It can be easy as a fan to forget how much of an art form professional wrestling actually is. The years of work perfecting the craft include not only athleticism, but the ability to truly tell a compelling story in the ring. That story can sometimes be told from the perspective of the hero, or babyface as its known in the business, or as a heel. The heel is just as important in the structure of a good story, as they're necessary to get the babyface over properly and give them a force to battle against.
Working as either heel or face doesn't always come easy to a wrestler, but companies like the WWE tend to keep the characters fresh by making their talent switch back and forth every so often. There are some that fit better as a heel and struggle as a face, and vice versa. There are still others, like John Cena, that remain babyface for far too long in the minds of many fans. The experience gained by working both sides of the fence is invaluable, as it can give a full perspective on exactly what it takes to achieve both angles.
There are no rules when it pertains to the reaction of the fans, so there are times when the WWE presents a Superstar as a heel, but they still get cheered, as has been seen recently with Dolph Ziggler on SmackDown Live! On the other side of that coin, the company can push a babyface and the smarks in the audience may revolt and boo them anyway, as we see with the ongoing saga of Romain Reigns. Here we've compiled a list of fifteen wrestlers throughout the years and discuss whether they play a heel or face better.
15 15. Chris Jericho
Jericho has had a lot of experience in the ring and much of that was gained during his time at WCW as a fantastic heel. He spent time trolling Goldberg and eventually made his way to the WWE as the millennium man, Y2J. Jericho has become a legend in the WWE and part of the reason for that is his ability to roll with the story.
When Jericho has been gone for awhile and his music hits, he will often get the babyface reception from the live audience, but no one can drum-up heat with a crowd like Chris Jericho. His skill on the microphone, even when he's working as a heel, is so skilled that it can be hard to feel the heat he's seeking.
14 14. The Big Show
It's one of the longest running gags in modern WWE history. The Big Show never quite knows from week to week if he's heel or face. The turns happen so often, that it can sometimes be comical. The great thing about Show is that he can handle either angle with ease. His hulking size can serve as an intimidating and sometimes bumbling presence, as it has in heel feuds with Alberto Del Rio and The Undertaker.
Big Show is a great babyface, his big smile and high-fives to the kids can warm your heart. His recent babyface turn in a main event match against Braun Strowman on Monday Night RAW drew a lot of praise, putting The Big Show back on top as the largest "good guy" on television.
13 13. Seth Rollins
Rollins would enter the WWE main roster as "The Architect" of The Shield faction. He could be considered a heel from the point of his debut, but it was when he turned on his Shield brothers and joined The Authority that Rollins really got heat from the audiences. "Why Seth, Why?" signs adorned every live crowd for months. The image of Rollins running down the ramp at WrestleMania 31 to cash in Money in the Bank on the main event will forever go down in WWE history.
Rollins can make an audience hate him, but as time went on and audiences grew tired of having Roman Reigns forced upon them, Rollins began to get a different reception. He was out for most of the year with an injury, leaving a huge gap in the roster. When Rollins returned he was given a babyface reception that has only grown since, as he goes after Triple H and The Authority.
12 12. Randy Savage
The Macho Man was always looking out for number one, but he had a tepid on-screen friendship with Hulk Hogan throughout the 1980s. The two would eventually tag team as "The Mega Powers" and drew big money for the WWE together in a feud with Andre The Giant and Ted DiBiase. Eventually, the volatile Macho Man would become wild with jealousy, certain that Hogan was moving in on Miss Elizabeth.
The two would settle their feud at WrestleMania V, with Hogan acting as the face, as usual. The feud between the two stars would allow Macho Man to find his footing as a heel over the years, until the WCW era, when Hogan flipped the script and would turn heel against Macho Man to form the nWo.
11 11. Steve Austin
"The Texas Rattlesnake" is a prime example of the blurred line between face and heel during the 1990s. The Attitude Era glorified the "bad guy" and the typical babyface work just wouldn't fly anymore with the smarks. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was busy beer guzzling and cursing his way to the top, doing battle as a face with The Undertaker, Mr. McMahon and The Rock.
When Austin was out with injuries, The Rock stepped in and became the top babyface of the WWE, so when Austin returned, he felt that he needed to change things up. Normally, WWE likes to bring guys back in from injury as a babyface, but Austin was certain that his character needed a change. He aligned himself with Triple H to tag team, which was an instant heat magnet for him at the time.
10 10. CM Punk
CM Punk has always been a bit of an anti-hero. He seemed to struggle on-screen whenever he was a babyface. Punk made it clear after his time in the WWE that he preferred to be a babyface, especially as champion, as the profits from merchandise sales for him were top of the line. From a fan perspective, he really shined as a heel.
One prime example is one of the last big programs he worked. Punk was to take on the Undertaker at WrestleMania 29 and he used the recent real-life death of William Moody, the man known as "Paul Bearer", as an angle. Punk stole the Undertaker's "magical earn" and taunted him with it. He even had a video promo where he made the urn mock Taker in Paul Bearer's trademark voice.
9 9. Andre the Giant
In one of the most shocking heel turns of the 1980s, Andre the Giant set-up the legendary feud with his "best friend" Hulk Hogan when he turned on his friend and ripped the cross necklace off his neck. The two would eventually fight it out at WrestleMania III, where Hogan would go over as the biggest face of the decade by body slamming Andre.
Andre was an expert at getting talent over and his heel run in the WWE did just that for both Hogan and Macho Man. It was easy to make the giant a hulking menace and pairing him with a pro-heel mouthpiece like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase served only to solidify Andre as one of the greatest of all-time.
8 8. Daniel Bryan
It's hard to imagine a time when Daniel Bryan was a heel, but he did give it a go for awhile. He had a run as the World Heavyweight Champion, after beating babyface Big Show. He would come out to chants of "you suck" and though he had a decent run, he will go down in WWE history as one of the top babyfaces of the modern era.
The tide turned for Bryan when he formed "Team Hell No" with Kane. His "Yes!" chants have become a part of the live audience chants, much like Stone Cold's "What?" did back in the 1990s. His epic run against The Authority and Triple H made Daniel Bryan a phenomenon who would still be going strong, if it weren't for his forced retirement, due to injury.
7 7. Batista
Poor "Boo-Tista". He was gone for four long years and when he came back to the WWE, they put him in the usual babyface position, expecting a hero's welcome. He did get it for a day or two, but the fans quickly realized that it was going to be business as usual. His 2014 return happened during the rise of Daniel Bryan as the ultimate underdog face, so anyone on the other side of that was doomed to fail.
Batista had portrayed a great heel when he turned on his friend Rey Mysterio, as well as during his time in Evolution. The natural thing was to allow Batista to go into heel mode and rejoin the group. Batista had always worked best as a heel in the ring in the past and the run leading into WrestleMania XXX was no exception.
6 6. Kane
"The Devil's favorite demon" was a force to be reckoned with when he debuted in the WWE. Throughout the Attitude Era and most of the Ruthless Aggression Era he worked as a heel, but after the "hug it out" program that he did with Daniel Bryan, Kane showed his range. His babyface work was entertaining because he is such an unlikely and reluctant hero.
Certainly, Kane will always have his own best interests at heart, but there's nothing like that explosion hitting and Kane running down the ramp to come to the aid of a fellow babyface. This happened a lot during the 2013 run of "The Shield" faction, while he and Bryan were tag teaming as "Team Hell No", and it was surprisingly thrilling to see the Big Red Machine turn face. However, his best and most memorable days came during his run as a heel.
5 5. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was once a part of the 1980s WWE tag team sensations "The Rockers". When Michaels turned heel and attacked his partner Marty Jannetty on a 1992 episode of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's talk show, "The Barber Shop", he set in motion a career of heel and face turns that would keep the audience on their toes.
It was during the Attitude Era that Michaels would find the best stride, because during that era the concept of heel and face were blurred, allowing Michaels to sit comfortably in the middle for much of his career. Michaels was an adored face for most of the 2000s, but his brief work as a heel was remarkable.
4 4. Eddie Guerrero
The late Eddie Guerrero was known as "Latino Heat". The WCW alumni was as fierce on the microphone as he was in the ring. Eddie would win over audiences with his in-ring ability and underdog charisma, but it was when he turned heel against his long-time friend Rey Mysterio in 2005 that he truly showed his range. He had already been a heel half a decade earlier, but he had since been working babyface for some time.
Eddie had a nasty streak on camera that felt somehow natural. He's one of the best heels, because in spite of his dastardly persona, the fans still found a way to love him. He had a brief run in 2003 as a heel that was rejected by the fans as they wanted to root for him. Guererro would work as a heel for most of his career, and while his "Lie, Cheat and Steal" character was heel-ish, the fans still got behind him.
3 3. Triple H
There is an argument that could be made for Triple H being one of the top heels of all-time. Trips has spent a lot of time on the "bad" side of the block, but his modern era turn led to one of the best story arcs of all time. When Triple H turned heel on Daniel Bryan it started a domino effect that created the main event of WrestleMania XXX, and the birth of the "Yes" movement.
If it weren't for the extreme heel skills of Triple H, the era of Daniel Bryan couldn't have been the same. The audience wants to love Triple H and he seems to be able to use that against them at every turn. He's the man we love to hate and he bears that weight with great ease and pride.
2 2. The Rock
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a beloved movie star these days, but there was a time when he got booed out of every arena by the live audiences of the WWE. When Rocky Maivia started in the WWE his goofy character didn't go over well with the audience. In the coming years of the Attitude Era "The Rock" persona would emerge and win over the fans, but even then he first had a big run as a heel. The charisma that oozes from Rock also allowed him to move flawlessly between face and heel.
He's a guy you want to love and its hard not to enjoy him as a heel as much as a face. The Rock had great heel runs working with Mr. McMahon's "Corporation" faction as "The Corporate Champion" and feuding with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It would be his work as a babyface that audiences love most, however. To this day, when The Rock shows up the roof gets blow off of any venue he's in.
1 1. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan began his professional wrestling career as a babyface and remained that way for well over a decade. He is arguably the most popular and recognizable babyface of all-time (calm down, Cena fans!). Hulkamania was running wild in the 1980s and Hogan put a face to the brand with several legendary feuds. It's the house that Hogan built. In the same vein, his heel turn is also one of the biggest moments in wrestling history.
When he was with WCW, Hogan came to the company to revive his Hulkster persona. This was initially met with a lot of fan excitement, but as the crowd grew older and smarter, they craved something new. Hogan turned heel and joined the nWo. He began to dye the beard and remained a heel for the rest of the 1990s as "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan. That ability to show his "dark" side has given Hogan more dimension to his persona and has helped him to become the legend he is today. With that being said, he did elevate the WWE to a whole new level as a face.
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