Over the course of a lengthy WWE career, it isn't uncommon for a superstar to turn from heel to face, or vice versa, on several occasions. While a select few are capable of thriving in both roles, most are much better as one rather than the other.
Generally, it's more difficult to get a face reaction than a heel reaction since faces are somewhat handcuffed with regards to what they can do. Because of that, many wrestlers have been unable to replicate their success as a face after a strong heel run.
We may currently be witnessing such a phenomenon with The Miz. It's obviously extremely early in his face run and there is plenty of time to turn things around, but it seems ill-advised at the moment. The Miz was among the best heels in recent memory because of his arrogant attitude and antics, but he'll find that it isn't so easy to get away with those things as a heel.
Aside from The Miz, though, there are obviously many more superstars who have fallen short as faces with much larger sample sizes. Here are the 10 most miscast babyfaces in the history of the WWE.
Back in 2006, Montel Vontavious Porter made his WWE debut as a cocky, arrogant heel. MVP's gimmick was essentially that of an entitled athlete who believed that he was better than anyone else. It was an entertaining character, and it helped him get over as a heel quite quickly. All of that was thrown away when MVP turned face, however.
MVP had plenty of success under this gimmick, as he held the United States Championship for nearly an entire year and seemed to be moving up the ladder into main-event contention. Then, without much explanation, MVP went on a five-month losing streak that saw him develop into a sympathetic figure.
Following the conclusion of that storyline, MVP became a fan favorite and suddenly focused more on the fact that he was a success story who went from a life of crime to a WWE superstar. MVP certainly had a fanbase, but he was much less interesting in this role.
Not surprisingly, MVP slowly faded into oblivion and became an anonymous mid-carder. His in-ring work suffered, and he didn't have much to offer from a character perspective. MVP asked for, and was granted, his release in late 2010, ending what was once a promising WWE career.
If ever there was a fitting catchphrase for a no-nonsense heel, it was "my name is Finlay, and I love to fight."
Finlay was one of the toughest men in professional wrestling during his run in WCW, WWE and various other promotions. Finlay was all about substance and had very little style to speak of, so he was the quintessential heel.
Finlay never reached main-event status in the WWE, but he was a very capable upper-mid-card heel who served as somewhat of a gatekeeper, meaning the up-and-coming faces would have to go through him in order to get to the top guys. Finlay had his fair share of success, as he won the United States Championship, and it was clear that he had found the perfect role.
Rather than leaving well enough alone, the WWE decided to totally change Finlay's character. It all started when he was first paired with Hornswoggle. Rather than worrying about beating down everyone in his path, Finlay became compassionate and was worried about the well-being of his storyline son. It was an awful misuse of Finlay's talents.
He went from having entertaining matches with guys like John Cena to feuding with The Boogeyman and The Little Boogeyman in a matter of months. Finlay still had a couple good years left when the WWE did the about-face with his character, and there's no telling what he could have accomplished had he remained on the proper path.
One of the strangest decisions the WWE made in the late 1980's was instituting The Powers of Pain as a babyface tag team when they made their debut. The Powers of Pain came into existence in Jim Crockett Promotions as the heel challengers to The Road Warriors. Barbarian and Warlord were very good in that role, but Vince McMahon had other ideas.
McMahon had tried numerous times to secure The Road Warriors, but he was unable to do so until a couple years after he brought in The Powers of Pain. In an obvious effort to copy The Road Warriors' success, McMahon made The Powers of Pain faces and hoped that they would get a similar reaction. Perhaps some people thought it looked good on paper due to the similarities between the teams such as the face paint and powerful physiques.
It turns out that McMahon underestimated how much the fans liked The Road Warriors as individuals rather than simply the gimmick, though, because Barbarian and Warlord just didn't work as faces. In fact, they were quickly supplanted by another similar team in Demolition. Since Demolition was getting a much more favorable reaction than The Powers of Pain, a double turn was executed at Survivor Series 1988 with The Powers of Pain turning heel.
While it was the right move, the damage had already been done, and The Powers of Pain wallowed in mediocrity. Had The Powers of Pain debuted properly as heels rather than Road Warriors ripoffs, then maybe they could have been Tag Team Champions at some point.
While very few consider Edge to be an upper-echelon performer in the same conversation as Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock, he will always be remembered as an all-time great who is just a notch below the elites. He is one of the most-decorated champions in WWE history and is beloved by many, but perhaps his career would have been even better had it featured him exclusively as a heel.
Edge was in the WWE for roughly 14 years, so he was bound to undergo a few character changes during that time frame. With that said, it was always blatantly obvious that he was a better heel than a face. Despite that, he turned face on several occasions, and it almost always resulted in him reverting back to heel status. Look no further than his run in 2005 and 2006 alongside Lita, and it's clear that Edge was the perfect heel.
Everything he did during his initial pursuit of the WWE Championship was gold, and he was probably the most compelling character in the company at that time. Despite that, the WWE decided to have him play the face role when he returned from injury to win the 2010 Royal Rumble. His feud with Chris Jericho should have been great, but it fell flat because Edge just didn't seem himself in that role.
When Edge was a face, it totally changed the basis of his character. He was The Ultimate Opportunist who was willing to take advantage of any situation and the Rated-R Superstar who committed some of the slimiest acts in WWE history. The writers made a couple attempts to make him a babyface, but he was never suited for that role.
Batista's inclusion on this list may be somewhat controversial, but I never enjoyed him as a face, and I know that many feel the same way. Batista's first major accomplishment in the WWE came when he joined the heel stable of Evolution along with Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. Batista was the silent enforcer of the group, and he executed that role extremely well.
He was so good at it, in fact, that he began to get over with the fans and gained some favorable support. His momentum was so obvious that he was booked to win the 2005 Royal Rumble, which led to him leaving Evolution and challenging Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. Batista completed his face turn and won the title to conclude what was a great angle.
With that in mind, the WWE had no choice but to turn Batista initially. After the first couple years of Batista's heel run, though, his character grew stale. There's only so much that a pumped-up guy with limited mic skills can do as a babyface. Despite that, he remained face until late 2009 when he turned on Rey Mysterio. Batista's act had worn thin on many fans, but he was suddenly much more interesting.
In fact, the best work of his WWE career came just prior to his departure in 2010. He began working closely with Vince McMahon and adopted an arrogant, Hollywood persona. This led to him winning the WWE Championship and feuding with John Cena. During his second heel run, Batista was entertaining and competent on the mic. He was so good that it left many fans wondering what could have been had he not wasted so many years wallowing as a directionless face.
When a wrestler's nickname is "The World's Strongest Man," that alone would seem to indicate that they're suited to be a heel. Mark Henry received his first major push in WWE as a member of the heel Nation of Domination stable, but his career was severely mismanaged after that. In fact, it wasn't until 2011, at the age of 40, that the WWE figured out how to utilize him properly.
Prior to 2011, Henry was probably best known for his run as Sexual Chocolate. Under that gimmick, Henry had a romantic angle with Mae Young that resulted in her giving birth to a hand. Henry also was forced into admitting that he was a sex addict. It was a ridiculous and humiliating storyline for a guy who could have been a dominant heel during the Attitude Era.
After that, Henry faded into obscurity throughout the 2000's and did very little of note aside from a run with the ECW Championship. Just prior to his heel turn in 2011, Henry was at his worst. He was a senseless babyface who walked around and smiled for no reason at all. It was a terrible waste of his potential, but things changed when he turned heel, became a dominant force and won the World Heavyweight Championship.
Henry was more entertaining than ever, as he was a ruthless tough guy who even proved capable of cutting a great promo. Henry likely had that ability in him all along, but he was miscast for much of his career. It's a shame that the WWE didn't realize it sooner.
Similar to The Powers of Pain, The Natural Disasters were a tag team that had no business turning face. Earthquake and Typhoon started off as a dominant heel tandem managed by Jimmy Hart. They ran through the tag-team division and entered into a feud with The Legion of Doom, but they were unable to capture the Tag Team Championships. This ultimately led to an ill-advised face turn in 1992.
The story behind the turn was that Hart used The Natural Disasters' title shot and gave it to Money Inc. instead. Money Inc. won the titles, and that prompted Earthquake and Typhoon to become their main rivals. The Natural Disasters did win the Tag Team Championships, but they had lost much more. They were no longer an intimidating team, and the fans had very little interest in them.
As a rule, it's rarely a good idea to turn men of their size into faces. It's very easy for fans to dislike monstrous individuals, and there's no reason to try to reinvent the wheel in that regard. The Natural Disasters were over as top heel contenders; however, I suppose that wasn't enough for the WWE. Perhaps the fact that The Legion of Doom took a brief hiatus from the company caused the WWE brass to panic and tab The Natural Disasters as a replacement.
After The Natural Disasters dropped the titles back to Money Inc., their tag-team run was essentially over. They quietly parted was in 1993, and neither man made much of an impact under their respective gimmicks again. Had The Natural Disasters remained heel, they could have had some great feuds with teams like The Legion of Doom, Steiner Brothers and Mega Maniacs, but it never came to fruition.
Mr. Perfect was a heel for the vast majority of his WWE career, but his face turn in 1992 was definitely a head-scratcher. Perfect had made a living out of being an arrogant heel and used that persona to become one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time. After a number of injuries and a transition to the announce table, though, Perfect came back with a much different character that didn't suit him.
For no real reason, Perfect and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan had a falling out that led to Perfect feuding with Ric Flair. Perfect beat Flair in a loser-leaves-WWE match and then went to do battle with Heenan's new associate, Lex Luger. The feud with Luger was especially ridiculous because Luger was a self-absorbed heel, which is what Perfect had always been previously. He simply wasn't as effective on the other side of the coin.
Perfect's run as a face was fairly short-lived because injuries continued to wreak havoc on his body, but it represented his last meaningful run in WWE until his brief return in 2002. Perfect was an incredible heel, and in a different time period, he almost certainly would have been WWE Champion. Perfect just didn't have it in him to play the babyface character, though, and it showed.
Perhaps the WWE figured that Perfect was the only option to feud with Flair, and that necessitated his face turn, but it wasn't a good fit. Mr. Perfect always was a heel, and he always should have been a heel. There's no fun in somebody portraying a character predicated on perfection if they can't boast about it.
There is no question that Randy Orton has had some good moments as a face over the course of his career, but he will always be looked at as a far superior heel. Orton, like Batista, got his start as a member of Evolution, and he developed a great heel character. He was young and brash, and it was very easy to dislike him. Over the years, however, Orton totally abandoned that persona, and it hasn't been for the better.
Orton's initial face turn had to be done in order to make him a singles star, but the WWE actually handled things correctly, as he reverted back to heel status soon after by feuding with The Undertaker. Orton's Legend Killer gimmick was fantastic, and it was the main thing that helped make him a star. Orton's character eventually evolved into something more sadistic and psychological as he formed the stable known as Legacy.
Along with Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, Orton was a dominant force in the WWE from 2007 until early 2010. The initial plan seemed to be for DiBiase to turn face, but the fans began cheering for Orton, so the WWE turned him instead. It seemed like a good idea at first, as Orton became one of the top faces in the company and brought something different to the table, as he was somewhat of a loner. At some point, though, Orton became a typical babyface, except he doesn't have strong mic skills to fall back on.
Orton has now been face for almost three years, and he's as stale as can be. His career is stuck in neutral, and there's absolutely no reason for him to remain face. He hasn't been in the world title picture in over a year, and while he puts on some solid matches, he has no personality. Even if he simply reverts back to his Legacy heel character, it would be a huge improvement over what he has become.
All told, Jake "The Snake" Roberts was a part of the WWE for seven years, and while he shifted from face to heel and back again on several occasions, he always did his best work as a sadistic bad guy. I'm not willing to say that Roberts was necessarily a bad face, because he had enough talent to get over in almost any capacity, but he had the potential to be the top heel in all of professional wrestling, and transitioning him out of that position was misguided.
There was no better wrestling psychologist than Roberts during his heyday. Not only did he stalk his opponents like a snake in the ring, but he also was one of the best promo men the business had ever seen. He was extremely different from most wrestlers at the time because he wasn't over the top in his delivery. He was deliberate, quiet, calculating and even frightening at times, and that made him the perfect heel.
Roberts certainly had some entertaining feuds as a heel in the WWE, most notably his rivalry with Randy "Macho Man" Savage, but he never had a proper feud with either of the top two stars at the time. Roberts' lack of a feud with Hulk Hogan is inexplicable, and he seemed to poised to feud with The Ultimate Warrior in 1991, but Warrior was fired. With that in mind, the WWE really missed out on some opportunities to push Roberts to the top.
I'd go so far as to say that Roberts could have been the guy to take the WWE Championship off Ultimate Warrior and face Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VII rather than Sgt. Slaughter. The WWE was always on the fence with Roberts, though, so it didn't happen. Roberts was a guy who never got what he deserved, and that had everything to do with the WWE's misuse of him.