In recent years, wresting across just about every North American promotion has been overtaken by the increasingly powerful Wrestling Fan. With internet 'smarks' shining a light on the creative process behind the scenes, the Wrestling Fan has come to better understand the mechanics of why one wrestler is pushed ahead of another, and how a promotion's braintrust goes about establishing a pecking order amongst the roster.
This understanding has instilled the Wrestling Fan with more vocal investment in who they wish to see pushed, rather than accepting the status quo and 'following the script' as promotions like WWE, NXT, TNA and ROH had planned. Each promotion now must grapple with the challenge of faces being booed for having not been handpicked by those fans and heels being cheered upon being deemed cool. The narrative that these promotions are trying to concoct is no longer being accepted at face value, thereby forcing changes on the fly and prompting writers to take a more active role in listening to what fans want.
When it comes to faces and heels, this means that wrestlers on both sides of the ledger must fully inhabit the persona they've been assigned and writers must infuse the proper tone and energy in their characters. Each promotion also needs to know when to listen to their fans and when not to, as WWE recently highlighted by continuing to push Roman Reigns as a face in spite of boos until he was, ultimately, accepted by their Universe.
Still, there remain a number of wrestlers that continue to find themselves on the wrong side of the face/heel spectrum. While some faces continue to seek cheers while only being met with apathetic indifference, others are primed to make a greater impact if turned than they would by staying the course. In case WWE, NXT, TNA or ROH happens to be looking for any creative input, here are 15 wrestlers who should probably be turning heel:
15 Mr. Anderson
TNA has come to learn about Mr. Anderson what WWE learned about the then-Mr. Kennedy years ago: despite the undeniable charisma and cool-looking move set, there is something that simply doesn't click when it comes to fan response. Still, he's a recognizable name with some value as both a wrestler and talker, so surely there's a place for him with TNA moving to Pop TV. His greatest success came in WWE as a heel, which TNA has curiously shied away from, in spite of his natural smarminess and heelish bravado on the mic.
14 Zack Ryder
Unless you count his recent NXT run as half of the Hype Bros alongside Mojo Rawley, it's been more than three years since Zack Ryder was last a relevant component of WWE programming. The "Woo Woo Woo" tag line and the Jersey Shore-esque gimmick might draw a nostalgia pop at a house show, but won't register beyond that any more. Maybe it's time, then, to see if a heel Ryder can blame the fans for forgetting him or, even better, evolve into a gratingly over-the-top heel version of his old persona.
13 Matt Sydal
The former Evan Bourne thrilled ROH fans with his return to the promotion last year, but hasn't had much to sink his teeth into since. A best-of-five series with ACH produced some electrifying high spots, but little in the way of real enmity or emotional connection. Sydal never turned heel during his WWE run, largely because his shooting star press finisher is too exciting not to generate a pop. Still, the 32-year old remains young enough to have a long, meaningful run in ROH, so they might as well do something to spice up his character.
12 Gail Kim
If WWE has a heel problem in its Divas division, TNA is quickly developing a similarly face-heavy issue in its Knockouts division. Taryn Terrell has left the promotion, leaving her former Dollhouse faction without a ringleader and TNA without its top female heel. Awesome Kong is something of a 'tweener, but generates more cheers than boos. One option, then, to spark the division is to make Gail Kim the new head of the Dollhouse, giving the popular Beautiful People and Kong a legitimized heel group to feud with.
11 Jack Swagger
His recent toothless pseudo-feud with Alberto Del Rio did little beyond highlighting how far Jack Swagger has fallen since his "We The People" days alongside Zeb Colter as part of the Real Americans. A natural heel, Swagger was turned face back in 2014 for a ready-made feud with the anti-American Rusev, but there just isn't any reason for him to still seek the cheers of an apathetic crowd. Since Colter's doomed-from-the-start partnership with Del Rio has now ended, could a heel reunion be in the works, one that could even eventually be used to elevate an NXT prospect?
10 Colin Cassady
The duo of Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore serves as a weekly highlight on NXT programming, mostly for Amore's over-the-top mic work and mimic-able catchphrases. But considering Cassady's status as an agile near-seven footer with a chiseled build, it's remarkable that WWE brass have allowed him to remain involved in a comic relief tag team all this time. If Creative does have aspirations for Cassady beyond the mid-card - and they should - having him turn on the beloved Amore would instantly make him one of the most reviled heels in NXT.
9 Sin Cara
Ever since coming over from Mexico amid much fanfare, the Sin Cara character, which has been played by two different wrestlers, has largely disappointed. Whether because of botches or because modern WWE crowds struggle to latch onto masked superstars, Cara just hasn't received the reactions expected from his exciting in-ring work. Now, as part of the Lucha Dragons alongside Kalisto, it is clear that he's being Marty Jannetty'd out of the picture. Although he's currently out with a reported dislocated shoulder, I wouldn't be surprised to see a turn on his smaller, quicker partner forthcoming.
8 Bobby Fish
One half of standout ROH tag team reDragon, Bobby Fish kicked off his tenure as a heel but ultimately was forced face by his team's popularity. Although partner Kyle O'Reilly looks like he's on a one-way path to stardom and fan favorite-hood, Fish's smarmy demeanor plays better as a heel. In his recent feud with Television Champion Roderick Strong, Fish has come off heelish even as he's been slotted in the face role. If the heel turn does come to fruition, it would surely only be a matter of time before a feud with O'Reilly was in the cards.
7 Randy Orton
Professional wrestling is littered with competitors who made a career out of bouncing back and forth from one end of the face/heel spectrum to the other. But few have offered such alternately compelling options to support both sides of the ledger as Randy Orton. On one hand, he has openly spoken about preferring performing as a heel and carries a smug entitlement that probably borrows from his real life persona. However, he also holds credibility as a legacy star while armed with his cool RKO finishing move and 'Viper' moniker. Count me among those, however, who see him better suited as a brooding, dangerous villain.
6 Moose / War Machine (tie)
These ROH rising stars probably merit their own respective places on this list, but share such eerily similar status that they may as well be connected. Both Moose and the War Machine tag tandem of Raymond Rowe and Hanson have grown popularity as remarkably athletic big men, but all three seem to profile out as dominant heels for an underdog face to eventually conquer. A Moose / Jay Lethal feud would seem a lot more plausible with Lethal in the face role, just as a tag feud between War Machine and the Young Bucks would appear to fit better with Nick and Matt Jackson playing the faces.
5 Kurt Angle
The status of Kurt Angle in TNA remains up in the air, but one thing that seems certain is that his days as an active wrestler appear to be over. Particularly in WWE, however, Angle demonstrated some remarkably proficient mic work, typically in a heel role. If he were so inclined, he could surely employ a valuable role as a heel manager and mouthpiece for a rising star in just about any promotion. WWE has reportedly been leery of bringing Angle back into the fold on account of his on-going neck issues, but a managerial role and possible Legends contract / agent position could be more palatable.
4 Chris Jericho
The part-time WWE'er is back once again in time for the Royal Rumble, where he will be one of 30 superstars vying for the World Heavyweight title currently held by Reigns. Although Chris Jericho remains highly unlikely to win the Rumble, what he does during the mega-match and how that translates to a possible Wrestlemania role will be interesting to watch. Jericho's last WWE stint ended with hints at a feud with Dean Ambrose and his most recent returned seemed overlying cloying, as if he were playing to the fans in a heelishly excessive way.
3 The Dudley Boyz
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley were brought back to WWE after Summerslam last year to inject some energy into the tag team division and get involved in feuds with rising teams like the New Day and the Wyatts. Those feuds are now in the books, with the Dudleys having done little beyond offering some nostalgic high spots and, well, losing. Without a tag title run, it's difficult to see what else they can do on the face side of the ledger that isn't spinning their wheels. A heel turn could build new feuds, while offering the duo a new purpose and giving Bubba Ray a chance to re-create his brilliant heel run from his TNA days.
2 Dolph Ziggler
The Show-Off might have hit rock bottom on the January 4th edition of WWE Raw, when he fell victim to an upset by Heath Slater, the leader of a new faction of jobbers known as the Social Outcasts that includes Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Adam Rose. Indeed, a heel turn for Dolph Ziggler is long over-due. After starting out red hot as a face when he and Del Rio double-turned at the Payback PPV in 2013, Ziggler has simply been spinning in circles as of late while tied up in directionless feuds with Rusev and Tyler Breeze. I mean, come on - his Twitter handle is still @HEELZiggler!
1 John Cena
'John Cena should turn heel' might be one of the most repetitive, often-made arguments in WWE history. But a vocal anti-Cena presence at every WWE event and a desperate need for something to shake up the current product has consistently gotten the short shift in favor of merchandise sales and public and charitable appearances. Now, Cena no longer even anchors the promotion thanks to the ascent of Reigns, which begs the question of what he is being protected for? In fact, you might argue that a mega-feud between an Authority-approved Cena against the emerging Reigns could be one of the few true fresh main event feuds that WWE has in its holster.