Blading with Bill: The Mount Rushmore of heels
Heels, or the bad guys, are in some ways even more essential to a good pro wrestling story line than a babyface, or good guy.
It’s great to have a babyface who is over with the fans, an all-American good guy who upholds justice, kisses all the babies, and rescues damsels in distress.
But unless there is a proper foil, an all-around dirty, rotten scoundrel to hate, the good guy is just a guy who goes about his business and all is right in the world.
Introduce a villain, and all that changes.
Imagine Hulk Hogan without a monster to destroy. Or Ricky Steamboat without Nature Boy Ric Flair or Macho Man trying to bring him down, or Dusty Rhodes without the Four Horsemen trying to break his arm with a bat.
It’s just not the same.
So, without further ado, let’s hear it for the heels as I give you my Mount Rushmore of bad guys.
My only criteria is that I had to see the heels I chose either live or on TV, and that they have generally wrestled on the wrong side of the tracks. Most performers have worked both sides of the fence, but for this discussion we will consider only those whose primary roles have been as heels.
This was tougher than I anticipated. There were so many deserving: Macho Man, The Million Dollar Man, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Nick Bockwinkle from the American Wrestling Association, Terry Funk, The Rock, Rick Rude, Triple H — the list is endless and a strong case could be made for all of those and many, many more.
It all starts and stops with The Nature Boy. Flair had occasional and successful runs as a baby face, but he was the man the fans loved to hate. He was brash, cocky and rich. He loved referring to himself as the dirtiest player in the game and often teamed with the Four Horsemen to gang up and beat down the best of the best guys.
Toss in that he actually lived the lifestyle he preached and that he will go down as the best interview of all time, and Flair is a lock.
The late Roderick Toombs was one of the few who could give Flair a run for his money on the mic.
Piper was a perfect heel— dirty, cunning, funny and brash. I remember going to the old Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo to see him battle Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Man, Piper whipped Snuka before the Superfly of course valiantly fought back for the win. Piper’s best line is a classic: “Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question!”
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Before he was Stone Cold, Steve Anderson was a baby face mid-carder for World Championship Wrestling with a head of blond hair trying to imitate Ric Flair. The problem was, no one was interested in seeing a Flair-wanna-a-be. But Austin had the chops in the ring and was getting better on the mic.
Credit World Wrestling Entertainment president Vince McMahon (it pains me to do that) for coming with the Stone Cold gimmick. Austin then took it to the next level with his no-nonsense approach. He was so good as a bad guy he was often over with the smart fans, much like Flair. His run in WWE is legendary and his turn to a babyface a terrible miscalculation by McMahon.
Race was an eight-time champion of the National Wrestling Alliance when it meant something to hold the championship belt. He was also legitimately tough and didn’t mind sending a message to an opponent with a stiff punch or two when things weren’t going properly. Race had several great matches with Flair and helped put Flair over at the beginning of his career. Race, who passed away last year at 73 from lung cancer, once appeared with a briefcase filled with $25,000 as a bounty on Flair’s head. “I want rid of Flair,” he screamed, and you didn’t doubt him for a second.
Next week: I will reveal my Mount Rushmore of managers.
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