Charlotte Flair and 9 WWE, AEW Superstars Who Are Way Better as Heels
Professional wrestling storytelling in its basic form plays off the tried and true dynamic between heroes and villains. As such, some of the biggest names in the industry succeeded because they had a great foil to play off of. So, it's impossible to understate the importance of a believable antagonist.
However, some believe it's harder to tell engaging stories today because fans want to cheer for the heels and reject anyone who appears to be hand-picked to be a top star. While some cases like Roman Reigns and even Drew McIntyre seem indicative of this trend, it isn't entirely true: Some performers are just better as bad guys.
Not everyone can be both fun to cheer and jeer like Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn. Robert Roode is a great example of someone who excelled as heel champion on NXT but struggled as a do-gooder once he moved to SmackDown. The Glorious One may be capable of portraying a face, but he was much better as an arrogant and conniving character similar to Ric Flair.
In 2017, Elias surprisingly became one of the hottest acts on the WWE roster as he consistently got a reaction from the crowd with his hilarious sing-song promos and ability to improvise.
The way he used a joke about Seattle's 10-year long pursuit of a new basketball franchise to replace the Supersonics to elicit a unanimously negative response on the Oct. 1, 2018 episode of Raw was a perfect example. Afterward, the crowd proceeded to boo him and Kevin Owens out of the building.
However, The Living Truth's "Walk With Elias" chant caught on and it seemed like he could do no wrong. After all, he got the live audience on the Raw after WrestleMania 34 to chant "we are scumbags." So, logic would dictate that it was the right time to turn him into a face.
Unfortunately, though, Elias never clicked as a good guy and went back to lambasting the crowd four months later.
Alexa Bliss has been a rare success story for WWE since the inception of NXT as a developmental process. She didn't benefit from a prosperous run as a singles competitor on the black-and-gold brand, but she took off on SmackDown thanks to some strong character work.
At TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in 2016, Little Miss Bliss defeated Becky Lynch in a tables match to win her first WWE championship gold. The two-time SmackDown and three-time Raw titleholder went on a dominant run from 2016 to 2018, cutting scathing promos on her opponents and winning via nefarious means.
Sadly, WWE didn't put the same engaging character development into her partnership with Nikki Cross. The duo delivered some entertaining matches together, but Bliss didn't have the same presence as a tag team wrestler. Furthermore, the two-time women's tag team champion was never really convincing as a face because she didn't do anything that different.
Recently, The Goddess has been flourishing again in her current role as "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt's protege. This is a much better use of Bliss' facial expressions and acting chops.
The Miz described himself as an outsider in his recent episode of WWE 24. His background as a reality television star made him an easy target for skeptical fans and colleagues.
Even though the odds were against him, the two-time men's Money in the Bank winner has developed into an excellent talker and a memorable intercontinental champion over the last 15 years. No matter what his detractors may think of him, The A-Lister works hard and negativity fuels him.
To that end, his resilience and persistence are his greatest strengths and he has used the naysayers' doubts to mold himself into a superstar. That sounds like an incredible underdog, but let's be honest, The Miz is at his best when he's smug and obnoxious. Those positive traits make him a crafty heel, who always outsmarts his opponents instead of outwrestling them.
It's easy to root against the former WWE champion, and that makes his character even more defiant and resentful. The blurred line between reality and fiction makes him compelling, even though it's also fun to see him get his comeuppance.
AJ Styles has had an illustrious 22-year career, including a stint as the head of Bullet Club with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. That run with the gaijin stable granted him a contract with WWE in January 2016.
Fans immediately recognized and admired the veteran because of his renowned in-ring ability, but his noteworthy feud with John Cena propelled him to the next level. Indie wrestling fans knew The Phenomenal One could go, but the heel turn and WWE title win put him over with the new fanbase.
As The Face That Runs The Place, Styles became a top star on SmackDown and a two-time WWE champion. His second reign with the title lasted 371-days, but he just didn't have the same flair and charisma as the main protagonist. He was just an incredibly talented wrestler who won all the time, and that became predictable.
The 43-year-old is funny and braggadocious as a villain, and that makes him stand out even more on a roster full of other exceptional workers.
Britt Baker has come a long way since The Elite established AEW in 2019. The first woman to sign with the new company initially looked like she was poised to become the face of its women's division, but the fans didn't buy into her right away.
That quickly changed after she turned heel and cut a savage promo on Tony Schiavone on the Jan. 22, 2020 episode of Dynamite. Her new brutally honest and pretentious persona transformed her into the best character on the women's roster.
Even more, Baker's mic skills drastically improved and her finishing maneuver, the Lockjaw, is one of the most protected moves in AEW: It fits her new attitude perfectly and ingeniously plays off her real-life profession as a dentist.
It's only a matter of time before The Role Model wins the AEW Women's World Championship, and many fans won't bat an eyelid.
If anyone told us Roman Reigns would align himself with Paul Heyman and become one of the top heels in the industry a year ago, no one would've believed it. A section of WWE viewers had been asking for this for so long that it felt improbable.
But those fans finally got their wish when the second-generation star returned at SummerSlam in 2020 and became The Tribal Chief. With this change of attitude, he gradually alleviated many of the longstanding criticisms of him. His promo work is much more natural and fearsome, and his mat-based offense is more devastating.
Moreover, The Head of the Table is a more complex character than anything Reigns was allowed to sink his teeth into before. The role of the face of the company is his burden to bear, and everything the 35-year-old does now is justified in his mind.
There's nothing more dangerous than a man with that kind of conviction.
Kenny Omega is similar to AJ Styles because his reputation preceded him long before his arrival on network television in the United States.
The Best Bout Machine earned his moniker for delivering classic matches with New Japan, but many mainstream fans still didn't know him.
Without that context, fans don't understand what makes him so special; they only know the hype. No amount of five-star matches would change their perception of him, so it made sense to introduce his Cleaner persona with a twist. It gave him a chance to dial his over-the-top personality up to another level.
More to the point, his quest to collect championship gold has given a motive and a new accolade to focus on. The Canadian star has already conquered Japan, but his megalomaniacal pursuit will raise his profile in the U.S. and gives critics another reason to hate him.
For better or worse, it will put Omega on the pedestal that many of us expected him to ascend to when he joined AEW.
The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks are the most polarizing tag team in the industry. Traditionalists hate their spot-heavy matches, while others detest their incessant jabs and never-ending reach for low-hanging fruit.
Even more, the Jackson brothers take every opportunity to remind us how good they are, how much money they make and how successful they are. They're brash and cocky, which makes it hard for some fans to invest in them as babyfaces or distinguished executives. So, why not revel in it and become the revelrous, browbeating duo that put them on the map again?
It's so easy to hate the self-proclaimed "Best Tag Team in the World," and they masterfully troll their opponents and cynics in the ring and online.
It's only right that they give the people what they want, right?
Randy Orton should never be a good guy. The third-generation star doesn't seem to enjoy it, and his work as a sadistic and loathsome villain is vastly superior.
The Viper proved that again last year when he reawakened his infamous "Legend Killer" gimmick in the weeks following the Royal Rumble.
With every target he wiped out, his promos got even more biting and terse and The Viper became even more captivating. It wouldn't be a stretch to say Orton was one of the highlights on Raw every week during the pandemic era.
The 14-time world champion is just a natural heel through and through. It fits his seemingly snide and nonchalant personality and methodical in-ring style.
Orton is one of the greatest antagonists in the history of the business for good reason, and he should always play to his strengths.
When all is said and done, Charlotte Flair will go down as one of the greatest women's wrestlers of this generation. She has achieved just about everything over the last six years and doesn't have any plans to rest on her laurels.
However, some fans believe the 12-time women's champion has been given more opportunities than any other woman on the roster for any litany of reasons. It makes it impossible to see her as a sympathetic babyface or an underdog. Honestly, it doesn't even suit her character, which is based on genetic superiority. Her father, The Dirtiest Player in the Game, was also famously at his best as a heel.
For those reasons, The Queen is at home as an entitled and petulant villainess. Her promos are much more believable, and she feeds off her detractors exceptionally well. The tirade she went on during the Raw after WrestleMania 37 is the most recent example of just how much better she is in this character.
It's easy to say wrestling fans are fickle and it's difficult to satisfy them, but they won't hesitate to reject someone if something about them feels contrived. This is one of those examples where WWE shouldn't try to combat them and force a square peg into a round hole.