Wrestling runs on the duality of good and evil. Good guys do good stuff, bad guys do bad stuff, and ultimately, the good guy alway comes out on top, especially if that good guy’s name is John Cena (cue the music).
In the olden days, good and evil were damn near absolute. People cheered Hulk Hogan because he was the epitome of goodness. He told kids to drink their milk and say their prayers, and he was more patriotic than a bald eagle made of apple pie perched atop the Statue of Liberty. Meanwhile, people booed “Rowdy” Roddy Piper because he was an evil, cheating jerk, and because he wasn’t from here. No one ever accused Vince McMahon of subtlety. Today, however, the lines between good and evil are blurry, to say the least. A very vocal section of the WWE audience cheers for scoundrels like Kevin Owens and AJ Styles, partially because their in-ring skills are transcendent and partially because they’re just cooler, but boos heroes like Roman Reigns and John Cena, primarily due to the uninspired, Superman-esque booking both men have received. In general, it seems to be harder for faces to get over in modern times, possibly because their motivations are always so vanilla and boring (“Boy howdy, am I just glad to be here!” STOP BEING LIKE THAT! ESPECIALLY YOU, TJ PERKINS!), but it’s not impossible.
Without further ado, this list will honor the best faces and heels (good guys and bad guys, respectively) in the WWE today. There won’t be any “Har har, Roman Reigns is a heel, ‘cuz people hate him” jokes in this article, because it’s hacky and you should feel bad. Seriously, though, Vinny Mac, just turn him heel. It’s just sad at this point.
15. Face – Cesaro
The Swiss Superman, Cesaro, is one of the most perennially over, but horribly misused wrestlers in the WWE today. On one hand, very few wrestlers have a connection with the WWE fans like Cesaro does. People are just genuinely happy to see him wrestle and succeed. However, WWE Creative simply doesn’t know what to do with him. He often gets lost in the shuffle, and if it weren’t for his US title matches against John Cena, the WWE might have forgotten about him completely, but even when Creative does try to push him, it goes poorly. His recent best-of-seven series against Sheamus could have been a landmark feud for the King of Swing, giving him a serious victory to boost his credibility, but instead, the WWE went with a cheap non-ending and put the two in a wonky tag team together. Fortunately, despite all the trash the WWE gives him, Cesaro remains almost absurdly over with the WWE crowd, which will ensure he keeps getting TV time.
14. Heel – AJ Styles
Take a moment to appreciate just how much AJ Styles has accomplished in the past nine months. He debuted in January at the Royal Rumble. He lost to Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania. He had a series of great PPV matches against Roman Reigns, albeit losing efforts all. Then he had a stellar series of matches against John Cena, won the WWE World Championship, and is now the biggest star on arguably the WWE’s best program. He’s accomplished more in the past nine months than some ever do. A big part of his success has been that along the way, he transitioned from a clunky, aw shucks face to a conniving, self-centered heel. He’s possibly the best wrestler on Planet Earth and he knows it. He flaunts his greatness to everyone he faces and he never lets them, or the audience, forget how good he is. He’s even turned his mic skills, one of his biggest weaknesses throughout his career, into a major plus. There’s nothing he can’t do.
13. Face – Dean Ambrose
Like Cesaro, Dean Ambrose has always been incredibly over with WWE fans. He’s the complete package: he’s a tremendous wrestler and a great mic worker. He’s one of the best brawlers in the WWE today and one of the funniest wrestling personalities in the last decade. He’s a former WWE World Champion and he looks to be a main event fixture for the foreseeable future. Surprisingly, since losing the title, he’s only gotten better. Because of his comedic talent, the WWE has been booking Dean Ambrose like a jokey prop comedian since the Shield split up. While he’s managed to stay afloat with the WWE fans through all this nonsense, all of the goofy wackiness had affected his credibility as a main eventer, especially when compared to his Shield brothers, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. However, he’s recently turned over a new leaf, becoming a tweener in the vein of Stone Cold. It’s the role he was born to play and it’s sure to increase his already sky high popularity.
12. Heel – Rusev
Foreign heels are an old trope of professional wrestling. They used to be a big deal in the old WWE, when guys like Roddy Piper, the Iron Sheik, and Yokozuna were hated in part because of their alien nature and their overt dislike of the United States. However, the foreign heel gimmick has become fairly stale and fans are mostly bored with it. Rusev being the exception. Rusev was given a throwback gimmick and he ran with it until he couldn’t run anymore. Rusev has the perfect mixture of wrestling ability and intensity to make people truly hate him, and his constant derision of the United States guarantees him almost nuclear heat. Having Lana by his side to deliver excellent heel promos helps, even though he’s no slouch on the mic, despite his limited English. Rusev has mastered the old school villain role he’s been handed and he’s so powerful and evil, defeating him is a huge accomplishment for any face. That’s the mark of a great heel.
11. Face – John Cena
John Cena gets more hate than he deserves these days. Back in the Super-Cena halcyon days of 2010, when another wrestler couldn’t look at the main event without seeing a John Cena troll face staring back at them, the criticisms against Cena were valid. However, now, in 2016, when he’s having arguably his best run with the company, putting on great matches left and right and helping new stars get over, the criticisms fall are falling on deaf ears. Amazingly, he still gets “You can’t wrestling” chants, despite being one of the best ring workers in not just the WWE, but the world. And despite his decreased role in the company, he’s still the alpha face of the WWE, the wrestling world’s shining beacon of hope and light. Recently, he’s added more edge to his character, being less silly and showing more intensity, and it’s made him a more compelling character than he’s been since his feud with the Rock. Fans may still have some leftover resentment for Cena, but they’re learning to appreciate him more as his time with the company winds down, and they’re no longer angry whenever he appears onscreen. Love live John Cena.
10. Heel – Charlotte
Considering that her father is Ric Flair, one of the greatest heels and professional wrestlers of all time, it’s no surprise that Charlotte is an outstanding performer, in the ring and on the mic (Well, David Flair was dreadful, so maybe it is a surprise). Truthfully, it’s a bit of a shame that the WWE constantly compares her to her Hall of Fame father, because her abilities deserve to stand on their own, but she plays the role of the daughter of the Dirtiest Player in the Game so well, she’s become one of the most captivating characters on WWE television. Onscreen, she’s pure evil. She uses people however she wants, mistreating her friends and brutalizes her enemies, and constantly derides others for not being as amazing as her. She even threw her own father to the curb when she got sick of him. In the ring, her talent speaks for itself, as she’s one of the best performers in the entire company, not just the women’s division (And her moonsault is A+). Charlotte’s exactly the kind of world beating villain the women’s division needs to grow even stronger.
9. Face – Shinsuke Nakamura
There has never been a superstar in the WWE like Shinsuke Nakamura (And not just because the company has a spotty track record with Asian stars). He has a charisma to him that’s indescribable: everything he does is special and he can turn the most boring segments into pure gold just by existing. He has a limited grasp on the English language, but it doesn’t affect him in the slightest. The audience is just drawn to him. His flamboyant “King of Strong Style” gimmick is unique even in the bonkers world of professional wrestling, his mannerisms and facial expressions are top notch, his ring work is unparalleled, and he has hands down the best theme music in the WWE. He’s sometimes a morally ambiguous hero: his strike heavy style is absolutely brutal, and he has a tendency to taunt his opponents and play mind games (Who else has the balls to steal Samoa Joe’s nose?), but he’s so over with the crowd that it’d be nearly impossible to fully turn him to the dark side.
8. Heel – Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is incredible. Since debuting in the WWE in 1999, the man has proven time and time again that he can adapt to any situation. Whenever he returns, his character seems a bit lukewarm at first, but within a matter of weeks, he fixes the problem and and is always one of the best things on WWE TV. He was the first WWE Undisputed Champion, his feud with John Cena in 2005 helped push the Doctor of Thuganomics to the moon, his feud with Shawn Michaels in 2008 was one of the best in the last decade, and his current run as somebody’s goofy scarf loving dad is hysterical. He’s one of the funniest wrestlers ever, one of the best talkers ever, and one of the best in-ring performers ever. There’s simply nothing Jericho can’t do. He’s nefarious, he’s diabolical, he’s goofy, and he’s lovable. Nobody knows when his current WWE run will end, or when he’ll be back, so we should all enjoy the greatness of Chris Jericho while we can. Breathe it in, man.
7. Face – Sami Zayn
Everyone loves an underdog. Rey Mysterio made himself one of the most popular wrestlers ever by being a perennial underdog, giving him carte blanche to dress up like comic book characters and put his kids up for adoption in ladder matches, Daniel Bryan’s rise to the main event of Wrestlemania was one of the most thrilling and fulfilling storylines in recent years, and Sami Zayn has quickly become one of the most beloved characters in the WWE. He’s possibly the most important wrestler in NXT history, his feuds with Cesaro, Neville, and Kevin Owens being some of the best the promotion has ever seen. He struggled to win the big one, but fans were invested in his quest for gold and when he finally won, they were legitimately thrilled. On the main roster, he has unfortunately been lost in the shuffle for the time being, but his enduring popularity and incredible ring work make it impossible for the company to ignore for too long (Plus, he and Kevin Owens CAN NEVER STOP FIGHTING, so that feud is always in the company’s back pocket whenever things get boring). He’s one of the best, most honestly likable pure faces in the company and he’ll eventually make his way back to the top.
6. Heel – The Miz
The Miz is criminally underrated, which is disappointing, because the Miz is incredible. People generally don’t seem to like the Miz because of his reality show origins and his safe, methodical, sometimes boring in-ring style, even though he’s had some very good matches with Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and John Morrison, to name a few. Regardless, his current WWE run is one of the best heel runs in recent years: he plays his obnoxious, Hollywood A-Lister, douchebag role to perfection and as a result, he receives nuclear heat wherever he goes. His work-shoot promo on Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack was the best heel promo of the year by far and it helped him make his feud with Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental title as good it has been. The Miz has also been involved in two of the best tag teams of the last decade: Miz and Morrison and the Awesome Truth. The point is: the Miz is great and he deserves to be recognized for how great a villain he is.
5. Face – The New Day
This entry may be cheating a little bit, since the New Day is technically three dudes, but those three dudes are so tremendously over, it’d be an insult to keep them off this list. The New Day are the perfect example of three directionless performers teaming up to get themselves over. The New Day started as a ridiculous, slightly stereotypical group of happy faces and they received Rocky Maivia levels of hate from the audience. However, upon turning heel, they became one of the most over acts in the company and were forced to turn face again, this time to critical reception. Since then, the group has won the Tag Team Championships twice, their second reign lasting a record 400+ days. They receive massive ovations all over the country, their promos are some of the best and funniest in wrestling, and they always put on quality matches. Eventually, the New Day will have to break up, but for now, they’re writing their story as one of the greatest, and most over, stables in WWE history.
4. Heel – Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe is the perfect monster heel. He’s a terrifying, destructive force, one that everyone on the NXT roster fears, but hasn’t been built up to be impossible to defeat, like Brock Lesnar. His current feud with Shinsuke Nakamura has shown just how great Joe is, and is truly remarkable given just how long he’s been doing this. His Ring of Honor tenure was legendary, his TNA run was good, although he should have been used better later on, and now, he’s one of the biggest stars in the WWE’s best promotion and fans eagerly await his main roster debut. Joe’s ferocity is unmatched, he genuinely seems like he wants, and can, rip off his enemies’ heads. He has one of the most blistering in-ring styles in professional wrestling, with an arsenal of strikes that could probably take down a bull elephant and a finishing maneuver that looks genuinely devastating. When he does come to the main roster, he’ll be a monumental challenge for any top face, or a possible monster killer for a certain potato headed former UFC champion. Just saying.
3. Face – Enzo and Cass
If we’re being completely honest, this entry very well could have just gone to Enzo Amore, since he’s the mouth behind the tandem and the one the crowd pops for week in, week out, but Smacktalker Skywalker and his seven foot friend are a package deal, so here they are. In no way is Big Cass a bad talker, he’s actually fairly entertaining on his own (in small doses), but Enzo is transcendent on the mic. You can count on one hand the people in WWE history who are on Enzo’s level as a talker, and they all still might be wrong. The Rock could be his only real challenge. Enzo and Cass are one of the most popular acts in the WWE right now and they receive the biggest pop no matter where they go. The WWE audience loves them. It’s a real testament to their likability that despite being more or less directionless on RAW at the moment, people still lose their minds when they come out. It’s only a matter of time before the duo wins gold, and on that day, Enzo will drop the hottest of promos. The world awaits.
2. Heel – Kevin Owens
Fact: Kevin Owens is the most complete, entertaining, dynamic, and unique wrestler in the WWE since CM Punk. In the ring, there are few people who can claim his level of excellence, his athleticism made all the more impressive by his rotund figure. He’s a killer brawler who shows no mercy in the squared circle, often vocally mocking his opponents during matches. On the mic, he’s one of the most captivating talkers in the company. He has impeccable timing, unreal intensity, and can be very funny when the moment calls for it. His current program with Chris Jericho is hysterical and really highlights how great Owens is, that he can hang with Y2J on the mic. He’s a snarky, cruel heel who backs up all his bluster in the ring. He does everything he can to turn the crowd against him and it works, being able to draw boos out of a crowd that really, really wants to cheer him. He’s a master of his craft in a way few ever achieve and he’s the perfect heel to carry RAW into the future.
1. Face – Bayley
I want you to close your eyes and try to imagine a scenario where Bayley could be evil. You can’t do it. The only scenarios that make sense are so absurd, they could never happen, like Bayley revealing herself to be Sister Abigail. Something absolutely insane would have to happen to turn Bayley to the dark side and that’s why she’s at the top of this list. She’s the WWE’s resident Alpha Face. She’s the shining beacon of morality in the otherwise dreary world of professional wrestling, where attempted murder is as commonplace as baby oil and everyone’s constantly stabbing each other in the back. Bayley refuses to be anything less than the happiest, nicest, most wonderful person on the roster, despite constant derision from the other women on the roster as childish. If Charlotte’s the women’s division’s ultimate heel, then Bayley is its ultimate face. Imagine a rubber match between Sasha and Bayley at WrestleMania, where Bayley walks away with the gold. That would be an all time moment, right up there with Macho Man winning the belt at WrestleMania IV. Pure euphoria.
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