In professional wrestling, a face or babyface is a character who is portrayed as heroic relative to the heel wrestlers, who are analogous to villains. Not everything a face wrestler does must be heroic: faces need only to be cheered by the audience to be effective characters. The vast majority of wrestling storylines place a heel against a face.
The Spanish term used in lucha libre for babyface wrestlers is técnico. Its literal translation is "technician", referring to a wrestler who wins based on his sound technical ability rather than cheating (as opposed to a rudo, or heel).
The changing nature of Faces
Traditional babyfaces are classic good guy characters who do not break the rules, follow instructions of those in authority such as the referee, are polite and well-mannered towards the fans, and often overcome the rule-breaking actions of their heel opponents to cleanly win matches. While many modern faces still fit this model, other versions of the face character are now also common.
The portrayal of face wrestlers changed in the 1990s with the birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling, the start of World Championship Wrestling's nWo storyline, and the Attitude Era of the World Wrestling Federation. During this time, wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Sting used tactics traditionally associated with heels but remained popular with the fans. Although wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser, Crusher and Fred Blassie had been babyfaces while using such tactics well before this, the Attitude Era is usually credited with this new kind of face.
Conversely, Kurt Angle was introduced to the World Wrestling Federation with an American hero gimmick based on his gold medal win at the 1996 Summer Olympics. In his promos, Angle presented himself as a role model and stressed the need to work hard to realize one's dreams. Although such a personality appears appropriate for a face wrestler, Angle's character was arrogant, talked down to the audience, and behaved as if he thought he was better than the fans. Angle's character served as a meta-reference to how wrestling had changed. Although his character was intended to be a heel and behaved accordingly, some commentators speculated that if Angle attempted to get over as a babyface using a more heroic version of the same character, he would have failed.
Fans sometimes boo face wrestlers despite the way they are promoted. Some reasons this may occur include repetitive in-ring antics, a limited moveset, a lengthy title reign, lack of selling his/her opponents' moves, or an uninteresting character. This often results in wrestlers who are supposed to be cheered receiving a negative or no reaction from the fans. The Rock, who initially wrestled as Rocky Maivia (early 1997), was depicted as a classic babyface, but the fans despised him. His constant attempts to get the crowd on his side struck them as obsequiousness and made him even less popular. John Cena has a history of mixed reactions despite being presented as a babyface.
Types of Faces
- Juggernaut: A wrestler that can't be stopped by opposition. The behavior and tactics are totally opposite of the monster heel, but the wrestler will occasionally pull off such tactics as a form of counterattacking or whenever the stipulations allow it. The Juggernaut is often called upon to "clean house" but this is not always the case. Examples: The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin (1997-2007), Hulk Hogan (mid-late 1980s), Andre the Giant (late 1970s), Mick Foley (late 1998-early 1999), Sting, Kane (during most of his face runs), The Rock (1998-2007), Randy Orton (after he was booted out of Evolution), Triple H (during most of his face runs) and John Cena (in his 2007 career).
- Underdog: A wrestler of featherweight or Cruiserweight class often forced to go against a monster heel of the superheavyweight class, putting the motions of a physical mismatch on paper. The underdog gains popularity by sneaking out upset wins against much larger opponents, usually by executing roll-up pins or by taking advantage of a critical mistake made by that opponent. Examples include X-Pac, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Hardy Boyz, The Rock (very early in career as Rocky Maivia during his feud with Owen Hart), Shawn Michaels (mid-1996), John Cena (early in his WWE career), and Eddie Guerrero (during his babyface runs).
- Regional Hero: Usually, they feud against foreign/traitor heels in effort of defending their home nation when it comes to the storyline. (I.e. USA vs. Canada) However, during the course of the WWE season, Raw and/or SmackDown! will visit the region that one of the wrestler came from - and depending on the popularity of the wrestler, fans often ignore the heel/face alignment for those shows. Examples include any Canadian wrestler during any event in Canada, Mick Foley (northeast USA), Ric Flair (southeast USA), any Texas-born wrestler during any event in Texas (it played a big role on crowd reaction during Survivor Series 1991), Randy Orton (Judgment Day 2007, despite his heel status). Regional Heroes often rely on cheap pops to gain support in their home territories, but not all of the wrestlers do this.
- Showman: The main job is to incite the crowd into a fury, as something big is about to happen (finishing move or cleaning house). Most showmen lack the size or instinct to be effective juggernauts yet does not fit the role of technician or underdog. Examples include The Hardy Boyz, Sabu, Sandman, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin (1997), Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan (1980s), Roddy Piper, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Rob Van Dam, Shawn Michaels.
- Technician: The main job is to obey all the rules, and rely on takedowns, reversals, and counterattacks, before finishing off with a submission move (although some used finishers that led to a pinfall victory). Examples include Chris Benoit, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Kurt Angle, Lou Thesz and CM Punk
- Rejected: A face that gets negative reaction from the crowd, despite regional territories not playing a role in the negative reaction. Fans often perceive them as "overrated" or believe that the heel wrestler is the better man. Examples include Hulk Hogan (mid-1990s, although his defeat to The Undertaker at 1991 Survivor Series possibly began this trend), The Rock (while as Rocky Maivia, and again during 2002), John Cena, Batista (early 2007 in his feud with The Undertaker), Bret Hart (early 1997 prior to WrestleMania), Shannon Moore (before he changed his hair and stop wearing make-up).
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