but it’s one by Peacock and WWE. There is an expectation that it’s going to be a cheerleader for the company, but it was refreshing to see at least a little bit of the underbelly of the business.
As far as production goes, WWE Evil looks and sounds great. Intermixing archival footage with modern interviews, the show successfully tells the story of these wrestlers while showing what they did–or do in some cases–in the ring. Most importantly, it doesn’t fall into the trap of most WWE produced documentaries, where old interview footage that’s been used time and again in various projects gets recycled once more.
When including more contemporary wrestlers on the first season, WWE Evil has The Miz and Orton–who are veterans in the WWE. This season also includes Sasha Banks and Roman Reigns, and while Banks has worked most of her WWE career as the villainous Boss, Reigns’ tenure as a heel is short, in the grand scheme of things. Most of his journey is a babyface (good guy), and even though he was hated as a solo act, right before the pandemic, he wasn’t a heel. Reigns is doing some of his best work as a bad guy right now (and the best heel on WWE the past two years, period). However, so much of the episode is spent trying to convince the viewer he’s always been like that. The issue being he’s mainly been the good guy on television, even if the majority of crowds booed him. While a Roman Reigns episode is a great idea, we’re in the middle of his first real run as a bad guy, so the story isn’t finished, and in turn, it makes this episode feel like it has a lot of filler in it.
WWE Evil is one of the best documentaries or docuseries productions to come from the wrestling company, probably because Peacock had a hand in it and knows it needs to market to more than the aging wrestling fan. This is a fun gateway product to WWE, and it does a fine job at introducing the viewer to the world of wrestling, by dipping their toes into the shallow end of well-known and mostly-beloved wrestlers. It may be a bit of a weird thing for people to jump into–watching a docuseries about a TV show that desperately spent its early years trying to convince you everything happening was actually real–but WWE Evil does the sport of wrestling and its characters justice.