A Heel is a bad guy in professional wrestling. He's a Hate Sink, existing to make the crowd angry and menace their favorites. They are typically the antagonist of a pro wrestling storyline or "angle." The opposite of a heel is a Face.
Note that hate comes from a desire to see the heel punished and set back, distinct from X-Pac Heat, which skips that step and simply wants someone gone entirely, which is itself distinct from a heat vacuum, where the crowd neither pops nor boos, they just sit absolutely silent for their entrances. At this point he/she should just hang up the boots because they don't even elicit a response.
The Lucha Libre equivalent is known as a rudo. In theory, rudo is more an 'attitude' about Lucha Libre as a whole, but in practice rudos are almost always interchangeable with heels.
Just as fans will only root for a strong or resourceful babyface, they won't boo a heel unless he has certain qualities. Common heel types:
1. The Chickenshit. Bog standard heel from the golden age. (You know the type, the ones who kept Fred Blasse in business.) He cheats a ton, exaggerates about everything, changes the rules each time he loses, uses bystanders as shields, and wins on technicalities. Plus, he has that punchable face which is damn-near a blueprint for Cheap Heat.
Virtually all the heel managers, from Mr. Fuji to Father Mitchell, are chickenshit. That's because most of them went to wrestling school but were too small, or didn't have the right look. Same with a lot of referees. Of course, you have photographers like Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman, who hung around it for so long that they got roped in.note
The Color Commentator is often a former wrestler providing his expert opinions. Heel announcers usually end up taking the side of the bad guy, to better egg the fans on. Jesse Ventura, Jerry Lawler, The Honky Tonk Man and Randy Savage; all of them former heels turned color commentators.
Heel champions didn't draw in Madison Square Garden the same way Face champions do. The main examples of this are Buddy Rogers and "Superstar" Graham. Even Randy Savage, fairly or not, was running out of steam, and (for that matter) Ric Flair never took off in WWF, either. The only heel they ever pushed long and hard was Triple H, and it seems they've learned their lesson since then. Because while there's money in a babyface fighting off a swarm of heels, there's very little draw in a heel champion gobbling up faces the same way. Considering how many hours of television they have to fill, they need a constant stream of fresh challengers, and the best way to sort through them and draw money is with a babyface on top. It's a proven formula since 1984.
When a heel goes particularly over with fans, he may undergo a HeelFace Turn. The Heel/Face Index has some more variations. See also the Tweener: a wrestler who flip-flops between Face and Heel status. (E.g. Triple H would regularly call out other heels for their reprehensible acts note , without becoming a babyface himself).
Recently a new breed of Heel has started to emerge. In a post-Kayfabe world, it's pretty hard to draw heat, since many Smarks are liable to cheer for effective Heel work, and many casual fans think the Heels are cooler than the good guys. After all, why get mad when you know its all fake? Therefore, some Heel wrestlers have experimented with trying to deliberately look like a bad worker or like they don't respect the wrestling business to rile up the fans. Tactics include wrestling boring and repetitive matches, trying to look like you don't care about what you're doing, acting like a Spot Monkey, emphasising excessive pageantry rather than good in-ring work, appearing ignorant of wrestling history/trivia, or the ultimate heat magnet: being a part-timer. Even the WWE has given this a try, giving Eva Marie increasingly long and elaborate entrances without her ever locking up.
- André the Giant would tour the world as "guest heel," to prevent Villain Decay, and then return for another short run. Contrary to popular belief, he was a face for most of his career before this.
- Dario Cueto is a heel authority figure who puts the heroes through hell, but he does it in a way which he knows the fans (or 'believers') will enjoy. Example: "Sorry, Son of Havoc, in order to get that title shot you need to go through another hurdle with even more VIOOOOLLLENCE and Dario hates waiting so it's now!!" Dario is also sympathetic in a way that most heel bosses aren't. The way he interacts with Sexy Star is particularly interesting. Because Sexy Star is a purely heroic character, the old standby of villain-hates-hero would normally be in effect, but here it isn't. Dario gave her a pep talk before her No Mas match about standing up to abusers and overcoming evil people. True, it was from his own pro-violence perspective but he did seem to honestly want to help her succeed. The fact their characters are both abuse survivors is touched on here as Dario's mother used to beat him.
- By 1986, the Fab Five had taken over manager duties in the WWF, the notable ones being Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart. Blassie bequeathed half of his stable (Sheiky, Volkoff and Hercules) to the debuting Slick, though Hercules later switched to "The Heenan Family".
- Heenan was like Rita Repulsa or Finster from Power Rangers. They themselves were often the butt of jokes, but the monsters they introduced were legit threatening. Managers don't work like this anymore. At best they have one person or team they represent, and they become synonymous with each other. Like Maria Kanellis with Mike Bennett, Lana with Rusev, or Lio Rush with Bobby Lashley.
- Curt Hennig played the narcissist with elements of The Ace. His "West Texas Redneck" persona was a blend of country singer and 'Black hat' cowboy.
- Brock Lesnar doesn't have a menacing voice to match his size, but Paul Heyman is so good at it he can hype a match for someone who's not even booked for that night e.g. CM Punk v. Chris Jericho, or any match with Lesnar.
- The trope image is of "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, who remains the most famous babyface of all time. When Hogan's face act got old and the fans turned on him (and his longest WCW Championship reign of all time despite joining in '94, to give it some sort of perspective), just turned his back on them and aligned with the New World Order at Bash at the Beach '96, resulting in the crowd throwing trash at him and even one fan leaping up to attack Hogan.
- The Iron Sheik innovated many of the tropes used by the foreign heels: Carrying flags, wearing ethnic clothing and the evil mustache.
- The Great Kabuki created many of the tropes for the evil Japanese, such as scary masks, a sumo-based origin story, and ninja-style cheating techniques like blowing dust or the green mist/spit. (Technically he was preceded by the Filipino Rey Urbano, but evil Filipino never really took off)
- John "Bradshaw" Layfield (formerly only Bradshaw of the APA, and nephew to "Blackjack" Lanza) turned heel in 2004 and never looked back. His transformation from trailer-trash Texan to conniving stock-broker was inspired in part by his actual exploits on Wall Street, for which he became eminently known in the world of finance. Throughout that period, he was hardly ever seen without his trademark white Stetson hat and matching limousine, which his opponents had the pleasure of wrecking! (The Undertaker once chokeslammed Bradshaw through the limo.)
- He portrayed himself as a crooked politician throughout 2004 and 2005 (complete with a "cabinet" of henchmen wrestlers) who handed out American flags to spectators. In late 2005 and early 2006, he transformed into a xenophobic redneck who taunted Rey Mysterio Jr. (He did this to Eddie Guerrero, too, in 2004.)
- Since the latter half of 2006, he's a color commentator with Michael Cole on WWE SmackDown!. He toned down his heelish traits a bit but still invariably roots for the heel wrestlers. He returned to ring action in December 2007 to feud with Chris Jericho, during which time he reverted to his roots (attacking the midget Hornswoggle) before finally retiring for good in 2009.
- Lex Luger and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff looked like living He-Man action figures, and they were weeeeell aware of that fact.
- Shawn Michaels was just another long-haired blond in a federation stacked with long haired blonds, so he had to turn the heat somehow. By the mid-nineties and the incident known as the Montreal Screwjob, he was already hated for what he did to his former tag partner, Marty Janetty.
- The Wild Samoans (Afa & Sika) were the prototype of the afro and bare feet eastern heels followed by the likes of Meng.
- Former WWE Diva Maxine played 'The Bitch' so well that in her entire career, she was never a face. Most talent get tested out in different roles but she was always a heel on television, only getting to be a face in a dark tag team match alongside two other long established faces. Since she was the General Manager of FCW, she got to be The Authority, too. She also appears as a heel in Lucha Underground.
- Heels can also be managers (as Vince and Paul have shown) as well as commentators, and—in the case of Nick Patrick—even referees!
- A low-down, foul-mouthed cheat who is also accompanied by bagpipes? Look no further, Roddy Piper's got you covered!
- If you are managing a Monster Heel and you name happens to be Harley Race... your opponents should think twice before get in the ring!
- Jake Roberts was unfortunate in that steroids didn't have the desired muscle building effect on his body, and he just got fatter. But he still looked the part.
- Buddy Rogers broke onto the scene as a babyface, but it wasn't until he adopted his "Nature Boy" heel personaa cocky, arrogant, overtly-confident characterthat he really began to shine.
- Jack Swagger even has it in his name. He represents the dark side by-product of America's two halves, a proud Anglo-Saxon and jingoistic jerk.
- Managers are almost always older people who have been in the business for a while. They were used back in the territorial days and early 80s as heat magnets. The more entertaining they were, the better. (And in an era where promos were recorded backstage instead of the ring, wrestlers weren't given much chance to express their heelishness.) The "Triumvirate of Terror" is mostly forgotten today, but they helped WWF make a name for itself back east. The Grand Wizard (so named for his oh-so-stylish turban) died in '83. Both Blassie and Albano ended their WWF stints in '86.
- Vader would tour as a "heel for hire" for a few months mostly in the states, then very regularly in Japan, Germany and even Mexico.
- Nikolai Volkoff was a Cold War-era villain, even singing the Soviet anthem. When that got stale, he teamed up with The Iron Sheik and they both sang their national anthems.
- The Sickeningly Sweethearts pseudo Tag Team is a fairly popular heel archetype with several variations. Where "Exotic" Adrian Street and obvious imitators like Rico Constantino or Paredyse were Gorgeous Georges who only had touchy feely females like Miss Linda, Miss Jackie and CJ Lane around to confuse fans about their sexuality, Chris Candido and Tammy Lynn Sytch were both totally straight, and managed to be among the most hated people in SMW precisely because they were always all over each other. Other examples include Tarzan Goto and Despina Montagas, Stevie Richards and Victoria, Jamie Noble and Nidia, Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis, The Savage Gentlemen and Lady Frost, each with their own spin on it.
- Bartolomeo from One Piece adores angering the crowd and pulling dangerous jokes on them.
- Several characters in Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!, as it's an anime about female pro-wrestling. The heels usually wear masks and usually utilizes underhanded tactics like using a shinai for a submission hold, or having their assistants hamper their opponent.
- The pro wrestling-themed manga Welcome to the El-Paracio discusses the concept through El-Paracio's Mariko—a prime example of Mean Character, Nice Actor if ever there was one. Inside the ring, "Mary the Kid" is a cold, brutal cowgirl but the rest of the time, Mariko is sweet and caring (as long as you don't call her old). Everyone except the main character Tadasuke takes this in stride, regarding Mariko and Mary as two separate people, while he's upset at the idea of people treating such a kind person as if she were a monster. There's a similar situation for the Death Carpenter, a Heel from another promotion, who's shown to be a relatively normal woman outside the ring.
- A discussion of Heels is what brings the other promotion into focus in the first place. The female lead Ouka gets pissed off when she ranks #1 (tied with the Carpenter) in a magazine's list of Heels, and challenges the Carpenter to a match in order to try to put herself over as a Babyface. The problem is that Heel-ish behavior is her default personality note , so her attempt utterly fails; when she descends into the ring in a harness with fake angel wings on her back, the audience immediately starts muttering "Fallen Angel?"
- Discussed in one issue of Archie Comics. Reggie spends half the issue heckling and booing a wrestler who in turn is spitting threats and insults at him. Later on Reggie gets a flat tire and that same wrestler pulls over to help. Reggie's terrified until the wrestler points out that, as the heel, he's supposed to be hated by the audience and that it's all part of the act. Then he replaces Reggie's tire and asks him to keep up the heckling at the next match.
- "Xochitl la Terible" in Love and Rockets.
- Invoked in Rocky II, where Apollo Creed starts a harassment campaign to draw Rocky into a rematch, his PR guy warns him that, by picking on the underdog Peoples Champion, hes setting himself up as the bad guy.
- In Rocky III, Rocky has a Boxer vs Wrestler match with Thunderlips (a pre-stardom Hulk Hogan), a literal wrestling Heel playing a Narcissist gimmick.
- Wolf (played by Michael Van Wijk) from Gladiators. Which leads to a subversion, as he was easily the most popular Gladiator, although his attitude never changed throughout the show's run (due to his deliberately-poor acting). This even carried into the revival when he returned, though somewhat toned down in his role.
- Mixed Martial Arts has its share of heels.
- The Diaz brothers play ever heel card in the deck: swearing constantly, disrespecting their opponents, giving combative interviews, and getting caught with weed, but the fans seem to love them all the more for being irreverent, genuine personalities.
- Josh Koscheck is perhaps the most successful at playing the heel. His arrogant personality was put on display in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter'' and he rode it into a long and successful career in the UFC.
- Brock Lesnar was surprisingly media-shy for his run in MMA, but after his victory at the record-setting UFC 100 event, he suddenly had a heel meltdown, during which he trash talked the already-defeated Frank Mir, swore and spat at the camera, announced he was going to "get on top of" his wife, and insulted the UFC's biggest sponsor.
- Chael Sonnen was a largely forgettable wrestling specialist who was only known for almost becoming the WEC Welterweight Champion until he suddenly discovered his virtuoso skill on the mike. His newfound ability to trash-talk gave his languishing MMA career a second wind and earned him a regular commentating job.
- Ronda Rousey brought this trope into women's MMA by bringing over the time-honored tradition of hyping your fights by talking as much shit about your opponents as possible. So when she finally lost, there were understandably a fair amount of people celebrating it.
- Conor McGregor turned himself into UFC's top draw by being a trash-talking money heel a la Ric Flair. Whether you love him or hate him depends on whether you find his Refuge in Audacity stunts funny or just obnoxious.
- Jon Jones, apart from his various legal troubles and steroid busts, is infamous for his constant use of eye pokes in fights. Why is this such a heel move? Because he literally posted a video on Instagram where he made fun of the fans for complaining about it.
- Photographer turned fighter Mike Jackson got a lot of heat for unnecessarily prolonging his fight with CM Punk at UFC 225, choosing to repeatedly strike his largely helpless opponent rather than just submitting him. After the fight he was fired and banned from the promotion for his unsportsmanlike conduct.
- Colby Covington has become one of UFC's top draws in the late 2010s by playing himself up as the promotion's "super villain", regularly trash-talking opponents. In one particularly notorious example, during his post-fight interview after defeating Damian Mata in Mata's homeland of Brazil, he called the country "a dump" and the crowd "filthy animals". On top of that, he greatly plays up his stance as a staunch Republican Trump supporter to draw heel heat. Before his 2019 fight with Robbie Lawler, he took it Up to Eleven, making his ring entrance to Kurt Angle's WWE theme music. Yes, the crowd chanted "You suck!" right on cue.
- Many of the MMA examples listed above take inspiration from Muhammad Ali, who, after meeting pro wrestling's original hated heel, Gorgeous George, decided to take a page from George's book and become such an obnoxious trash-talker that people would pay to watch him fight in the hopes that Ali would get his ass kicked. Not only did this tactic make Ali into a star, it created the basic template that fighters in all manner of combat sports use to promote their matches to this day.
- The Beastie Boys' early Barbaric Bully image was heavily influenced by the Heel role, according to then-manager Rick Rubin, a huge WWE fan.
- Early in their career, The Rolling Stones were strategically marketed as the Heels to the Beatles' Faces. Their manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham was responsible for lines such as Melody Maker's headline "Would You Let Your Sister Go With a Rolling Stone?" and the memorable press announcement for their first New York visit: "The Rolling Stones, who haven't bathed in a week, arrived here yesterday."
- 50 Cent climbed through the ranks in hip-hop by dissing other, more popular rappers and banking on them to respond and call him out by name, thereby raising his profile. This strategy got him all the way to the top, but it ultimately backfired in 2007 when he tried it on Kanye West. They were both releasing their third album on the same day, but Fiddy was so sure he would have better first-week sales than Kanye that he pledged to retire if Kanye outsold him. Kanye did, 50 reneged, and his status as the top guy in rap was officially shattered.
- This Vocaloid music video, "Seraphim On the Ring", portrays Luka Megurine and MEIKO as this, being Ax-Crazynote , devil-themed bad girls clad in black in contrast to Miku and Rin, who are portrayed as Faces and wear white, angel-themed outfits. Antics they get up to include smacking the referee (Len) aside with a folding chair, grabbing KAITO by the hair and throwing him at their opponents...
- Andy Kaufman was an actor and comedian who loved to prank his audience so much that he went into professional wrestling just for the opportunity to play a heel. He characterized himself as a cowardly Hollywood elite who liked to wrestle women to show how tough he was. This led to a feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler that famously spilled onto the set of the David Letterman Show.
- In "Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage," the DLC for Borderlands 2, the whole storyline is written like a pro wrestling arc, with the player character as the Face and Piston as the cheating, cowardly Heel.
- In Mega Man Battle Network, the model of Navi typically employed by — or found operating autonomously as — criminals is called a HeelNavi. They have a more intimidating appearance than regular Navis, and usually a mean, thuggish personality to match. In the poorly-translated fourth game they were referred to as "HealNavis" instead.
- Hawlucha, a Pokémon introduced in Pokémon X and Y, is interesting in that its shiny form makes it look the Heel to its default form's Face.
- Incineroar, the final form of Sun and Moon's Fire starter, is explicitly categorized as the "Heel Pokémon", is part Dark rather than Fighting, and is described as being a dirty enough fighter to even attack non-combatants like the opposing Pokémon's Trainer. Incineroar represents puroresu, the Japanese take of the American-based professional wrestling (similar to characters like R. Mika). One thing that defines this is despite his heel status, he is still cheered by the audience, as heels in puroresu operate in a slightly different way. They're also said to especially enjoy the cheers of young Pokémon and children.
- Super Macho Man in nearly all versions of Punch-Out!!. He's a rich, sun-tanned bastard who knocks the referee over and showboats like there's no tomorrow, and in the Wii version, the audience boos him when he makes his appearance in the ring. If he wins, though, the audience loves him again.
- Aran Ryan. Whenever he uses one of his (many) illegal moves, such as a headbutt, the audience boos. As with most opponents, if he's Star Punched out of one of these moves, it's an instant KO.
- Many of the recurring boxers, such as Bald Bull, Great Tiger, or Vodka Drunkenski fit the "Monster"/"Foreign" trope nicely. Bear Hugger represents literally every single stereotype of his country at once, although he's more of a Nature Hero than your typical heel. (The best part is that the studio who made the game is Canadian.)
- Narcis Prince, a one-shot opponent from Super Punch-Out!! He's a pretty-boy, English pugilist who goes nuclear if you damage his face.
- Idra of the StarCraft Meta Game is one, in large part thanks to his bad sportsmanship and many a Rage Quit on his part.
- Strong Bad from Tag Team Wrestling (1983), who was later recycled as the star of Homestar Runner.
- Zigzagged with the Glitz Pit champion Rawk Hawk from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. On one hand he's a clear case of The Narcissist who fights dirty, trash-talks, and cheats. On the other hand he is immensely popular with the fans and when put in the ring can deliver a pretty decent fair-and-square beating. After defeating Macho Grubba it turns out he's not such a bad guy beneath it all: while he doesn't drop the trash talk he swears off cheating in favor of winning the belt fair and square, and during the final boss battle he's one of the characters seen cheering on Mario.
- The Big Bad of Guacamelee! 2, Salvador, is this, serving as the Evil Counterpart to Juan.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has Fire Nation Man, an Earth Kingdom professional bender who dresses like a Fire Nation soldier, waves their flag, preaches their greatness, and bends sand to resemble fire. Unsurprisingly, and intentionally so, he's the resident Hate Sink among the fans who gets easily taken down by popular benders like The Boulder while the fans cheer on his defeat.
- In The Legend of Korra, the White Falls Wolfbats are a pro-bending team who have a flashy, pyrotechnics-heavy entrance; blatantly cheat; and use banned moves like headshots and mixing rock into water.
- In Looney Tunes' Pro Wrestling Episode "Bunny Hugged", Bugs Bunny faces off against a scary, intimidating heel called The Crusher. Bugs, of course, defeats The Crusher by going into his bag of tricks. Interestingly, the babyface for that match before Bugs stepped in was clearly based on Gorgeous George (who, as noted above, was himself a heel).
- In one episode of Steven Universe, Amethyst secretly joins a wrestling club under the guise of an overly aggressive cat-themed wrestler known as the Purple Puma. When Steven finds out, he keeps her secret in exchange for joining her as her tag team partner, the obnoxious Tiger Millionaire. He quickly gains the admiration of the crowd, but loses it after he gets carried away and acts mean to Lars when he tries to get an autograph.
- Muhammad Ali based his entire public persona on pro-wrestling heels, especially George Wagner, reasoning that the trick of "get the audience so pissed off they'll pay to see someone beat you up" would work just as well in a real sport as a fake one. He was right.
- Jack Johnson was incredibly arrogant and would often gloat over his fallen opponents. Justified because he was a black fighter in the early 20th century, and would have been considered a heel regardless of how he acted. He chose to act in a way which showed he wasn't a pushover.
- Older Than They Think: The Retiarii, the Fragile Speedster class of Roman gladiators, were generally booed and despised. The fact that their equipment often necessitated Bullfight Boss tactics didn't win them any love.
- In the NFL, no one fits the description better than Cam Newton. He backs up his scores with showy celebrations and gloats at opponents to try to stop him.
- However, he toned this down quite a bit after Super Bowl 50, when the Denver Broncos defense force-fed him a large slice of humble pie. The following season, all the opponents for the Carolina Panthers followed the example of the Denver Broncos and played complete smashmouth defense on him, resulting in Cam Newton taking some incredibly vicious hits and the Panthers having a 6-10 season.
- Chris Morgan is infamous for a video of him ranting at customers and female workers in a Bagel Shop about how women on dating sites rejected him because of his height of 5'. The video ended with a customer tackling him and pulling his shirt over his head after Chris challenged another customer to a fight. The video caused him to receive much backlash and mockery across the internet. Chris used his publicity to sign a deal offered to him to fight other internet celebrities and even train with UFC fighters to prepare. You could say this uniquely made Chris transition from a heel in the original bagel shop video and for all the internet into an actual heel within the world of professional fighting.