Babyfaces are a large part of wrestling history, but true babyfaces are very rare in the world of wrestling today.
Historically, faces are the ones who sell tickets and drive merchandise sales, even if heels are the ones leading the way in the ring. In today's WWE, babyfaces aren't always the pure fan-favorite we remember from our childhood.
Join me in a look back at the greatest babyfaces in wrestling history. Some names appearing on this list might surprise you, as well as some of the names not appearing on the list.
Is your favorite babyface on the list? Take a look!
There are a few names left off of this list, two due to space and the other two due to not being “true” babyfaces.
Koko B. Ware: Another great babyface in the world of wrestling, “The Birdman” is left off this list for one reason: there weren’t 11 spots. The WWE Hall of Famer would be there otherwise.
Magnum TA: Poised to become the top face of the National Wrestling Alliance, a 1986 car accident ended Magnum’s career. Had history not taken this course, Magnum would likely be found near the top of this list.
Stone Cold Steve Austin: One of the most iconic babyfaces in wrestling history, Austin turned heel right in the middle of his run, at WrestleMania X-Seven. He also attacked Jim Ross and formed “The Two-Man Power Trip” with Triple H.
The Rock: Arguably the most over and popular wrestler of all time, The Rock had multiple runs as a heel, including his 1998 Survivor Series win that saw him become “The Corporate Champion.”
When you talk about babyfaces in wrestling, WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is always part of the conversation.
Duggan is established in history as the most patriotic character, often carrying his 2x4 to the ring, screaming “Hoooo!” and “Tough Guy!” and being greeted by chants of “USA!” all over the world.
Duggan never held a championship in the WWF, yet he quickly became one of the most recognizable talents shortly after his early 1987 debut.
His patriotism has become a staple of every recent appearance he’s made, most recently returning on the July 3 Great American Bash edition of Smackdown to team with Sgt. Slaughter and Santino Marella.
Tito Santana is a two-time WWF World Tag Team Champion, and a two-time Intercontinental Champion. He has always been one of the most popular wrestlers in the company, often called upon whenever a popular wrestler was needed to put on a great match.
As a member of Strike Force, he teamed with former Rick Martel, who unceremoniously turned on Santana at WrestleMania IV.
Now a WWE Hall of Famer, Santana will always be remembered as one of the most popular superstars of his generation, who maintained his fan-favorite ways in the face of pressure and adversity.
The underdog story is a timeless classic in professional wrestling. Rey Mysterio is the perfect example of using the underdog story to elevate a man to the top of the wrestling business.
Coming to the United States in 1995, Rey Mysterio has built an 18-year legacy that has made him one of the most recognizable babyfaces in the industry. He remains one of the top merchandise sellers for the WWE today.
In the modern day WWE, Rey Mysterio is a three-time world champion and has held the world tag team championships four times.
Before coming to the WWE, Rey Mysterio was a cruiserweight star in WCW. He lost his mask in the promotion, but donned it once again when he debuted in WWE—and no one seemed to care that he ever lost it. His Royal Rumble win was one of the most exciting moments in the event’s history.
Despite losing a step, Rey Mysterio remains one of the most popular superstars in the WWE. He drives strong merchandise sales and you can see his masks on many children at any event.
The story of The Von Erich Family is full of tragedy and heartbreak. The group ran World Class in Texas in so many ways—the top two being politics and popularity. Kevin Von Erich was always the squeaky clean member of the family.
Nearly every son of Fritz Von Erich lost his life in a sad manner, normally way too soon. Kevin Von Erich has always held the family together through each mounting tragedy. Today he is a WWE Hall of Famer (along with the rest of the family).
In 2005, Kevin appeared in the ring as part of a WWE Homecoming edition of Monday Night Raw, eliciting a huge pop from the crowd by using the famous Von Erich Iron Claw.
Today, his sons Ross and Marshall Von Erich are competing on the independent circuit, and in Japan. If they turn out anything like their famous father, wrestling could have the next generation of babyfaces to cheer.
The top face in the WWE is also the face of the WWE. John Cena’s initial rise in the WWE was as a heel. However, by the time he captured his first WWE Championship from JBL at WrestleMania 21, John Cena was primed to lead the company into its new era.
Today, John Cena is the No. 1 merchandise seller for the WWE. He has granted more Make-A-Wish requests than anyone. And now he’s the face of the corporate partnership with The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
John Cena has been heavily protected by the company’s creative forces for several years. When he was drafted to RAW, it was viewed as the biggest move in the company’s history. When he was forced to join The Nexus, he never gave in to Wade Barrett’s demands and was eventually fired because of it.
That firing lasted all of an hour, as Cena returned and never missed a beat. He was later fired for losing to CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011, and that decision was overturned the following night.
If John Cena ever turns heel, it will be because there is a new face that can take over the top spot. That may never happen, as John Cena has cemented himself as the No. 1 babyface in the WWE for many years to come.
“From the volunteer state of Tennessee...Ricky and Robert...The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express!” That introduction was for one of the most over babyface teams of all time. That team became four-time NWA World Tag Team Champions during their amazing careers together.
In today’s pro wrestling, the typical formula for a tag team match is for one member of the face team to absorb a ton of punishment, making multiple unsuccessful attempts to tag his partner.
When he finally makes that “hot tag,” the crowd is worked into a frenzied state. The face who absorbs all the punishment? He’s termed as ”playing Ricky Morton.”
Morton, along with his long-time partner Robert Gibson, came out to rock music and wore bandannas. They wore them on their wrists, not their heads. Can’t mess up that beautiful feathered hair!
A common topic of discussion in wrestling’s modern era is how to reclaim the magic of tag team wrestling. The answer is simple: find 2012’s version of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
Admittedly, Hulk Hogan shouldn’t be on this list. After over a decade as the most over face in the entire industry, Hogan turned heel and formed the strongest heel faction of all time in the NWO. He held a company hostage, completely changed his persona, and became one of the most hated competitors of all time.
But his run as a face in the WWF is unmatched. Vince McMahon build a wrestling giant around the mega face Hulk Hogan. He defeated an evil Iranian (The Iron Sheik) to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, and held on to it until a crooked referee and 7-foot-5-inch giant were purchased by Ted DiBiase to take it away from him.
Hogan was booked to team with Randy Savage, and Savage's jealousy over Hogan’s interactions with Miss Elizabeth were largely blamed on Savage himself. Later, he would appear at WrestleMania as a member of the NWO to face the most popular man on the planet at the time—The Rock. The fans eventually cheered for Hogan instead.
Today, Hogan is fronting TNA’s ongoing battle with a masked motorcycle gang in Aces and Eights. Even when he shows up as “Hollywood” Hogan, it’s viewed as a positive since Hogan is fighting fire with fire. But no other babyface can compare to the run that Hulk Hogan had in the mid-to-late '80s.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is the consummate babyface. In the NWA, he was a man of the people, representing those in the crowd who looked average, and worked hard for their money. He built a career that included three world championships, and countless other accolades.
He was a constant foil for The Four Horsemen, and once overcame a steel cage, heel manager and chair to win the United States Championship at Starrcade. When Magnum TA’s career was cut short by a horrific car accident, he teamed with Nikita Koloff to win the Crockett Cup in Magnum’s honor.
Rhodes would later go to the WWF as “The Common Man.” He wore yellow polka dots and appeared in vignettes holding down blue-collar jobs. Rhodes eventually shared that this wasn’t a punishment from the promotion, but his own ideas!
As a broadcaster, he was always a face. Upon retirement, he completed one heel act—helping his own son Cody. And that earned him an RKO from Cody’s stable leader, Randy Orton.
As a Hall of Famer, Dusty Rhodes will always be remembered as one of the strongest face competitors of all time. This is why he belongs on this list.
When Sting rose to prominence in the late '80s, he was set to become one of the most iconic faces in history. He had a great look: bright colors, bleach-blond hair, chiseled physique and bold color schemes. He developed a trademark yell that fans could easily emulate.
He blindly befriended people that would later turn on him, such as Lex Luger. At the first Clash of the Champions, Sting was the people’s choice to win the world championship—and the event took place in Ric Flair’s backyard. As world champion, Sting had something every great babyface should have, he had an impostor!
Later, he would become the only man who could get the better of the NWO, the most dominant heel stable in wrestling history. In TNA, he was getting beaten down by members of Immortal and begged Hulk Hogan, the group’s leader, for help. And he got it!
Sting is also the ultimate babyface in the business sense. He’s the one man, the one major star, to turn down every opportunity to go to the WWE.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat is the prototypical face. The guy was never a heel on a major televised wrestling promotion. He didn’t jump back and forth. He rarely even cheated, or retaliated to cheating.
Look at his run as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He brought his wife and child into the ring with him. He always worked a true technical, scientific style. He teamed with a young up-and-coming star in Shane Douglas to win the WCW World Tag Team Championships.
And who can forget his run in the WWF? Steamboat feuded with Randy Savage, and literally had fans crying—not once, but twice!
He had people crying when Savage used the bell to crush his throat on the guard railing. He returned to capture the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania III, and had people crying once again!
That wife I mentioned? Divorced him. His child? Turning heads in WWE developmental. All the while, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat continues to be one of the most popular and beloved wrestlers of all time.
In the modern era of professional wrestling, there are few wrestlers who can be considered true babyfaces. However, given the right push and accomplishments, a few can contend for this list in the future.
Kofi Kingston: With his high-flying style and trademark hair, Kofi is already a favorite of old and young fans alike. He has yet to gain a signature win or a world championship. The next five years could see Kofi rise to the main-event level, cementing a spot on this list.
Sin Cara: The masked luchador entered the WWE with much fanfare, and it ultimately backfired on him. His popularity did not waver, as Sin Cara masks are almost as prevalent as Rey Mysterio’s at most WWE events. Cara has already had an impostor, and seems poised to win a WWE Tag Team Championship before WrestleMania 29.
Zack Ryder: Despite a heel run as an “Edge Head,” Zack Ryder used the internet to become one of wrestling’s top babyfaces. He’s been bullied by much larger competitors (such as Kane) and lost his love interest to fellow face John Cena (who Eve was actually using Zack to get to). A serious main event push could land Zack on this list, but given the WWE’s treatment of this superstar, that push seems unlikely.
Now it’s your turn: Anyone surprise you? Who was left off he list?
Greg DeMarco is a wrestling fan of over 28 years and has also worked on the independent circuit as a promoter, announcer, character and booker. More of his work can be found at www.411Mania.com. Greg also hosts a weekly radio show found atwww.blogtalkradio.com/gregdemarco and streaming worldwide each weekend at www.vocnation.com.