Some people were born naughty...
That’s how William Regal put it many years ago, and as one of those gentlemen that had more success as a villain than as a hero, he would know. Some people were simply born to play the role. The Heel. The Bad Guy. Whatever you want to call it. Put them in that role, and they’ll never fail you.
Many people will argue that the best heels eventually become the best babyfaces. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Jerry “The King” Lawler & countless others over the years are perfect examples of that. They become so entertaining that the fans have no choice but to cheer them. Those folks grew into the role and became equally proficient in both. Rock & Lawler could work on top of any card in either role during their peak & draw big box office numbers. Austin got a little too popular for his own good and his later heel run, though awesome in my eyes, saw diminishing returns because people did not want to boo him.
Then you have people like Ric Flair. Flair is universally considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. It got to the point where people refused to boo him because of his status. Flair never stopped wanting to be a heel though. He insisted on being a heel in later-period WCW even though those fans really did not want to see that. The thing is, the Nature Boy always worked better as a bad guy. Sure, you had to respect him because of his time served, but he was that jet flyin’, limousine ridin’, kiss stealin’ wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun that just happened to be the dirtiest player in the game. He didn’t want to be that respected elder statesman. He wanted to be Ric Flair. Because he was born to be him.
Today I'm taking a look at five current wrestlers that were tailor made to play dirty. What actually got me thinking about this topic was Jinder Mahal’s declaration on RAW recently that he had turned over a new leaf and was going to begin a hero’s journey.
As likeable and smiley as Jinder seemed here, I couldn’t help but notice a little of the old Maharaja coming through. I feel like Mahal may have some nefarious intentions for his old pal Drew McIntyre down the road at some point, and that his “hero’s journey” may not be so heroic after all. Perhaps Jinder is one of those wrestlers that was born naughty? We’ll find out in due course I'm sure. Until then, let’s discuss the wrestlers that we know are destined to be heels until they hang up their snake skin boots...
Let's get right down to it - Randy Orton is one of the best, if not the absolute best, heels in the history of professional wrestling. He came into the company as a cocky, arrogant young kid and is still going strong nearly 20 years later, carving out a Hall Of Fame career almost entirely as a heel. After all, they don't call you The Viper or The Legend Killer if you're squeaky clean...
Like many heels, Orton has had multiple face runs within WWE. Here's the question though... do you remember any of them? Or do you remember him punting Mick Foley down a flight of stairs? How about hitting Stacy Keinler and Fabulous Moolah with RKO's? Kissing Stephanie McMahon while her handcuffed husband watched on? The guy just oozes evil, deceit, conniving and toxicity. He should under no circumstances play the role of a face ever again. There is too much money in heel Orton.
Like father, like daughter. Ric was always so much better as a heel, and Charlotte is very much the same way, albeit for different in-ring reasons. Ric was obviously awesome at cheating. He was the dirtiest player in the game after all, but he was also great at selling for plucky babyfaces. Ric’s matches as a face were good too, but the lion’s share of his all-time classics were as a heel.
Charlotte is bigger than most of her opponents. At 5’10 she stands taller than anybody other than Nia Jax. Obviously she’s not the biggest female competitor on the roster, but most of Charlotte’s opponents are smaller than her. Heck, Charlotte made Rhea Ripley look average during a staredown. It’s tough for people to work Charlotte over for the majority of the match and make it believable. Charlotte's matches work best when she’s dominating her opponent and displaying how she’s genetically superior. Which doesn’t lend itself well to being a babyface, but that isn’t a bad thing. Flairs were just made to be evil.
In the same vein as Orton, Charlotte's promos work better as a heel than a face. Nice, respectful Charlotte comes off as forced and honestly it's a bit uncomfortable to watch. While still not amazing at delivering a heel promo, Charlotte's character strengths lie in lauding her accomplishments over her opponents. Not exactly something a good guy, or girl, does...
We’ve only had a very limited taste of what Maxwell would be like as a babyface. Cody Rhodes took MJF under his wing and included him in the Nightmare Family, which led to a couple of moments of MJF acting like a good person on AEW Dynamite. They weren’t terrible, but they pale in comparison to the moments of MJF acting like a piece of s***. The 24 year old kid has an innate ability to act like the worst human being on the face of the earth. To be fair, most men his age can pull that off pretty well, but they don’t have the promo ability of MJF.
Let it be clear that I'm no fan of MJF, but I do recognise his abilities as a heel performer. Sometimes it comes across as far too try-hard, with him often crossing the line between playing a character and being a genuine jerk. However, the reactions he can garner from an opponent and a crowd are second to none in AEW.
Perhaps MJF can be a solid babyface someday with maturity, but we don’t need to see that anytime soon. I wouldn’t even consider turning the guy for at least the next 5 years if I had a hand in booking his career. He needs to keep being the absolute scumbag that he is right now, because that’s what will make him one of pro wrestling’s top stars.
Seth’s a weird case. I find his matches to be more entertaining when he’s a babyface, and his moveset makes more sense for a flashy good guy than for a ruthless heel. He should have been a really solid top babyface in 2019, especially after people spent most of 2018 clamoring for him in the role. Unfortunately, Seth’s personality doesn’t fit that of a top babyface in the ring or out. Seth’s run as Universal Champion last year became notable for him constantly having his foot in his mouth on social media and doing whatever he could to make himself look foolish & WWE look silly for having him as their top good guy.
He didn’t even do anything particularly wrong. It’s not like he was out there getting DUIs or doing other things that law-abiding citizens would look down upon. He doesn’t even have a reputation of being difficult to deal with, or a troublemaker in the locker room, at least not these days. Rollins just comes off like a jerk, whether he means to or not. Heck, Roman Reigns could have had that same exchange with Will Ospreay on Twitter, and people would have looked at it differently because Roman has a reputation of meaning well. Since it was Seth, everybody thought it was Seth being a corporate shill and a general fanboy. It illustrated why he can’t be on top as a babyface…nobody thinks he’s one in real life.
Seth's recent work as the Monday Night Messiah has been the best work by any wrestler in the entire world. I truly mean that. His last strong heel run came about playing the part of Triple H's chosen one in The Authority and it just suited him to a tee. Maniacal, despicable and that evil cackle that followed him everywhere made for the perfect heel. The Messiah has stepped things up a notch or two though, with Seth playing a holier than thou cult leader who wants to purge and cleanse WWE of all of the non believers. Long may this run continue because right now Seth Rollins is the best heel in the business.
The King hasn’t had a babyface run since entering WWE’s main roster. From where I sit, there’s no reason for him to do such a thing. Corbin has his weaknesses that WWE tends to highlight for some reason (there’s never been an occasion where he should have cut a 20 minute promo or been part of an entire hour of television), but one of his strengths is the fact that he’s great at being a bully, mostly down to the fact he is so much taller than a lot of the roster (and boy do WWE like to hammer that one home...). Another one of his strengths is that he’s naturally hateable. In pro wrestling, that’s a great thing to be as a heel.
I mean, the most common thing that I say to defend defend King Corbin against those who just don't get it is that “He gets great heel heat!”. There was a time where he was receiving go home heat - the worst kind of reaction to get. He was bad in the ring and bad on the mic, but after years of improving himself and working on his repertoire Corbin has transitioned from a guy who is hated for a lack of skill to a guy who is hated because he demands to be hated.
Why risk messing with that by forcing a face turn like they do with so many others? Add in the fact that he looks like a arrogant slimeball, and is covered in the type of tattoos associated with being a bad guy, and Corbin looks like a solid heel for the next ten years.