The Top 20 Heels of All-Time
Originally published on April 15, 2004
Written by Darby Gatorade
In my humble opinion, heels are the hardest workers of all in wrestling. Any shmuck can go out as a babyface and get cheered, but in order to get the crowd to REALLY hate you, and have them wishing that the babyface shmuck would tear your head off, you have to understand the ins-and-outs of wrestling and the psychology from start to end. I’m just a fan, but I recognise that it’s not as easy as it looks. The reaction a heel gets is often refered to as “heat” and in many cases, you either have it — or you don’t have it. These are some of the wrestlers and factions that exemplify that definition.
The Sheik: Not only did the Sheik run his own territory (based in Detroit), he also headlined for several decades as a major heel, which is rare; usually the weight of a promotion is set on the shoulders of the top babyface. Nobody came close to the level of brutality that the Sheik would put his opponents through once they stepped inside the blood-stained squared circle..
Roddy Piper: Hulkamania was undoubtably the babyface force that catapulted the WWF into meteoric proportions in the early 80s; but in order for a babyface to be over-the-top huge, it needs a decent “bad guy” to back him up. For Vince McMahon, this bad guy was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper; Piper took Hulkamania, chewed it up, spit it out, and then made it look good. That’s my opinion of a great heel.
The Freebirds: If you read my column about the Top Babyfaces, you would have noticed that I placed The von Erich Family as the #1 Babyface of all-time. Like I said with Piper, for every great babyface, there has to be a decent heel to make them look good. The Fabulous Freebirds waged war against the entire von Erich Family for years, in brutal matches, cage matches, six man tag matches, you name it, they tried it. The Dallas-territory was the hottest promotion in the country all because of this feud. The Freebirds consisted of Michael PS Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy & Buddy Jack Roberts, a threesome that could rile up fans with their villanous actions any night of the week.
The Andersons: Gene & Ole Anderson was one tag team that were feared by opponents everywhere they went. Mostly because when you stepped into the ring with the Andersons, you knew you were going to get your ass kicked — for real! The Andersons had many feuds over the years in several different territories but none compared to the vicious battles they had with Dusty Rhodes.
Triple H: For all his faults, I still remember when I was Triple H’s biggest fan. It was the year 2000, and Stone Cold Steve Austin had just gone down to a serious neck injury. Triple H stepped up to the plate and carried the weight of the company on his shoulders and dominated. He was helping to elevate talent on a weekly basis, and consistantly took it up a notch once a month at PPVs. The pennical of this era was Triple H’s feud with Mick Foley, who was on his last legs and basically on his retirement tour. Triple H had two intense battles with Foley on PPV, including a Street Fight at Royal Rumble and a Hell in a Cell at No Way Out. Triple H was a fantasic heel back then..
The Four Hosemen: The dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair, has always been a monster heel, no matter what territory he was working in, and he usually made the rounds to just about every single one. He was often surrounded by the Four Horsemen, which consisted of numerous big names over the years; Ole & Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, Lex Luger and the list goes on and on. The Four Horsemen were always a major thorn in the side of the NWA/WCW babyface talent such as Sting, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, The Road Warriors and so on.
Eddie Gilbert: Very few wrestlers will find themselves on the list of people who REALLY understand the industry. Eddie Gilbert knew what he was doing in and out of the ring. And as a heel he turned a lot of heads, and got the best of many of his babyface opponents.
The Guerreros: Going all the way back to the days of Gory Guerrero, the “heat” gene has been passed down from one Guerrero to the next. Gory Guerrero’s sons (Chavo Sr., Mondo, Hector & Eddy) carried on the tradition of great wrestlers with a nack to turn any audience into a frenzy. The tradition continues with Chavo Sr’s son Chavo Guerrero Jr, and Eddy Guerrero who is at the peak of his career. Eddy has reached a level of fan-respect that makes it damn near impossible for him to play a heel any more. I assure you, however, that he knows how to get heat like no other, just like his brothers and other family members.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage: The Macho Man started out as a good guy in his Daddy’s International Championship Wrestling promotion out of Lexington, Kentucky. Eventually he adopted a new name “Randy Savage” and a new attitude, and turned heel and had a brief tour of Memphis feuding with megaface Jerry “The King” Lawler. The WWE saw what Savage could do and quickly signed him on to become one of its top heels.
Buddy Rose: If Portland Wrestling was a vien in the world of wrestling, then Buddy Rose was the blood that flowed through it. Even when he ventured into other territories like the WWF and AWA, he was always one of the baddest S.O.B.’s on the roster.
Steve Corino: When a wrestler is part of a match that results in the evening being cut short because a riot starts, then you know you are a great heel. I’m not aware of any legitimate riots started by Steve Corino, but it seems like every time I see him, there is a near-riot. Steve Corino is a student of wrestling and has learned how to work as a heel so well that you really believe that he’s being himself in the ring. Corino is probably the top heel on the independent circuit right now and really deserves to hit the big time.
Fred Blassie: His legendary status in California and Japan speaks for itself. Fred Blassie was one of the first wrestlers to use brutality as the focus of his offense. Later in life, as a manager, Blassie led his legion of heels into battle against some of the top babyfaces, and acted as their mouth piece to transfer all of the heat to his client.
Gorgeous George: He was so far ahead of his time. He brought forth an element of entertainment that had never been seen before. Never had the ‘character’ of a wrestler been so apparent than with the flamboyant Gorgeous George Wagner. He would bring his butler to the ring and sprayed his opponent with purfume and had an elaborate stalling routine before the match that would have the crowd becoming quickly unglued! Near the end of the his career, the Gorgeous one lost a hair-vs-hair match and had his head shaved in front of thousands of rabid fans. Adrian Adonis, Adrian Street, Goldust, Kweewee and others have all patterned their gimmicks after Gorgeous George.
Fabulous Moolah: For what it’s worth, a lot of the heat the Moolah had was legitimately with her opponents. They would get so pissed off and Moolah would toy with them, and the fans would just go crazy thinking “I just wish Moolah would get her ass kicked already!” For a long time, Moolah controlled the bookings of just about all the women wrestlers in the country, and as a result, took a generous booking fee from each wrestler when they were booked on a show. This led to so much real life tension between Moolah and her girls, but there’s no denying her ability to get the fans on their feet waving their fists at her.
The Heenan Family: While Hulkamania was running wild in the 80s, there was one man who made it his lifes mission to KILL it. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is rated highly as one of the top managers in the history of wrestling. Bobby Heenan continulously brought in new talent to go head-to-head with Hulk Hogan. Ken Patera, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Harley Race, Paul Orndorff, Haku, Mr. Perfect and Andre the Giant all had shots at the Immortal Hulk Hogan and each and every challenger had what it took to make the fans believe they could be the one to finally dethrown the Hulkster. The closest Heenan came to doing that was with Paul Orndorff and Andre The Giant.
Johnathan Boyd: As a member of the “Royal Kangaroos” and later an associate of the New Zealand Sheepherders, Johnny Boyd always came accross as one tough bastard who really didn’t give a damn! He would do everything and ANYTHING to reek havoc on the local favorites and really turned it up a notch during his promos.
Ernie Ladd: He may have been a horrible wrestler, but Ernie Ladd took the gift of gab, and used it to get himself over as a major heel. His arrogance would get the babyfaces so mad that they’d have steam coming from their ears and “The Cat” would use that fury against his opponents. Ernie Ladd once had a vicious feud with Chief Jay Strongbow in Mid-South Wrestling which saw him steal Strongbow’s headdress and tear it up in the ring. I’m surprised Ladd made it safely to his car on that particular evening!
The Midnight Express: No matter what combination, the Midnight Express was always a heel team to contend with. Their legendary feud with the RockNRoll Express went coast-to-coast and they beat on eachother in various venues for well over a decade. The Midnight Express: Randy Rose, Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane & Jim Cornette are a major reason that the RnR Express were rated so high on my Top 10 Babyface list.
C.M. Punk: Sometimes, in wrestling, the gimmick makes the man, and for CM Punk he has a well thought out gimmick telling everybody that he is “Straight-edge” – or free of drugs and alcohol. Factor in that the majority of wrestling fans drink alcohol and do not enjoy being told that they are less of a person. CM Punk legitimately lives a clean life with no Alcohol, drugs or frivalous activity and let’s everybody know that he believes that makes him better than everyone else. CM Punk is also a natural on the microphone and gives amazing interviews and promos to build up his character and matches.
Gino Hernandez: He never had a chance to really hit the big time, but every where he went, he was a monster heel and managed to get the crowd on his case even before he ever opened his mouth….. Gino formed brutal tag team combinations with equally heelish wrestlers such as Tully Blanchard & Chris Adams. Gino Hernandez, like so many in wrestling, passed away before he had a chance to take his star to new heights.
Honorable Mention: Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine, Adrian Adonis, Curt Hennig, Tully Blanchard, Jacques Rougeau, Mr. Fuji, Rick Rude, Bad News Allen, ..
Written by Darby Gatorade (April 15, 2004) Enrique Casteles asks:
Was that in order? Because as far as fans hating him, Fred Blassie was the biggest heel of all time-unquestionably.
Darby Gatorade responds:
That’s my order, my opinion is subject to critisism and contrast to other opinions..
Pete Childerley says:
I just wanted to congratulate you on including both C.M. Punk and Steve Corino in your top 20 heels. Since losing Sky TV here in the UK, I have been unable to keep up with the goings on in WWE (I’m a guilty Kane mark), but we have recently been given the spectacular present of a whole wrestling channel on TV, so I spend every spare moment of my day enjoying Punk and Corino related moments..
Ben Hooker says:
Can you honestly tell me that John Boyd and Ernie Ladd deserve a spot in the top 20 over Ted Dibiase, who only gets an honorable mention? If so, then please tell me why they were better than him, as I consider Dibiase one of the top 10 of all time…
Darby Gatorade responds:
I can tell you have never seen Jonathan Boyd or Ernie Ladd work as heel.. I agree Ted DiBiase probably should have been higher on the list, but that is my list and I was satisfied with it after plenty of thought. Like I said before, it’s subject to critisism and may contrast other opinions.
Travis Jayed responds:
As far as I’m concerned, The Sheik deserves the no.1 spot. His brutality was obscene. You thought Mick Foley was brutal. The Sheik was so brutal, he could bleed from a Stone Cold Stunner due to all the skin tissue he lost. He and Abdullah the Butcher began a legion of brutal fighters: Foley, Dusty Rhodes, Raven so and so. Whats this got to do with the no.1 spot? The thing that he did was drain all of his face opponents blood. Just imagine the Rock bleeding severely and seriously, by The Sheik.
Darby Gatorade (Original Author, in July 2006) wrote:
Man I can’t believe I forgot Johnny Valentine on this list. He should be in the top 10 at least! Also now that a few years have past I would definitely stick John Bradshaw Layfield in there and probably Jeff Jarrett.