- Face (professional wrestling)
professional wrestling, a face or babyface is a character who is portrayed as heroic relative to the heel wrestlers, who are analogous to villains. [Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p.2)] Not everything a face wrestler does must be heroic: faces need only to be cheered by the audience to be effective characters. The vast majority of wrestling storylines place a heel against a face.
The changing nature of faces
Traditional babyfaces are classic good guy characters who do not break the rules, follow instructions of those in authority such as the referee, are polite and well-mannered towards the fans, and often overcome the rule-breaking actions of their heel opponents to cleanly win matches. While many modern faces still fit this model, other versions of the face character are now also common.
The portrayal of face wrestlers changed in the 1990s with the birth of
Extreme Championship Wrestling, the start of World Championship Wrestling's nWo storyline, and the Attitude Era of the World Wrestling Federation. During this time, wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austinand Sting used tactics traditionally associated with heels but remained popular with the fans. Although wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser, Crusher and Fred Blassiehad been babyfaces while using such tactics well before this, the Attitude Era is usually credited with this new kind of face.
Kurt Anglewas introduced to the World Wrestling Federation with an American hero gimmick based on his gold medal win at the 1996 Summer Olympics. In his promos, Angle presented himself as a role modeland stressed the need to work hard to realize one's dreams. Although such a personality appears appropriate for a face wrestler, Angle's character was arrogant, talked down to the audience, and behaved as if he thought he was better than the fans. Angle's character served as a meta-reference to how wrestling had changed. Although his character was intended to be a heel and behaved accordingly, some commentators speculated that if Angle attempted to get over as a babyface using a more heroic version of the same character, he would have failed.
Fans sometimes boo face wrestlers despite the way they are promoted. Some reasons this may occur include repetitive in-ring antics, a limited moveset, a lengthy title reign, lack of selling his/her opponents' moves, or an uninteresting character. This often results in wrestlers who are supposed to be cheered receiving a negative or no reaction from the fans. The Rock, who initially wrestled as Rocky Maivia (early 1997), was depicted as a classic babyface, but the fans despised him. His constant attempts to get the crowd on his side struck them as obsequiousness and made him even less popular.
John Cenahas a history of receiving mixed reactions from crowds despite being presented as a face.
Types of faces
*Juggernaut: A wrestler that can't be stopped by opposition. The behavior and tactics are totally opposite of the monster heel, but the wrestler will occasionally pull off such tactics as a form of counterattacking or whenever the stipulations allow it. The Juggernaut is often called upon to "clean house" but this is not always the case. Examples:
The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan(mid-late 1980s), André the Giant(late 1970s), The Big Show, Kane (during his face runs), Bill Goldberg, Bobby Lashley, and Chyna(during her reign as WWF Women's Champion).
*Hoss: A larger wrestler who often wrestles as a face rather than a heel. Large enough to be considered a monster, but not quite unstoppable like the juggernaut. Despite their superior size, the wrestler will often use quickness, agility, and/or aerial maneuvers rather than, or as a supplement to, their raw power. Hosses who play face characters are often clean-cut compared to their monster heel counterparts, who are often menacing in appearance. Examples:
Hulk Hogan, Randy Orton(in 2002), Mark Jindrak, Sean O'Haire, Lance Cade(in 2003-2004), Heidenreich, DH Smith, Bobby Lashley, Rhino, Batista, and Samoa Joe.
*Underdog: A wrestler below
Heavyweightclass often forced to go against a monster heel, putting the motions of a physical mismatch on paper. The underdog gains popularity by sneaking out upset wins against much larger opponents, usually by executing roll-up pins or by taking advantage of a critical mistake made by that opponent. Examples include Rey Mysterio, The Hardy Boyz, Shawn Michaels, Alundra Blayze, Gail Kim(during her feud with Awesome Kong), Hornswoggle, Spike Dudley, Eddie Guerrero(during his babyface runs) and Colin Delaney(during his face run).
*Kid: The kid is a special example of the underdog wrestler, except that more emphasis is placed on his inexperience, rather than his size. The kid is not always a rookie wrestler; he could also be a somewhat experienced wrestler who never competed at a main event level up to a certain point. A perfect example being
Jeff Hardy, who was billed as an underdog against the younger and less experienced Randy Orton, who ascended the ranks into the main event at a much faster rate than Hardy. The kid feuds with or competes against upper-midcarders and sometimes against the main event wrestlers, usually coming out on the losing end. They often lose after the more experienced heel wrestler takes advantage of a critical mistake, allowing the heel to win cleanly without completely burying the younger wrestler. Examples: Maven, Randy Orton (in 2002), John Cena (in 2002), Brian Kendrick(in 2003), Jeff Hardy (prior to his 2006 return), DH Smith, Cody Rhodes(from July 2007-June 29 2008).
*Regional Hero: Usually, they feud against foreign/traitor heels in effort of defending their home nation when it comes to the storyline. (I.e. USA vs. Canada) However, during the course of the WWE season, Raw and/or SmackDown! will visit the region that one of the wrestler came from - and depending on the popularity of the wrestler, fans often ignore the heel/face alignment for those shows. Examples include any Canadian wrestler during any event in Canada, William Regal (England), Finlay (Ireland),
Mick Foley(northeast USA), Ric Flair(southeast USA), any Texas-born wrestler during any event in Texas (it played a big role on crowd reaction during Survivor Series 1991), Jim Duggan. Regional Heroes often rely on cheap pops to gain support in their home territories, but not all of the wrestlers do this.
*Showman: The main job is to incite the crowd into a fury, as something big is about to happen (finishing move or cleaning house). Most showmen lack the size or instinct to be effective juggernauts yet does not fit the role of technician or underdog. Examples include The Hardy Boyz, Sabu, The Sandman, The Rock,
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan (1980s), Roddy Piper, Trish Stratus, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Rob Van Dam, Shawn Michaels, Christian Cage and Mr. Kennedy.
*Technician: The main job is to obey all the rules, and rely on takedowns, reversals, and counterattacks, before finishing off with a submission move (although some used finishers that led to a pinfall victory). Examples include
Chris Benoit, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Kurt Angle, Lou Thesz, Sting, and CM Punk.
*Authority figure: A face authority figure who gives the fans what they want, such as fair matches, or doing something that involves punishing a heel wrestler, such as ordering them to go back to the ring to continue/restart the match. Examples include Mick Foley and sometimes Shawn Michaels as WWF Commissioners,
Theodore Long, Steve Austin, Team Orton after 2004 Survivor Series and Stephanie McMahonduring her run as SmackDown! General Manager and most recently Vickie Guerrero.
*Rejected: A face that gets negative reaction from the crowd, despite regional territories not playing a role in the negative reaction. Fans often perceive them as "overrated", believe that the heel wrestler is the superior talent, or due to real life scandals that has nothing to do with the persona they are portraying on-screen. Examples include Hulk Hogan (mid-1990s, although his defeat to
The Undertakerat 1991 Survivor Series possibly began this trend), The Rock (while as Rocky Maivia, and again during 2002), John Cena ever since he started feuding with Kurt Angle in 2005, Bret Hart(early 1997 prior to WrestleMania), Lita (upon Matt Hardy's release due to him revealing her affair with Edge to the public), and X-Pac (during the WCW/ECW Invasion storyline, although the whole WWF roster was portrayed as babyfaces).
*Anti-Hero is a person who acts like a heel, but gets cheered nonetheless. Common tactics of an anti-hero include attacking heel authority figures, breaking the rules as a way of "leveling the playing field" against cheating heels, and cutting edgy, but popular promos. Examples of the anti-hero include Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and
*Face stables: A large group of faces that are usually used by each other to watch each others backs while feuding with their heel stable counterparts. The concept of the face stable was largely innovated by The Legion Of Doom. Though not as closely tied to one another as the heels such groups usually last much longer due to more ability to work together and less selfishness between group members. Other prominent face stable examples include the nWo Wolfpac, The DX Army, Team Extreme, The
Misfits in Action, The Dudes with Attitudes, The ECW Originals, The Hart Foundationwhenever they were wrestling in Canadaor Europe, and the Blue World Order.
*Celebrity Face: A celebrity who has a major role as a face in a pro wrestling storyline. These people include Cydni Lauper, Mike Tyson (After he betrayed then-heel, Shawn Michaels), Floyd Mayweather (In the beginning of his feud with Big Show)and Donald Trump (During his feud with the heel gimmick of Vince McMahon)
*cite book | author = Mick Foley | title = Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks | publisher = HarperCollins | date= 2000 | pages = 511 | isbn = 0061031011
List of professional wrestling slang
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