For decades and decades, it seems like wrestling fans have cared more about what goes on behind the curtain than in front of it. As fans, we love to know wrestlers on a deeper level outside of their gimmicks, as it gives us further insights to who some of our favorites really are.
The on-screen product is filled with two types of characters: heels and baby faces; the heels we love to hate and the faces we tend to cheer for. There is nothing better than cheering on a wrestler that is actually similar in real life, hence the Daniel Bryan effect. What made him so endearing to millions of fans was the fact that he was as good of a guy in real life as he was in the ring.
Today, we document some curious cases strictly outside of it. Although some of these wrestlers appeared to be babyfaces, their track record out of the ring was anything but that. Let us begin to take a look at eight of the best real life babyfaces and seven of the worst real life heels in the history of pro wrestling. Enjoy!
15) Face: Macho Man Randy Savage
The world of pro wrestling came to a sudden pause at the realization that one of the greatest wrestlers of all time had passed away on May 20th, 2011, after he suffered a heart attack while driving in the Florida area. He was 58.
His in-ring accomplishments speak for themselves; a two-time WWE Champion, Intercontinental Champion and four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion. Not to mention, Randy was one of the first Superstars of all time to receive the coveted heel pop. This just shows how great he truly was in any role he played.
His in-ring accomplishments are well documented, though outside of the ring he was even greater, believe it or not. Macho Man was loyal to a tee behind the scenes. Although his WWE run came to an abrupt end, his loyalty was something Vince felt forever grateful for, as he truly was a company guy. Furthering his outside the ring babyface demeanor, Macho Man was an absolute class act with his fans. Not only would he always make time for meet and greets, but he would often show up to schools working as a motivational speaker to youths across the United States. He felt obliged to further his duty of being a role model to several children. In and out of the ring, he truly was one of the biggest babyfaces of all time and for that all we can say is: thank you, Randy.
14) Heel: Kevin Nash
Wrestling fans are quite divided when it comes to the legacy of Kevin Nash. The casual fan appreciated his service while the hardcore wrestling activists hated his passion and reasoning behind several things he did throughout his career. His reason was money. Most of his decisions in pro wrestling all came down to that at the end of the day. In his defense though, he generally didn’t make it a secret and told the public several times that that was the case and why he got into the business in the first place.
Morally, he angered several fans but that does not take away from his brilliant career which saw him capture both major Championships with the WWE and WCW. Not to mention he revolutionized the business behind the scenes, implementing guaranteed contracts to talents, something that was very impactful.
His motives rubbed people the wrong way however, and he also got some terrible reviews amongst fans that met him. The general consensus is that Kevin seems extremely uninterested in you unless you’re a nice looking female. In addition, Kevin has seemed rather cold while partaking in several shoot interviews with various wrestling media outlets. For these reasons, Nash will always be viewed by the hardcore fan as a major heel.
13) Face: Shane McMahon
Every villainous family needs that loveable face that separates himself from the heard, and amongst the McMahon family, that guy is Shane McMahon. At the age of 46, not even Shane could have predicted the ovation he got the day of his WWE return live on Raw, from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It was his first appearance in seven years and man, oh man was it ever the reaction.
His ovation stems much further from his in-ring demeanor and character on the air. Shane was always regarded as the “good son” behind the scenes. What endeared him to so many was that despite his last name, he was always “one of the boys” in the locker room, unlike his father, who takes more of an authoritative role behind the scenes with the talent.
At the end of the day it’s simple: Shane is just a nice guy and it resonates with the audience. We’re not saying that Stephanie isn’t, as despite her on-screen role she is also quite the face with people and talent behind the scenes.
12) Heel: Virgil
If you followed Virgil’s lackluster demise throughout the years, you probably already know that the guy is the ultimate real life heel. His in-ring contributions were minimal, to put it in a nice way. He got his first major deal to compete with the WWE back in 1986, and his run would span for several years until his release in 1994. He wrestled the indie scene for a couple of years and later got the call to join the WCW ranks. During those years from 1996 till 2000, Virgil was the epitome of a background player.
So, following his time in the sun, you’d figure he would move on, right? Well, it’s quite the contrary. Virgil would spend his next years still trying to sell his fame at various wrestling conventions. Yes, this is fine and indeed a route several wrestlers take, but his approach was pretty disturbing. Firstly, he’d lie to promoters telling them DiBiase would show up with him just so he could get a seat. Secondly, he was terrible with fans and was just interested in trying to make a buck. The guy wouldn’t say a word and just care about what you had in your pocket. And finally, things went to a new low when he set up an online GoFundMe account in an attempt to make himself a millionaire… For these reasons, he definitely ranks as a real life heel.
11) Face: Booker T
In real life, Booker T played the role of the ultimate underdog since the very beginning of his run. As a youth, Booker had a very troubled past spending 19 months in jail following an armed robbery (he was initially sentenced for five years in prison). Wrestling was really all he had once he got out. Thanks to Sid Vicious, Booker and his brother Stevie, caught a huge break when they signed a deal together with World Championship Wrestling. His career with the company was built beautifully with Booker eventually winning every major Championship and becoming the ninth WCW Triple Crown in history.
Once WCW was bought out, his story became even more remarkable. His former co-workers became complacent with the WWE, which caused their eventual demise. Booker was a rare wrestler that not only survived, but thrived on the big stage endearing him to his new employees rather quickly.
His positive attitude has kept him a job as panelist till this day. He is also regarded as one of the nicest guys outside of the ring; I, myself had the pleasure of meeting Booker and I have to admit that he probably ranks as one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, constantly smiling and sparking conversation despite a massive line of fans. The guy truly cares, making him a big time real life babyface on this list.
10) Heel: Batista
Batista might be the only wrestler on this list whose kayfabe demeanor outside of the ring is actually quite mixed. His story is really quite inspiring, as he grew up with nothing and was told by the WCW Power Plant that he’d never make it in the wrestling industry. Despite the early criticisms, Batista rose to the occasion and was a part of a memorable OVW group which featured himself, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and John Cena, all wrestlers who are still huge stars to this very day. His story reached its peak at WrestleMania 21 when Dave captured the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event.
His in-ring accomplishments are very babyface like, although outside of the ring Dave was not the most popular. Some say he came on as arrogant, not only with fans but with talent as well. This escalated into a fight with himself and Booker T at one point in time. Also, since leaving the company he’s had nothing but bad things to say and also turned down a possible WrestleMania return. Opinions are divided, but we have enough evidence to put Batista on the heel side of the fence.
9) Face: DDP
You can argue that DDP might be the greatest kayfabe babyface on this entire list. Who would have ever thought that at the age of 60, Page is still making a beneficial impact on the community with his popular DDP Yoga, which has transformed thousands of lives worldwide.
Before we get to that, let’s marvel at his career for a second. Like Batista, Page had several failed opportunities and several doors close on him while trying to make it in the wrestling industry. Despite the many rejections, DDP did what everyone should do in that situation, which is put your head up and continue to work. Doing so not only led to a WCW contract, but it would later transpire into Page becoming one of the most beloved wrestlers on the entire roster.
Following the end of his career, Page ventured out to an old passion: yoga. He absolutely thrived, rebuilding the lives of several people which included former WWE stars Scott Hall and Jake Roberts. His most notable story came when he helped a disabled war veteran drop 140 pounds in ten months (and he even later regained the ability to walk without any type of assistance). What a story. What a guy. Page is the ultimate babyface in and out of the ring!
8) Heel: Scott Steiner
This article was made for a guy like Scott who is arguably the poster boy for being a heel outside of the ring. Not only is Steiner terrible with fans, but he is also reckless with his words. Scott has taken to YouTube several times bashing various WWE stars like Ric Flair, Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Although, the Hulkster probably got it the worst. Steiner actually threatened his wife during the Hall of Fame weekend, telling her he was going to hurt her husband.
In addition to his harsh words, Steiner is even worse with fans. In several instances Scott got physical, and in one case he even pushed a fan’s head back for no reason whatsoever. During meet and greets he just seems very uninterested. In one case he told the security to take the fan’s money and to “get him out of here”. Not hard to figure out why Steiner ends up on this list as a major kayfabe heel.
7) Face: Titus O’Neil
His life outside of the ring eventually bolstered his status with the WWE. The former AFL star began with the company back in 2009, joining the FCW developmental ranks. He later joined the NXT competition under the wing of Zack Ryder. His rise to prominence took place out of the ring when he was nominated for the MEGA Dad Award in 2015, which he won. In the midst of a PG era (which appeals to a broad worldwide audience), the company used this story and made Titus a major spokesperson for the company. He is not only regarded as a great family man, but the WWE has used Titus as a great ambassador for other outlets like to children in schools and visiting military bases.
This is a rare instance on the list of a guy’s kayfabe babyface life resonating on television. Not only was he later boosted on the card, but his performances have dramatically improved as well. Happy to see Titus enjoying some well deserved success, as he truly is one of the good guys in the business.
6) Heel: Sable
Her ego became too much back in the 90s. Sable was no doubt a pioneer and drew in some serious numbers, though her attitude made her an outcast backstage. Instead of being a team player, the former Diva saw herself as an individual drawing some huge numbers. She angered many when she said that she should have been credited with bringing in all the fans every week. Her attitude caused her demise, and it also led to wrestlers playing pranks on her and celebrating her departure from the company.
Her negative solo outlook was also apparent in real life. Sable always kept very quiet and rarely met with fans outside of the ring; she was generally more interested in living life away from the spotlight. This is most evident judging by her current life. She lives on a secluded ranch in Saskatchewan with husband Brock Lesnar (who we will also discuss later). Her lack of public interest certainly hurt her image, landing her on the heel side of things.
5) Face: Paige
Her infectious youth has made her very popular with the WWE fanbase. As of now, Paige is probably the biggest role model amongst female WWE fans. She has preached outside of the ring to be true to yourself, and this has inspired thousands of fans. We’ve also seen on episodes of Total Divas, that the public is quite inspired by her ways as well.
Her in-ring career seems to be at a standstill at the moment, with Paige playing a greater role on Total Divas than in the ring. Though, her popularity hasn’t budged and has actually perhaps increased, helping her to reach another demographic of women on the E Network. Being herself is what truly has made Page a beloved figure (also factor in that she’s 23 and still full of energy). She has a tremendous future that’s for sure, in and out of the ring. For now, we hope to see more of it in the ring, as she truly deserves it.
4) Heel: CM Punk
Opinions are divided when it comes to CM Punk; you either love him, or you don’t. Generally, the causal WWE fan doesn’t like Punk, while the hardcore enthusiast respects his passion for the business.
All and all, his departure was met with further mixed reviews. Some did not appreciate the harsh words Punk had for several of his former co-workers, as many believe he took the low way out of the company. Factor in how Brock and the UFC have now incorporated the WWE into the system of MMA, and Punk could have certainly taken a similar route without totally slamming the door on the WWE.
Putting that aside, his fan interactions haven’t been that greatest either. Not only has he verbally abused and hit fans, but he was also extremely rude in an instance at a Blackhawks game with a fan who just wanted to say hi. Punk looked at the fan, laughed and turned his head. This arrogant attitude hasn’t done him any favors with several fans, making him more of a heel than a face out of the ring.
3) Face: John Cena
Truly was a tossup for the number one spot as the biggest kayfabe babyface; some would argue that Cena should be number one and that truly is a valid point, though we had to give the number one slot to someone else, strictly on his global following (but we’ll have more on that guy soon).
For now, let’s talk about John Cena: “the face that runs the place”. His attitude outside of the ring has helped him greatly in rising to the top of the company. He truly is the face and ambassador of the WWE. Not only does he have a brilliant voice, but he is a role model to millions around the world because of three simple words: “Never.Give. Up”. John is so much more than a wrestler, as he is a face of hope to millions around the world. His role with Make-A-Wish furthered his greatness and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. Cena has broken records with the foundation, making over 500 wishes come true. In addition, he is the most requested face out of all the people in the world, which is truly remarkable in itself. Love him or hate him, Cena is a good guy (to say the least).
2) Heel: Brock Lesnar
During the Stone Cold Podcast, Lesnar reinforced everything we had already heard about him outside of the ring: he is a loner that really doesn’t care for people. Paul Heyman himself made it abundantly clear, Brock simply “hates people”. Even at work with the WWE, Brock clocks in and clocks out, making as little conversation (or waves for that matter) as possible. Lesnar furthered his statement claiming he really doesn’t know anyone in the current locker room, nor does he plan on meeting any of them anytime soon. Ouch. He also expressed a disinterest for wrestling outside of work, claiming he doesn’t know any historical dates or anything of that magnitude.
Outside of the ring with fans he isn’t a bad guy, as no stories have surfaced pertaining to Brock being malicious in any way. He simply does what he’s told, but don’t expect a conversation to come out of it. Though his feelings towards the WWE and his attitude backstage serve him as a heel for the obvious reasons we listed above. Basically to sum up, if you hate people in real life, chances are, you’re going to be labelled as a heel.
1) Face: The Rock
As we discussed in the John Cena entry, The Rock’s global impact lands him in the number one spot. Not only is The Rock a motivation figure for wrestling fans, but he has now become a global motivational spokesperson in general. Who would have thought that the same guy that wrote a book called The Rock Says, would become such an attraction of motivation years later.
He’s listed in the Top 100 in Time magazine’s most influential people in the world of 2016. This goes to show how huge he’s become. Dwayne is a source of motivation, which stems from his journey which began with seven bucks to his name. His hard work in the gym and in life has allowed The Rock to inspire millions around the globe. Heck, the guy even has an App where you hear his voice wake you up with some motivational words. As of now, no one will ever surpass the impact that The Rock has had in and out of the ring, making him the ultimate babyface in WWE history.