Blading with Bill: The best babyfaces of all time
At its best, pro wrestling boils down to good versus evil.
The better the good, the more hideous the evil, the stronger chance there is to create heat. And more heat increases the likelihood fans will either pay to watch the match on TV or head to the arena themselves.
Most wrestlers say they prefer the vole of the villain. After all, it’s much easier to generate heat as a bad guy — an eye gouge or low blow are classic heel moves — than to get people to cheer for you.
The majority of wrestlers have worked both sides of the tracks. A heel turn, when done properly, can ignite a feud and generate big-time heat. Think of Hulk Hogan joining the NWO or Barry Windham turning on Lex Luger in the middle of a tag-team match versus Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard and joining the Four Horsemen. Both had fans outraged and drew big money.
As far as a Mount Rushmore of good guys, my four choices obviously were best know for their work as babyfaces, but all did wear the black hat at some point in their careers.
To narrow it down to four was once again an impossible task, but that’s what makes it fun.
Think of the names that didn’t make it: Bruno Sammartino, Rey Misterio, Jr., John Cena, Andre the Giant, Tito Santana, Bret Hart, Goldberg, Bob Backlund, Magnum, T.A., Édouard Carpentier, Kevin Von Erich and many, many more.
The American Dream was the quintessential babyface while working for Jim Crockett Promotions.
Rhodes, who also booked the territory, was possibly the most charismatic character of all time. One wiggle of his huge butt or one of his famous elbow drops and the fans went nuts.
The man who “Dined with Kings and Queens and slept in the alley and ate pork and beans” was the common man, the son of a plumber from Texas. He was the perfect foil for the flamboyant Nature Boy Ric Flair and their long-standing feud may be the greatest angle of all time.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Virgil Runnels was also a great promo and wore a full-length fur coat and permed his bleach-blond hair.
How cool can you get?
Richard Blood (yes, that is his real name) was the only major wrestler I can think of who performed on the good side of the law 100 per cent of the time.
Steamboat had it all — the good looks that the ladies loved as well as the athleticism that appealed to the hard-core fans. Steamboat and Flair had hundreds of matches, many of them classics, including their trilogy in 1989 that easily stands the test of time. Not many could go move for move with Flair, but Steamboat was so good the duo could easily go 45 minutes without even breaking a sweat. They were that good together.
Steamboat also had a classic match with Randy (Macho Man) Savage at WrestleMania III that contained 22 pin fall attempts.
As good a good guy as there ever was.
I was never a mark for Sting (Steve Borden) as many were, but his body of work is impressive, including his glory years in the National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship Wrestling.
Sting, too, had a great feud with Flair that started with a 45-minute draw on the first Clash of Champions in 1988. Sting later won the NWA world title from Flair and was a mainstay in the organization for years.
His looked morphed from a beach bum who painted his face (the only NWA champion to ever do so) to a dour, solemn character all dressed in black who battled the NWO.
Sting wasn’t the greatest on the mic but his natural charisma helped his character. He often referred to his fans as Little Stingers.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016 despite only spending a small portion of his career working for World Wrestling Entertainment.
I know, I know. Terry Bollea was the third member of the New World Order heel faction and set off one of the most memorable angles of all time.
But before he joined the black and white of the NWO, Hogan wore red and yellow and encouraged kids to take vitamins, train hard and say your prayers.
His persona as a heroic all-American helped him gain world-wide recognition. He headlined the first nine WrestleManias and won the WWF championship five times. He also became the first wrestler to win consecutive Royal Rumble matches (1990, 1991).
Hogan’s formula in the ring was simple. Take on a seemingly unstoppable giant, against all odds, and find a way to win. Good triumphing over evil. Again and again.
Hogan was able to pull it off that thanks to his charisma on the mic and the WWF’s marketing geniuses who had Hulkamania plastered on everything from lunch boxes to ice cream bars.
In the ring, Hogan was limited. Finally, the public grew tired of the same match over and over — Hogan didn’t have the ability to do any other type of match — and he finally left for WCW where he turned heel after a time and resurrected his career.
Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild over you?
Next week: My Mount Rushmore of underrated wrestlers.
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