Heel (professional wrestling)

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In professional wrestling, a heel (also known as a rudo in lucha libre) is a wrestler who is villainous or a "bad guy", who is booked (scripted) by the promotion to be in the position of being an antagonist.[1][2][3] They are typically opposed by their polar opposites, faces, who are heroic or "good guy" characters.

In order to gain heat (with boos and jeers from the audience), heels are often portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner by breaking rules or otherwise taking advantage of their opponents outside the bounds of the standards of the match. Others do not (or rarely) break rules but instead exhibit unlikeable, appalling and deliberately offensive and demoralizing personality traits such as arrogance, cowardice, or contempt for the audience. Many heels will do both, cheating as well as behaving nastily. 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.

In the world of lucha libre wrestling, they're generally known for being brawlers and for using physical moves that emphasize brute strength and/or size, often having outfits akin to demons, devils, or other tricksters. This is contrasted with the heroic 'técnicos' that are generally known for using moves requiring technical skill, particularly aerial maneuvers.


Wrestler The Undertaker appears here in his villainous role as 'Lord of Darkness', playing an occultist heel.

The term "heel" is most likely derived from a slang usage of the word that first appeared around 1914, meaning "contemptible person."[citation needed] 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 such as 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.[4]

More theatrical heels will feature dramatic outfits giving off a nasty or otherwise dangerous look, such as wearing corpse paint over their faces, putting on demonic masks, covering themselves in dark leather, and the like. An example of a dramatic looking heel is the wrestler The Undertaker (in his heel roles). During his period in the Ministry of Darkness, he undertook performances where he would appear as a priest of the occult in a hooded black robe and sit on a devilish throne.

Occasionally, faces who have recently turned from being heels will still exhibit characteristics from their heel persona. [5] This occurs due to fans being entertained by a wrestler despite (or because of) their 'heel' persona, often due to the performer's charisma or charm in playing the role. Certain wrestlers such as Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero gained popularity as faces by using tactics that would typically be associated with heels, while others like Scott Hall and Stone Cold Steve Austin displayed 'heelish' behavior through most of their careers yet got huge face reactions, leading them to be marketed as anti-heroes.

On other occasions, wrestlers who are positioned as faces receive a negative audience reaction despite their portrayal as heroes. Such characters will often become nudged into becoming villains over time or retooled in order to present a different public image. The term 'heel' does not describe a typical set of attributes or audience reaction per se but simply a wrestler's presentation and booking as an antagonist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Torch Glossary of Insider Terms". PWTorch.com. 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  2. ^ Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 2).
  3. ^ Sammond, Nicholas (2005). Steel Chair to the Head. Duke University Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8223-3438-5. 
  4. ^ Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 117).
  5. ^ Powell, John. "'WWE WrestleMania XX' Results". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 


  • Mick Foley (2000). Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. HarperCollins. p. 511. ISBN 0-06-103101-1.