Baron Corbin and 8 WWE Stars You Love to Hate
Ever since the heyday of Attitude Era characters like D-Generation X and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, villains in professional wrestling have had to try incredibly hard to be booed rather than turn into cool heels fans cheer.
This rise of the antihero happened all throughout pop culture in the 1990s and carries on to this day. Fans can't help but to chant "Adam Cole BAYBAY," support The Undisputed Era and give Randy Orton the biggest reaction of the night with an RKO out of nowhere.
But there are still heels who do their jobs well enough or just have that certain edge to their personalities that fans willingly suspend their disbelief, go with the show and can't help but to boo.
With the rosters freshly moved around following the recent Superstar Shake-up, let's take a look at the current crop of heels the WWE Universe loves to hate.
The Lone Wolf wasn't given top billing here for no reason, as he may be the biggest heat magnet in WWE today for all sorts of reasons.
Some fans boo him because they dislike the performer and don't find him entertaining. In fact, some argue the phrase "X-Pac heat" should be updated for the modern roster as "Corbin heat" instead.
Others focus more on the traits of the character itself, such as his stint as an authority figure with control over Monday Night Raw and the dastardly things he did while in that position of power.
He's only been a babyface a short while during his career, so pretty much everything he's done has been on the villainous side, whether it be beating down a babyface, cheating to win a match, upsetting the balance by becoming Mr. Money in the Bank or just being obnoxious.
This has been magnified even more with Kurt Angle's retirement, as few people wanted him to be given the honor of competing in Angle's last match and even fewer wanted him to win, so now that he can gloat about that, the boos have even more ferocity behind them.
The way he carries himself and the perpetual smug look on his face just scream "hate me," and he's able to get that reaction out of the crowd better than anyone in WWE, which is fantastic.
Few people in WWE are as bankable as Elias when it comes to going out there each and every night and making sure the crowd will erupt in boos.
The entire presentation of his character is built around this, as every promo is specifically designed to upset the audience through insults about the town, the local sports teams and any other cheap targets that can anger the crowd.
In October, Elias and Kevin Owens brought on one of the longest and loudest choruses of boos in a long while after upsetting the Seattle audience with a shot at their lack of a basketball team.
And yet despite this, the WWE Universe always chants along with him that WWE stands for Walk With Elias, which goes to show that crowd knows it's all in good fun and is playing its part as the irate audience.
WWE tried so hard last year to convince fans to boo Becky Lynch and cheer for Charlotte Flair, but even having Lynch cut a promo denouncing the crowd wasn't able to make that happen.
People love to get behind Lynch and consequently find it easy to hate Flair, so WWE just had to roll with it and change the script.
Most fans would agree that Flair has proved herself to be one of the best female wrestlers in WWE history and is fully worthy of her long list of accomplishments. But while she has everyone's respect, that is just more ammo to work with.
Whenever she cuts a promo on how she's The Queen and deserves to be treated better, she has plenty of fuel to add to the fire and the history to back up what she says, which is even more annoying than someone who is delusional.
Unsubstantiated claims of glory can be scoffed at and laughed off, but when it's a fact, it's just bothersome to hear someone pat themselves on the back.
Flair is able to get more groans of displeasure out of a crowd by doing one "woo" than most can with an impassioned speech about how much they hate everyone in attendance.
But because that's the nature of sports entertainment, fans adore Flair, love to see her as that villain and wouldn't have it any other way.
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush
Bobby Lashley's first stint in WWE was pure babyface material, but when he returned last year and nothing had changed, fans weren't too receptive of him.
Once he turned heel and partnered with Lio Rush, though, he started to get a reaction. It's the opposite of what WWE originally intended, but it's still much better than indifference.
Part of this is a genuine disinterest in what Lashley has going on. He's big and muscular but devoid of much character beyond that, so there isn't much to sink your teeth into.
But once Rush starts moving his mouth, repetitively chanting for Lashley and yapping away with his annoying cackle, it incites the audience to start hoping a babyface can come along to shut down the show, preferably before Lashley hits everyone with his favorite pose.
They are a textbook duo of a mouthpiece who rubs people the wrong way and a bona fide athlete who could beat every opponent he's up against, so fans never want to see them win and have that ego boost.
Daniel Bryan was one of the most popular Superstars in the past decade or so as the figurehead of The Yes Movement and a symbol for underdogs and the indy wrestling scene alike.
When WWE turned him heel in November, it was a questionable decision that has since paid off tremendously.
The New Daniel Bryan is a mix of the Straight Edge Society version of CM Punk and your typical heel, as he broadcasts a holier than thou message with plenty of ammo about saving the environment, eating processed foods, recycling and other topics designed to belittle everyone.
Suddenly, instead of fighting for the people, he's calling them idiots. Rather than standing up for the little guy, he enlists the help of his giant tank of a partner, Rowan, to beat him down even more. And Bryan is more likely to run from a fight and cheat his way to the top than to showcase heart, courage and willpower.
Had Bryan not been able to turn things around and become someone the fans felt comfortable booing, his heel run would have prematurely fizzled out and the giant push for Kofi Kingston would never have been possible.
Instead of a stilted attempt at something new, Bryan managed to take a new step in his career and keep himself fresh, and so long as he's healthy enough to keep this going, he could be the top heel for some time to come.
Jinder Mahal has fallen down the totem pole considerably since his time as WWE champion in 2017, but he's still one of the least liked Superstars in the company and a go-to source for heat.
The Modern Day Maharaja will forever have negativity attached to his WWE title run from people who consider him unworthy of that honor, as well as those who are just going with the flow and hating him for his actual character.
He's more of a joke act now, with his "shanti" shtick annoying enough to get the crowd riled up.
Many also still remember Mahal as "the evil foreigner" character stereotype that used to be the bread and butter of Superstars like Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff during wrestling's golden era.
It worked, and Mahal had a longer run with the WWE title than anyone could have imagined, so he's still getting heat out of that close to two years later.
The mean girl trope is so common in women's wrestling that it's no longer special to just be snarky or cruel, and Superstars need to do more than that to get the boos they're looking for.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce have tapped into something on top of that, though, which has given them an edge in collecting heat: their ear-grating voices.
It's never presented that their actual Australian accents are a problem—at least, not in the Mahal xenophobia sense—but rather just the sheer volume and pitch that makes people wince at their promos.
When they take a shot at a babyface, they don't just say it—they shriek it. And then they revel in what they said. It's like the best-worst form of hearing someone laugh at their own jokes that weren't funny in the first place.
People can hate on Alexa Bliss for her attitude, Mandy Rose for her vanity and even Nia Jax for her wrestling skills, but The IIconics are in a special class of heel in that most people would never want to be in the same room as them.
By all accounts on their out-of-character social media activity, they are lovely people, so it just goes to show how great they are at portraying such unpleasant people that they can pull it off so well.
NXT is a different animal from the main roster, as the curtain is open far more, exposing the business and blurring the lines between the fiction and the reality of each performer.
This makes it difficult for even people like Tommaso Ciampa to be disliked. While some chanted that he is the devil, others couldn't help but to cheer him out of sheer appreciation for how talented he is.
The only person who gets the reaction she is looking for as a heel is Shayna Baszler—and by extension, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir.
Those three could easily be like The Undisputed Era in the sense that fans are excited to see them and burst out in cheers. Instead, while she has more than earned everyone's approval as a performer and fans do anticipate watching her matches, Baszler doesn't get that supportive pop.
She is one of the best heels in WWE when it comes to ring psychology and showing off her mean-spirited nature, which she shows by bullying people after she's beaten them, humiliating her opponents and going out of her way to try to injure them just for the sake of it.
When paired with a straight-laced babyface like Kairi Sane, that makes the crowd get even further behind Baszler's opponents, meaning she does her job extremely well.
Being able to have the crowd love to see you wrestle but hate to see you win, even while breathing a sigh of relief that you're still the champion, is a testament to how good Baszler is and how the sky is the limit with her career.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.