Face (professional wrestling)
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In professional wrestling, a face or babyface (in British wrestling traditionally referred to as a blue-eye, and in Lucha libre faceo or técnico) is a character who is portrayed as a hero 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 face against a heel.
Traditional faces 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.[further explanation needed] A good example would be Stone Cold Steve Austin. While clearly not a championer of rule following nor submission to authorities, he was still regarded the face in many of his duels (such as the one with Vince McMahon).
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 Freddie Blassie had been faces 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 then-World Wrestling Federation with an American hero gimmick based on his gold medal win at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He 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 and constantly reminded people of his Olympic glory, behaving 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 face using a more heroic version of the same character, he would have failed. Notably, Angle did not use any of these heroic mannerisms when playing a face character, instead acting as somewhat of an antihero with a few elements of the "lovable loser" character archetype.
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 (November 1996 to August 1997), was depicted as a classic face, 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. Ironically, The Rock would achieve widespread popularity among fans when he took heel turns, during which his attempts to humorously mock the crowd would often be met with cheers. John Cena has a history of receiving mixed reactions and even full heat from crowds despite being presented as a face.
Some face wrestlers would often give high fives or give out their own personal merchandise while entering the ring before their match, such as t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, masks, etc. to the fans. Bret Hart was one of first superstars to make this popular as he would drape his signature sunglasses to a child in the audience. Rey Mysterio, who has been a face in WWE since his debut in that promotion, would go to any fan (mostly a child) in a Rey Mysterio mask and touch their head with his head for good luck before wrestling. Alberto del Rio, after turning face, drapes his signature scarf around a fan before entering the ring and John Cena always throw his shirts and caps before enter a match.
A lot of the time, heels get disqualified from matches to keep titles, have an attitude, and attack faces during backstage interviews. Some wrestlers stay face or heel for a long time, while others change at least once a year. Duration of persona is different for every wrestler.