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How to Continuously Botch a Return 101

Columnist Mark Mahler delivers a dissertation on why every time WWE tries to make Lacey Evans into a star, they just can't seem to pass the test

By Mark Mahler - 02.11.2023

A couple of years ago, I was begging WWE to push newcomer Lacey Evans as a babyface. Here’s a lady that has an armed forces background, and being a former Marine, has a strong work ethic. She's got a great look, is athletic as it gets... and the WWE can’t figure out what to do with her?

From the get-go, we had the 'Sassy Southern Belle', who thought that she was better than everyone.

As a heel, the character works, but for how long? She got shots at titles when she was called up from NXT, but she was never able to capture the big one. I wouldn’t say this was a total 'fail', but here go the patterns:

They paired her with a tag partner in Peyton Royce, which was abruptly ended due to roster cuts. Fail.

Then was paired with Ric Flair, and seemed headed for a showdown with Charlotte. But the storyline stalled, and Lacey was legitimately pregnant with her second child. Fail.

She begins a comeback telling all the fans about her family history which, at least online, garnered an empathic ear and eye. They bring her out after weeks of what we thought were babyface promos and suddenly - she’s a heel. Fail.

Evans' flip-flopping is now almost Big Show-like! It’s damn near maddening. The Operation Cobra Clutch…still up for debate, but judging by fan reaction right now. Fail.

Here’s why. This is a woman with a great backstory to be a face. A former Marine, a US hero much like Sgt. Slaughter, was before her, she should be embraced by the WWE Universe. She comes out and cuts a promo slamming the fans and mocking them.

But even after weeks of promos and vignettes, the fans really don’t care at all

What’s lost in this, is just how talented Lacey Evans is. All the out-of-the-ring charity works she does for Veterans and how badass she really could be if the WWE would push her correctly. Clips of her schooling Sammy Guevara even emerged online with more clicks after they aired the babyface promos, but God forbid the WWE pays attention. This woman screams babyface!

Lacey could easily be that American Hero that the fans want and crave. WWE fails to realize how dangerous Sgt. Slaughter’s turn was from American Hero, even being featured in Hasbro’s GI Series, to American turncoat. Remember Wrestlemania 7 where it was supposed to be at the LA Coliseum?

It was changed because of death threats aimed at The Sarge. Shortly thereafter, Slaughter returned as a 'good guy' and was readily cheered as he should be.

So when Lacey launched Operations Cobra Clutch, people immediately went to speculating and thinking, “Are they pairing her with Sarge?” Unfortunately, the answer was no. And, she wasn’t even going to be portrayed as a fan favorite either. Mistakes of the past are repeated in the present.

Lacey has a ton of athletic ability in the ring. There is no doubting or denying that. The bad part is all these vignettes and not getting her back in front of the fans quickly, drew out fans and just turned them on her, which might have been the intended plan, but it also made fans with short attention spans not give a rip.

The WWE needs to start thinking outside the box with Lacey if they can’t get the fans invested in this uber-talented woman. Maybe send her to NXT for a couple of months and see what the fans there see and want. Maybe they’ll force a chance or even get more out of heel if needed.

But, one thing is definitely for sure, the WWE has no clue how to market Lacey or how to push her.

Case in point, look at her Instagram posts and Limitless Lady. She posted some swimsuit pictures as a heel that caught even casual fans' eyes. She released a calendar and people online were chatting about it. She knows how to market herself better than the WWE creative team knows how to market her!

There’s something very very wrong with that if you ask me. Back to Basics might not be something she needs to do, but it is definitely something the WWE brass might start thinking about doing if they really want to utilize Lacey’s talents before she is gone.



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