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Series / Heels

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Heels promotional poster from Starz

Airing on Starz, Heels is a fictional look into the world of Professional Wrestling that stars Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig as brothers Jack and Ace Spade.

In addition to wrestling, Jack Spade is struggling to keep the Duffy Wrestling League afloat. Facing stiff competition from larger and edgier wrestling groups, Jack struggles to keep control of the wrestlers, finances, and his family.

Jack's wife, Staci, struggles with the impression of pro wrestling, Jack's priorities, and raising their son, Thomas.The Spade family is rounded out by Carol Spade and her late husband, Tom "King" Spade.

Other members of the Duffy Wrestling league include rookie Bobby Pin and veterans Rooster Robbins, Apocalypse, Diego Cottonmouth, and Big Jim Kitchens. Crystal Tyler (Kelli Berglund) is Ace's valet who wants to be a wrestler herself. Willie Day (Mary McCormack) is Jack's business partner, an experienced wrestling promoter.

"Wild" Bill Hancock (Chris Bauer) is a self-destructive big-league wrestler with roots in Duffy and a past with the Spades and Willie Day. Phil Brooks (CM Punk) portrays Ricky Rabies, an aging wrestler brought in on occasion.

The show was renewed for another season in November 2021. Season 2 started on July 28th, 2023.


  • Abusive Parents: Tom Spade appears to have been this, to Jack at least. Mostly of the verbal and emotional abuse type but it also occasionally escalated to physical. In a flashback he's shown forcing his teenage son to shoot wrestle him.
    • A flashback in season 2 reveals that Carol was also this as a religious freak who beat Jack with a belt for any misbehaviour. He wears the belt she used to hit him with to remind him to be a better parent.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: It's revealed in the Season 2 premiere that Ace's first match was against Jack in the main event of a Tom Spade memorial event. For a rookie in that kind of position, even if it was intended to be DWL's final ever show, the priority would have been to hide Ace's limitations, most likely in a tag match partnered with Jack against two veterans who could carry him.
  • Actor Allusion: Jack's Finishing Move is an Inverted DDT. In Arrow, Oliver Queen had a Signature Move of holding someone in the Inverted DDT position then snapping their neck.
    • In a flashback, Tom Spade tells Jack not to try high flying manoeuvres and Jack says that he's just trying to add "some arrows" to his moveset.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Wild Bill acts out his displeasure with up North (the expy for the WWE) by getting drunk on an airplane and acting out the Plane Ride From Hell.
  • All Part of the Show: After Ace breaks Bobby Pin's leg and while everyone is backstage tending to Bobby, Wild Bill grabs a mic and cuts an in-ring promo claiming that DWL has lost its way since his Worthy Opponent Tom Spade passed and he's come to right the ship. He then challenges both Jack and Ace to a three-way ladder match for the belt and Jack has basically no choice but to accept, making the whole thing look planned from the start.
  • Ate His Gun: Tom Spade does this in a very surprising way. It doesn't help that his younger son, Ace found him. We later find out that he was horrendously in debt and his wife was about to leave him.
  • The Atoner: Ace after returning to the DWL is making a real effort to be a better person and make up for the things he's done.
  • Authority in Name Only: DWL has a local businessman who acts as an on-screen commissioner, while in reality Jack runs everything. He is also a major sponsor, suggesting he may be DWL's "money mark".
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Wild Bill is very well-endowed, which is seen by everyone thanks to a video of the Plane Ride From Hell.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Bobby Pin's broken leg turns out to be more severe than it initially appeared and require surgery. Although it's not explicitly said that his career is over, it's pretty clear he's not going back to the ring any time soon and he gets moved into a colour commentator position instead.
    • Jack appears to have paralysed himself by performing a shooting star press in the Season 2 finale.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In-Universe WWE does exist as they have referenced the company, which causes this trope as CM Punk - who was a major name for WWE as one of their top guys during the early 2010's - plays Ricky Rabies.
    • Likewise, in one episode, Jack talks about how he once tagged Dwayne Johnson in a tweet in order to get his attention. A few episodes later Jack goes on a wrestling podcast where the podcaster is played by Mick Foley - who famously feuded with The Rock in the 90s and was even the first person The Rock won the title from. For that matter, The Rock had at one point had two pay per view matches against CM Punk.
  • The Cowl: Ace's new gimmick as "The Condamned".
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Jack appears to be evolving into this In-Universe.
  • Embarrassment Plot: Staci is embarrassed by Jack's continued work in wrestling, especially when old friends force them to go watch the DWL show that happens to occur during a girl's night out.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ace does this after Jack ruins his chances at being a face.
  • Heel: The name of the series, but Jack, Wild Bill, and others perform as heels in the traditional wrestling sense.
  • Family Business: Tom "King" Spade was a professional wrestler who owned Duffy Wrestling League. His sons Jack and Ace also became wrestlers. After Tom's death, Jack took over running DWL.
  • Family Theme Naming: Tom "King" Spade named his sons "Jack" and "Ace" to fit with the Playing Card Motifs of his gimmick.
  • Fish out of Water: A mini story arc of Ace going on a road trip after the state fair shows that he has real difficulty functioning outside Duffy, where he is a popular local wrestler/former high school athlete. He also has trouble reading the intentions of people he doesn't already know well.
  • Forensic Accounting: In order to help Jack, Staci offers to look at the DWL's financial records so they have a better understanding of problem areas. She is shocked to discover that the DWL is a financial nightmare. Tom Spade borrowed money from everyone he could and when that was not enough to keep the promotion going, he resorted to various shady activities like bribery and fraud to stave off bankruptcy.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jack and Ace's mother turned to religion after Tom's suicide. Jack claims that Jesus is the only person she talks to anymore, she Slut Shames Crystal because she and Ace aren't married, and will calmly tell her grandson that her dead husband is burning in Hell for committing suicide.
  • The Gimmick: As fitting for a Professional Wrestling show, there are examples. Bobby Pin is trying to find his gimmick. Ricky Rabies' flying blood-spewing drone is a gimmick that comes as a surprise to Jack Spade.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Rooster states that this is Ace's driving motivation, he doesn't care about being champion or even about making money, he just wants to be cheered.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The episode titles use wrestling jargon, which is important to a theme or event that occurs in the episode.
  • Incest Yay Shipping: In-Universe, Ace is horrified to learn there's erotic fan art of him and Jack on the internet.
  • Jaded Washout: Ace was a high school football star who dreamed of going pro, but he could only get into a Division II college and dropped out without getting any interest from the NFL. As Jack points out, the big attraction of wrestling for him is that it's another path to being a star.
    • When a depressed Ace sings drunken karaoke in a bar, a guy he went to high school with heckles him and tells him to shut up. Ace tries to retort by bringing up a high school baseball game when Ace, a freshman, struck out the heckler, a senior. The guy says he doesn't remember that, "but clearly it was a big deal to you".
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Wild Bill is right, the new title belt does look like crap.
    • Jack is rather mean about it but he is right that Ace is too inexperienced to handle the tough reality of wrestling in the big leagues.
    • Wild Bill's treatment of Willie is atrocious and makes Jack furious. However, Bill is a still a pro with decades in the business so he is able to give Jack some very good professional advice.
    • In the season 2 finale, a flashback shows Tom Spade yelling at Jack for attempting a shooting star press and telling him that he's not cut out for such maneuverers and should stick to ground-based technical wrestling and making the high-flying faces look good. In the big match at the end of the episode, Jack busts out the move for the finish and appears to pull it off perfectly, but actually badly hurts himself and may have ended up paralysed. He even hallucinates his father Sarcastic Clapping and telling him I Warned You.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em:
    • A recurring theme in the show. Tom Spade kept the DWL going even though it ruined him financially and was wrecking his relationship with his family. Rather than folding the company, he killed himself instead.
    • Wild Bill is getting old and his body can barely handle the abuse it sustains in the ring. He should retire, but he really knows nothing else and still hopes that he can be a star again. This is lampshaded when he meets some old wrestling buddies of his and they all have been retired for years.
  • Legacy Character: Wild Bill's valet Bunny Bombshell was played by a string of strippers. Crystal was the latest incarnation.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The series' trailer shows a sequence where Ace and Jack are standing calmly next to each other, then the camera rotates to show they are at the curtain and they suddenly grab each other by the throat. The implication is that this is a worked confrontation for the fans. However, in the actual episode it is revealed to be a real confrontation between them when Ace says the wrong thing.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Ace is portrayed as a face but is a Jerkass. That is why Jack turns him heel.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Ace has a truly horrific one season 2 episode "Discord" involving Crystal, Bobby taking revenge for breaking his leg, and Tom Spade
  • Off the Rails: Before the cage match between Ace and Bobby, Crystal grabs the mic and cuts an unscripted promo on Ace, emasculating and humiliating him. An enraged Ace works stiff against Bobby and ends up shoot breaking his leg.
    • At the big county fair show, wrestlers from FWD in the audience sabotage Ace's planned Heel–Face Turn by cheering for Jack and throwing Kleenex into the ring. When Jack admits mid-match that he engineered the original Kleenex incident, Ace beats Jack up for real, then makes a big show of not going for the belt and storms out. This forces Jack to improvise an ending on the fly where Crystal grabs the title belt.
  • Pet the Dog: Ace is a selfish Jerkass but he genuinely loves and cares for his nephew.
  • Potty Emergency: Jack and Ace end their performance by disappearing in a cloud of smoke. They are actually hiding under the ring. Then Jack realizes that he has to urinate really badly, but cannot leave their hiding place until all of the spectators have left the arena. Ace suggests that Jack just piss in his pants. We never find out if Jack was able to hold on.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Gully would love to see the DWL shut down but there is no real money in it for him. So when he has Jack dead-to-rights with an assault lawsuit, he instead offers to forgo the lawsuit if Jack agrees to a cross-promotion between their shows. The marketing value of that is far more than what he could get from bankrupting Jack.
  • The Prima Donna: Ace has some shades of this, although to be fair he is DWL's top draw.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: Heavily subverted. No one thinks wrestling is real as this series focuses on the lives of several pro wrestlers. Jack makes sure to explain to his son that he and Ace are just role playing and are not actually mad at each other.
    • Double Subverted when it looks like Ace deliberately caused Bobby to suffer a major injury because he became jealous of Bobby getting close to Crystal.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In-Universe. Crystal has just had her big breakthrough but now the storyline demands that she lose the next match. However, a big scandal erupts when all the major news networks air footage of a football star violently attacking his girlfriend. With violence against women becoming a nationwide hot-topic, the DWL cannot have a match where a woman gets beaten up by a man. Jack and Willie have to scramble to find Crystal a female opponent and formulate a plan for starting a women's division in the DWL.
  • The Resenter: Willie is pretty hostile to Crystal and her attempts to be more than a valet. It's eventually revealed that Willie was once very much like Crystal as Wild Bill and later Tom Spade's valet who aspired to be a wrestler. Tom promised Willie that he would let her wrestle but never did, and when she got too old to valet and moved into a backstage role, neither he or Jack would take any creative input from her. As such she's jealous of Crystal getting opportunities she didn't and passive-aggressively refuses to help her recruit female wrestlers for DWL's effectively non-existent women's division. Eventually Gully offers Willie a golden ticket to join FWD as Crystal's onscreen manager, but Willie knows she can't coax Crystal away from DWL, which only deepens her resentment.
  • Stepford Smiler: As a face, Ace is supposed to be a happy guy who smiles all the time. Crystal lampshades the fact that Ace is actually sad most of the time and has to force himself to smile. It's one of the many reason why Ace becomes a Heel.
  • Stylistic Suck: A flashback shows Bill playing an angel in a low-budget Christian movie based on a trashy romance novel. In the grand tradition of wrestlers not named Johnson or Cena or Bautista appearing in movies, it's awful.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Jack interrupts a Dystopia match and punches Gully in the face. Gully wants revenge but instead of cooking up some scheme and sending goons to attack DWL, he instead brings in his lawyer. The punch was not part of a match so Jack committed assault and his actions were detrimental to Gully's public image. If Gully sues, he will most likely win and Jack will be bankrupt.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After a humbling road trip, Ace decides it's finally time to grow up. He gets a job in a nursing home and starts making a real effort to treat people better and think before he acts.
  • Wham Line: Staci does some checking with her grocery store manager, who reveals that a huge selection of kleenex was purchased in a bulk order by DWL and picked up by Jack — which means that the crowd pelting Ace with kleenex to push his heel turn wasn't a random act... Jack planned it.
  • Worked Shoot: In-Universe, Gully is able to leverage the fact that Jack publicly assaulted him to force him to cross-promote DWL with Dystopia, turning their real-life feud into an onstage one. It's later revealed that people assume the whole thing was scripted from the start: one indie wrestling promoter showing up in another's ring with his top star, punching out his rival and then fleeing through the crowd? Of course that was staged.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: The Spade brothers use wrestling moves in a Bar Brawl. Downplayed in that they either use simple throws and slams, which are actual amateur wrestling moves used in shoot matches; or Ace's clothesline, which is just hitting someone with your forearm.
    • Then Crystal busts out a Hurricanrana and all pretence of realism is abandoned.
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay:
    • DWL only makes enough money to pay their talent a few hundred dollars a night, so almost everybody has a second job, including Jack. Ace appears to be the only guy on the roster whose only job is wrestling; and because he lives with his mother, he likely has minimal living expenses.
    • Season 2 reveals that running the DWL was a financial black hole for Tom Spade. He owed Wild Bill more than $40,000 and avoided bankruptcy only by cutting some very shady deals.
    • Averted with Dystopia. Gully is a jerk but he is also a good businessman and his promotion makes enough money that he can pay his top talent really well and he and his daughter live in a mansion.
  • Wrestling Family: Tom Spade was so committed to wrestling as his career and bringing his sons up in that world, that he named them Ace and Jack to follow his character's title of "King" Spade.