A Face, short for Baby face, is a Professional Wrestling
good guy. He's the guy the fans get behind, the one they cheer for. A face used to always be a clean-cut good guy, but nowadays, anybody the fans cheer for is generally classified as a face, whether or not he's clean-cut, and whether or not he plays by the rules. The Lucha Libre equivalent is known as a técnico
) which is more about the method they take to win (técnicos are content to rely on valid wrestling techniques) but is the same in practice more often than not. To further confuse, in British Wrestling (Such as World Of Sport), the term used is "Blue Eyes."
Like many things in pro wrestling, a wrestler's status as a face is anything but permanent; "baby face" is a pun
on "about face" after all and a Heel Turn
could come at a moment's notice.
Some fans draw a distinction between "face" and "babyface"; they argue that "babyface" should be used to refer to the old-school, clean-cut, "train, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins"-type good guys, and the shortened version is simply anybody fans cheer for (including a wide variety of Antiheroes
and Designated Heroes
). Insiders in the pro wrestling business, however, use the two interchangeably.
The opposite of a face is a Heel
, the bad guy that the fans love to hate. In the case of Lucha Libre, the Rudo typically relies on basic brawling, possibly some underhanded tactics but does not have much finesse or technique
when he fights and he's probably rude too. See also Tweener
(a guy who falls in between
Face and Heel status, fighting either side as the situation calls for) and X-Pac Heat
(when the fans don't just hate a wrestler in the context of the show but hate him personally). The Face Heel Index
has some more variations.
Unrelated to The Face
which can also be called "The Social Guy
" because they're the group member that specializes in social skills.
- Hulk Hogan was perhaps the ultimate All American Face, keeping it up for eighteen years until he pulled his infamous Face-Heel Turn during Bash at the Beach in 1996. Even that only made him a heel in WCW. When he tried the same routine in WWE the fans cheered him for him despite it and his character reverted in kind. Part of his gimmick was having the power to use the fan's energy to increase his strength, which is how he Hulked up.
- Besides some disputes with his brother and Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy has always been a hero the fans could look to and project their energy on.
- This is so extreme that when Jeff Hardy was caught selling illegal substances, charged with 5 felonies and sent to prison, fans were still buying more of Jeff's paraphernalia than both DGenerationX and John Cena.
- Technically, he and Matt Hardy were heels as the New Brood very shortly after their debut in 1999, but he turned face two months later, and it's been a decade since then.
- Similarly, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat spent his entire career as a clean-cut babyface. One veteran theorized that Ricky could cut off Hulk Hogan's limbs with a chainsaw and still get cheered for it because he was just such a naturally likable guy. This is why he used the "Steamboat" stage name despite being born with the natural ring name Richard Blood; contemporary common sense said that you couldn't have a nice guy named "Blood."
- Even when he was in the heel stable The Nexus, Justin Gabriel almost always gets cheered by the fans due to his likeable personality, underdog status, and awesome wrestling skills. After leaving both the Nexus for the Corre he turned face a couple weeks later.
- It appears that any wrestler who has been around long enough becomes a face by default. Ric Flair was probably the ultimate example, as all of his heel mannerisms had long since slipped into nostalgia by the end of his career.
- Mad Dog Vachon could be the earliest example. When he started out in the 1950s, people found his violent insanity frightening but by the time he had made it to the WWF in the 1980s he was an attraction for the very same reason.
- Bryan Danielson in ROH probably set the record for doing this quicker than anybody. He was a natural heel as ROH Champion, but his Large Ham heel antics were some of the most entertaining parts of any given show. From when he first infuriated the crowd with his "I HAVE TILL FIVE!" schtick, it took around half a year for it to become the most beloved part of his act.
- As Daniel Bryan, even after he spat in John Cena's face and hellaciously destroyed everything in WWE with Nexus, the fans loved him. He actually got kicked off the WWE for being too violent after he choked someone out with his own tie, and the fans cheered for him so much, he was rehired before his no-complete clause ran out, and became a face by joining team WWE, then eliminating as many Nexus members as John Cena.
- His current heel gimmick of an arrogant jackass who's one to shout "YES!" after most anything he does still has gotten him his fans, who've come to like the "YES!" shtick.
- Kane is another face by default. He tries really hard to be heel and generally does a good job and gets booed. The moment he stops performing over the top acts of evil though the fans are back to cheering for him. Similarly his brother The Undertaker, became a face by default through a combination of his all around talent and grave digging zombie gimmick.
- By the end of his career Edge was a face.
- Randy Orton became a face by default in 2010, and the only thing he changed about his character is who he attacked. In fact, it doesn't matter who Randy attacks, face or heel — the fans are going to cheer him on anyway, which is why he became a face in the first place. CM Punk had a similar problem. No matter what he did (mocking Jerry Lawler's heart attack, interrupting The Undertaker's tribute to Paul Bearer, stealing the urn), the heat never lasted. The fans cheered for him and eventually when Punk came back after a hiatus in 2013, in his own hometown of Chicago, he became a face by default even though his opponent (Chris Jericho) was also a face.
- Sting could very well be the ultimate example. There have only been a couple of attempts to turn him heel over his near thirty year career and they have all been lack luster and half-hearted, at best. For example, when TNA put him in the Main Event Mafia, Sting was conspicuous in not participating in beat downs perpetuated by his stable mates. They eventually threw him out, making him a full fledged Face again.
He made a heel turn in 2010, but it still did not work.
- Randy Savage was a heel during his early WWF years and would cheat during matches, badmouth opponents, act like a chickenshit and abuse Elizabeth. By 1987, he was being cheered by at least half the audience, perhaps due to his entertaining promos and deep, husky voice. He slowly dropped his heel characteristics and became a full face by 1988. He would turn heel again in 1989, and still got mixed reactions. Against Hulk Hogan, no less. By 1991, he was cheered whether he was a face or a heel. Even during his nWo and "Team Madness" gimmicks, he returned to his old heel habits, but was still nice to the fans and thus, still cheered.
- Rey Mysterio Jr full on. Except for one match against Mark Henry where he used one of Eddie Guerrero's heel tricks (though even that was more of an homage to his recently departed friend), he's never played any role other than the underdog face. He's probably unique among male Superstars in that respect. (Rob Van Dam is somewhat borderline. He was a heel when he first came over from ECW in 2001, but by that time he was so popular even among WWE fans that he got cheered anyway.)
- Rey turned heel when the Filthy Animals were formed and they feuded with Ric Flair for a bit back in 1999 after he lost his mask and the whole No-Limit Solders thing died. The Animals was partly responsible for luring Flair out to the middle of nowhere one Nitro where the New World Order ambushed him and he had to hitch a ride back to the arena. All during Rey's maskless period, however, Canon Discontinuity in WWE.
- The Great Khali has always been the good guy to the Indian audience. It was the US where he was booed. The same may be true for other hometown heroes that wind up wrestling for foreign promotions but Khali is a standout example as he is practically a legend in India. By the time he came to the Americas though he was no longer very mobile so the fans there do not see what the big deal is.
- This also applies to Bret Hart, who will always be face in Canada no matter how he's booked. Even when he was the biggest heel in the company in 1997, all he had to do was cross the border and he was a face again.
- La Resistance spent their whole gimmick praising France and Quebec while contrasting them to the inferior United States of America. The commentators act surprised for some reason when they got cheers in Quebec despite this, they were even cheered over the other Canadian wrestlers.
- Maria Kanellis was with WWE from 2004-2010 and remained a face the whole time. There were hints at her turning heel mid-2009 when she was in an angle with heel character Dolph Ziggler but that storyline was scrapped and Maria never turned. She was even voted "Diva of the Year" by the fans, something she was obviously not expecting when you consider that the likes of Mickie James and Melina got bigger reactions than her. Maria actually was able to be a heel when she debuted in Ring of Honour - and appears alternately as a face and heel for Family Wrestling Entertainment.
- Kelly Kelly is a Diva who, considering how she was first portrayed, is more likely than Maria to turn heel some day. She debuted in the "new" ECW in the spring of 2006 as an "exhibitionist" who was always removing her clothes (at first just to entertain the male fans, and then to distract heels while they were fighting wrestlers she particularly liked) and was the love interest of the Jerkass wrestler Mike Knox, but apart from the distractions she herself never did anything truly unlikable. She eventually broke up with Knox, and starting around 2007 the "exhibitionist" gimmick was dropped as well. She's been a straight-up babyface ever since, but of course only time will tell....
- A major reason why she's been a face so long is because she is probably the single largest woobie in WWE, who seems to take an almost perverse glee in making her suffer. Her boyfriend Mike Knox was emotionally abusive and let her get hit in the head by the Sandman with a singapore cane, The Miz actively sabotaged her attempts to hook up with anyone, got stalked by Kane and rejected by Randy Orton, the list goes on. At this point, the easiest way for a Diva to get heel heat is for them to do something bad to Kelly.
- Interestingly enough, despite her overwhelming popularity her usual wrestling style in the ring is one much more expected for a heel wrestler. She uses an illegal submission hold, is very aggressive, screams a lot and will ram her opponent's face off the canvas sometimes just for the hell of it. She did get booed when she was in Beth Phoenix's hometown of Buffalo New York as a result, even though Beth was the obvious heel in all their other matches.
- Before Kelly came along, Torrie Wilson filled the same role. Torrie was a heel as part of the WCW and ECW Invasion storyline but she turned Face and defected when she fell for Tajiri. She would spend the next four years as WWE's favourite Girl Next Door. She made a heel turn in 2005 but that didn't stick because fans just loved her too much. It was a similar case with her fellow WCW alumnus Stacy Keibler. Stacy was able to remain heel longer than Torrie - a whole year in fact - but fans loved her too much. She also became a face and remained that way for the rest of her career.
- Antonino Rocca, this man brought elbow drops, cross bodies, huracanranas and the Argentine back breaker to professional wrestling back in the 1940s (the dropkick is disputed)! He was also responsible for bringing wrestling back to Madison Square Garden in the 50s, where it hasn't left since. He was one of Antonio Inoki's influences.
- Likewise Abe Coleman, aka Jewish Tarzan, aka Hebrew Hercules. He will be credited with innovating the drop kick if Antonino Rocca is not though he is most famous for breaking a wrestling ring apart after slamming the 300 pound Man Mountain Dean.
- All attempts to turn the fans against Jim Ross failed miserably. Yes, face/heel extends to commentators. Not even WWF's biggest competitor, WCW, was allowed to take shots at Jim Ross though the fans seemed to hate everything else WWF.
- A face doesn't have to be a decent person, so long as they get fans to cheer them. A common cited example of this is Randy Orton's second face run where half of his feuds were started by his own need to Kick the Dog. Sometimes the enemy would be shown to be just as evil or worse than face Randy but not always. Another example was Kaientai's face run where they constantly gave Eviler Than Thou speeches to their heel opponents.
- Los Guerreros by all means should have been the heel team, with the way they proudly lived out ethnic stereotypes and regularly lied, cheated and stole. They were such good workers in the ring and on the microphone though that it did not take any effort to get them over as faces. Trying to get them over as heels always failed, at most they could make Chavo hated by attacking the more popular Eddie. WWE later gave them a Spiritual Successor in Cryme Tyme whose career went pretty much the exact same way, only with less success in winning titles and less longevity.
- The Boogeyman, whose entire gimmick was smelling bad, random appearances and force feeding people worms he first ate and then regurgitated into their mouths. For whatever reason, fans took a liking to him.
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was a rebel against an undeserving authority during his wrestling career and for the most part an all around good guy who had trust issues at worst. After his wrestling career was over he became more of a bully who attacked and stunned everyone around him without any real reason much of the time but fans would still cheer for him no matter what.
- Mickie James was a heel during a lot of 2006 but she was never booed for very long. The fans loved her crazy stalker lesbian character so much she got cheered going up against friggin Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22. She officially turned face around September 2006, and never turned heel again for the remainder of her WWE career. She did turn heel towards the end of her TNA career, but it was so corny that no one bought it.
- Likewise ODB in TNA has never been able to stay heel for very long. Her character is a boisterous Ladette from a trailer park. She started out as a heel in TNA but grew very popular and was turned face. She returned to TNA in 2011 as a heel but fans didn't take to it and she reverted to face within a month.
- Of course, Tito Santana, winner of the first Wrestlemania match ever, the first Mexican-American to win the intercontinental championship, remained a face his entire career.
- Goldberg, the top draw of WCW was always a face, though he had somewhat of a mixed reaction when he wrestled the Rock, Brock Lesnar took all the heat for his infamous parting match at WrestleMania 20.
- Goldberg did briefly turn heel in Spring of 2000, but that got quickly nixed as fans didn't react well to a heel-turned Goldberg.note
- Not a wrestling example but Hercule from the Dragon Ball series acts like the typical wrestling hero and the main characters despite being better fighters than him are all willing to do the job so that he will look good. He was even instrumental in the defeat of one of the series most powerful villains in a scene which had obvious parallels to the power of the Hulkamaniacs.
- In one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess the main character decides the best way to save her friend Joxer, who had offended the Amazon tribe, was to stage a Squash Match with Xena playing to the crowd before "killing" Joxer with an overly dramatic finishing move.
- Razor Ramon HG was a face in HUSTLE since his debut, and became the top face, leading their forces against Generalissimo Takada's monster army. Much of what got him over in the professional wrestling world has not been as well received when he moved on to other television programming though.
- Haystacks Calhoun was probably the first "traveling face enforcer", moving from territory to territory back when North America was still divided that way working as an attraction.
- Boogeyman has started doing something similar on the North American independent circuit. He never wins championships, he just seems to be traveling about tormenting heels and scaring everyone else does so, presumably wrestling just to support this endeavor.
- John Cena. Full stop. Aside for Rey Mysterio, he has served the longest time as the Face, and if often considered the mascot for WWE.
- A lot of this is due to Real Life. Cena does a lot of charity work for Make-A-Wish, being so far the only person to fulfill 300 wishes. With so many young kids looking up to him, Cena has stated that the WWE has no plans to turn him into a Heel, for fear of both not being believable, and the disappointment of the young fanbase. If Cena ever did become a heel, it would probably be a bigger shocker than Hogan's turn in 1996.
- Bobby Calloway of F*** Kayfabe: Wrestling With Labels describes himself as the "eternal good guy" and talks about how he believes there is an art to playing a believable face and how the best faces look like they're having "the time of their lives in the ring". He is indeed working as a face in the two matches shown.
- Molly Holly has been outspoken about how much she preferred being a face. In her shoot interview, her family talk about how it was against her nature to be a heel. She has said that she liked being a positive role model for children hence why she hated being a heel during her career.
- The Caras/Sicodelico family in Mexico by and large. Dos Caras Junior is the only one to ever be a heel and is still more known for his Technico run there. And when he returned from his WWE heel he was greeted by scores of Hero Worshippers, as if it never happened, or indeed he had remained good during his entire stay up North.
- The Rock N Roll Express were THE underdog pretty-boy babyface team of the 1980s and inspired MANY imitations.
- Mask de Smith from Killer7 was apparently a face during his wrestling days. A former fan calls him "Babyface" (though you'd think they'd call him "tecnico," given he's a Masked Luchador).
- An In-Universe example is found in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies , Case 2: the Amazing Nine-Tails, who managed to revitalise the once near dead village of Nine Tails Vale and is a heroic icon for them. Finding out the man behind the mask is crucial to finding the truth of the case.
- Despite being the biggest heel in Memphis at the time, Sputnik Monroe is more remembered as a now because even the older male fans hated him, he was popular with the youth. He was also responsible tearing down the segregation of sporting events in Memphis, possibly the rest of Tennessee. He was the first man to be arrested for drinking in a "negro cafe" and in fact was arrested multiple times for "drinking with coloreds and mopery, defended by black lawyers at each case. This lead to his match against Billy Wicks, who was the hometown hero otherwise, becoming the match to draw the largest attendance in Memphis ever as young and black people flooded in to support Sputnik. Rustwood park had reached capacity at 13,000 but so many people can that they broke the outfield fences down trying to get in, making the crowd close to 18,000. Once wrestling was integrated, other sports followed suit. In spite of the damage to the ballpark, there were no actual riots at the integrated shows he worked.
- Likewise, Bobo Brazil, whom had gotten so over wrestling black heels that the white fans started to demand that he be allowed to face better competition (white people).
- While El Santo started out as a Rudo who attacked EMLL's top billed technico, Tarzán López, the crowds really didn't buy Santo as bad guy. So he turned on his rude and cheating ways, remaining the most beloved wrestler in Mexico for the rest of his career.
- Subverted in Bleach with Mask De Masculine, who is a text book técnico luchador but he works for the bad guys. If Bleach was a professional wrestling story there is a good chance this would almost certainly be played straight, Mask De Masculine even follows the rules enforced by most promotions. Thing is, Bleach is otherwise about the furthest thing from professional wrestling.
Whatcha gonna do, brother... when the Tropers run WILD on YOU?