Heel (professional wrestling)
In professional wrestling, a heel (also known as a rudo in lucha libre) is a villain character. Heels are the supposed "bad guys" in professional wrestling storylines. They are typically opposed by a face (crowd favorite). Some tweeners (not explicitly regarded as good or bad) exhibit heel mannerisms. Heels are often portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner, breaking rules or otherwise taking advantage of their opponents outside the bounds of the rules of the match. Others do not (or rarely) break rules but instead exhibit unlikeable personality traits. No matter the type of heel, the most important job is that of the antagonist role. Heels exist to provide a foil to the face 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 to encourage heel heat.
The term "heel" is most likely derived from a slang usage of the word that first appeared around 1914, meaning "contemptible person." Common heel behavior includes cheating to win (e.g., using the ropes for leverage while pinning or attacking with foreign objects while the referee is looking away), employing dirty tactics like blatant chokes or raking the eyes, attacking other wrestlers backstage, interfering with other wrestlers' matches, insulting the fans (referred to as "cheap heat"), and acting in a haughty or superior manner.
Once in a while, faces who have recently turned from being heels will still exhibit some heel characteristics. For example, John Cena, after his initial face turn, often used a steel chain to win some of his matches, such as the one against the Big Show at WrestleMania XX. Also certain wrestlers, such as Ric Flair or Eddie Guerrero, gained popularity as faces by using heel tactics.
Wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin displayed heelish behavior through most of their careers, yet got huge face reactions, prompting Vince McMahon to market the antihero Stone Cold gimmick. It was a successful gimmick that contributed considerably to WWE winning the Monday Night Wars over WCW.
- Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 2).
- Sammond, Nicholas (2005). Steel Chair to the Head. Duke University Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8223-3438-5.
- Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 117).
- Powell, John. "'WWE WrestleMania XX' Results". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-03-15.