Kings of Leon and Getting Cheap Heat


Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill may not enjoy professional wrestling — that seems abundantly clear from a tweet he fired off Sunday evening.

The irony is twofold: Firstly, Kings of Leon sounds like the kind of the 2000s rock band that would provide the opening theme music for RAW. Secondly, Followill unintentionally mastered one of the industry’s oldest tactics: generating cheap heat.

For the uninitiated, cheap heat refers to any simplified, basic or sometimes tasteless tactic to garner the desired response from audiences. This can be a good-guy wrestler positively referencing his host city — a favored move for bands on tour, like Kings of Leon — or a heel trashing the local teams. Because he’s wrestling’s LeBron James, The Rock demonstrates how to get cheap heat in a manner that’s effective and entertaining.

Followill’s response to floods of angry wrestling fan tweets including some pretty classic, heel stuff. Bragging on enjoying an expensive meal with women? It’s like Tully Blanchard in his prime!

But Followill also dove into the shallow end of the cheap-heat pool when talented, independent wrestler Veda Scott got in on the fun by referencing a Seinfeld joke. In a since-deleted tweet, Followill went for the kind of heat that truly puts “cheap” in the phrase “cheap heat.”

Wrestling itself is all-too guilty of wading into these treacherous waters. See, when done well, wrestling tells a story with an arc akin to a great movie. Some of the best examples include Sami Zayn winning the NXT championship after numerous, failed attempts, and a long road to redemption; Stone Cold Steve Austin returning from injury in 2000 and doing whatever he had to win the World title; and Batista breaking loose from bullying mentor Triple H.

When done poorly, wrestling bears resemblance to a bad movie: Evil, stereotype foreigners; fart jokes; objectifying women. The script for an Adam Sandler Netflix joint, basically. The medium’s more tasteless tendencies give fodder to its critics.

Wrestling fans aren’t oblivious to the tastelessness. It manifests in defensiveness, unleashed when someone like a Kings of Leon bassist lobs insults.

I find this episode fascinating, as it coincides with sports media at a crossroads in a fundamental way. The sports cable channels adopted models based largely around generating cheap heat.

I wrote before that Colin Cowherd once hosted an insightful radio show, before devolving into the hot-take inanity for which he’s now synonymous. His proverbial heel turn came in much the same way as Kings of Leon’s Followill: getting cheap heat from wrestling fans. It’s a well he returns to often because it’s effective.

Wrestling fans are not the only targets. It’s Finebaum baiting SEC fans, and his out-of-conference target du jour — it’s seemingly Michigan, of late. It’s FS1’s model of political talk couched in sports. It’s every LaVar Ball appearance.

At the end of the day, the consumers are all treated like a bunch of marks. It will only stop when cheap heat stops being effective.

1 thought on “Kings of Leon and Getting Cheap Heat”

  1. Pingback: The Pro Wrestling Origins of Fake News - The Open Man

Comments are closed.