Breaking Down 4 Factors That Make a Good Heel in WWE Today

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2019

Breaking Down 4 Factors That Make a Good Heel in WWE Today

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    Baron Corbin standing over Seth Rollins.
    Baron Corbin standing over Seth Rollins.Credit:

    If you strip it down to basics, professional wrestling is just another medium for storytellers to practice their craft, and just like most good stories, pro wrestling deals heavily in the concept of good vs. evil.

    Whether it's Luke Skywalker fighting the Galactic Empire, the Avengers battling Thanos or the kids in The Breakfast Club rebelling against their tyrannical principal, just about every good story has a hero and a villain.

    WWE has been telling different versions of the same story for decades. Even the occasional babyface vs. babyface feud usually has someone who is right and someone who is wrong.

    Promotions like WWE build themselves around top babyfaces like John Cena, Roman Reigns and The Rock, but the heels they fight are just as important when it comes to keeping the fans invested in the story.

    In fact, many fans prefer heels because they tend to be more interesting and entertaining characters. Most Superstars work as one at some point in their career, but few ever truly perfect the craft.

    Let's take a look at what it takes to be a good heel in today's WWE.

Generating Heat

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    The single most important thing a heel has to do is generate negative reactions from the crowd. If the people aren't booing, you aren't doing your job right.

    Some heels like Baron Corbin can make people hate them with a few simple words. The Miz is the perfect example of someone who can make the crowd boo its collective head off with one sentence.

    Elias has practically made his entire career out of insulting every town he visits and it has led to him being one of the few people who can make the entire arena jeer during his promos. 

    If you go back a little further, people like Ric Flair, Rick Rude, Bobby Heenan and Owen Hart made it look easy to be a bad guy because they knew exactly what to do to make the fans hate them.

    Insulting a local sports team is a cheap way to get heat, but it often helps get the ball rolling so fans know they aren't supposed to like the person in the ring. 

    Taking shortcuts during matches, attacking people from behind and portraying a dislikable character are other ways heels generate heat, but you have to be good at it to make it work all the time.

Promos Are Key

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    It's easy to say something mean to the crowd, but it's something completely different to convince people you believe what you are saying.

    Some heels barely get a response because they aren't good enough at making people buy into their character. Silence is fine when you want people to listen for a moment, but if you pause after an insult and nobody reacts, you know you have to rethink your strategy.

    Take The Rock, for example. He began his career as the smiling babyface, Rocky Maivia. The fans thought he was boring and began booing him as a result.

    Once he became The Rock and embraced his cocky side, you could barely hear your own voice over the jeers every time he picked up a microphone. He eventually became too popular to remain a villain, but the reason he became popular is that he was so good at playing the bad guy. 

    If you look back at all the best heels, they all knew how to cut a great promo; if they didn't, WWE usually paired them with a manager who could, such as Heenan, Jim Cornette and Jimmy Hart.

Using the Right Tactics

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    Talking will only get you so far in the wrestling business. You also have to be able to portray your character in the ring against your opponent.

    This is another area where The Miz excels over most of the roster. He might not have the high-flying ability of Seth Rollins or the power of Drew McIntyre, but he knows how to bend and break the rules to make himself into the villain.

    Bobby Lashley is supposed to be a heel right now, but he rarely employs the same tactics most villains use. He will attack people from behind, but he doesn't do a lot of rule-breaking during his matches unless it's one of his allies outside the ring initiating it.

    Ric Flair perfected the art of being a heel in the ring. He used the referee and his blindspots to take every shortcut he could find and it lead to him having greater success than most in the industry.

    Low blows, eye pokes, illegal weapons and outside interference are the tools of the trade for a wrestling heel, but it takes skill to know how to use them all properly.

Good Gimmicks for Being Bad

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    Giving promos and breaking the rules will do a lot to generate heat for a Superstar, but having a good gimmick will make it easier for someone to get over as a heel.

    One of the most common gimmicks in pro wrestling is the anti-American heel. The Iron Sheik is one of the most notable in this category, but WWE has had several more in recent years.

    Cesaro began his WWE run as a European who looked down on everyone, and Rusev and Lana started as Bulgarian and Russian heels, respectively.

    A Superstar can only rely on a gimmick like this for so long, but it's a good way to establish someone as a bad guy before expanding their character down the road.

    Ted DiBiase and Vince McMahon played evil rich guys, JBL portrayed a crooked politician wannabe and Triple H used his real position in the company to play a power-hungry tyrant. 

    There are many different kinds of heel gimmicks. It's up to each individual to pick the one that suits their personality the best.