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In wrestling, a heel is a villain character. Heels are portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner, breaking rules or otherwise taking advantage of their opponents outside of the bounds of the rules of the match. In non-wrestling jargon, heels are often the "bad guys" in pro wrestling storylines. They are typically opposed by a face (crowd favorite). Some tweeners exhibit heel mannerisms.

The term "heel" is most likely is derived from a slang usage of the word that first appeared around 1914, meaning "contemptible person". The Spanish term, used in lucha libre, is "rudo".

Common heel behaviour includes cheating to win (e.g., using the ropes for leverage while pinning or attacking with foreign objects such as folding chairs while the referee is looking away), attacking other wrestlers backstage, interfering with other wrestlers' matches, and acting in a haughty or superior manner.

Once in awhile, faces who have recently turned from being heels will still exhibit some heel characteristics. For example, in TNA, The Naturals, though they turned face after the death of manager Chris Candido, sometimes still used the ropes for pins and used the megaphone of former manager Jimmy Hart to gain victories. Kurt Angle is also a good example; even after turning face for his feud with Mark Henry, at the 2006 Royal Rumble, Angle used a steel chair, an exposed steel ring peg, and leverage from the ropes during his pin to get the victory over Henry.


While behaving as a heel is often part of a wrestler's gimmick, many successful heels fall into one or more categories:

Crazy heelEdit

Definition: A raging madman, dangerous and unpredictable - may attack others for no apparent reason, or blame others for being "held back" from championship opportunities and other privileges. Sometimes psychotic behaviour is displayed.

Comic heelEdit

Definition: A person with a dark comic gimmick.

Monster heelEdit

Definition: An unstoppable juggernaut who squashes his or her opponents.


Sometimes, monster heels violently "injure" other wrestlers (sometimes through rulebreaking tactics), terrorize valets (injuring them on occasion), and commit other extremely heinous acts in order to set up a feud with a promotion's lead face. One example is the feud between The Giant and Hulk Hogan in 1995 when The Giant broke Hogan's neck. Another example is when The Undertaker was behind a reign of terror that led to his feud with Steve Austin in 1999. Also, during Kane's heel runs, he often targeted innocent people such as Jim Ross, Linda McMahon, and Lilian Garcia.

Egotistical heelEdit

Definition: An obnoxious and self-important character who is arrogant or cocky; some wrestlers play on their own fame, achievements, or good looks.

Popular heelEdit

Definition: a term in which the fans cheer for a wrestler who competes as a heel.


The Road Warriors, originally booed by the fans, gained new fans worldwide and eventually became faces around 1985 after they lost the AWA World Tag Team title to the team of Jimmy Garvin and Steve Regal due to interference by the Fabulous Freebirds.

Chris Adams was booed heavily when facing any of the Von Erichs, but was wildly cheered when wrestling other heels during his September 1984-January 1986 heel run; Adams would still greet fans afterwards and sign autographs. He eventually became Texas' most popular wrestler after turning face in 1986, and the 5th most popular wrestler in the world overall by 1987.

Shawn Michaels is cheered by the fans in show of respect, as well as his "HeartBreak Kid" persona (except in Canada). Triple H is extremely popular despite displaying classic heel tactics and is cheered upon appearing.

Kurt Angle is widely considered as having been a heel for most of his career, but he wrestled a number of the best technical matches in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was often cheered out of respect.

Chants of "wooooooo" always echoed during Ric Flair's entrance even though he was a heel member of the Four Horsemen and Evolution.

Kane has also received cheers upon appearing or when delivering his chokeslam finisher, despite being a morbid and violent character.

The Undertaker has a large following despite his tendency to rough up opponents after a match has ended, especially if he is the loser.

The Rock is also frequently cheered (most notably at WrestleMania XIX) whether he's a face or heel, in large part due to his natural charisma.

Delinquent heelEdit

Definition: A troublesome and disrespectful character who verbally and visually displays uncivilized conduct such as profanity, vandalism, violence and associated "criminal" behaviour. Sometimes the wrestler will harass or bully opponents and rebel against authority.

Foreign heelEdit

Definition: in United States wrestling, foreign heels are often portrayed as being anti-American

In Mexican wrestling, Americans are often portrayed as heels; the most hated tag team in lucha libre history, Los Gringos Locos, consisted of the Caucasian Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero (a Mexican-American from El Paso), along with another Caucasian, Louie Spicolli.

Traitor heelEdit

Definition: In the United States, a variation on the foreign heel gimmick - a wrestler who is actually an American, but has turned his back on his country in favor of an (ostensibly superior) one.

In Japanese wrestling, a "traitor heel" is someone who goes against the established (usually mainstream, babyface) group he was part of within a promotion, such as:

They could be considered more properly as delinquent/rebel heels, but because of Japan's societal mores, delinquent wrestlers are more often seen by Japanese fans as "traitors" to the promotion.

No matter the type of heel, the most important job is that of the antagonist role. Heels exist to provide a foil to the babyface wrestlers. If a given heel is cheered over the face, a promoter may opt to turn that heel to face, or to make the wrestler do something even more despicable.

Female heels in wrestling have tended to lean toward the stereotype of a woman with loose morals, both in style of dress and in attitude (this was particularly true of the heel divas in ECW, such as Francine and Dawn Marie).

In recent years, notably in the WWE, female heels have tended to display unpleasant, prima donna-like personalities towards fans and opposing divas and wrestlers. They have often interfered in matches and attacked opponents from behind without provocation. Examples include Stephanie McMahon, Lita, Melina, Candice Michelle, and former wrestler Trish Stratus, all of whom have been heavily jeered.

Many heels today subscribe to the beliefs espoused by Mick Foley in his autobiography, Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks — that a heel must always believe that whatever they do is justified, and that they are in the right.

Common heel tacticsEdit

The tactics of a kayfabe heel were perhaps best summed up by Jesse Ventura's famous quote: "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat." However, it can backfire and eventually lead to the heel's defeat. Such tactics include:

  • Using the ropes or grabbing the opponent's tights during pinfalls.
  • Sticking thumbs, throwing powder/salt, or spitting foreign substances into an opponent's eyes.
  • Removing the padding on turnbuckles to expose the steel underneath it, then smashing an opponent's head, face, or body onto it. During a steel cage match, smashing the opponent's face or body into the mesh also counts.
  • Use of concealed weapons (brass knuckles, rolls of coins, etc.). Some heels are less subtle when deciding to use a weapon, sometimes grabbing a chair from ringside in full view of the referee with no regard for the consequences.
  • Dragging an opponent's face across the top rope.
  • Low blows. Hard legal tactics, such as shoot kicks to the face, may also count if done repeatedly and with the intention to make the face wrestler look weak.
  • Utilizing an "arrogant pin," such as posing for or mocking the crowd while making a clearly ineffective pinfall attempt.
  • Holding a forearm down on an opponent's face during a pinfall attempt.
  • Lifting an opponent off the mat during a seemingly effective pinfall attempt (generally by pulling the opponent's hair) in order to continue the match (and to continue "beating up" on the opponent).
  • Bringing a valet, manager, or another wrestler to the ring who helps the heel with cheating.
  • Using the outside of the ring to rest, or ducking into the ropes to slow the match down.
  • When defending titles, intentionally getting himself/herself disqualified or counted out to lose the match without dropping the title that the wrestler is defending.
  • Insulting the fans or mocking the city in which he or she is performing during promos. Heels might also mock local sports teams who have suffered disappointing results.
  • Assaulting the opponent after a match, or interfere in a rival's match in an attempt to cost them the win.
  • Purposely getting themselves counted out in order to avoid a clear pinfall loss.

Despite all the information given above, a face can also use some of these heel tactics as well as a form of counterattacking.

See alsoEdit