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Better as a Babyface or Heel?

Liam O'Rourke

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For this week's podcast, we're taking a look at eight wrestlers and discussing whether or not they were better in their role as a babyface or a heel over the course of their career, considering their work in the ring as well as analysing their characters/personalities/runs, and would love to get your thoughts and feedback on the following individuals and whether you prefer them as faces or heels, and most important, why:

1. Randy Savage

2. Ric Flair

3. The Rock

4. Kurt Angle

5. Mick Foley

6. Shawn Michaels

7. Bret Hart

8. Daniel Bryan

As always the best contributions will be read on the podcast and you'll be credited accordingly. So what do you think?


EDIT - The show discussing your comments on who was a better heel or face is now online and available to listen to at the following link: http://squaredcirclegazette.podbean.com/mf/web/s3cvqh/SCGRadio55-BetterAsFaceOrHeel.mp3

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1. Babyface. It's the music, the costumes, the entrance, you just can't help but want to cheer him. And he was part of the greatest feel good moment in history when he turned face again at WMVII.


2. Heel. Dirtiest player in the game and all that.


3. Heel. That 2003 run is the most I've ever enjoyed him, and I never liked him as a baby in the Attitude Era because, like Stone Cold, half the time he was doing pretty heelish things. He bullied the likes of Kevin Kelly something rotten in his backstage promos.


4. Heel. But goofy heel, not serious heel.


5. Babyface. Commissioner Mick was a great part of 2000 TV.


6. Not sure. 90s Shawn was a superb heel, but 2000s Shawn was just as superb a babyface. I dont want to decide, but if pushed, I'd go babyface for his post-comeback stuff.


7. He's another one who was just as good either way... I'd probably go babyface overall, but a lot of great stuff came out of his heel run.


8. In WWE, babyface without a doubt. All those YESes after the Cage match where he turned on Wyatt attest to that. But I loved him as a heel in ROH, where he'd come out to the Final Countdown and do his "best wrestler in the world!" and "I have til FIVE" routine. He was a heel then, right? Actually, was he? I can't remember properly, but it could have worked as a heel thing so I'm going with it.

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Imo all names can go both ways, with the exception of Bret Hart and Mick Foley:


Mick Foley: as a heel, he was ruthless and very believable in what he does. He came across as a psycho you wouldn't want to mess with. As a babyface, he became a parody of himself. Desperately seeking the approval of the fans, looking for ways to get a cheap crowd reaction. Instead of being this psycho, he became some kind of "I wanna be popular" comedy act. Dude Love? You've got to be kidding me. I prefer the psycho Mankind when he first arrived in the WWF, unpredictable as hell.


Bret Hart: his last heel run was a bit of a disaster, if you ask me. By turning on the USA while primarily wrestling in the USA... US crowds are probably too patriotic to realize what's going on. But it also proved to be a clusterfuck, as he was hated in the USA, yet loved in every country BUT the USA. Furthermore, bad mouthing a country (or city for that matter) is imo the cheapest, most non original way to get people to hate you. Just spit on a country's flag, that'll spark a crowd reaction anywhere. So... I prefer Bret as a babyface. 

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1. Randy Savage - BABYFACE. He was an excellent foil for Hogan, no doubt, but his flashy (for the time) ring-work, fantastic gear (er, clothes) and hopped-up personality were all suited to a babyface people could really get behind. His selling was incredible and drew great sympathy.

2. Ric Flair - HEEL. He was a prick. An arrogant prick who thought everyone was beneath him and more to the point, generally proved they were. He became very popular through familiarity, the fact that he was amusing and that people felt that he might have been a flash git but he was their flash git. He was still always a natural heel though.

3. The Rock - BABYFACE. I prefer a lot of his heel work. Partciularly his hilarious run in 2003 as Hollywood Rock where he just had a blast. However, he was still massively over even then because he's genuinely one of the top three most popular guys in the history of pro-wrestling. You can't be that big a babyface and be defined by some short heel stints, however entertaining they were.

4. Kurt Angle - HEEL. Another absolute natural. That look like he was always on the verge of tears through frustration and anger resonated massively with the crowd who enjoyed his misery so much. He had such brilliant comedy timing and delivery that face turns were always inevitible but he still generally reverted to being a bastard because it came so easily.

5. Mick Foley - HEEL. The first really difficult one on the list. He was a beloved babyface but his body of work as a heel, as Cactus Jack, anti-Hardcore Jack and Mankind is incredible. His babyface stuff came out of a necessity to tone down his crazy style and because he also had beautiful comic timing but for years he was a genuinely convincing nutter with under-rated ring-work.

6. Shawn Michaels - HEEL. He's brilliantly smug. He probably worked baby for most of his career between The Rockers and the God botherer but he was just so hateable. He also acheived something quiet rare by getting over as a heel despite working like a babyface. The best examples of this are during his feuds with Diesel at WM 11 and Taker after SummerSlam 97 where he's taking the punishment in matches as the babyface normally would for a monster heel but the face is getting cheered because Shawn is such a dick you want to see them kick the shit out of him. I should also point out that I hated his run as Jesus's sunbeam so I've dismissed a lot of that.

7. Bret Hart - BABYFACE. Despite that absolutely incredible heel run in 1997 that was booked ingeniusly and played out brilliantly - Bret is a natural blue-eye. He had a great look for it, ladies loved him, he was smaller than most opponents and his selling was convincing. He looked whiter than white, he wrestled clean and gave kids genuine hope. He was a natural. In character anyway.

8. Daniel Bryan - BABYFACE. Never really convinced me as a heel. He was too small and his work was too entertaining. He did have a nice little run when he was treating AJ like shit but it didn't appear to come naturally. He was made for the role he eventually settled into. He was small and sold well but he had good fire in his comebacks and connected with people. You can't buy that.

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1. Randy Savage - Cartoon face

2. Ric Flair - Heel, I'm a WCW guy so to me Ric Flair will always be a heel, by the time he was in WWE as a face he was too past it for me to care. In WCW he was a legend who was a bit older and a lot more wily than his opponents. He never looked good enough to be a top face anyway and he certainly didn't work like one.

3. The Rock - Face, he needed to be a heel first to get over but as a face he was one of the biggest things in wrestling history.

4. Kurt Angle - Heel, For me Kurt Angle will always be a face because I love him and I never understood people wanting to boo him. Having said that he did serious athletic heel so well and he's one of the all time great funny heels too so I think the lasting impression of him is as a heel

5. Mick Foley - Face, heel Cactus is by far my favourite Foley but I think he's really a face at heart. Before he turned into a horrible cunt he was regarded as the nicest guy in wrestling and a lot of people had a soft spot for him when WWE was having a boom period.

6. Shawn Michaels - probably a face overall but he was at his best as a heel.

7. Bret Hart - Face, I've met more people who haven't watched wrestling in years who ask about Bret and tell me he was their favourite than anyone else.

8. Daniel Bryan - Face, Team hell no heel Bryan was my favourite Bryan but he was so on the verge of becoming a huge face that it could never have lasted, he's not one of my faves but there's no denying he's one of the most over faces in ages.

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Imo all names can go both ways


That’s why it was posted on a discussion forum, for discussion ;)



To which your contribution is as ever exemplary.


1. Randy Savage: Heel. Because he has those "One eye looking at the mantelpiece, one eye looking at the fire" eyes, he looks like a crazy bastard. Throw in a betassled jacket that even a country and western singer would say was over the top and a promo style that screams one sandwich short of a picnic you have one of the greatest crazy heels to step foot in the ring.


2. Ric Flair: Heel. A man who could get heel heat if he was wrestling in Antarctica, in the winter, wrestling a block of ice. A man who sets the standard for the "Fuck all of you I'm better than all of you heel". We may have all grown up wanting to be that limo ridin, jet flyin, Rolex wearing, stylin and profilin son of a gun, but in our hearts we knew he was better than us and we hated him for it. Add in his gang of Horsemen and we hated him even more.


3. The Rock: Babyface. A very good heel but his babyface promos were incredible. Actually that's not true. His promos were incredible, when he was a heel he got very good heat, when he was a face it was insane heat. The promo very rarely changed in style or delivery it was how he was being portrayed that changed. The fact that in my opinion the reaction to his face promos was hotter shows he was better as a face.



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1. Randy Savage : This one’s a real cunt for me, because I loved him as if he were a babyface when he was heel, and hated him like he were a heel when he was a babyface. For me, his character worked better as a heel because he looked maniacal and like he genuinely was a bit too far removed from reality. Plus, the sceptre over Warriors head, crushing Steamboats larynx, “cup of coffee, yeah”, throwing Miss Elizabeth into the water during one of his early vignettes and the jealousy angle regarding Liz and Hogan are what first spring to mind when I think of Savage. So, in my mind, Savage is best remembered as a baddy.


2. Ric Flair : Heel. I found Flair’s pandering to the crowd and comical use of heel tactics horrendous when he played a babyface role. I think in his day, he set the bar for how a heel walked, talked and worked, so for me, Flair was made better use of when heel.


3. The Rock : I prefer the Rock as a heel and a bully. His promos and segments were always much more engaging when he was heel. It was weird with the Rock though; When he was heel, people wanted to cheer him and when he was face, he’d be slaughtered for pandering to the crowd and being repetitive. Although, nobody can argue with his face run as he probably overtook Austin in popularity terms in 2000, but my personal preference for Rock is heel.


4. Kurt Angle : Heel. He was a tremendous comic relief, cowardly heel when he debuted  and his segments with Austin and McMahon speak for themselves, but that seamless transition he made from comedy character to complete legitimate, believable killing machine was amazing. I loved his face run during the Invasion run, when he showed a serious set of bollox, but he was ultimately playing a heel being cheered by default given the situation.


5. Mick Foley : I’ve no real interest in Foley either way, but he worked better as a babyface in my opinion. Crowds seem to love him and there’s a reluctance to boo him for whatever reason. I really loved heel Mankind (around his debut) and his matches with Michaels and Undertaker, but when they pulled back the curtain with the Three Faces of Foley, I lost interest.


6. Michaels : Heel, hands down. No doubt about it. There’s so much to go into here. His attitude in front of the cameras (even during his mid-90’s face run) wound a lot of people up, his 97/98 DX stuff that had people jumping barricades at shows to swing a punch at him, the 2005 promo in Montreal (still my favourite promo of all time) and his obnoxious “disrespectful” work against Hogan leading up to – and during – Summerslam. He was a nice babyface but he was gloriously deplorable heel.


7. Bret Hart : Babyface. I enjoyed his heel run because it was the right play given the environment and moment in time, but to me Bret Hart will always be the perennial babyface. More so than Hogan even, as I think Bret’s self belief and sense of self worth as a hero, really came through the screen. Plus, he played a lovely underdog and could take a tremendous sympathy inducing beating.


8. Daniel Bryan : Has to be Babyface. He’s just so likeable. Everything about him screams babyface. His ring work, his demeanour, his face, his smile, his size scream babyface. I even got sucked into a massive “Yes” chant – and ferociously so – when I brought my son to a show a couple years ago. Had no intention of being that involved, but I couldn’t help it because of his energy. So, yep, goody D-Bry for me.

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1. Randy Savage - Easy to say face but I started watching the WWF when he was the Macho King, so that combined with seeing later on his heel turn on Hogan and his NWO stuff makes me think it has to be heel

2. Ric Flair - Heel, if he ever really was one, surely even the hillbillies watching him in the 80's wanted to be like him

3. The Rock - Hollywood Rock was ace but 2000 Rock against probably the best heel ever in Triple H means Rock's better as a face, just had every city going mental for him for about 18 months til the movie career took off

4. Kurt Angle - Heel, probably the best example of someone having a large amount of comedy in their act and not detracting in the slightest once they got in the ring

5. Mick Foley - Never saw his ECW heel stuff and his WWE Legend Heel run was painful to watch as it was so obvious he'd spent ages writing his promos which were largely shite, his top level face runs in late'98-early '99 and early 2000 were incredible though, mental how much good will he had from pretty much everyone

6. Shawn Michaels - '97 heel HBK is the coolest heel ever, his performance in the HIAC match with Taker is just perfect, knows when to act shit scared, knows when to be cocky when he's on top, knows when to slap cameramen about, plus he made it believable going toe to toe with Taker (try saying that ten times in a row)

7. Bret Hart - The fighting champion was his best run so it's got to be face, the only time he got close to being over in WCW was as a face too, his '97 heel run was great but only worked because of his near decade long babyface run being so good

8. Daniel Bryan - Face, him turning on Bray in the cage is the best thing I've seen in WWE in God knows how long, just a real memorable moment

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Savage - flip a coin. Today it's come down as heel.


He was an excellent babyface, his selling and high flying(ish) offence automatically gets fans on their feet, cheering. His colourful clobber and personality would win fans over too. But his heel work was just as good. That feud with DDP is one of the best of all time, his convincing jealousy display with Hogan over Liz. He genuinely looked like a mad bastard at times to. With Macho Man, it really is a toss of a coin in my opinion.


Flair - heel.


He's got the arrogance nature and cheating tactics to just scream heel. He lets everybody know he's better than them. Anybody who has money and throws it in your face, is easily despicable. So Flair with his limos, jets and tailor made suits just made me hate him. 


Rock  - heel.


His success as an actor proves that he can be just as good as a heel or babyface. And despite being massively popular as a babyface, I always preferred his heel work. Even as a babyface he weren't the clean cut type, he was still a bit of a cunt - which I suppose was half the attraction with him. But I just preferred him as a heel. For some reason he came across funnier when he was the baddy.


Angle - heel.


From his debut when he lit rip on the crowd for booing him to now, he's always been a quality heel. And a comical heel at that, rather than the usual shit you get. He should have been the biggest babyface going, coming in as a genuine gold medallist from the Olympics and yet still got over as a heel. His ring work had that extra intensity as a heel as well.


Foley - babyface.


Mankind was a great heel but I preferred him when he evolved into a babyface. Commissioner Foley cracks me up as well. The Rock n Sock connection was one of my fave tag teams and when the day he just sat on the steps during one of their matches because Rocky threw away his book will always be one of the most sympathetic performances for me. And of course the day he won the title, the arena erupted, the locker room emptied, everybody was just so happy for Mrs Foley's Baby Boy.


Michaels - heel.


I loved his goofy babyface work when DX reunited. But he was a real cunt in the mid 90s. It was so easy to hate him. He was just one show off twat who you wanted to see get beat. He thought he was god's gift. 


Hart - babyface.


His best work, for me, was the anti-American heel. Watching it back, with my own anti-American glasses on, I think he's the biggest babyface going at that time. The crowds in Canada agree. And Bret was my fave wrestler when I got into it in the early 90s. So when he turned heel, I couldn't boo him anyway. His overall career has always been better suited to being the goody (along with Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graham Garden). 


Bryan - babyface.


I liked his heel run when he was keeping the World Heavyweight Title by all different ways. But he's a babyface through and through. He can showcase more of his fancy moves, he garnered real sympathy during the Authority angle and he wasn't an obnoxious prick babyface, he just came across as a nice fella.

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This looks a beast with 8 guys to discuss between your lot, never mind listener submissions!


.... whether or not they were better in their role as a babyface or a heel...


....would love to get your thoughts and feedback on the following individuals and whether you prefer them as faces or heels....


See, you're really asking two different questions there. ;)


Randy Savage
This is a tough one. In the ring Randy was a remarkable babyface, convincing me at times with his selling that he was actually getting the shit kicked out of him. Some of the Flair matches in particular, I feared he would never walk again. But I have to say I thought he was an even better heel with a versatile range, between his crazy, jealous, treating Liz like shit 80s prime, and his Kingdom of Madness run with Sherri where he was equally as batshit crazy but often with a subtle comedic twist. Between the ropes however, I always think one of his most commanding performances was at Spring Stampede with Dallas Page. Macho Man enters a dynamic, compelling performance as a completely unhinged menace to anyone who comes near him but manages to not overshadow DDP in the latter's big breakthrough match - his psycho behaviour just underlines how tough Page must be to manage to knock him off. OK, in true WCW style the post-match beatdown takes a little gloss off, but the buzz watching the next Nitro and for weeks that followed from "Diamond Dallas beat Macho Man" still endured. That's how I probably think of Savage first and foremost - an utter lunatic that your babyface did well to survive. While I've snuck in a word about Sherri era, can I add... those legs at SummerSlam 89.

Ric Flair
I don't want to say it's not much of a question and suggest that Ric couldn't play babyface with aplomb - that would DEFINITELY NOT BE FAIR TO FLAIR - but he's a heel, all day (or night) long. I won't lie, I did love when Ric was playing babyface in the nWo glory days and was happy to hope that he would beat the shit out of Hollywood Hogan, the Outsiders or especially Syxx. Other babyface runs gave fans great pleasure for getting to cheer for him because he's RIC FUCKING FLAIR and when you're that good, people are always going to love you. Surely though it's self-evident that that greatest World Champion in history was the definitive heel. As well as the character itself (which needs little elaboration) just look at the matches. He's that guy that you're dying to see get knocked off, but he's so good you get sucked into the story of if your hero can actually beat him, then even when the fucker escapes with belt intact, your guy looks better because Flair convinced you that he was almost finished. To this day, I still think Luger's going to win the belt off him one day. Although that day will not be fair to Flair.

The Rock
The Rock is a babyface for me. As much as his behaviour is heelish practically 98% of the time - seriously, he's an utter cunt - he'll always be a superhero good guy when the bell rings. I'll be honest, character wise I did love Hollywood Rock the most, but when he inherited the mantle of top baby from the injured Stone Cold, he leaped into the top tier of guys that me and all my friends wanted to see WINNING. His matches were always laid out better, for me, when he was the hero. His punches in the corner with spitting into his palm, grabbing a quick spinebuster to set up the elbow - he was so explosive, it just worked better when he had to sell for the heel then went off like a catherine wheel. He was such a non-stop entertainer with his trash talking and mimicking his opponent during the match, that even when his character was a total prick, I found it impossible not to love him from bell to bell. He's a babyface for me.

Kurt Angle
At times I did love cheering for Kurt, but honestly it was the same smarkish "He's Kurt Angle and I'm cheering because he's good" with which I cheered for Flair a lot of the time, and not because the character made me want to see him win. The most satisfying parts of Kurt's career for me have been either when he was playing the goofball character getting his comeuppance in the ring or playing the fool - losing his undefeated streak to Taz, coughing up two belts without getting pinned, losing his wig against Hogan. Alternatively, vicious wrestling machine Kurt was the perfect seemingly-impossible obstacle for your hero to overcome - Rey, Eddie, HBK, John Cena, whoever. It must say something that in my favourite singles match of all time, the heel in the ring is Kurt Angle, as in spite of myself I cheer for Benoit to knock him off. At times I still expect him to tap to that final Crossface, but the fucker never does.

Mick Foley
Much as I loved a lot of heel Cactus, I'm going babyface. I've seriously soured on Mick personally but looking back, he was incredible at drawing sympathy - even if you might call it a shortcut as he drew sympathy for legitimately hurting himself a lot of the time as opposed to just good babyface selling. However, I'm really hard pressed to think of another guy that could have gotten away with sitting on the steps as he did and letting THE FUCKING ROCK take a two on one beating the night they lost the tag belts, and actually getting sympathy for the emotions the character was going through, rather than getting booed out of the building for letting that happen to the biggest babyface on the planet.

Shawn Michaels
As the mortal enemy of my hero, the Best There Is, the Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be, it would be impossible for me to advocate cheering for Shawn in any case, but Shawn was best as a heel for me. As great as his babyface performances were - and they were amazing at times - he was just such an obnoxious and relentless antagonist. Maybe it comes down to a personal desire to see Shawn get the shit kicked out of him, but that was the emotion I recall him best eliciting from me. I was at One Night Only, and I wanted him to die. I wasn't even a massive Undertaker fan but the Hell In A Cell match had my boxers frothing at the thought of "You're going to get it now, you little shit" and when Taker belted him with that huge chair shot, I was overflowing with glee. Then, in a metaphor for WWE for the rest of time, Kane came out to ruin things. Anyway, Shawn's a prick. I often think in 1998 we were robbed of what could have been something amazing, as Shawn had reached that perfect apex of being such a bastard that's also untouchable in the ring, he was essentially becoming the WWF's cursing, crotch-chopping equivalent of Ric Flair - the Nature Boy for the South Park generation. I know there is an argument that at the point he left, he'd worked with everyone already, but I would have loved to get a year or two more out of THAT Shawn Michaels. What a fucking arsehole he was.

Bret Hart
Yes, I'm biased, but this guy is a fucking hero. Admittedly his 1997 heel work was absolutely stunning, but Bret to me will always be that underdog fighting from underneath against the insurmountable odds. I can't overstate how good the end of the Survivors match from 1990 is where Bret fights back from 3 to 1 down to close in on what would be a huge upset for "one half of the tag team champions" to actually pin the Million Dollar Man. He fools me off the backslide, he fools me off the O'Connor roll, he fools me off the schoolboy after Virgil takes a tumble. I'm sure he's going to beat the bastard... then he gets beat. The guy just had a knack for making me want to see him win, whether it was knocking off a smug tosser like Mr Perfect or struggling to beat a beast like Bam Bam or Yokozuna, I always wanted Bret to win in the end. That stays with you. I hung my hat on Bret early. He was my guy. I don't know how he did it, but he just made me want him to win.

Daniel Bryan
Honestly, I don't have much to say on Bryan - I found him entertaining as a heel, but I never hated him. In his pursuit of the WWE title against Cena, then against Orton, then getting sidetracked by Triple H en route to getting the belt back, I found it so much more natural to cheer for him. He's a great wrestler and a natural underdog - I don't want to boo him. I mean sure, I was baying for the blood of Bryan Danielson in the Liverpool Olympia at ROH Unified in 2006, but that's such a different world and so long ago, we might as well be talking about a different bloke. Daniel Bryan in WWE is a goodie.

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Just wanted to thank everyone for the contributions - we got to a great number of them on the show, which is now available at the following link:




Join us as we talk about the eight fantastic talents, and debate whether they were better as faces or heels throughout the course of their careers. Analysing the in-ring work, personalities and runs in various roles, we discuss Randy Savage, Ric Flair, The Rock, Daniel Bryan, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Kurt Angle, and take your comments on if they were better as beloved protagonists or nefarious rudos!! A fun show, check it out and let us know what you think!

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