The acting in wrestling will always fly under the radar due to the many variables in play with the job. We all look at the in-ring work, promos and charisma when it comes to a performer. The acting ability is something we forget about, but is needed for many of the wrestlers to pull off an effective face character. Many of the great fan favorites over the years have actually been the exact opposite outside of the ring. There’s a belief that the worst guys make the best face characters and the best human beings end up portraying the best heels.
We have witnessed numerous beloved faces through the years get exposed for being a jerk outside of the ring. Stories leak of wrestlers abusing power, playing politics and treating their peers poorly. Others have developed reputations for being rude and unappreciative towards the fans that supported them. They had us all fooled with their portrayal of heroes on television that just did not carry over outside of the squared circle. These are the top fifteen “good guys” that were actually villains in real life.
Bill Goldberg's reputation is polarizing. Goldberg does a lot of great things outside of the ring for children, but his personality makes it difficult to get along with him as a peer. WCW pushed him to the moon with an undefeated streak that lasted 173 matches. Goldberg had little experience and treated many of the veterans poorly due to his star power.
Chris Jericho and William Regal were two wrestlers beloved in the locker room that Goldberg alienated with his attitude. Goldberg refused to help anyone else look good in the ring and went to the bosses in an attempt to make sure he would squash them. It led to his WWE flop in 2003, with the company no longer tolerating his attitude. Things are going better for Goldberg now returning as a mega-face, but his locker room reputation is one of a villain.
14 Scott Hall
Scott Hall was one of the coolest face characters for WWE in the mid-90s as Razor Ramon. Fans adored him and he could have been a future WWE Champion, but he made the decision to leave for WCW. Hall spent the majority of time in WCW as a heel. However, fans completely treated him like a hero by reciting his promo lines and cheering him on a weekly basis.
Real life stories paint him as one of the worst people in the industry. Hall often harassed and bullied the other wrestlers that had less stature than him backstage. Chris Jericho wrote in his book that Hall made life a living hell for the WCW wrestlers. Hall has been a jerk to fans as well and one story even confirmed that he refused to sign a card for a sick child at a convention.
Sabu's hard work and trendsetting ideas in ECW made him a beloved figure. Sabu will go down in the history books among the most popular good guys in ECW history. Fans still love him today, but he makes it tough to love him at conventions. Sabu doesn’t have a friendly personality and it shows with awkward interactions at meet and greets where fans just want to talk to him.
His moody personality saw him become a heel backstage in the ECW locker room with many issues with fellow wrestlers. Sabu and Taz had a legendary rivalry in the ring that carried over backstage. Both men were viewed as villains in the locker room due to their personalities preventing them from being kind to others. Sabu is a bit misunderstood, but it doesn’t mean he’s not a villain for the way he represents himself.
12 Randy Orton
WWE has put faith in Randy Orton in both face and heel roles through the years with a career spanning about fourteen years now. Orton achieved a lot of his success as a good guy. Orton's popularity was shown recently in the 2017 Royal Rumble when eliminating Roman Reigns to win it all. Orton may have the fans in his corner on television, but he's thought of as one of the biggest jerks in wrestling history.
Many wrestlers have shared stories about Orton treating others poorly backstage, as female wrestlers entering the company used to get harassed by Orton regularly. Fellow wrestlers, fans and random employees at places he visits have all felt the wrath of Orton, proving he's a bigger villain in real life than in the ring.
11 Booker T
Booker T is a legend with a career lasting almost three decades. The majority of Booker’s career was impressive and he used to be known as one of the coolest wrestlers in the business. Things changed as he started to grow older. Despite being a good guy on television more often than not, Booker has shown an ugly side outside of the ring in his later career.
Booker's veteran presence saw him look down on the younger wrestlers during his time in TNA. Booker felt he was above the other wrestlers and didn’t care about helping the new stars. Another story in WWE saw him humiliate The Young Bucks during their tryout and bury them on social media for not finding him to shake hands. They have squashed the beef, but it showed Booker’s villainous side. That's not even mentioning his recent rant on James Ellsworth.
10 Shawn Michaels
Most longtime wrestling fans today have childhood memories of watching Shawn Michaels dominate WWE in the mid-90s. His face title reign gave us great matches and moments to make him a legend. Michaels returning for a second run in the 2000s allowed him to add to his legacy with another run as a highly popular face.
Michaels' backstage reputation during the 90s made him the most hated man in wrestling for quite some time. Michaels abused his power and was a huge jerk to anyone he didn’t like, as Bret Hart, Bam Bam Bigelow and many others felt his wrath. Things changed with him getting over personal demons during his second reign, but some wrestlers like Shane Helms claimed he still tried to pick on others backstage.
9 Lex Luger
Lex Luger got by on his physique and look for the entirety of his wrestling career. His bodybuilding look made him a valued commodity in both WCW and WWE during the 90s. Luger primarily played a face character and achieved the brunt of his success in WCW as one of the faces of the company during the Monday Night Wars.
The push got to Luger’s head and he had the reputation of being very arrogant backstage. Various wrestlers have spoken out against Luger following the WCW years, criticizing him for his ego not matching his wrestling skills. Luger frequently talked down to the undercard wrestlers below him on the show and played the political game in WCW to try to get ahead of others.
Konnan's legacy in Mexico for his work in the early 90s was highly underrated. Konnan was compared to Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan in Mexico during his time as the top face in AAA. WCW signed him due to the successful stint and it led to his career taking off in the United States. Konnan was one of the few international stars in WCW to get over as a face due to charisma and personality.
Outside of the ring, Konnan isn’t always as cool to the fans. Konnan has actually admitted that he'll flat out tell off a fan for approaching him at the wrong time. The stories often feature Rey Mysterio signing autographs in a public place and Konnan trying to get the fans away. Konnan has also been involved in his fair share of public wrestling wars by trashing others without warrant.
7 Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks is one of the most popular female wrestlers in recent WWE history. Her merchandise numbers of Banks are stronger than every female wrestler in recent history aside from The Bella Twins. Banks’ outstanding in-ring skills and entertaining character work connected with fans back in NXT and now on the main roster on the Raw brand.
Despite being a face character, Banks is more of a natural heel as “The Boss” That carries over outside the ring and specifically in public places. Banks has a rule that she will not sign any autographs or take pictures with fans at airports or hotels. It is a fair rule, but she has gone as far as to ridicule fans that get photos with her by insulting them on social media when they thank her.
6 CM Punk
CM Punk's popularity during his face run in 2011 made him among the most beloved wrestlers WWE has ever seen. Fans still chant his name out of rebellion towards management and out of love for his work. Punk has admitted he's a jerk at times and considers himself a heel. He proved it with many antics outside of the ring painting him in a negative light.
There are quite a few stories about Punk being a jerk to fans in public when he feels they shouldn’t approach him. Punk has also ended friendships with Colt Cabana and Hornswoggle for silly reasons. His paranoia ended his time in wrestling and ruined a lot of the relationships outside of the ring. Punk has his good moments, but the evidence adds up to make him a jerk.
5 Steve Austin
Every diehard fan loves Steve Austin, but he's had his fair share of bad moments. Austin definitely is a great face character in the history of wrestling. The entire business changed for the better when Austin turned into an anti-authority hero and dominated WWE. It helped WWE win the Monday Night Wars after getting destroyed by WCW for over a year.
However, Austin has a dark past outside of the squared circle. The story of him brutally beating his ex-wife and former WWE star Debra will always haunt him. Austin has never publicly expressed regret towards that incident and yelled at someone asking about it on the PW Torch radio show. There have also been incidents of him refusing to work with wrestlers like Jeff Jarrett and Marc Mero for petty reasons.
4 Ric Flair
Ric Flair is remembered by longtime fans for being a heel, but the newer fans only know him as a face. The majority of Flair’s final run in WWE saw him play a face character. Flair did a good job in the role as a beloved veteran appealing to the fans that respected him for all he did. Unfortunately, Flair doesn’t treat others with the same respect he gets.
The stories of Flair in recent years are rather depressing. Ring of Honor and Highspots were scammed out of money by him when he refused to live up to his commitments after taking the money ahead of time. Flair has also been a jerk to many co-workers, fans and business partners through the years. Even his friends and family will admit his ego is out of control.
3 Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam's face character was among the coolest you'll ever find in a wrestling ring. Van Dam portrayed a face for the entirety of his prime and the fans absolutely loved him. Both WWE and ECW saw RVD become one of the top faces in their companies. This led to Van Dam developing a massive ego. Popularity and talent saw RVD rub others the wrong reason for many years.
A lot of wrestlers hated working with Van Dam due to his arrogance and lack of humility making it a tough task to get on the same page. In later years, RVD stopped caring and buried other. A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels and The Young Bucks all were targets of his in interviews. Van Dam’s last few years added a negative aspect to his legacy as a legendary fan favorite.
2 Dynamite Kid
Dynamite Kid’s in-ring style revolutionized the wrestling industry by influencing many future stars. His stiff action in the ring and ability to implement high-flying moves made him a great face. He inspired a variety of wrestlers who weren't considered big enough, making them believe they could make it too. Unfortunately, that was where the positivity ended for Dynamite.
The real life stories about Dynamite Kid showed him to be one of the worst villains in wrestling. Bret Hart shared stories in his book about Dynamite being racist towards colored fans and being an overall jerk to those that appreciated him. There have even been allegations of Dynamite violently abusing his first wife. The beloved wrestler turned out to be a horrible person outside of the ring to tarnish his professional legacy.
1 Hulk Hogan
WWE put all of their eggs in the basket of Hulk Hogan in the 1980s and it proved to be a genius move. Hogan was arguably the most popular good guy in the history of the business. His pure face character saw him do everything right, including being a role model for the young kids of the era. Time would prove Hogan should have been a role model to no one.
Hogan was a huge jerk to many wrestlers and tried to use his power to hold others down. Aside from the awful tactics used in the ring, Hulk is also a huge villain in real life. His infamous leaked sex tape saw him unleash a hateful racist tirade. Hogan has tried to repair his reputation, but even his apologies come off as phony. It's fitting that a legendary good guy turned out to be the biggest villain in wrestling.