The Top 50 Best Heels in Professional Wrestling, 1981-2011
I have always been partial to heels.
For most of the time I spent in the business, I was a heel manager. Playing my role to the best of my ability, I did all I could to convince the fans that underneath this kind exterior beat the heart of a true villain.
It was a blast, every moment was an experience and nothing is as liberating as being able to vent all of life's little frustrations on an unsuspecting crowd.
But, being a heel means more than just hurling random insults or cheating to win matches. Being a heel means living the character, cutting memorable promos and drawing major heat from the fans.
For me, the men on this list are some of the best at doing just that.
Now, of course, as with any list of this nature, the choices and their placement are open for debate. But, that is the ultimate goal for any Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report—to spark a discussion. Whether we all agree or disagree, our mutual love of the business is all that matters. We are a strong and opinionated bunch, after all, and this is what we do.
So, with that, here we go.
50. Dick Slater
Don't let the smiling face fool you. As a heel, Dirty Dick Slater was open for business.
Wrestling largely in the territories during the '80s, Slater was well known for being one of the toughest, hard-nosed workers that competed in the ring. Slater just seemed to fit the role of a heel; for me it was hard to imagine him ever running face, though he did just that a couple of times in his career.
Perhaps one of the most memorable storylines Slater worked in was the bounty that he and Bob Orton collected for taking out Ric Flair.
At the time, Flair was a babyface, chasing Harley Race and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Race placed a bounty on Flair's head in an attempt to keep him from the match, and Slater was just the man for the job.
Slater was mean, devious and always one of the most hated men in the business. If anyone was born to be a heel in the ring, it was Dirty Dick Slater.
49. Eddie Gilbert
Like many men before him, Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert had always wanted to be a professional wrestler. Following in his father's footsteps in the business, Gilbert became a star in the Mid-South territory.
He was charismatic, and hard-working in the ring. His character seemed to come naturally to him, as it really never appeared as though he was trying very hard to get over. Fans hated him, and he took it all with a cocky smile.
Perhaps Gilbert's biggest contribution to the business was that of booker.
Gilbert loved being in the ring, but he proved that he had a great head for wrestling. One of the key elements in any pro wrestling promotion is the company's ability to know how to properly present its workers. Having the right person in place to make that happen is important, and Eddie Gilbert was one of those guys.
He was a cocky, arrogant, self-absorbed personality who fans just loved to hate. He is one of the best examples of what it means to be a successful heel in the business.
48. Jim Cornette
During his days in Jim Crockett Promotions, there was nothing about Jim Cornette that fans did not despise.
He was a mamma's boy, wearing his colorful suits, carrying his tennis racket and spewing his spoiled rich-kid venom for the whole world to hear. He was totally funded by his mother, who wanted her boy to lead his wrestlers to championship gold, and he delivered every time.
Cornette was one of the most hated men that never performed on a full-time basis in the ring. His heat with the crowd rubbed off on the men he managed, most notably The Midnight Express. Jim was the mouthpiece of the team, and brought a level of credibility and hype to a duo who were very good in the ring.
Cornette has taken many roles behind the scenes over the years, most recently with Ring of Honor, where he is the promotion's executive producer. Cornette is very outspoken and at times, even when he is simply telling a story from the past, it looks as though he is cutting a promo. His character was simply just an amplification of what was already there.
Jim Cornette is a great example of the classic heel. He was greedy, grandstanding, vile with his words and his work as one of the most hated managers of all time will go down in wrestling history. He is definitely one of a kind.
47. Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash made history as an original member of the nWo, one of the most successful factions the business has ever seen. Nash had great heat from the WCW crowd upon his entering the company with Scott Hall as the Outsiders, two men who were possibly "invading" from WWE.
No matter how popular he became at times during his initial run in WCW, the man formerly known as Diesel in WWE consistently stuck to his heel roots. He may have become what fans consider a "cool" heel, but his actions were always geared to make him one of the most hated men in the promotion.
He spit in the face of the history that WCW had, thumbing his nose at the established wrestlers who were employed by the company when he got there. In his mind, the WCW talent were merely collateral damage, obstacles to his group's ultimate goal of taking complete control of the wrestling world and putting Vince McMahon out of business.
One of the most infamous moments in Nash's WCW career came when he took a bump off a poke in the chest from Hollywood Hogan. This effectively ended the hugely popular WolfPac stable, and turned Nash heel once again.
Kevin Nash's ability to physically intimidate and use his aggression on men much smaller than him help put him over as a very dominant heel. His self-serving attitude toward the business made him hated, and earned him a place as one of the most contemptible personalities that the business has ever seen.
46. Manny Fernandez
Manny Fernandez is the definition of the hard-nosed, old-school tough guy.
The Raging Bull was a bruiser, a wrestler who gave everything he had every time he was in the ring. Pummeling opponents without mercy, Fernandez was literally a bull in the ring, and his style fit perfectly in Jim Crockett Promotions.
Fernandez was actually a fan favorite, aligning himself with Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA. He was viewed as being a good guy in the eyes of the fans, someone who brought fire to his matches and loved being a pro wrestler.
But Manny's defining moment came in 1986 when he accepted a payoff from Paul Jones to betray The Boogie Man Jimmy Valiant. With that shocking act, Fernandez became a heel and he never looked back.
Manny began a very successful tag team with Rick Rude, and with Paul Jones as their manager, the team won the NWA World Tag Team Championships.
Tough as leather, with a scowl on his face and bad intentions in his game, Manny Fernandez was very good at being very bad.
45. The Great Kabuki
When I was a kid, Kabuki scared the crap out of me.
Being a heel is one thing—being a scary heel is something else altogether. Kabuki was very mysterious, a demonic figure whose long dark hair covered a painted face and hollow eyes that made fans uneasy when he looked at them.
Kabuki's skill in the ring set him apart from other roughhouse heels who wrestled during his era. He was good in the ring, and with Gary Hart as his manager, he had some serious added heat from the crowd.
Kabuki was the first wrestler to spew what was called green mist during his matches. The mist fit his character perfectly, and only enhanced the mystery surrounding the enigmatic wrestler.
Kabuki had a good run in Jim Crockett Promotions, where he won the NWA World Television Title. The NWA gave him national exposure, cementing him as one of the most original heels the business has ever seen.
44. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner will always be remembered for two things: his body, and his mouth.
Big Poppa Pump's physique is, for lack of a better word, freakish. His muscles have muscles, and he truly looks as though he was carved out of marble, a Greek god walking among men.
His mouth, however, is anything but divine.
Steiner has never been known as shy, and has reportedly went into business for himself on the mic more than once in his career. His tirades in WCW are infamous, and define his character.
Steiner's obsession with his body provides the perfect motivation to hate fans, other wrestlers and anyone else who doesn't look like he does. He is foul-mouthed, cocky, arrogant and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Scott Steiner's career as a face was good, and appreciated by fans. Steiner as a heel made his career very memorable, and one that no one else can replicate. Love him or hate him, Scott is one of the all-time great heels.
43. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is the only Olympic gold medalist in pro wrestling history, and he did it with a broken freakin' neck.
That one line, repeated thousands and thousands of times during his career, is enough to sufficiently heel-out Angle for all time.
Angle's insistence on being the best in the world, and the confident smirk that goes along with it, makes him a different kind of heel, more along the lines of Ric Flair in his prime. Angle as a heel is not hated for his ability in the ring, or for his past accomplishments; he is hated the old-fashioned way. He is hated by what he says and how he says it.
His ego as a heel is matched only by his work in the ring, and his actions can be very vicious when the situation calls for it.
Kurt Angle is undoubtedly one of the best of all time, and as a heel he shines like no other.
42. Scott Hall
It's survey time again.
Scott Hall: the one and only Bad Guy, the ultimate cool heel of pro wrestling. A tortured soul with a dangerous edge, Hall is the James Dean of the business.
Since the day he entered WCW with Kevin Nash as The Outsiders, Hall has been one of the most controversial figures in the sport. He has also been one of the best heels around.
Hall's likability factor is definitely there, but the fact that he is so easily hated is testament to his ability to get over in any capacity. His attitude is one of sarcastic confidence, and his "devil may care" outlook causes him to take no responsibility for his actions in and out of the ring.
Scott Hall was the perfect foil for any popular face of his day. He challenged fans' perception of what it meant to be a heel, and even though he was cheered, he played his role better than anyone else could.
41. Jimmy Garvin
To this day, whenever I hear ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man," I think of Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin.
Vain, egotistical and completely self-obsessed, Garvin was a gift to female fans from God himself. Strutting to the ring wearing shades, a feather boa and flashy sequined pants, Garvin seemed more interested with his appearance than his match.
Constantly fluffing his hair, while his valet—either Sunshine, or later Precious—helped him primp, Garvin was in his own little world. His routine was very entertaining, and his ring work was very good. Garvin had good fundamentals and could go with the best of his day in the '80s. He also gave plenty of reasons for fans to despise him.
The men in the crowd hated him for the way he carried himself, and the women laughed when he claimed to be the most gorgeous man in the building. His gimmick was classic heel, and Jimmy ran it with distinction.
40. Nikita Koloff
Nikita Koloff was The Russian Nightmare in every way.
During the height of the Cold War, Jim Crockett Promotions brought in a wrestler who had immediate heat with American fans, a man who represented the scary unknown of the Soviet Union.
Nikita was a big, vicious, monstrous heel who growled in broken English about the pain that he was going to inflict on the inferior wrestlers of the NWA. Then, he did just that.
Nikita was very punishing in the ring, an unrelenting rage emanating from his attack whenever the bell rang. Nikita's character didn't ask to be hated—he demanded it.
Nikita Koloff was not any ordinary heel. He embraced the role and made it his own.
39. Brock Lesnar
Before he was an Ultimate Fighter, Brock Lesnar was The Next Big Thing.
Brock was a monster, a physical specimen with the kind of stature and physique that WWE loves in a wrestler. He was cool, dangerous and merciless in his approach to his work in the ring. He wreaked havoc on every opponent he stood in the ring against, and did it with no emotion on his face.
Being the physical presence that he was, the overall intimidation factor that he possessed allowed Brock to easily get over as a heel. Before anyone really knew what he was capable of in the ring, fans quickly learned to hate Lesnar for his bullying tactics against established stars in WWE. It was a reputation that his character continued through his career.
For a man who had size and strength like Brock Lesnar, being heel was an easy proposition. Making that heel aggressive and heartless came from the man himself, who was able to sell it on a level apart from everyone else.
38. William Regal
William Regal is arguably the most underrated pro wrestler in recent memory.
Most fans agree that Regal should have been given more over the years, and that he is fully capable of being a top heel in the company. Why?
Simply put, Regal gets it. In addition to being very good in the ring, he understands who his character is, and what he is all about. He is very convincing in his role as the conceited heel who can't be bothered by anyone who he feels is beneath him. Regal is very comfortable in his own skin, and his entire act comes so naturally to him. Regal is a true professional.
Regal's demeanor is that of an aristocrat who is forced into situations he wants nothing to do with. His way of looking down his nose at fans and wrestlers alike makes him very effective as a heel, and no one quite has the air of importance about them that William Regal has.
When Regal speaks, fans listen. And most of the time, they hate him for what he says.
As the storyline brother of The Undertaker, Kane represents a more twisted evil version of the Deadman and more importantly, has carved out his own place in WWE history.
Kane's character is vicious, sadistic and merciless, in his approach to the business. He is the scary monster hiding in the closet, the creature that goes bump in the night. He is less like a pro wrestler and more like a cold-hearted killer.
If Jason Vorhees dropped the machete and laced up a pair of wrestling boots, he would be Kane.
He is over when he turns face, as fans love to see him unleash his fury on wrestlers they feel truly deserve it. But, when Kane is heel, he is definitely in his element.
Big, intimidating and heartless, Kane is evil personified. And he loves every minute of it.
36. The Rock
When Rocky Maivia debuted in WWE, he was met with a rousing chorus of "die, Rocky, die." No matter what he did, or how much he smiled, he simply could not do anything to make the fans happy.
Then, Rocky had a change in attitude, and became The Rock. When that happened, his career took off. There was no comparing the two characters; they were as different as day and night.
As a heel, Rock had the ability to vent his frustrations on the crowd, saying everything he wanted to say, without fear of hurting anyone's feelings. In other words, he was allowed to be human.
The better he became, the more his star rose, and the more his ego exploded as a heel. When a wrestler is considered one of the best, it opens the door for him to turn on everything and everyone who helped make him because he begins to feel that perhaps he is too big to need the support of fans. This works for The Rock every time he turns heel.
Being able to sell himself and his match on the mic and being truly hated while doing it is not always easy, but Rock became a true professional at doing just that. He also became one of the best heels ever.
35. Stan Hansen
You know that big loudmouth redneck in the bar who's had a few too many but no one has the guts to throw out? Stan Hansen beat that guy up and stole his beer.
Stan The Lariat Hansen was a tough, no-nonsense cowboy who lived to fight. Screaming during promos with an unhealthy wad of chewing tobacco falling out of his mouth, Hansen did not make threats. He made promises.
Big, rough and always ticked off, Hansen was the perfect old-fashioned bad guy. It was not hard to hate Stan Hansen. In fact, he made it pretty easy.
At one time, Edge was your basic long-haired, good-looking babyface who came out to blaring rock music and flashed a big smile to the crowd. He had a nice little career going, with the occasional heel turns, and was fitting in quite nicely.
What a difference an affair can make.
When the news broke that Edge and Lita had a relationship off camera, Edge's character underwent a drastic change. He became the Rated R Superstar, and rode the controversy all the way to the World Title.
Edge was no longer a typical all-around good guy; he was now the ultimate opportunist, a guy who would do anything for the win and for championship gold. He became a top player in WWE, and one of the all-time great heels of the business.
Bradshaw was a good old boy, a bare-knuckled tough guy who drank beer and raised hell every time he hit the ramp. As the APA, he and Farooq were unquestionably the most popular tag team of their day, and were over with fans in every way.
What a difference one cowboy hat can make.
Leaving Farooq behind, Bradshaw became JBL, a Texas business tycoon. JBL was an arrogant, self-righteous elitist with an ax to grind against anyone who did not aspire to his supposed level of accomplishment.
To say that JBL was hated is a huge understatement. He was a throwback to the classic heel of the '80s, a self-made man whose success gave him an air of entitlement that not only placed him above fans, but other wrestlers as well.
JBL's one and only reign as WWE Champion lasted nine months, until he finally lost the belt to John Cena at WrestleMania 21, in 2005. JBL passed the torch, and continued his career as one of the most hated men in WWE until his eventual retirement.
32. Bret Hart
Bret Hart's feud with Shawn Michaels was very similar to Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat, but in reverse.
Bret's point of view was that of a traditional wrestler, a man who came from a wrestling family, with morals, values—a man who always did the right thing.
Shawn Michaels, on the other hand, was a womanizer, lived life in the fast lane, and did not like being told what to do by anyone.
Michaels should have been heel, but it was Bret who played the role.
The twists also happened when fans turned on Bret in favor of a rising Stone Cold Steve Austin. Bret not only accepted the role of heel, he ran with it.
Bret's catchphrase of "The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be," became the hype that his character truly began to believe. He was convinced that he was not there for the business, the business was there for him.
Bret was great as a face, but he was arguably just as great as a heel, and one of the best at that.
31. Nick Bockwinkel
Nick Bockwinkel is the classic heel. Well spoken, very good in the ring and completely convinced that no one can beat him.
Bockwinkel was a four-time AWA World Champion, and held the title with distinction. As a heel champion, he was similar to Ric Flair in his approach, but with an unsettling confidence that rarely caused him to raise his voice.
His title runs were the subject of controversy in the AWA, with the title literally being handed to him on two separate occasions. These infamous moves only added to Bockwinkel's reputation as the pampered heel who always got his way.
30. The Undertaker
Let's see: big, intimidating, physically imposes his will on others and merciless in his approach to the business.
Yeah, you can say that Undertaker made a pretty good heel.
Add in the demonic edge that his character developed during the Monday Night War, along with a close association with Vince McMahon, and you no longer have a heel—you have a super heel.
Taker quickly became the most ominous, most devious and most hated heel in WWE. He was cold-blooded and nothing stood in his way of total conquest of the company.
When his gimmick later evolved to Big Evil, Taker once again became the heel that fans loved to hate. When a guy is that big, that experienced and that mysterious in his gimmick, who is going to tell him he can't be a heel?
Certainly not this guy.
29. Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant was 7'0", 500 pounds of untouchable power and physical domination the likes of which have never been seen in the business, before or since.
But he had always been the happy giant, the big friendly bear that kids loved and fans loved to watch. He was a fun attraction.
But the first time that Andre scowled—really scowled and growled at someone—I found myself inching back from the TV. Andre's size and immovability in the ring had made him famous; his newfound attitude made him hated.
There is nothing more intimidating than an angry giant, and Andre's new role set him apart from every heel who had ever come before him.
Who was going to tell Andre the Giant that he could not have something? Andre didn't bother asking, he just took what he wanted.
28. Larry Zbyszko
Larry Zbyszko was the kind of guy who would help a little old lady across the street and then steal her purse.
In other words, Larry was kind of a jerk.
He was never the most intimidating, nor the most physically impressive, but Zbyszko's psychology in the ring and his cynical character were second to none. He knew how to get over, and made a career out of being the one true scumbag on the roster.
Larry's character was like second nature to him, and he was so good at it that it's hard to imagine him doing anything else. He was one of the best, and one of the best heels that the sport has ever seen.
27. Mick Foley
Most men on this list are here because they were very successful with their heel gimmick. Foley is here because he was very successful with three different heel gimmicks, and all even at the same time.
Foley, as Mankind, was a troubled soul who was mentally disturbed and unfit to even be in a wrestling ring.
Dude Love was a likable guy, with a silly gimmick and a smile to back it up.
Cactus Jack was just plain crazy.
In all three instances, Foley was at his best. He understood business, and what it took to get over in every way. He brought out the best in everyone he worked, and no one could match him when it came to being a heel.
To be remembered as a great heel is one thing. To remembered as a guy who did it with three different faces is unheard of.
Mick Foley made it look easy.
26. Barry Windham
Barry Windham was a young, good-looking, second-generation star who worked hard in the ring and had a bright future ahead of him as one of the NWA's premier babyfaces.
But when Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen came calling, Barry answered, leaving his fans, and his friends, behind.
Barry was a great Horseman. He looked the part, he had that swagger about him and he fit the role of rule-breaker better than anyone could have dreamed.
Barry's character took the easy way out, trading in his promising career as a wrestler who was earning his way up, for a career heavily assisted by four other men. He cheated, lied and mocked men like Dusty Rhodes and Lex Luger who were once his closest allies and best friends.
That's what heels do, and Barry Windham was one of the all-time best.
25. Ted DiBiase
When WWE introduced Ted DiBiase as the Million Dollar Man, the gimmick was taken by many to be a direct rip-off of Ric Flair. Using money and influence to get what he wanted, DiBiase flaunted his supposed wealth in the face of fans every time he stepped into the ring.
But what made the gimmick work, and set him apart as a heel, was the man himself. DiBiase was very convincing in his role as the man of untold riches who saw the business of professional wrestling as he did any other business. He wanted to get to the top because he could, not because he really cared about it.
For DiBiase, it was all about the money, and the level of greatness that it could attain for him. When he attempted to buy the WWE Championship, his place as one of the all-time greediest heels was set, and he flourished in the role.
With an insane laugh and the devil in his eyes, Ted Dibiase ushered in a whole new era of the cocky grandstanding heel in professional wrestling. It was a gimmick that was priceless.
24. Ivan Koloff
Ivan Koloff was a product of his times.
A Cold War athlete from the Soviet Union, Koloff was supremely confident in his country's superiority over the United States, and often reminded fans of that notion whenever he had the opportunity.
He was the perfect heel for his generation. The Russian gimmick was used by a lot of guys during those days in an attempt to cash in on the mood of the country, but no one ran it like Ivan.
He was so good at it, that to this day whenever he is shown in an interview as himself, the fact that he is speaking perfect English with no accent is a little shocking. Fans could not imagine him as being anything other than the Russian Bear.
Koloff, a former WWWF champion, took his talents to Jim Crockett Promotions, where he took on a whole new regime of American wrestlers and fans who hated everything his communist country stood for. Ivan was right at home, and was one of the toughest heels in the ring and on the mic.
23. Ole Anderson
Ole Anderson used to wear a T-shirt that read "evil, mean and nasty."
Yeah, that just about says it all.
A founding member of The Four Horsemen, Ole Anderson was a rough and tough brawler who could beat you with his fists, but could also take you out with his mic skills. He was very well-spoken, his promos sharp and his intensity in the ring undeniable.
Ole took the aura of the Anderson name from his "brother" Gene, and made it his own, creating the in-ring style that many wrestlers and tag teams to this day still employ.
To put it simply, the goal is to punish your opponent, using his own body against him, dissecting him one limb at a time, until there is nothing left. This was Ole's approach to wrestling, and it worked very well for him.
Ole's obsession with eliminating Dusty Rhodes from the NWA helped solidify him as a major heel, and his association with the most powerful faction in professional wrestling made him infamous.
22. Kevin Sullivan
What do you get when you take the demonic edge of the Undertaker, combine it with the rage of Kane and add in the warped reality of Hannibal Lecter?
Not Kevin Sullivan—he's much worse than that.
Sullivan was cold, sadistic and violent. He was also the best manipulator and creator of chaos that the business has ever seen. He didn't just wrestle his opponent, he got into his head and made him crazy.
Sullivan occupied a space all his own in professional wrestling. He did not really look like a wrestler as much as he did a character straight out of Lord of the Rings. Fans hated what he said and what he did to their favorites, and nothing could have made him happier.
Kevin Sullivan orchestrated the downfall of many wrestlers during his time, and did what any other evil genius would do as it happened.
He sat back and laughed as it all burned down.
21. Randy Savage
If there was ever a wrestler who truly lived in his own little world, it was Randy Savage.
Savage's character was larger than life, and made him seem so much bigger than any company he ever worked for. He was outlandish, intense, colorful and brutal in the ring. He also had a huge inferiority complex when it came to his wife.
Randy was obsessed with Miss Elizabeth, and despised the thought of any man even breathing in her general direction. He took his jealousy out on many WWE Superstars, fueling his insatiable need to be the best and be worshipped by the woman he himself made famous.
Randy's unpredictability in the ring made him even more vicious than his actions, as no one quite knew what he would do next. Yes, he was a great face, but fans knew that at any moment, a short fuse burned just beneath the surface, and would always threaten to spark at just the right time.
Randy Savage lived, to borrow Dusty Rhodes' words, at the end of the lightning bolt. His personality was the electric shock that stunned every babyface who dared get in his way.
20. Terry Funk
When a man doesn't care what happens to his own body in the ring, imagine the level of concern he doesn't have for yours.
Terry Funk went from being a great technical wrestler to hardcore legend, and lost a lot of blood along the way. He was dangerous, mean-spirited and did anything to punish his opponent.
For Funk, wrestling became less about wins and losses and more about pain. He enjoyed hurting people, and sacrificed his own body in order to make that happen.
If a man has no fear, then that is the man to fear. This was Funk, who would put himself through hell and loved every minute of it. Everything was a weapon for him, and the most lethal one he ever used was his mind.
Funk was a genius in the ring, a master technician who saw the business and its fans tastes changing. He capitalized on that, and became a star for a whole new generation. He also became one of the most hated.
19. Rick Rude
Rick Rude was God's gift to women. At least, that's what he said.
The only thing that separates a good heel from a great heel is his level of ego, and Rude's could fill Yankee Stadium. Twice.
Rude walked around like the whole world turned because of him. Women were expected to swoon, and men were expected to shut up, as Rude showed them all what simply ravishing was all about. He was his own biggest fan.
His confidence in his appearance translated to his ring work, and he used every tactic in the book to win matches, always at the expense of his opponent.
Of course, it really didn't matter to Rick Rude whose hand was raised at the end of the match. He was already a winner, in every way that mattered. He looked great, he sounded great and everyone else was just trying to catch up.
18. Michael Hayes
If Michael Hayes looked as though he just came from an all-nighter of hot women, loud music and stiff drinks, that's because he probably did.
Hayes was a true original, incorporating the rock-and-roll lifestyle into his gimmick the way no other wrestler ever had. Fans didn't think he was a party animal who loved the ladies, they believed it.
He could also get it done in the ring.
As a member of the Fabulous Freebrids, Hayes broke every rule and took every shortcut to get what he wanted. He went to war every night with his brothers, and raised hell on any wrestler who tried to oppose him.
The Freebirds' feud with the Von Erich family in Texas put him over the top as one of the most hated bad-boy rebels who has ever laced up a pair of boots. He was a true heel in every way.
17. Paul Jones
Paul Jones was a great wrestler who was a fan favorite, and loved making the crowd happy.
But when he turned on his partner and eternal babyface Ricky Steamboat, Paul Jones became public enemy No. 1.
Jones began a heel career that continued into his run as a hated heel manager. His stable, known as his Army, wreaked havoc in Jim Crockett Promotions and became one of the most dominant groups in the business.
Paul's most hated rivalry came with The Boogie Woogie Man Jimmy Valiant, whom his Army battled for years. Blood was lost, and so was hair, and Jones' character only grew in strength and drew more and more heat from the fans.
Paul Jones was a diabolical mastermind, and provided the archetype for what a true heel manager is supposed to be in professional wrestling.
16. Tully Blanchard
When a man runs a company bearing his own name and whose only asset is himself, that is the definition of a heel.
Tully Blanchard Enterprises produced one of the best heels of all time, a man who didn't think he was the best—a man who was convinced he was the best. And he set out to prove it every night.
A founding member of the original Four Horsemen, Tully Blanchard was perfect in his role as the arrogant heel who was out to rule the world, and played second only to Ric Flair in that regard.
Tully was deliberately bad, a rule-breaker in the ring and a great worker on top of it. He did anything he wanted in the ring, took every advantage he could find and did it all with a sneaky smile on his face.
15. Eric Bischoff
When Eric Bischoff challenged Vince McMahon for pro wrestling superiority, he became a heel. By his words and actions over the years, he has stayed that way for many fans.
Bischoff is a prime example of a heel who is over because of who he is. His apparent arrogance at being a wrestling genius despite the fall of WCW causes some fans to truly despise the former leader of the nWo.
His view of fans on the Internet has provided even more heat for him, and at this point, Bischoff at times seems less like a real person and more like a character.
Love him or hate him, Eric Bischoff is arguably one of the best heels to never be a full-time wrestler in the ring. He knows who his character is, how to draw incredible heat from fans all over the world and he is very good at it.
14. Paul Orndorff
When a guy calls himself Mr. Wonderful, and walks around believing it, he tends to not have that many friends.
Paul Orndorff was the epitome of ego in the ring. He was cocky, brash and just knew that he was better than everyone else.
His feud with the biggest pro wrestling icon in history only helped put him over more as a conniving heel who just wanted to win at any cost.
Hulk Hogan's career as WWE champion was enhanced by the wrestlers who did the job to him week in and week out, and Orndorff was one of those men.
While Hogan was being hailed as the best in the company, Orndorff met that challenge with arrogant defiance and extreme confidence in his own abilities. Win or lose, Orndorff did it with all of the gusto that only a truly great heel can.
13. Curt Hennig
Curt Hennig smiled and fans booed. The guy generated heat just by showing up.
When Hennig went from independent star to WWE Superstar and became Mr. Perfect, he earned the scorn of every fan he ever insulted. Suddenly, Curt was not only the best at everything he did; he was absolutely without fault.
He excelled at every sport he played, was extremely competitive and was not afraid to show off his skills for WWE fans. He won his matches with a an old-school fisherman's suplex, an elementary move in any other wrestler's arsenal, but a thing of beauty when he used it.
His association with Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan only served to put over his character even more, and placed him among the elite in the company.
Hennig is one of those heels who should have had a world title run. After all, he would have made the perfect champion.
12. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho doesn't care what you think. After all, you're just an idiot and a sycophant.
Jericho has been heel before, and has had good success with it. But, his last run in WWE was arguably his best ever.
Jericho's feud with Shawn Michaels did nothing but add another layer to his heel character. No longer was Jericho seen as the young hungry Superstar who marched to his own beat; he was now a man, a veteran, who dressed like Ric Flair and spoke to others as if they were worthless.
Jericho considered the fans moronic, their opinions ridiculous and their feelings irrelevant. That formula alone is enough to be hated for any wrestler.
For Chris Jericho, who knows how to play the villain and the coward all at the same time, he was not just hated by the crowd, they loathed him. He drew great heat and made it look easy.
11. Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher makes Jason Vorhees look like Pee Wee Herman.
Big, dangerous and brutal, Abdullah was a wild-eyed terror in the ring. He dissected his opponents in the ring—literally, often with a fork—and left a stack of broken bodies in his wake.
He was scary, bloodthirsty and every child's closeted monster come to life. He was not just a heel, he was a beast.
Abdullah had no emotion in the ring; it seemed as though the man did not exist until the bell rang and he was unleashed on the man standing across from him in the ring.
For Abdullah the Butcher, it was not about competition or championships. It was about mutilation and destruction. He was an expert at both.
10. Triple H
Triple H would have been a Horseman. He may even have run the group.
If anyone in the business gets it and understands how it works, it's Triple H. He is a throwback to the old-school, smash-mouth style—a classic heel and wrestler in every sense of the words.
Hunter knows what it takes to do business, and what it means to be in character. With an intense snarl and fire in his eyes, Triple H enters another realm of reality when he steps into the ring.
He inhabits a land of wins and losses, a world of good and evil, where a man can do what he wants, when he wants. Triple H rules that world with an iron cross and a sledgehammer.
Hunter is a great face; fans love and respect him for what he's accomplished in the business. But as a heel, Triple H is equally hated, and without equal in his approach to character.
The modern-day Ric Flair, Triple H as a heel is the man that fans all over the world love to hate. No one does it better.
9- Arn Anderson
Arn Anderson is arguably the best professional wrestler to have never held a world championship. He's also one of the best heels to ever pick up a microphone.
Arn didn't just cut a promo. He shook the Earth when he spoke.
Anderson had a way of looking at the camera that seemed to reach right through to fans watching at home. When he said that he was going to take someone out, he meant it. And, he followed through.
To this day, guys are still trying to cut an Arn Anderson promo.
But more than his ability to talk was his ability in the ring. Arn took the Anderson style that Ole made rough-edged, and gave it a surgeon's precision. When Arn was in the ring, he was poetry in motion.
His ring psychology was unmatched in his era, except only for Flair, and Anderson deserved everything he accomplished in his career.
Arn Anderson was a man's man, and was all business all the time. He was the Enforcer, and always will be.
8- Adrian Street
Adrian Street was, in a word, creepy.
Street had a gimmick unlike anything the industry had ever seen at that level. With his painted face, his ponytails, his weird facial hair and his outlandish gear, Adrian Street was one of a kind to behold.
And, his actions—well, they speak for themselves.
Prancing around the ring, skipping after the opening bell, kissing his opponent, everything he did was controversial. Even his ring entrance, set to the song that he himself sang, was a spectacle. His valet, Miss Linda, would hold up a mirror for him to primp, sprayed his upper body with perfume and handled the many pieces of his ensemble as he stripped them off.
Meanwhile, the entire crowd sat in shock.
Although Street was very convincing in his presentation, most fans probably knew that he was not homosexual. However, fans still cringed every time he was around due to his creepy nature. For Street, it was not about exploiting any sort of alternative lifestyle; it was about playing mind games with his opponent.
The Undertaker gets a lot of credit for his character and his ability to psych out other wrestlers, but I say that he comes in a distant second to Street.
Adrian had instant heat the moment he stepped through the curtain. He did not have to work hard for a pop; the crowd was ready to hate him. To this day, no one has done the gimmick with quite the same style or shock value as Adrian Street. He is on a level all his own.
7- Harley Race
With a stone-cold intensity in his eyes, Harley Race stated plainly and honestly that he was the man, and that the NWA World Championship that he held in his hands was all the proof he needed.
And, he was right.
Race did not need to shout; he didn't need to brag. He didn't wear flashy gear or come down the aisle to loud rock music. He didn't need a catchphrase, or to hock any merchandise.
Yet, whenever Race ran heel, he was one of the most hated men in the business.
Race was tough as nails, and equally as talented. The only thing more impressive than his work in the ring was his ability to cut a great promo.
Race had the complete package, and as NWA world champion, he took on the best wrestlers all over the world. Race's feud with Ric Flair, and the $25,000 bounty that he put on the Nature Boy's head, put him over even more as the top heel in the NWA.
He was cool and collected when he spoke. His confidence in his abilities was unlimited, and just when you think he was down for the count, Race found a way to pull out the win.
Harley Race is a legend, and his numerous runs as heel are legendary.
6- Hollywood Hogan
When Hulk Hogan exchanged his red and yellow for black and white, he made possibly the biggest heel turn in the history of the business.
Hollywood Hogan was everything that Hulk Hogan was not. Hollywood was an evil, self-serving, corrupt individual who cared more about the domination of WCW than he did about the many fans who paid to see him perform.
Hulkamania was dead, and Hogan himself is the man who pulled the trigger.
The nWo was the right faction, with the right workers and the right time. And the right man was at the helm. Hollywood Hogan was the perfect heel for the situation, and he was despised for his actions while leading the nWo.
As much as Hogan was the ultimate babyface during most of his career thus far, he matched—and even outmatched—as a heel. Hogan the character had begun to believe his own hype, and decided that he had become bigger than the business.
In his mind, Hollywood had done nothing but give, and now it was time to take. And he took it all.
5- Jake Roberts
Jake the Snake Roberts was born to be a heel.
From the moment he first became a pro wrestler, it was apparent that Jake had it. He had that certain intangible, that one factor that separated him from everyone else.
Jake's promos were captivating, and even a little unsettling. He seemed to enjoy inflicting pain on others, and made no apologies for the way he was. For him, doing damage to another wrestler and watching them suffer, was not only normal—it was necessary.
Jake's eyes told the story of his character. It was impossible to look at the guy without getting sucked into what he was saying. Jake Roberts was a sociopath whose mantra was "every man for himself" and he lived it with a sinister smile on his face.
Roberts became popular in spite of himself, as fans began to appreciate the depth of his character. But Jake did not let up, and even as a face, he continued to do what he had always done, only with a bigger smile.
Roberts set the tone for the modern heel in pro wrestling. Steve Austin not only got over on Roberts as his career took off as Stone Cold, he also managed to take the place of the Snake as the new cool heel of WWE. Jake Roberts was a Superstar who was ahead of his time, and he remains one of the best heels ever.
4- Billy Graham
"The man of the hour, the man with the power too sweet to be sour." That was Superstar Billy Graham.
Graham was the bleached-blond, tie-dyed muscle man who spoke in rhymes and bragged about how great he was in the ring. Graham was in a league of his own.
Graham was a great heel who worked the crowd into a frenzy whenever he spoke. His reign as WWWF champion lasted nearly 10 months, and he became more hated with each passing day.
Graham trained harder, worked harder and looked better than any other wrestler in in the locker room. He wore the championship with pride and ego, knowing that he was the only real man in the company. Superstar was the biggest attraction in the company, and no one was more important, or more talented, than him.
And he made a point to repeat that every time he spoke.
The more hated the antagonist is, the more popular the face will be, and this was never more true than with Graham. He knew his character, and brought out the best in everyone he worked, just by being himself.
Superstar Billy Graham was all about business, and knew how to entertain. He also knew how to make fans hate him, and he did that very well indeed.
3- Roddy Piper
Years before CM Punk challenged John Cena's status as WWE's golden boy, Roddy Piper was thumbing his nose at Hulk Hogan.
Rebellious, unpredictable, outspoken, Piper was the lone voice of dissent in the room every time Hulk Hogan's greatness was sold to the fans of WWE.
To Piper, Hogan was nothing but a goody two-shoes, a guy who was merely telling fans what they wanted to hear. For Piper, Hogan's legendary reputation was a sham.
Piper had a definite wild streak, and showed it whenever he opened his mouth. He was one of the best ever on the mic, and fans never knew what he was going to say next.
What do you do with a guy who is a great talker? Give him a mic and let him work.
Piper's Pit was the best forum for Roddy to showcase his ability, and was the standard by which all other WWE "talk shows" were patterned after.
Roddy Piper was crafty, scheming and dangerous. He was everything a heel was supposed to be, and he is still one of the best examples today.
2- Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon was the biggest heel WWE has ever seen. The reason? Because he did it all.
He romanced women half his age, and threatened to fire them if they said no. He dropped his pants on live television and made his talent kiss his bare backside. He mocked God and spewed holy water in a church. He reduced many men to nothing as he publicly took away their livelihoods by terminating them on the air.
And none of that even begins to scratch the surface of what he was responsible for
Commanding respect, and demanding loyalty, McMahon did everything in his power to get his way, and usually did, no matter what the cost. The company would not exist without his leadership, a fact that he constantly reminded us of nearly every week.
WWE was Mr. McMahon's playground, and nothing was more fun than playing games with those who dared to cross him. One wrestler, however, decided to fight back.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the man who made it fashionable for WWE Superstars to say no to Vince. He was not going to be controlled by anyone, especially McMahon, and the boss answered by making Austin's life a living hell.
Their feud was huge for the company, and firmly established McMahon as the top heel in WWE. After all, who doesn't hate their boss?
No matter who turns heel, or what they do, no one will be able to come close to doing everything that Vince McMahon did in WWE. He is the ultimate heel, in every sense of the word.
1- Ric Flair
The 60-minute man. Space Mountain. Sixteen-time world champion. The best heel of all time.
There is no one, past or present, who even comes close to what Ric Flair meant to the business, and what he gave fans every night he was in the ring. And no one will ever come close to being a better heel. Other guys worked hard to be hated, and did a lot of the same things that Flair did.
But, The Nature Boy did them first.
He was the head of the single most powerful faction in the history of professional wrestling. He took a territory in Jim Crockett Promotions, and helped turn it into a worldwide attraction. He set the wrestling world ablaze with his talent, his ability to talk, and his all-night lifestyle.
Ric Flair didn't have a character. Ric Flair was the character.
How many faces have lined up to slap that smug, cocky smile off of Flair's face? Hundreds? Thousands? Ric was the best heel of all time for a very good reason. He knew what it took to be hated, and did not need anyone to tell him how. He just made it happen.
Describing Flair's innate ability to get over is like trying to explain Michael Jordan's ability to dominate a basketball game. He just did it. He just understood what he saw, and he did it all.
A multitude of wrestlers have debuted since the days of Flair's dominance in the business, and many of them will never be remembered.
A hundred years from now, fans will still be watching Ric Flair's classic matches, and hating him all over again.