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Anti Hero / Professional Wrestling

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Pro Wrestling thrives on Anti Heroes, as the very nature of the show requires even the most idealistic to pound someone into a gooey paste for a living. Plus, if a woman dumps a man and betrays his trust, the audience will often demand physical retribution from the wronged hero.

  • Antonio Inoki intentionally set himself up in New Japan Pro-Wrestling as a foil to his former Tag Team partner Giant Baba of All Japan Pro Wrestling. So while Baba was respectful, subdued and straight laced, Inoki was showier, cockier and rougher, almost to the point of being Baba's Evil Counterpart if not for the fact all the fans loved Inoki like a hero.
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  • El Canek was this in Lucha Libre Internacional. While he wasn't considered as likeable as pure tecnicos Dos Caras, Sicodelico or Mil Mascaras, he was the man who most consistently defended the honor of the Mexican based fed against foreigners like Riki Choshu, André the Giant and Big Van Vader. A sort of "jerk but our jerk" deal.
  • Dick the Bruiser and his "cousin", The Crusher, were basically insane drunken blood knights. But they beat up people fans didn't like and (usually) didn't resort to cheap tricks, putting them solidly in baby face territory, in contrast to say The Sheik or Ox Baker.
  • Macho Man Randy Savage, meanwhile, made his name by always being on the edge of a psychotic breakdown and would defend his girlfriend Miss Elizabeth whenever necessary — even though he wasn't always the nicest guy to her.
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  • Hulk Hogan's status as superhero and protector of the innocent meant he could get away with a lot of things on camera, such as hogging the spotlight and fighting fire with fire. The deconstruction of his wrestling style helped facilitate his infamous Face–Heel Turn in 1996. Infamously, Hogan was unrepentantly nasty in matches with No Disqualification rules, almost instantly resorting to tactics that were typically only used by heels.
  • The Undertaker was one of the earliest anti-heroes in the WWE. Several examples-including ones listed on this very page-do predate him, though.
  • Jake Roberts was, at his best, a sinister, darkly intelligent schemer. Yet was still wildly popular with the audience. He didn't become a heel until he was corrupted by Kevin Sullivan.
  • Almost required of pretty much any FMW baby face, with Atsushi Onita setting the example by establish legit explosives as a legit means of intimidating and or defeating your opponent. However, while Onita was a loopy but laid back and funny guy, this approach did not work so well for Tarzan Gotoh, so the following male faces Hayabusa and Masato Tanaka were more "traditional" heroes. FMW was such a violent promotion that the two still qualified as antiheroes in the more mainstream puroresu feds, however, and it was only the male faces that had to become more heroic, averting Women Are Wiser.
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  • At any given time in ECW one could look in the locker room and find the entire gamut of them, from the classical in Tommy Dreamer all the way down to the pay evil unto evil New Jack and everywhere in between with crazies like The Sandman or arrogant showboats like Rob Van Dam.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin raised it to an art form by becoming (in his own words!) a "trash-talking, beer-swilling, backstabbing son of a bitch" who was the hero because he opposed Corrupt Corporate Executive Vince McMahon.
  • During The Rock's heyday, he was cheered by millions (and millions) of fans while showing classic bullying behavior, most notably to Mick Foley.
  • Hijo del Santo. El Santo was a failed rudo who failed so hard he became the greatest tecnico of his time and maybe of all time. He held a grudge against Blue Demon but this mostly resulted in them simply having matches to prove once and for all who was better. El Hijo del Santo by contrast was known for his violent, bloody brawls where he resulted to tactics equally illegal and brutal as the worst rudos and even sparked a riot in the usually well behaved arena Mexico with his Face–Heel Turn, which nonetheless only took in CMLL as the rest of the nation's fans still cheered him like a hero and even CMLL's fans took back his side before Hijo del Santo officially became a tecnico again.
  • For that matter, Blue Demon and Black Shadow. Black Shadow only became a tecnico because Defeat Means Friendship after he lost his mask to El Santo and Blue Demon only became a tecnico to get out of a mask vs mask match with El Santo. That said, both of them did genuinely support him after, disapproving of their would be successors, Los Misonaries de la Muerte, going so far as to trying to kill their rival.
  • Among the colorful luchadors and superheroes of Chikara, Eddie Kingston stands out for being, well, not. In fact, most of the time he wasn't a tecnico, with his apparent Heel Face Turns being more about being in need of allies to fight numerically superior foes rather than genuinely embracing tecnico ideologies, as opposed to the more obvious turns of others. It was also ridiculously easy to get Kingston to revert, as Jimmy Jacobs proved. Still, Kingston considers Chikara his home and will give everything to defend it while it stands. While it doesn't stand is another story, but for the most part the Chikaramy consider him a hero.
  • Homicide for most of his career in Ring of Honor. He had an entire "redemption arc" that basically amounted to him assaulting and stabbing anyone and everyone within arms reach who had ever so much as annoyed him at any time during the promotion, once attempted to murder Colt Cabana, ambushed fan favorite Samoa Joe, corrupted founding father Low Ki and was all around abrasive. But fans almost always took his side, he was the lesser evil against the likes of Jim Cornette and Bryan Danielson, and saving the promotion from Chris Hero's destructive CZW invaders didn't hurt Homicide's case either. Also, reDRagon deserved it!
  • Delirious, also in Ring Of Honor, during his "Red Poison" feud with Hangm3n, which involved him spitting trachea restricting poison on Adam Pearce and his cohorts for trying to hang him. Delirious would also use rough tactics on many other wrestlers not associated with Pearce during this time period, though he would eventually mellow out. Similar antihero arcs would be seen later in ROH, such as those of El Generico and Dalton Castle.
  • MsChif in general but as SHIMMER Champion in particular, as she was the only baby face wrestler for over decade to win the singles title belt and remain a baby face while holding it, but was also among the most ruthless baby faces of the time, displayed a stunning lack of social skills and had a "demonic" gimmick.
  • Randy Orton in his 2010-2013 face role. What better example of an antihero do you need than a man who told Sheamus to his face that he would RKO his own grandmother if it meant holding on to the WWE title, and then he would RKO Sheamus' grandmother just to see the look on her face. All the while he's one of the most beloved wrestlers in the WWE.
  • CM Punk in 2011-2012. Brash, bold and hilariously entertaining, he gets cheered for doing/saying anything he would normally.
  • Many in WSU, but aside from perhaps the wrestling pimp Human Tornado from the early years, no one was more this trope than Jessicka Havok, whose crimes included trespassing, destruction of property and attempted murder but became a face by default when CZW took over the promotion and DJ Hyde became the new boss. Simply by fighting her(very justified) ban from the promotion while Hyde happened to be at the helm was enough to get fans on Havok's side, as was her attacking him in a technical show of "biting the hand that feeds you" when he initially decided to lift it.
  • Kevin Steen Heel–Face Turn started with a Heel–Face Door-Slam when he tried to turn a new leaf to get his job back in Ring of Honor, but in a lapse of judgment, tried to comeback trough Truth Martini's stable, leading to actions that extended his ban from the promotion. This lead to an effort on Steen's part to destroy Ring Of Honor with Suffering Ugliness Chaos and Mayhem but Steen had been legitimately trying to get his job back for so long that fans sympathized with him and SCUM didn't truly start getting booed until Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino turned on Steen for losing to Jay Briscoe and installed the much easier to hate Matt Hardy as the new leader, also firmly cementing Steen as a still rough around the edges baby face who now had to take down the evil stable he created.
  • Jon Moxley, particularly in his more mature form seen in All Elite Wrestling as opposed to his earlier pre-WWE work. He's a borderline-psychotically violent thug who loves beating the crap out of people, who debuted in the promotion by running in at the end of the Double or Nothing PPV and attacking, in sequence, Chris Jericho (heel), an innocent referee (N/A) and Kenny Omega (face). He got into a brawl with Omega that culminated in him hurling his opponent off a large stack of giant ornamental poker chips while the crowd who'd previously been cheering for Omega during his match against Jericho screamed their support for Moxley. In AEW Moxley has almost no real friends or allies except the young lunatic Darby Allin (who earned Moxley's respect in brutal matches against him and reminds Moxley of himself when he was younger) and his only loss in the promotion was the tag match where he was teamed with PAC until PAC annoyed him one too many times, so Mox beat him up and walked out, leaving his "partner" to get pinned. Ever since he finished his initial feud with Kenny Omega, Moxley has exclusively feuded with heels, but that was because his first post-Omega feud was with the AEW Champion Chris Jericho, and then after he beat him and became champion himself he was primarily challenged for the title by more heels including Mr. Brodie Lee, Brian Cage and MJF; Moxley would have absolutely no issues beating the crap out of any face who steps up to him either. And the crowd love him no matter what he does, whether he's putting Kenny Omega through a glass table head-first with a Paradigm Shift or breaking 10's arm with a steel chair because his boss Mr. Brodie Lee pissed him off too much.

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