In professional wrestling, the term “heat” does not refer to a rise in temperature but rather a desired reaction from the crowd usually directed towards a heel performer – although sometimes the fans will turn on a perceived face – case in point; John Cena.
In any other profession, should you be drawing hatred from the company’s clientele, you would be terminated immediately. However, in the wrestling business, a promoter loves hatred. The sound of a booing audience is music to his ears. This means that the wrestler is doing his job properly and that they have captured the interest of the fans.
In this article we will look at some of the best heat seekers in professional wrestling. However, before we get into this list, let's clarify what we mean by “heat seeker.” This will not be a list based strictly on someone being a heel, as heels are often viewed as cool characters and are subsequently cheered by a large section of the audience.
Bray Wyatt is a heel but is not booed out of the arena by the fans. Instead; they light up their cell phones and hold them high like electronic fireflies as he makes his way to the ring. They sing along to his songs and are often heard cheering for the Eater of Worlds.
CM Punk was a fantastic heel but was never hated by an entire arena – no matter how hard he tried, people still loved and related to Punk. Even during the epic “pipe bomb” promo, fans were cheering. Punk was always too real to hate that much.
Shawn Michaels was one of, if not, the best heel of the Attitude Era. The reaction he would receive from the live crowd was largely negative – at least from the men and children in attendance. If you listened in and looked at the faces, you could see the women still ogling over The HeartBreak Kid.
While these men and women were great at drawing heat, they are not suited for our list. We are here to discuss those who were truly hated by the entire building. The ones that left people seething in their seats. These are the top 15 heat seekers in professional wrestling history!
15 Vickie Guerrero
In more recent years, one of the biggest heat seekers in the WWE has been the widow of the great Eddie Guerrero. While assuming the General Manger role, Vickie was able to garner some of the biggest heat in the company.
The excessive and screeching use of her all-too-annoying catchphrase: “EXCUSE ME!” would cause the audience – who were already attempting to drown out her voice with their non-stop booing – to turn up the volume even more.
While in WWE, Vickie did a fine job of keeping the legendary Guerrero family name in tact among the wrestling scene.
14 Triple H
Triple H has worn many hats while in WWE: Connecticut Blueblood, Degenerate, The Game, Cerebral Assassin, King of Kings, C.O.O. The man who once defied all authority is now the man with all the authority – which makes him and his wife Stephanie McMahon prime targets for audience heat.
However, the current reactions to Triple H pale in comparison to fan reactions of the early 2000s – a time when Triple H was the top heel in the company and assumed the role better than anybody else around.
During this time, Triple H was a menacing figure – attempting to cripple his best friend, placing a stranglehold on the World Heavyweight Championship, and forming the ever-dominant faction known as Evolution.
13 Ted DiBiase
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was an arrogant character who looked down his nose on audiences and wrestlers alike. Complete with a gold trim suit, DiBiase was quickly hated by the blue-collar-class of wrestling fans.
Adding more heat to his persona, DiBiase was equipped with a bodyguard named Virgil who was often the subject of ridicule at the hands of DiBiase. This infuriated fans even more, having to see Virgil perform such tasks as rubbing DiBiase's feet.
“Everybody has a price,” DiBiase would say, but not when it comes to the WWE Championship which DiBiase once attempted to purchase.
12 Buddy Rogers
The original “Nature Boy,” Buddy Rogers was a heat seeker from way back – an integral part of the wrestling industry during the early years of television. Rogers would influence an entire generation of up-and-coming professional wrestlers.
Rogers had a look and personality all his own – until it was adopted by the new “Nature Boy” Ric Flair - and was hated for his unique and inventive way of performing.
Buddy Rogers, an old school heat seeker to the core.
11 The Dudley Boyz
Buh Buh (he became Bubba in WWE) Ray and D-Von, collectively known as The Dudley Boyz, first gained popularity in ECW where they began their epic run as one of the greatest tag-teams in all of wrestling.
When The Dudley Boyz were brought into WWE, they continued to excel in the tag-team division causing crowds great deals of distress with their continual abuse of women, which usually consisted of powerbombing a female through a table.
The most memorable Dudley powerbomb came at the expense of legendary female wrestler Mae Young, who took her table crash in stride. Needless to say, the heat was on The Dudley Boyz.
10 Eric Bischoff
If you remember Eric Bischoff in WCW, then you may recall his allegiance to the nWo. While the group was meant to be a heel stable, fans took a shining to them and crowds were very often split down the middle when it came to nWo vs. WCW.
The thing with Eric Bischoff was that he didn't quite fit the nWo mold the way the others had and fans took notice. Bischoff was not the guy being cheered and nobody ever wanted to emulate the man in charge.
When he made his way to WWE, it was more of the same. The heat Bischoff received as Raw General Manager was red hot – especially with his counterpart being “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
9 Jake Roberts
One of the best heels of his generation, Jake Roberts was known as “The Snake” due to his cold and calculating demeanor – and really, who likes a snake?
While Roberts did spend some time as a face, his better days were spent seeking heat from the crowd as a vicious and psychological heel. Roberts was fantastic at his craft and helped to innovate the mind games aspects of professional wrestling – an aspect that would become a large part of the industry.
8 Billy Graham
In 1977, “Superstar” Billy Graham would help redefine what it meant to be the World Champion when he defeated Bruno Sammartino for the gold. This during a period when a heel wrestler was not supposed to be champion for an extended period of time. However, Graham would hold the title for two-hundred-and-ninety-six days.
This left a bad taste in fans mouths. Sammartino was the American wrestling hero. The clean-cut good guy and ideal poster boy of professional wrestling. Graham was flamboyant and brash and helped revolutionize the concept of wrestling interviews. Billy Graham gave a new personality to the championship – one which fans were not accustomed to – thus drawing massive amounts of heat in the process.
7 Mr. McMahon
These days, Vince McMahon is a rarity on WWE television and when he does grace his audience with his presence, the crowd reaction is more on the positive side.
However, once upon a time in a land called Montreal, Vince McMahon decided to screw Bret Hart out of the WWE Championship. Suddenly, the man at the broadcast desk was no longer calling play-by-play and the Mr. McMahon character was born.
McMahon took more heat during the Attitude Era than many of the superstars themselves. The legendary feud between Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon perpetuated this heat even more, as Vince was essentially hated by everybody watching.
6 Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter's inclusion on this list is specific to his time as an Iraqi sympathizer. The very gimmick that put Slaughter's life at risk.
The idea was that Slaughter had turned his back on America – the country he once loved and fought for – and had gone turncoat. This would eventually lead to a WrestleMania VII match against Hulk Hogan. However, during this angle, Slaughter was receiving death threats and was forced to wear a bullet-proof vest in public while surrounded by security.
People were legitimately upset with the situation as the storyline was taking place amid the Gulf War – heat doesn't get more real that that.
5 Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette has been associated with professional wrestling for a very long time and no matter where he goes, one thing remains the same; his mouth is always moving. Cornette is perhaps the biggest loud-mouth in the industry. However, the man calls it as he see it and that is a commendable quality.
Cornette has never watered-down his opinion for anybody, which is something a lot of people can't seem to handle. Cornette has been drawing heat from wrestling fans for years. Even when he is doing something simple like a podcast, in a weird way, you can still feel Cornette pulling in heat from the listeners.
4 The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff are often overlooked in greatest tag-team discussions. The eccentric duo were an outstanding team that managed to draw constant heat from the fans.
Coming to the ring while waving the flags of Iran and Soviet Union was just the beginning of their gimmick. Once in the ring; Volkoff would then ask the live crowd to rise as he sang the Soviet Union national anthem. With fans already outraged, The Sheik would step in and take the microphone. Thus proclaiming: “Iran #1. Russia #1.” Followed by an exaggerated spit to the mat.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff were natural heat seeker who should not be forgotten.
3 Paul Heyman
The man behind the mystic world of Extreme Championship Wrestling has made a great number of enemies over the years but Paul Heyman is as good as they come.
Heyman can draw heat without speaking a word – just looking at his face or watching the way he walks can already boil the blood. Heyman is a master on the mic who can flip any crowd. Take for example: Monday Night Raw in Chicago. Paul Heyman comes out to the music of CM Punk. The crowd is loving everything about it until Paul Heyman does what Paul Heyman does and quickly draws heavy heat from The Windy City crowd.
It is very pleasing watching Paul Heyman displease so many people.
2 Roddy Piper
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper is often regarded as the greatest professional wrestling heel of all time – an originator who was way ahead of his time. With a short-temper and quick-wit, Piper would cut some of the most unforgettable promos.
Eventually, fans grew to love Piper and his off-the-wall personality, but when it came to seeking heat, Piper would hang with the best of them. Always ready with rudeness and unapologetic remark, Piper changed the concept of being a “bad guy” wrestler.
Who else could have drawn so much heat while wearing a kilt?
1 Bobby Heenan
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is hands-down the greatest heat seeker in professional wrestling. Nobody could work the angles quite like Heenan, who not only drew heat for himself but for the wrestlers he managed.
Heenan was smart, sharp-tongued, and always able to capture the attention of the audience. Bobby Heenan is a legend of the industry – the best heat seeker that has ever tried to rile up an audience.
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