The structure of professional wrestling has always pitted heroes against villains. Heroes are known as faces and their job is to convince the audience to invest in them through emotional and financial means. Fans are supposed to want to see the face prevail and should be spending money on tickets to see their favorite star. The face has to appeal to all demographics of the crowd and should have good values at their core. Some faces are a bit more dynamic as John Cena is currently hated by a large percentage of the audience but still loved by a larger group. Cena has been able to manipulate the folks into developing a fun love/hate niche but, in most cases, a face should appeal to all fans.
Heels are meant to be the dastardly villain that should be able to control the fans emotions even more than a face. The heel has to convince you to pay to see them get their ass kicked by the face. Most of the wrestlers on this list have been in positions where their work has helped the faces they feuded with become more popular and successful. The concept of face vs. heel is really a partnership, as both parties have to make it work for each person to achieve success.
Unfortunately, not all wrestlers can play both roles easily. In fact, there are very few stories of wrestlers that succeeded in both face and heel positions, which you can read about here. Most wrestlers are better at one than the other. This list will take a look at the wrestlers that were drastically better at playing the heel than the face. All of the wrestlers have been successful in the business and had something to offer, but sometimes a role just doesn’t suit their talents.
Before adopting the JBL moniker and gimmick, Bradshaw spent a decade in the WWE, with his greatest success coming as a part of the APA tag team with Ron Simmons. Once becoming JBL, he became a despised heel and held the WWE Championship for almost a year. JBL showcased a new side of his personality as a villain. When working as a face for the majority of his time with the APA, you could have never predicted that he had the ability to become a top heel in the company. JBL created a new legacy for his career and became remembered as a hated heel and long tenured WWE Champion.
14 Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon has always been an outstanding heel. Whether as a petulant spoiled brat in the early 2000s or her current role as a cruel authority figure, Stephanie has always shown the knack for getting a crowd to despise her. During the brand split, she was named the SmackDown general manager and played a face for one of the few times in her career. The youngest McMahon child did a solid job in the role but she just felt like another performer. Being able to get thousands of fans to hate her is Stephanie’s strong suit and she should stick to it.
13 Jerry Lawler
During his days in Memphis, Jerry Lawler had a tremendous career as a top draw and most of his best days were as a heel character. Lawler would draw more heat than any other wrestler at the time and WWE tried to capture the magic after signing him in the early 90s. In ended up being a success, as Lawler was hilarious in the heel role as a wrestler and commentator. He would eventually turn face as a commentator due to gaining the respect of WWE fans after years at the position, but the character change limited Lawler’s material and the quality of his commentary took a hit because of it. New fans would never believe a long time viewer telling them that Lawler was once a hilarious and entertaining commentator as a heel.
Sid achieved a lot more success in WWE and WCW than people realize. The big man main evented two WrestleMania PPVs and held the world championship for both companies. With his impressive physical size and intense demeanor, Sid was a very credible heel. His matches with Shawn Michaels showed how well he could do as a monster villain facing a smaller hero. Sid was made a face multiple times in his career and he actually became a face champion during the last year of WCW. He looked completely out of place as a face and his promos were laughable. There’s no way he should have ever played a face.
11 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio's debut as a heel in WWE was a terrific time for the Mexican wrestler. Between driving to the ring in an expensive car and having his own personal ring announcer, Del Rio came off like a major superstar. His personality was perfect for the role and he consistently delivered great matches during his first run as a heel in WWE. The company tried turning him face and it completely bombed. Fans turned on him and wanted Dolph Ziggler (a heel at the time) to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase in hopes of ending Del Rio’s title reign. Del Rio as a face was just flat and felt unnatural. While he’s currently struggling in his WWE return, it’s more to do with Zeb Colter and the storyline than Del Rio’s heel persona.
10 Mark Henry
The World’s Strongest Man has had his shares of up and downs through his long tenured career in WWE. Henry’s best work was definitely as an intimidating heel, with his world title reign during the “Hall of Pain” era and his early career run in the Nation of Domination being a success. Every time WWE tried to turn Henry into a face, it completely flopped. The American hero, Sexual Chocolate and his current work as a respected veteran have all been busts. Henry has never shown anything impressive during his time as a face and was significantly better when embracing the heel role.
Christian has always been one of the more underrated heels in the wrestling business. His superb comedy and stellar in-ring skills created a great heel that the audience could laugh at but also respect. Christian turned on Edge in 2001 and adopted the cowardly heel role. Through the years, he excelled at it with his most successful days as a singles wrestler coming as “Captain Charisma,” where he would trash talk all the other wrestlers on the roster in a humorous fashion. His heel work in TNA was some of the best character content the company has ever put out. Christian worked well as a face, but he was far more entertaining as a heel.
8 The Miz
The Miz is a natural at being annoying, with an incredible ability to get under your skin. It only makes sense that he tapped into that and created a character that has proven to be successful in the WWE. Miz found himself in the WrestleMania XXVII main event due to his heel character work and was involved in a huge storyline with John Cena and The Rock. WWE tried to use him as a face in 2012-2013, but The Miz was terrible in the role. No matter what he tried, there was no way he could turn the fans in his favor. Miz was meant to be a heel and he’ll likely continue to be one for the rest of his WWE career.
7 Triple H
Throughout his long and successful career in WWE, Triple H has done just about everything. He’s been a singles star and has participated in successful factions. He’s been the serious ass-kicking character but also been involved with comedic roles. Triple H has spent enough time in both the face and heel roles to establish which he's better at. With his naturally snarky personality and intense in-ring style, Triple H is a natural as a heel. During most of Triple H's tenure as a main eventer, he's worked most successfully as a vicious villain. When he tried to turn face, it worked due to his reputation but the comedy and phony smiles just seemed off.
Luckily for Vader, he spent most of his career as a heel and achieved great success in the role. WCW and Japan utilized Vader as a monster heel and he was one of the most impressive talents on the roster. WWE scored some success with him as a heel during his feud with Shawn Michaels, but they never understood the mystique of Vader’s character. The company tried turning him face in feuds against The Hart Foundation and Kane, but Vader looked out of place when working as a face and it ended his WWE career rather quickly.
5 Ric Flair
There’s no doubt that Ric Flair is an all-time great in pro wrestling but that’s mostly due to his work as an elite heel. Actually, it would be difficult to find a better heel in wrestling history. His character, as someone with an arrogant attitude and the ability to back it up, was simply perfect. Unlike most of the others on the list, Flair was not a terrible face, as he did well during a feud against Vader in WCW and was a loved figure for the latter stages of his career in WWE. The difference is that he was a good face but a legendary heel.
4 Jake Roberts
Between his methodical in-ring psychology, which was second to none, and his unbelievable promos, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was an absolutely terrifying heel. Children watching were afraid of him and adults were intimidated by him. The use of his snake was also used in a more serious manner and it added to the magic of his heel work. Roberts did decently as a face, but he was not anything special in the new role. He would use the snake to scare the heels and give the audience a good laugh but it just wasn’t the same. Roberts’ was simply meant to be a great wrestling heel.
3 Roddy Piper
The late Roddy Piper is remembered for being one of the most successful heels in wrestling history. If not for Piper’s outstanding work as a heel, Hulk Hogan may not have become as popular as he did. Piper was the perfect heel because he knew how to push people's buttons. He would make snide remarks in the moments that called for it but knew when to get serious. Piper’s time as a face in his final years as a full-time performer in WWE and his main event run in WCW were both average at best. While he was humorous and had a few good promos, Piper was no longer the legend you remembered because he wasn't playing to his strengths.
2 Vince McMahon
The decision to make Vince McMahon an evil authority figure as “Mr. McMahon” played a huge role in the ascension of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the success of WWE’s Attitude Era. It is easy to hate a rich billionaire that has a massive ego and McMahon gave us what we wanted to despise. McMahon was arguably the greatest heel of that time and worked as the perfect enemy to Austin and other top stars. Any time McMahon tried to turn face, it did not have the same effect. Vince is viewed as a rich, power-hungry, ego-driven boss and that kind of character made for better television.
There’s never been a wrestler that needed a heel character more than Edge. During his singles run, Edge could never get to the next level as a face. From 2001-2004, WWE tried to make him one of the faces of the company but his character was bland as a face. Edge was just a handsome guy that would smile and recite his lines, which led to fans growing resentment for him. After he turned heel, things started to make more sense. Edge became one of the greatest heels in wrestling history and was one of John Cena's greatest rival. WWE tried turning Edge face again by demanding the fans chant “SPEAR SPEAR SPEAR” over and over, but it once again flopped causing Edge to revert back to being a top heel.