The babyface-heel dynamic is a fragile one in the current state of professional wrestling. Modern crowds have grown to be so unpredictable and, for lack of a better word, "smarky" that it's hard to get a crowd to always boo the heels and it seems even harder to get crowds to cheer the babyfaces. Nowadays in wrestling, the good guys seem too insufferably cheesy to cheer for while the bad guys are just too darn cool to boo. In this supposed "New Era," it's bad to be good and good to be bad. It's easy to blame this on an audience which prefers to rage against the corporate machine and the stars that were pegged as the heroic chosen ones of said machine, but sometimes, the company booking these heroes and villains are just as much to blame, if not more. More than anything else, the company, it's bookers, and it's writers are at fault for inadvertently booking their heels to come off like good guys.
To be fair, sometimes, it is not, nor is it ever, an easy task to create likeable characters. The natural human condition tells us that it is infinitely easier to get someone to dislike us than to like us, but when the babyfaces are booked like jerks, that makes it even harder for the audience to gravitate to their side. WWE has been a prime candidate in pushing jerky faces, which that more or less suggests that Vince McMahon has a warped sense of what a good guy can and should be. Maybe he tries too hard to mold most faces into his image and let's face it, Vince McMahon has never exactly been a saint. But this isn't a post meant to vilify the Chairman of the WWE. This is meant to critique his poor choice in heels, questionable booking for faces, and when those two lines were drawn too close together. Here are 15 instances where heels came off more like faces to the crowd.
13 Roman Reigns Ruins Rusev's Wedding
Just for the heads up, we are going to be seeing Roman Reigns a lot on this list. After all, he's not a good guy and he's not a bad guy. He's just kind of a d**k. The night after Battleground saw the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev, and his beloved Lana tie the knot on Monday Night Raw. For no reason whatsoever, Roman Reigns decided to spoil the festivities by coming down to the ring. He trash talked both Rusev and his bride as they celebrated their nuptials and to top it all off, he caused Lana to fall face first into her wedding cake. Being the jerk that he is, Reigns walked away with a smile on his face.
Usually when the stretcher spot is used in wrestling, it is used to lead to some sort of comeback for a babyface. It's the same spot that made Mick Foley into a star after he was thrown off the Hell in a Cell. Fans cheered him on unapologetically when he refused medical attention, pulled himself off the gurney, and back into the match. The same method was used for Brock Lesnar, despite the fact he went into his WWE Title defense at Royal Rumble 2015 as a heel. Halfway through the match, realizing The Beast was too much for them, Seth Rollins and John Cena started to gang up on the Champion and Lesnar was put through the announcer's table following a top rope elbow by Seth Rollins. Lesnar was out of the match for quite some time and a stretcher was brought out for him. Just when he looked like he was out, Lesnar pulled himself back in at the knick of time to win the match and retain his title in something similar to a babyface comeback for the heel.
12 John Cena US Title Match Against Rusev
Poor Rusev. The guy can never catch a break, can he? In most of his feuds, he would shine as an incredibly sympathetic babyface if the roles were reversed. That point was never more evident than during his feud with John Cena. Not only because that feud set the precursor for Dolph Ziggler stealing Ru-Ru's girl, Lana, but it's moments like the one on the July 13th, 2015 episode of Raw that makes you just feel bad for the guy. After winning a gruellingly long Triple Threat match against Cesaro and Kevin Owens for the #1 Contendership against John Cena's United States Championship, Rusev was plunged into his title match mere minutes later. Even JBL drew concern for the Bulgarian, stating that he was hurt and needed to get bandaged up opposed to being plunged into a US Title Match. While Rusev was half-dead from his previous match, Cena was fresh and doing sprints as if this would be an easy retain. Amazingly enough, Rusev mounted his own babyface comeback after enduring Cena's offense. After showing no signs of life early on, Rusev looked like easy pickings and Cena was about to go for the kill when Rusev used his very last breath to lock in an Accolade out of nowhere. It looked like there was no escape for Cena and we were moments away from a new champion. Then Kevin Owens ran in and cost Rusev the match with a DQ. How this didn't turn Rusev into the company's top babyface is beyond me.
For a heel, Shawn Michaels was booked an awfully lot like a babyface heading into WrestleMania XI. At that year's Royal Rumble, he won by the skin of his teeth to defeat 30 other men from the very first entrant onwards. Not only that, but he narrowly escaped defeat by using his endurance and stamina to avoid both his feet from touching the ground, just the one. Then, when WrestleMania XI finally came around, he quite nearly defeated Diesel. After superkicking Diesel, Michaels got the visual pin on the WWE Champion, but Michaels' own bodyguard, Sycho Sid, had the referee distracted and Michaels couldn't capitalize, leading to Diesel's win. When the odds are stacked that much against an underdog like Michaels, heel or not, it's impossible to boo the man. Thankfully, WWE took notice to Michaels' positive reception growing every week and the night after Mania, Michaels turned face by kicking Sid to the curb and re-allying himself with old buddy Diesel.
11 Roman Reigns Attacks Braun Strowman
When you watch Roman Reigns' character long enough, you start to realize that he's kind of a bully. Picking fights whenever he can for no reason. Granted, Braun Strowman started this fight when he claimed he wanted better competition and then cost Reigns his Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble, Reigns has been hellbent on bugging Strowman ever since, even to the extent of being heelish. Most recently, following Strowman's match against the Big Show, Roman Reigns came out to attack Strowman. Keep in mind that by now, the two were already even when Reigns cost Strowman his own Universal Title match weeks ago and their match at Fastlane was set. So when Reigns decided to attack Strowman, who was already worn out from his hard fought match with Big Show, it was an unprovoked heelish attack. Thankfully, Strowman was still able to fend off that dastardly Reigns.
10 Dolph Ziggler Fends Off Kalisto and Apollo Crews
Recently, Dolph Ziggler turned heel against Kalisto and Apollo Crews. He still gets cheered, but that's not why he's on this list. He's on this list for the way he was booked for Elimination Chamber 2017. After weeks of attacking and blindsiding both Kalisto and Crews numerous times, Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan booked for Ziggler to face Kalisto and Crews in a Handicap matches. Usually, Handicap matches are reserved for stacking the odds against a babyface pitted against heel challengers, but not in this case. Normally, the outnumbered heel vs multiple faces dynamic doesn't work and this was no different. Even when he attacked Kalisto before the bell at the pay-per-view, the crowd was still on his side. In fact, it can be argued that Ziggler nearly outsmarted the "heels" to get a fair one on one contest. Since he was, oddly enough, the heel underdog in this situation, people wanted to see Ziggler win. And when Kalisto came back into the match to outnumber Ziggler again for the win, fans turned on it. They didn't come back around for the cheers until Ziggler started beating down both men after the match.
9 Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns - Money in the Bank 2016
Going into their match at Money in the Bank 2016, WWE Champion Roman Reigns was the much maligned babyface while Seth Rollins was the returning, yet beloved, heel challenger. However, as soon as the bell rang, the roles were reversed. It wasn't long before fans realized that Reigns was being booked as a monster heel who slapped around his competition while Rollins was the babyface in peril. For that night, Reigns played the part of schoolyard bully or, more appropriately, stronger older brother to Rollins' underdog character. This was further insinuated when Reigns trash talked several lines to Rollins, calling him "just [his] little brother." It was quite a sight to see, even if it was for one night and the two resumed their usual roles the following night on Raw. Since then, Rollins has become a full time babyface. Perhaps that means that there is also a full heel turn in Reigns' future sooner rather than later?
8 The Shield vs The Wyatts: The Saga Begins
When The Shield and The Wyatt Family took part in their now critically acclaimed feud, this was one of those rare instances where heels fought other heels. Well, sorta. Right before these two factions locked horns, they were both clearly heels, but in the weeks leading to their first confrontation at Elimination Chamber 2014, The Shield were made out to be faces by default. Since they looked more like clean shaven poster boys than the grizzled up Wyatt clan, making The Shield out to be cheered made for an easy transition. Plus, it just made sense in storyline. The Wyatts were booked like seemingly unstoppable, otherworldly men putting enough obstacles in The Shield's path that the latter team were nearly on the brink of dissension. Though they lost the feud, The Shield pulled through to stick together and their run as default face-heels went over so well that their complete face run was cemented on the March 17th, 2014 episode of Raw when they saved Jerry Lawler from an attack by Kane.
7 Vince McMahon During His Entire Feud With Stone Cold
This one is more of a stretch than anything else, but think about it. If you tried to rebel against your boss, you'd be fired in a heartbeat, wouldn't you? Not Stone Cold. Austin disrespected and disobeyed Vince McMahon every step of the way, but McMahon kept him in the company. As if he was trying to reason with his best, most profitable employee, Stone Cold practically spat in his boss' face every chance he got. The more he tried to reason with him, the more Stone Cold rebelled and the more the crowd booed Vince as if he was a heel. One can argue that his failed attempts to work with Austin early into their feud is what helped cement the Mr. McMahon character. Austin drove Vince crazy enough to stoop to his level, even going as far as to join a cult as their "Higher Power." That Stone Cold was a menace the whole time.
6 New Day After TLC 2015
At TLC 2015, The New Day successfully defended their Tag Team Championships against The Usos and the Lucha Dragons in a jaw dropping Ladder Match after Xavier Woods "cheated" (mind you, it's a No DQ match) by throwing his trombone at Kalisto just as he was about to win for his team. However, the next night, The New Day didn't gloat and they appeared more humble than usual. The invited both teams out to the ring and proceeded to not only apologize to Kalisto for the previous night's antics, but to pledge a newfound respect to both teams. This was uncharacteristic of the heel champions and seemed to signal towards a face turn. What actually happened was The New Day started to celebrate their recent win as soon as their opponents left the ring. It appears that the point of the segment was to make it seem like The New Day's apology was disingenuous, but this was lost on the crowd who continued to cheer The New Day and booed The Usos and Lucha Dragons when both teams attacked New Day afterwards.
5 Shawn Michaels Fakes An Injury
Perhaps this is cheating given how Shawn Michaels' opponent, Batista, was still kind of a face during their feud, but since Michaels was the beloved one in their exchange, Michaels was the default face. In any case, Michaels' actions at Backlash were anything but face. Going into the show, Batista expressed his disdain for Shawn Michaels after Michaels ended Ric Flair's career at WrestleMania XXIV, taking away the one thing that The Nature Boy loves in this world. The two were set to settle their differences at Backlash with a peer mediating Chris Jericho playing special guest referee. During the match, Shawn Michaels started favoring his leg as if he injured himself. Jericho started checking on HBK, stopping Batista in his tracks, and when opportunity saw fit, Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on The Animal for the win. Batista complained after the match that HBK faked his injury to win the match, but Y2J vouched for the sake of Michaels' integrity. Only for Michaels to Superkick Jericho and reveal that he was, in fact, faking the whole time. Michaels was cheered through all of this by the way. Though this didn't lead to any Michaels heel turn, it did lead to the now much praised Jericho heel turn when he started wearing suits, became super serious, and shed himself of everything Y2J related.
4 Molly Holly Circa 2002
Since the inception of the Women's Revolution, WWE has been trying to get away from the days of scantily clad Divas and bra and panties matches, but in 2002, they fully embraced it. Which is why Molly Holly was so heavily booed when she cut and dyed her hair dark brown and became a "prudish" character. By prude, we mean that she openly criticized the idea that women in WWE had to take off their clothes to get ahead in the industry. She dressed up to her neck revealing as little skin as possible and criticized WWE's constant over-sexualization of the female wrestlers. Many of her comments and actions would be repeated through the lens of modern female wrestlers and uttered until WWE created their own Revolution to change things. But since WWE weren't as PG or PC (politically correct) for that matter in 2002, fans condemned Molly Holly for being such a killjoy. In 2002, Molly Holly was booed for the exact same values that female wrestlers try to promote in 2017.
3 Randy Orton Burns Bray Wyatt's House Down
This is another recent entry on the list. Says a lot about the state of WWE's current crop of babyfaces, doesn't it? This time, Bray Wyatt earned our sympathy. He had already been gaining quite a few cheers over the past few weeks following his first WWE Championship win, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a heel. Though, if you were a new wrestling fan and this was the first segment you saw, you'd be forgiven for mistaking Randy Orton for the heel in question. For months, Wyatt genuinely trusted Orton as an ally and went as far as to not only make him part of his family, but he gave Orton his "keys to the kingdom," admittance into the Wyatt Compound where Bray lives and his sister Abigail was buried. And what does Orton do? He burns the place down to the ground as Bray watched on and weeped his eyes out. Poor Bray. Orton is such a jerk.
2 Every Heel Foreigner
The heel foreigner gimmick is a heel gimmick which seems to date back to the very inception of wrestling history. The most popular instances includes when those roles were filled by the likes of The Iron Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter. In a time when WWE appealing to a mostly American audiences (in some ways, it still does), audiences ate those outsider angles up, but as the years progressed, fans started to realize just how tepid and racist these angles appear. In more recent years, we've seen that with Rusev. At the beginning of his WWE run at least, he wasn't anti-American. He was just a guy who was proud to represent his native land of Bulgaria. A character that emphasized that the company he wrestled in was the "WORLD" Wrestling Entertainment opposed to American Wrestling Entertainment. But since he wasn't American or repping the red, white, and blue, he was a bad guy. The most harsh instance of a heel foreigner was with Muhammad Hassan. At the start of his run, he was an Arab American man who expressed his displeasure for being blamed for 9/11 just because of his nationality. Instead of understanding where he was coming from, fans booed him and judged him for the exact same reasons.
1 Hulk Hogan Screws Sid Justice
Despite being the atypical benchmark for the perfect babyface, there are several moments in Hulk Hogan's career where he acted pretty heelish. Whether it was cheating to beat The Undertaker for the WWE Championship at Tuesday in Texas or screwing Ted Dibiase out of winning his WWE Title against Randy Savage in the main event of WrestleMania IV, Hogan took part in several questionable antics long before he joined the nWo at Bash at the Beach. Perhaps his most blatant heel action as a babyface came at Royal Rumble 1992 when after being eliminated fairly by Sid Justice, he tried to pull Justice out of the ring and inadvertently helped Ric Flair eliminate the giant. Despite knowing the stakes of the match and knowing the Royal Rumble means every man for himself, Hogan threw a hissy fit. Eliminating Hogan was meant to mark Sid's initial heel turn, but fans knew it was clear as day that Sid was the good guy in this situation. In fact, fans in attendance booed so loud against Hogan and cheered so heavily for Sid that future replays of the moment were edited to make Hogan look like the beloved good guy. Anyone with eyes can tell you that was a lie.
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