This is something we see a bit too often. In the biggest companies in the world, sometimes they let the fans dictate who becomes a star, and other times, someone in a suit decides we should like this guy or that guy for whatever reason. And when the top brass forces someone down our throats, it’s an absolutely great way to ensure that they get despised by the fans. So while a babyface, by definition, is supposed to be adored by the fans-cheered, loved, merchandise scooped up like crazy-there are plenty of them who are either almost universally disliked, or at best extremely polarizing. I mean, sure, there are few wrestlers who have ever made the vast majority of fans happy-some people always root against that guy whom most people cheer for, if only “just because”. So here we are, talking about the most hated babyfaces. Yes, believe me, I know that is a walking contradiction. But, it does happen.
Someone in some office, somewhere, things that some wrestler would make a great face. He or she will be adored, they say! Fans will love them! Except that, when the push happens, it goes over like a lead balloon, and the performer is stuck in a really bad spot-positioned to be a top face, but hated by the fans whom they were supposed to be adored by. Other ways to get on this list? Be polarizing, where a good chunk love you and cheer you, but a nearly equal chunk of fans don’t (or, at least, a very vocal group). I think we see this more now in this more modern era, due in part to the incredible amount of exposure these people have. Social media, tons of television coverage, advertising, guest appearances… we see them so much, so it’s easier for a fan to form his or her own opinions.
It used to be you’d see a guy wrestle every so often, and if the promoter pushed them as a face, then that’s what they were. But, fans have gotten much smarter, so now we have people who bookers intended to be faces, but who weren’t major successes in that effort. So let’s see who made the list!
20 Shawn Michaels
I know what you are saying, right off the bat, this guy has had a stroke. Nope, honestly, I swear. I have all my faculties about me. This is going to be a recurring theme on this list if you watch -at times, guys and gals will get mis-cast. Someone wants that look to be a babyface, but, try as they might, fans would rather hate them. The good news is that in most instances, someone has had the brains to realize the error and course-correct things. It’s important to admit mistakes. When this issue was most prevalent was the Michaels/HBK feud. Some loved him, some loved Bret. It was a very challenging program in that respect, because neither guy was an obvious alpha heel type. Looking back, HBK was as great a face as he was a heel, so it didn’t really matter.
Oh, I am not crazy. I fully recognize that, when she made her main roster debut, she was pretty much instantly the most liked and cheered woman on the show. But that eventually faded away, something that was helped by the broader Women’s Revolution. When all of her fellow NXT alumni were elevated to the main roster, suddenly she wasn’t the object of the fans' affection, and I think it’s safe to say it got to Paige. The upshot here is that WWE and Paige heard it, accounted for it and ran with it, by embracing the fan response and ultimately turning Paige heel. But there was a stretch there, as a face, where she was getting about as much traction with fans as a NASCAR driving on an icy road.
18 Alberto Del Rio
OK, it’s honestly just a coincidence that Del Rio is ranked right after his current object of affection. But, while he is best known as a heel, and he has played that role wonderfully, he did actually take a turn as a babyface. And while I was enjoying it for the most part, he wasn’t getting great responses from fans as a whole, and eventually WWE used it as a reason to have Del Rio blow a gasket and turn back to the dark side. I really felt like it was kind of a bummer, in the grand scheme of things, because I felt like he could be a unique, complex and enjoyable babyface if given the chance, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Once again, here is someone who we most associate with life as an evil, repulsive heel. And, that is true enough for him, but he also has had time on the other side of life as a babyface. He was getting over to an extent, at times better than others, but it was most definitely a work in progress. And then, he got himself injured, and time off does not always help. If anything, time away can absolutely crush momentum, which for his face run, which had already been on life support, that’s exactly what happened. He came back as a heel, and he’s basically been there ever since. And that is totally fine, it suits him well. Even when paired with a babyface like Cesaro, Sheamus is still able to work the crowd to maintain his heat. It’s a unique team.
16 The New Day
No, not The New Day circa 2016-2017. Think back, rather, to their unveiling. They came in with much hype. They had vignettes. They had gospel singers. They were pushed, and the initial push could not have flopped much worse than it did. OK, maybe it could have flopped worse, but it was bad. WWE called an audible and worked them over to the heel side of things, until such time as fans came around to the talent, charisma, comedy and entertainment that this unique trio brought to the ring each and every night. Oh, sure, they are fan favorites now. But it wasn’t always like that. I would have to think that, if they could go back in time, they’d rather forget their earliest portion of babyface life. It happens.
15 The Rock
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Even the man who is now practically universally adored by the WWE Universe has, at times, been a babyface on the receiving end of boos. Twice, in particular for this portion of the show. The first time was before we actually ever met The Rock-it was when he made his debut as a jolly Rocky Maivia. He was high energy, he was overly positive, he was a face and he was everything fans wanted to cheer against. And so we did. Rocky turned, joined the Nation of Domination and slowly evolved into The Rock. And even The Rock got to play things as a face getting a wee bit of heat. But that will happen when you go face to face, at WrestleMania, with one of the biggest legends sports entertainment has ever known (that would be Hulk Hogan, in case you forgot).
14 Tommy Dreamer
No, not Dreamer now. Not even Dreamer at the end of Extreme Championship Wrestling. No, when I am talking about is early on in the ECW days, shortly after they went from Eastern to Extreme. Tommy was a young kid, eager to please, but the fans were merciless. Hey, what do you expect from a bunch of Philly fans in a bingo hall? (I am allowed to go there, I had monthly tickets and I was there for his evolution). When you come to the ring in the land of Extreme, wearing what looked like moon boots, suspenders and baggy pants? Tod and Paul might have wanted him over as a face, but it was going to be hard work. But, look at him now? That work paid off, as Dreamer is as beloved a figure from ECW as there could be.
Yes, she was finally turned heel, but for the longest time she was playing the good soldier, long time WWE employee, long-tenured Diva/Superstar. She has been around and basically grew up in the World Wrestling Entertainment rings. The problem was, she wasn’t getting over with fans. I mean, she did at times, but those times have come and gone, and it could be said that the women’s revolution we’ve been enjoying recently basically pushed Natty out of the spotlight. So it’s smart booking to let Natalya be the bitter, angry, vengeful heel. It suits her at the moment. And honestly, who can blame her? She’s got wrestling in her blood and until the recent influx from NXT, she had more talent in the ring than did most other women in WWE, yet she often got snubbed for one reason or another. I think fans are actually glad she’s finally turned to the dark side.
I think this was less fans hating him, more that fans hated someone's decision to push him over their sweetheart Daniel Bryan. That's not Dave's fault, really. And, in honesty, WWE botched this return from the outset. I've said it before, his was a return that should have been kept under a shroud of secrecy, but it was not. We knew he was coming before he showed up, and from that point on, people speculated-correctly-that he'd be winning the Rumble, not Bryan.It was not a good move, because it made Batista be hated, by proxy. WWE, rather than keep him a face, changed course on his return and made him a miserable heel until he had enough and went home. Though, he did get to go home to play some nice movie roles, so life isn’t all bad.
11 Bret Hart
Bret was a victim of circumstance, in my opinion. Call it timing. But he was a beloved figure from a past era, which was being phased out for a newer, fresher, edgier one. And he met head on with the leader of that new era (Austin), and by the time their WrestleMania match was over, they had switched roles. This could not have happened if there wasn't already a dislike toward Hart leading into the match, and at least the Creative staff was paying attention to be able to maximize the situation. I think the fact that he’s a beloved figure today just underscores the key role the timing played in this one. Personally I think the only time I really didn’t love the guy was during that Canada versus America angle, which I think was a bad idea. But he was polarizing, for sure.
10 Randy Orton
In my mind, this is all about timing. Orton has had good runs as both a heel and a face, and he has followers regardless. But, it has seemed that a time or two when he was slated to be a face, the fans were not having it. He's another whose status can be somewhat fluid, so at least plans have been adjusted as needed, to make it all work. He might get get a lot of flak, but you have to give him credit for working both sides of the coin. He’s probably here more for being polarizing than anything else. I mean, look at him now as part of the Wyatt Family. He’s positioned as a heel, in a group that should be heels but gets a ton of love from the fans. And Orton is cheered. But he plays the heel well now, just as he could play the face. But for whatever reason, he’s someone that almost has to keep flopping back and forth to keep people interested.
9 The Usos
I have to give some love to a tag team, and these guys get it. Though I guess it's not love, in this view of things. But I almost wonder if WWE fans are suffering from some manner of Samoan fatigue? Reigns and Jimmy and Jey still have their fans, don't get me wrong. But both have been eclipsed by other groups, and in surprising fashion. Maybe they aren't hated, but they certainly aren't the hottest face team, and now with the addition of a few other teams, they aren't even top three. Maybe not even top 5 (putting New Day, Enzo and Cass, The Wyatts, Gallows and Anderson and probably Lucha Dragons all ahead of Jimmy and Jey now. Maybe others). WWE did finally turn the brothers heels, and while it finally fits them, I don’t think it’s helped them much.
8 Triple H
Not always a face, not always a heel. He gets a spot here for his push after marrying the boss's daughter. Back then, people wondered if he was getting where he was getting because of who he was married to or close to-right, wrong or otherwise. Now, he's a popular heel, because he was beating another hated babyface. Sort of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so to speak. It’s been so long since he’s played an on camera babyface on the main roster, but let’s be honest-he excels in his current authoritarian heel role. So, while he might have done well as the face of DX, he’s doing infinitely better now. Even if there are still memes about Hunter burying younger guys (but not every veteran is as good about putting young guys over as say, Jericho).
7 Eva Marie
I don't know that she ever got over, but WWE wanted her to. I think she got off on the wrong foot with her debut on Total Divas, and never recovered. At least now she functions on NXT as a heel, and the crowds love to get all over her for her deficiencies in the ring, whether real or not. But she can be chalked up to someone who was apparently earmarked for a push based on looks, and the fans weren't having any of it. As with others on this list, thank God the writers and creative types realized she was not going to get over as a babyface and they rebooted her as a heel. For whatever reason, it’s easier in wrestling to have fans hating you than loving you, and in spite of her looks, Eva Marie is incredibly easy to hate.
6 Scott Steiner
To me, as a singles wrestler, Scott Steiner was always bad news. But, I was reminded that after WWE bought WCW, there was a time where someone, somewhere, thought it would be a good idea to make a WCW heel into a WWE face. It didn’t work, and for that matter, neither did Steiner. I know I saw it, but I couldn’t say I remembered it. At all. On the bright side (there had to be one, right?) it was that, unlike other guys on this list, at least when they realized that Scott sucked as a face, they had to flip him over to a heel. And guess what? It suited him much, much better. Like, he’s a guy that once he hit the juice and moved away from his brother and the tag wrestling, he was pretty much best suited to be a heel. I mean, we all loved his brother more anyways!
This one, to me, could be similar to Batista. I remember many times hearing rumors that the Goldberg chants were, at times, piped in or enhanced to sound like it was a full arena at full blast. So that move alone tells me there were at least times when he just wasn’t as over as the powers that be would have us believe.The cherry on top? That would be the ‘Mania match between Goldberg and Lesnar, where it was (at the time) the last match in WWE for each man. It was bad, and fans were happiest when special referee Stone Cold Steve Austin dropped both with Stunners. I call it a scenario where Goldberg was indifferent to the business, but was supposed to be a face, and the fans hated him for his indifference. Fast forward to his return in 2016, and it was like people had forgotten how things went last time. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and he’s enjoying a renaissance.
3 Hulk Hogan
Here is Cena's role model. I, like so many others, grew up loving Hogan. But i was a kid, I didn't know any better. If I was an adult watching Hogan, when there were true stars like Steamboat and others on the roster? I think it would have been a different story. People, even in the 80s. wanted more than the moves of doom. I have to imagine that if there was an IWC in 1990 like there is today, huge groups of adult aged males would have ripped Hogan mercilessly, while their pre-teen children begged them to buy them his shirts and Hulk Hogan stuffed things. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell ya. WCW did what WWE never would, having the audacity to turn Hogan into a more real guy and a heel to boot. And suddenly, he was edgy and fans were loving him again because he wasn’t too goodie goodie.
2 John Cena
No list could be complete without this man on the list. He's been a face for what feels like forever, and he's about as polarizing as can be. Some love him, some hate him. It's about a 50-50 split. That he remains a face, in the face of the resistance? Impressive. He's acknowledged it and played along with it, which I think goes a long way toward people, regardless of whether they hate him or not, at least respecting the guy. It will be interesting to see if this love/hate dynamic actually survives through his eventual Hall of Fame induction. Wouldn’t that be something? The issue a lot of fans have had with Cena is that, ever since he established himself as a top face, he’s been a sometimes suffocating presence there. He probably could have used a heel turn somewhere in there, just to spice things up. But lately, I think fans have calmed down toward him, especially as he’s had some undeniably great matches with younger, more accepted wrestling talents. But still, he’s incredibly polarizing.
1 Roman Reigns
When Reigns was a part of the Shield, he was fine. Fans popped for the group, and for him as an individual. But when the group split, things got a bit different. Fans loved Dean Ambrose, and even the supposed heel, Seth Rollins. But once it became painfully obvious that Vince McMahon was in love with the idea of Roman Reigns as his top babyface, there was just no stopping things. When word broke well ahead of the 2015 Rumble that it was Reigns slated to win it, fans revolted. The only saving grace in that equation was his former Shield mate Rollins cashing it at WrestleMania and stealing the title. But, even then, Reigns has lingered around the main event scene in spite of underwhelming fan support. Stamford wants him to be a babyface, but the crowds just aren’t feeling it.