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 an upright do-gooder, but nowadays, anybody the fans cheer for is generally classified as a face, regardless of personality or whether or not they play by the rules. The opposite of a face is a Heel.
Some fans draw a distinction between "face" and "babyface". It's argued that the later should refer to the old-school, clean-cut, "eat your vegetables" type good guys, and the shortened version is simply anybody fans cheer for, including a wide variety of Antiheroes, Nominal Heroes and Designated Heroes. Insiders in the pro wrestling business, however, use the two interchangeably. Some fans also call for the distinction of Tweeners for villains that receive a hero's welcome, though bookers and promoters themselves only slowly started embracing the concept in the late 1990s as, despite perceptions, most wrestlers wanted to be seen as pure face or heel for whatever show they happened to be working on.
The Lucha Libre equivalent is known as a técnico (or more rarely technico) 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."
The types of babyface, in order of cleanliness, are:
1. The Whitemeat. The hero who gets beat up constantly, before heroically and miraculously snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The whitemeat places particular emphasis on morality and virtue. (Cheating heavily is part of being a heel.) We're told that he's fighting against all odds to win the titles he's striving for. He has a tendency to always trust wrestlers, no matter how many times they've betrayed him in the past: Sting had a history of joining tag teams or stables full of vicious backstabbers when he really should have known better (leading to the phrase "Sting-level dumb"). He exists mostly to carry out good deeds and make the kids happy.
Most female wrestlers are booked as half-heel, half-face. This appears to be by design, with little concern about the heel/face dynamics. Mildred Burke, crowned NWA World Women's champion based on her matches with Clara Mortenson, popularized female wrestling in the U.S. during '30s. But she was frozen out of the industry, causing her to take her own promotion overseas.note As a result, there remains a specific sort of female baby face in the US despite, one who struggles to earn respect while competing in a "male" division, but they can just as easily draw heat by harassing the male babyfaces. Chyna and Jacqueline are two noteworthy Tweeners who competed in areas they didn't 'belong' in.
The Heel/Face Index has more examples. There's also the Tweener, a guy who falls in-between Face and Heel status, whichever the situation calls for. (George "the animal" Steele was always portrayed as more misunderstood than heel. He never pulled anything on his own that a heel didn't put him up to.) In Lucha Libre, the typical Rudo relies on brawling and underhanded tactics, and doesn't display much finesse or technique when he fights—and he's probably rude, too.
Unrelated to The Face.
- The professional wrestler of Air Gear is Rika, however it is Ikki who gets slapped with the "babyface" label for his behavior on the inline skating circuit
- 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. He insists there be an equal number of opponents on each side of a conflict to face off one on one, one at a time, with no foreign objects. Thing is, Bleach is a story about death gods with swords hunting down displaced souls. About the furthest thing from professional wrestling.
- 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 Hitman: Absolution, there is an achievement for stealing the All-American's disguise (The Patriot), then beating the Monster (Sanchez) with your bare fists, in the arena. From then on, getting a Silent Assassin rating is practically a shoo-in, since the crowd wants to see violent, gladiatorial combat.
- 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. Learning about the man behind the mask is crucial to uncovering the truth of the case.
- Even the 'western' characters in Street Fighter II revere Zangief, a pro wrestler who trained himself by fighting bears in Siberia. In a time when any "Champion of the proletariat" starts as a mere ideological enemy, they have a change of heart or teaming up with the westerners for the greater good. In-universe, "The Red/Iron Cyclone" is not just a national and ideological hero, but a beloved face by children, fellow wrestlers and wrestling fans world-wide.
- While Tiger Mask manga is the story of a heel's journey to baby face, every wrestler who has since used the gimmick has been a face by default. The first official wrestler to be recognized as Tiger Mask by New Japan caused ratings to increase by 25% whenever he was featured on a show, further ensuring this would be his role.
- In one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena decides the best way to save her friend Joxer (who has offended the Amazon tribe) is to stage a Squash Match, with Xena playing to the crowd before "killing" Joxer with an overly dramatic finishing move.
- Swig o' beer for the Rattlesnake! "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was a redneck rebelling against an undeserving authority. For the most part, he was a fun-loving good guy who had some had trust issues. Since he stopped wrestling, he's become more of an anarchist who delivers Stunners to everyone around him for no real reason, but fans still cheer for him no matter what.
- Perhaps the more appropriate term is técnico but Lucha Libre Internacional had a luchador who went by (not kidding) Babe Face in the late 1970s up until Triple A forced it out of business around 95. Later his son Babe Face Jr. entered the business, although not even IWRG was interested in him, much less the major Mexican enterprises; both AAA and CMLL opted to milk whatever they could out of Babe Face Sr. instead. Likewise, one of Dominican Wrestling Entertainment's featured luchadoras goes by La Baby Face and on the flipped side, there is the masked Australian wrestler of Pro Wrestling Zero 1, El Technico.
- Bayley is one of the biggest Faces in NXT, and possibly one of the biggest female Faces in history. (She'd probably be the female John Cena if WWE had played their cards better.) It's especially notable that while the rest of her fellow horsewomen (Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte) have had periods where they worked as both heels and faces at various points in their WWE careers, Bayley has never been a heel.
- Bobo Brazil is the Jackie Robinson of pro wrestling. He got over by wrestling non-white midcarders and heels, until finally the Caucasian fans demanded that he be allowed to face better competition (i.e. white people). This was in the early sixties.
- The Boogeyman, whose entire gimmick was smelling bad, would randomly appear and force-feed worms to people (that he first ate and then regurgitated into their mouths). For whatever reason, fans took a liking to him. He did something similar to Haystacks Calhoun on the North American independent circuit: he just seemed to be traveling about tormenting heels and scaring everyone else along the way (presumably wrestling just to support this endeavor).
- 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.
- The Caras/Sicodelico family in Mexico by and large. Dos Caras Junior is the only one to ever be a heel (at least until the family went to Puerto Rico) and is still more known for his tecnico run there. And when he returned from his WWE heel run 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. Mil Mascaras in particular has a similar reputation to Tiger Mask and Maeda but is shielded from any damaging criticism by his legendary status, being considered the third biggest name in lucha libre after El Santo and The Blue Demon.
- John Cena has served the longest time as the Face, and if often considered the mascot for WWE.
- This is partly for publicity reasons. Cena does a ton of charity work for Make-A-Wish Foundation. So far he is the only person to fulfill 300 "wishes". With so many young kids looking up to him, Cena announced that he and the company have no plans to turn him heel. If Cena ever did turn heel, it would probably be a bigger swerve than Hogan's run in '96.
- Abe Coleman, (A.K.A. "The Jewish Tarzan", "The Hebrew Hercules" and "The Polish Cougar"). He shall be credited with innovating the drop kick if Antonino Rocca isn't (see below), but he's most famous for breaking the wrestling ring apart after slamming the 300-lb. Man Mountain Dean.
- Since dropkicks have been brought to the subject, the most famous user of this maneuver wasn't any of them both, that is credited to another face: "Jumping" Joe Savoldi.
- By the end of his career, Edge was a face.
- Jim Fullington aka The Sandman is a perfect example of Paul Heyman's ability to hide flaws and accentuate strengths. An untrained construction worker whose gimmick is chain-smoking and getting drunk shouldn't be trading armbars and doing 450's, anyway.
- 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 Heel Goldberg. Mind you, not the usual booing that a heel gets and that sort of stuff, but rather fan apathy at how poorly-booked the Goldberg turn was.
- The 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.
- Molly Holly has been outspoken about how much she preferred being a face: She liked being a positive role model for children, hence why she hated being a heel. In a shoot interview, her family talk about how it is against her nature to be one.
- Hulk Hogan is this very trope's image for a reason. Started his career as a Monster Heel and later became the ultimate face, keeping it up for 18 years until he pulled his infamous FaceHeel Turn at Bash at the Beach '96. Even this only makes him a heel in WCW's continuity. When he tried the same routine in WWE the fans still cheered him anyway. Part of his appeal was drawing on the fans' energy to be "Running wild, brother!" back again.
- After his scandal was made public, some shoot interviews accused some roily managment of his career as a whole like putting himself over and buring promising talent just because, all of this due to his name and fame. Then again, no one can say all of his own claims about his legacy weren't right all along. An attendance of 93,173 fans on his match on André the Giant and being one of the very few who beated him clean, his contribution on making business a nation-wide phenomena, being beaten clean himself a rare and unncany event, the number of wrestlers influenced by him... and so on.
- Kelly Kelly is a Diva who debuted in the "new" ECW in the spring of '06. She began as an "exhibitionist" who was always removing her clothes (at first just to entertain the male fans, and then to distract the heels) and was a love interest of Mike Knox, but apart from the distractions, she herself never did anything truly heelish. 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.
- Interestingly enough, despite her overwhelming popularity her in-ring wrestling style is one more expected for a heel. 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.
- 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 was emotionally abusive and let her get hit in the head by 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, and the list goes on.
- Kofi Kingston and R-Truth (at least under that name) both had short heel stints but were otherwise lifelong babyfaces through their decade-long runs in WWE.
- Lita was eternally a face too, due to her One of Us nature. Little girls looked up to her, little boys wanted to hang with her - and her daredevil streak made her really exciting. She did turn heel towards the end of her time in WWE, but that was only because a real life affair scandal caused fans to chant obscenities at her anyway. As with Trish, she's always a face when she returns to WWE.
- Akira Maeda, an unrepentant jerkass both on and off the ring who was lucky enough to wrestle when anti authoritarian rebellion was the cool trend in Japanese media. So getting himself fired from New Japan for refusing to go on tour only added to his aura and he became just second to Tiger Mask in the Universal Wrestling Federation, even after the unsporting act of kicking Tiger Mask below the belt. Maeda eventually became the authority he was perceived to be rebelling against with ventures such as Fighting Network RINGS, to the point he's been caught assaulting students and employees on camera. But by then he was basically a revered figure of myth and thus given a pass.
- Aside for Cena, and 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), Rey Mysterio Jr. had never play any role other than the pure whitemeat face. He's probably unique among male Superstars in that respect.
- 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, where the New World Order ambushed him. He had to hitch a hay truck back to the arena. (Really.) Rey's maskless period, however, is no longer considered canon in WWE.
- 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 wrestling world was not as well-received when he moved onto other TV programming.)
- Rikidozan: One of his matches drew a TV rating of 88.0. Think about that. RAW at its peak got 9.3 ratings. Andre v. Hogan drew a 14.5 rating. Rikidozan is probably the biggest star to grace the wrestling business ever. He had an unfortunately short run on account of being assassinated, but his death was enough to bring officials from South Korea, Japan and North Korea together for peaceful festivities on at least three separate occasions.
- It's also why Japanese wrestling has always revolved around a few homegrown stars ("aces") and the invaders (gaijin and/or wrestlers from other Japanese companies) who oppose them. Rikidozan built pro wrestling in Japan. He was the hero, the "ace" of all of Japan, fighting for his country against the foreigners who faced him on Japanese soil. It came about in the post-WW2 era when Japan was broken and occupied, and the locals were not too fond of foreigners loitering at every street corner. The country was seriously lacking a shared identity. People flocked to see Rikidozan beat up the Americans. (It's also why WWE repeatedly goes back to the foreign heel gimmick. It's just such a distinct part of pro wrestling culture, and it always gets one or both guys over.)
- The Rock 'n' Roll Express were THE underdog pretty-boy babyface team of the 80s, and inspired MANY imitations.
- Antonino Rocca. The man who brought elbow drops, cross bodies, huracanranas and the Argentine back breaker to professional wrestling back in the late 1930s (the dropkick is disputed, and the rana is sometimes attributed to Huracán Ramirez). He was also responsible for bringing wrestling back to Madison Square Garden in the 50s, where it hasn't left since. How influential has he been, you ask? He is the reason Antonio Inoki is called like that!
- 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.
- El Santo is another candidate for the biggest wrestling star ever, whose impact was not as dramatic or as quick as Rikidozan's in Japan but whose career was also much longer, spawning many comic books and movies. Santo was planned to have a heel or rudo gimmick in the vein of The Masked Marvel, a mysterious no good who would inevitably be unmasked. The fans were more intrigued than angered, so promoter Salvador Lutteroth decided to run with it and made Santo the greatest face, or técnico in all of Mexico for 43 years in a row. Helping his "face" status was that Santo generously donated to charities and lent his image to public works projects designed to help the poor. Santo was never seen without his mask until shortly before he died and the fans put it back on him when he was buried, which is why masked luchadors became famous for guarding theirs so carefully.
- Sgt. Slaughter may be remembered mostly as heel, but to those who were kids in the mid/late eighties, he is a face through and through. This perhaps due to his tendency to prove no one is harder than him and his involvement and endorsing of certain toy franchise is what made him tremendously popular not just in the states, but in places like Latin america. He is the second most beloved face in the brand's history only beneath Hogan, for that matter.
- Lita's archenemy, Trish Stratus, was the WWE's top female face for most of her career. Although she has said she loved being a heel, both her runs in that role were quite short, lasting less than a year each. Her Plucky Girl nature, natural likability and stunning beauty meant that she was always put back into the face role. Whenever she makes a return to WWE, she's always a face.
- One veteran theorized that Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat 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 his birth certificate showing him as RICHARD BLOOD. (That's not a joke.) Common sense said that you couldn't have a babyface named "Blood."
- The man called Sting could very well be the ultimate example. There have only been a couple of attempts to turn him heel over his near 30-year career and they have all been half-hearted and poorly-received. Most recently, when TNA put him in the Main Event Mafia, Sting was conspicuous in not participating in the beatdowns administered by his stable mates. They eventually threw him out for his disloyalty. He had another heel run in 2010 (an impersonation of Health Ledger's Joker), but the audience still would not accept it, so he became Ace Ventura in Joker paint instead. Sting reportedly does not like to be a Heel and prefers to be a Face; this preference and his drawing power are likely why few have even tried to turn him over the years.
- Before he became The Patriot, Del Wilkes got his first break in the AWA as "The Trooper" Del Wilkes. He was a face wrestling state trooper because, you know... people just love being pulled over on state roadways!
- Sami Zayn is a classic example in a new millennium since his character is an extension of himself: Good-natured, somewhat dorky, and willing to fight ´till the bitter end.