Heroes vs Villains By:Jason the Ace
It is the most basic formula in professional wrestling. Hero vs. Villain. Recently, the WWE put out their official list of the Greatest Villains of All Time. The controversial ranking ignited so much social media chatter, one would believe they slopped up the ordering just to get website hits. But the ranking is really insignificant. There are great heroes and great villains. The real acknowledgement should be for the superstars who achieved tremendous success as both. Here’s a summary of those individuals who excelled at good and evil, and which side suits them best.
Hulk Hogan. The twelve year run of Hulkamania was brought to a screeching halt with one leg drop. What seemed like a life time of saying prayers, taking vitamins and believing in yourself disappeared the moment Hulk Hogan joined the NWO. How could the man who body slammed Andre, saved us from Slaughter and made a living off the admiration of children turn his back on all his Hulkamaniacs? Easy, it was time for a change. The fact that Hogan was so extremely popular made him such a villainous heel. Nobody brought more popularity to professional wrestling than Hogan. He was the singular face of a company in their most profitable era. Erasing that memory sparked hatred that would last for a long time. People all over the world felt bamboozled. They were “had” for twelve years and weren’t happy. He really didn’t have to put any effort into getting people to hate him. The heel turn alone could have carried him had he not even said a word. But then came the feather boas, the air guitar, the alliance with Eric Bischoff. All built on the foundation of a man who used to be wrestling’s American Hero. The worst part of it was, WCW capitalized on the heel turn WWE was too scared to pull. But despite all the underhanded in and out of the ring tactics, the fans still wanted to cheer Hogan. So for his unparalleled run at the top from 1984-1996, then his return to the red and yellow in 2002, Hogan should be forever classified as a hero. Decision – Hero.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage. The Macho Man nickname falls along the same line as Mr. Perfect, Mr. Wonderful, Ravishing Rick Rude, Beautiful Bobby Eaton … they are heel nicknames. What better way to get the audience to hate you than to call yourself “Macho Man” and have a beautiful girlfriend that you treat like dirt? From the treatment of Elizabeth, the cracking of Steamboat’s windpipe with the ring bell, the turn on Hogan, the spray painting of Kimberly, Randy Savage has committed some of the most devious deeds in the last 30 years. He reigned as Macho King for almost two years, and helped Sgt Slaughter win the WWF title in the middle of the Iraqi War. Sounds like a hands down heel to me. Not so fast. How could you not root for him to avenge his wife’s reputation against Ric Flair? What about his friend Crush turning his back on him, and aligning with Mr. Fuji? Don’t forget the time Jake forced his King Cobra to bite him on the arm. It would be really hard to find someone who would cheer against Savage’s multiple quests for revenge. There has been no other wrestler in the world that has been as good on both sides of the law. For this Randy Savage gets the only split decision on the list. Decision – Hero and Villain.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It is easy to say Steve Austin a natural heel because of his bad attitude. But just as anything in pop culture, the audiences’ attitude changes too. The late 90s were a time when the general public felt they all had a chip on their shoulder. Uprising against corporate big wigs, drinking on the job, foul mouths and reckless intent were no longer frowned upon in society. The more Austin broke the rules, the more people loved him. Austin’s natural charisma and intensity made him undoubtedly the most popular wrestler of the attitude ear. Sure the Rock was great, but nobody dominated like Austin. The tricky part of figuring him out is this – He was extremely underrated as a mid-card heel in WCW. His stint as Ringmaster and as the leader of the Alliance was okay, but nowhere near as great as his feuds with the McMahons and Rock. Is Austin brash, stubborn, obstinate and difficult to work with? Yes. Is he naturally likeable? Oh hell yeah. Decision – Hero.
Randy Orton. The third generation superstar falls into the same category as Steve Austin. He started being cheered because he was so devilish. His reign as “the Legend Killer” early his career propelled him to top heel status at the age of 23. He spit in the face of Mick Foley, RKO’d Fabulous Moohlah, insulted Harley Race and burnt the Undertaker alive. While Austin was given the nickname “the Texas Rattlesnake”, Orton was dubbed “the Viper”. Orton’s later offenses included a long list of superstars and personalities who were put on the shelf following his vicious punts to the head. He laid his lips on a unconscious Stephanie McMahon, formed Legacy (with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase) which wreaked havoc on Raw, and tricked Kelly Kelly into “dating” him only to dump her immediately after. However, despite all the horrific deeds associated with Orton, there seems to be a likability surrounding him. The fans respond to his aggressive attitude in a positive way. For a long time, he was the legitimate number 2 draw in the company. In fact, arguments can still be made that behind Cena, Randy Orton is the most consistent box office attraction in the past 7 years. After his break-up with Legacy, he has been a consistent fan favorite. With Steve Austin, it only seemed natural for him to evolve as a fan favorite. For Orton, it is similar. No matter what he does, people can’t help but to cheer for Randy Orton. It is certainly a benefit to have a top superstar who can succeed in whatever role he is given. However , unlike Austin, the money is in Orton as a heel. He was a perfect foil for Cena (too many times), Triple H, Batista and the Undertaker. The feuds always seem to work better when the Viper is the hunted. Decision – Villain.
The Rock. The millions and millions of Rock’s fans would find it hard to believe that The Rock could even be classified as a villain but it was his role as a member of the Nation of Domination that propelled him to the main event status he has enjoyed since 1999. When the fans jeered his “apple pie” image after his debut, Rocky let the true Dwayne Johnson shine through his mic skills as a formidable foil for the likes of Ken Shamrock, Mankind and Triple H. His most famous and arguably most profitable feud came as a member of the Corporation against Steve Austin. The legendary feud sparked two Wrestlemania main events where Rock worked heel, and led to numerous battles through the year. And shouldn’t the smack talking be done primarily by the antagonist in the story? When it comes to verbal dressing downs, nobody is better than the Rock. However, with all the catch phrases, the eye brow raises, the baby face offense, the Rock owns the audience from the minute he enters the arena. He has an uncanny ability to manipulate a crowd, possibility even better than Hogan and Austin. His popularity has sky rocketed from his roles in Hollywood and his newest endeavors in the WWE. Now, it is almost impossible for the Rock to work heel no matter what he does. He could slap Betty White in the face and get the biggest pop of the night. Decision – Hero.
Shawn Michaels. From the time he put Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window, the Heartbreak Kid’s character has not really changed. He’s cocky, arrogant, a showoff and does not lose. He might not win all the time, but it seemed like Shawn Michaels held the I-C title for all of 1993 without winning a match. It was after that time Michaels wandered out of Flair territory and into Hogan territory. The reason Flair was such an effective heel was because he was a scum bag who was champion for a long time. However, fans didn’t want to be him at the time because he was portrayed as a coward. Hogan built a strong fan base because he won all the time. Little kids especially want to be associated with winners. The more Michaels won, the more popular he became. The fact that he is one of the best in ring workers of all time helped his popularity. Guys like the Honky Tonk Man were never cheered because they had no desirable qualities. It seemed like Michaels had so many it was not possible for him to be a villain anymore. His reign as champion in 1996 was the height of his popularity in the first part of his career. His reign as DX drifted from hero to villain, but when you get down to the brass tacks, it was a heel role in 1997. When Michaels came back in 2002, he remained a face until his retirement in 2010. He enjoyed much success as a member of the extremely popular DX, and led the company with hot programs against Randy Orton, Kane, Edge and other devious foes. But where does Shawn Michaels really excel? A few years ago when everyone breaking into wrestling said they wanted to be like Shawn Michaels, most of them were not talking about the Shawn who prays on his way to the ring. Decision – Villain.