This list isn’t about who has made the most money by sacrificing themselves to some heroic good guy wrestler and sold out arenas worldwide; it’s not a list of main eventers who switched back and forth from face to heel because it’s the only creative thing they can do; and it’s not featuring anyone who uses a sledgehammer, that’s for damn sure. There will be no evil CEO’s, no nWo-ites, no degenerates, no extremists, and no Jarrett’s.
This is only a list of my favorites heels in wrestling.
10) Sgt. Slaughter WWF 1990-1991
Atttttention! Man, I really hated Sarge back in his day. But, if you really look at the situation, I mean, he was an American hero, people all over the world looked up to this man; he was on G.I. Joe, for God’s sake. There is a whole generation of guys I grew up with that have never watched wrestling that know who Sgt. Slaughter is because he was on G.I. Joe. So, George Bush Sr. sends troops into Iraq and Iran to help in their dispute with Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. So, McMahon, as much as I hate him, created the ultimate heel: an American patriot turned Iraqi turncoat. That’s genius. I mean, I’m as patriotic as the next person and in no way am an Iraqi sympathizer (in fact, I’m really hoping that Saddam Hussein is found guilty because a mass murderer like him needs to be hung!), but to plant something that everyone in America despises smack dab in the middle of the country and have him win the World Title, then make Hulkster his personal bitch, you know that’s money. But, it took a special kind of performer to do this. You see, WWE tried to play on our insecurities and foreign hatred with Hassan a few years ago. While controversial, he didn’t have the in ring skills, or the larger than life character needed to make that a main even level role. But, Sarge was used to big matches. Hell, he’d carried numerous promotions on his back and made tons of money. I really used to despise Slaughter and hated his wrestling, but now, as an older and more mature fan, I see that he is a hell of a worker. Plus, his interviews were hilarious! He ran down numerous guys with colorful names, like “the Ultimate slime” and the “Immortal Puke.” Looking back, I have to give him credit for being willing to do that role because he could have been killed at any possible moment. That’s some serious stuff. So, I salute you, Sgt. Slaughter for being a most ruthless heel (and speaking of ruthless, could you please stop putting us through that horrible Diva Boot Camp skit? It’s Fran Drescher bad TV! And that’s an order!)
9) Ric Flair NWA 1985-87, WWF 1991-93
Whooo! Yeah, I’m going to steal all the greatest wrestlers’ catch phrases (although I’m not quite sure what Gorgeous George’s was: do you like anal?) But, I digress. Ric Flair could be pretty much put on any list that has anything good to do with wrestling (and probably on worst heart attacks in the ring.) And I’m sure there are many people out there who would rank him higher than this on the all time great heels list, but this is my list and I’m happy enough giving him a spot. In the 80’s, Flair was the ultimate playboy and the reason I loved him as a heel so much is because no one could ever pin him cleanly. Watching his matches used to be the most frustrating thing in my youth, despite searching high and low for the hole to get to FraggleLand and having horrible allergies, well, okay Flair never losing is on the top three most frustrating things of my list, but he does rank high. But, one of my other favorite Flair feuds was with Randy Savage. I actually had the magazine that had the doctored Flair-Liz photos with Flair’s body in place of Savage’s. That was like the coolest issue to own and I looked over it again and again, trying to find any evidence of Savage residue (meaty fingers, outlandish wardrobe, stray wild hair, anything.)
8) Roddy Piper WWF 1985
There’s not too many wrestling fans out there that doesn’t love and respect the Rowdy Scot, but there was a time when he was the nastiest scoundrel that was on TV. (Sorry, Dr. Claw.) But, not only was Piper a great heel, he was damn funny! The Piper’s Pit was bred out of Piper’s ability to create magic, with no scripts, or writers, or anything pre-made. He is so quick on his toes, which is what made that show so great and fun to watch. Piper doing the Halloween skit where he was handing out gold painted bricks to trick or treaters is a classic moment that doesn’t get much recognition. There is also a famous skit where Orton is getting his arm checked out by a doctor and all Piper is doing in the background is saying “Quack!” over and over again. It’s damn funny. If they would give him some leeway on TV now when they use him, I think he could create some great moments again, but I don’t see that happening. Piper’s wrestling style is nearly as funny as his jokes, but that’s not what he’ll be remembered for. (I had to do it; I had to crack on his sub par wrestling; I knew I would.)
7) The Shiek Detroit 1950’s & 60’s
The first time I heard of the Shiek was from my mom. I was a big wrestling fan as a kid, so my mom showed me these scrapbooks she had made (she did that with everything) of wrestling matches she used to go see down at the Gardens with my Papa, her dad. There were stories, match advertisements, results, interviews to local papers and radios and even some old magazines. There were so many interesting characters I read about: Cry Baby Cannon, Mark Lewin, but the two I read about the most were Bobo Brazil and The Shiek. I read article after article about how the Shiek threw a fireball at an opponent, or tried to bite the guy in the head, but the ref held him back, so he stabbed him with a pencil! All these fantastic stories and there was only one guy who ever matched him in brutality and that was Bobo. From my understanding, he could never pin The Shiek, but none of his matches ended cleanly anyways. But, I was marveled at this sickening, grotesque man who brutalized his opponents with anything that had a sharp point on it. I watched wrestling every week and I never saw anyone like that before and it absolutely captivated me.
6) Terry Funk NWA 1989
After Ric Flair won back the World Title from Ricky Steamboat, they shook hands in the middle of the ring, putting an end to a long running, and possibly wrestling’s most technical and finest in-ring feud. Then, former NWA champ Terry Funk, who hadn’t been seen in wrestling for a number of years, due to retiring (probably his 5th at that time) came in to congratulate Flair, but ended up pile driving him through the ringside table. It was and still is one of the most famous table spots of all time and started a feud that lasted most of the year. Funk was a crazy old pile of cow dung that seemed to have enough fight left in him to have one last great run and he did it with the best in the world, at that time, Ric Flair. They had some downright nasty, brutal fights (and I call them fights because they damn sure weren’t wrestling matches) and they never got tired of punching and kicking and clawing each other. Funk at the time, mercilessly beat jobbers and midcarders, calling them “Flair” while he was doing it and literally seemed like a crazy old middle aged coot, which he most certainly was. He joined forces with renowned manager sleaze Gary Hart, as well as the Great Muta and “Dirty” Dick Slater and formed the J-Tex Corporation, which made life hell for newly found allies Flair and Sting. Their Thunderdome match was as funny as it was bizarre and stiff and still lives in infamy today (partly because of Dick the Bruiser looking like a Popeye on crack.) In my eyes, it was Funk’s swan song and was tarnished by his ECW days and being a panty hose wearing, chainsaw wielding idiot on USA every Monday night.
5) The Fabulous Freebirds World Class Wrestling 1985-86
“Badstreet, the whole US of A!” I keep using that cheap, stalling tactic when you don’t have anything to say, but alas, I do. Michael PS Hayes. Terry Gordy. Buddy Roberts. When I was a kid, on ESPN, every week day at 4 o’clock, the Texas based World Class Wrestling show would come on and I would be glued. The promotion was created and ran by Fritz Von Erich, and his four sons, were the stars: David, Kerry, Kevin, and Chris. And of course, I worshipped them. Kerry was bred to be the major player of the brothers, but I always had an affinity for Kevin. Maybe it was the barefoot thing. Well, anyways, no one could ever keep the Von Erich boys down (except the pistols and drugs they used to kill themselves) but besides that except the Freebirds. They were all about the rock n’ roll lifestyle and they hated what the Von Erich’s’ stood for, which was classic wrestling and playing by the rules. So, they decided to smash their father, Fritz, with a steel cage door on a fateful Christmas night. And so began this huge rivalry that sold out arenas and stadiums all throughout the Lone Star state. And as much as I despised them when I was a kid, I look back on it and realize how classic and legendary that feud was and how well those guys clicked together as a team.
4) Arn Anderson NWA/WWF/ WCW his whole career
I put Arn on this list for his whole body of work as a heel. He was never flamboyant or outrageous. He never wore a sequined robe or played a silly gimmick. He simply was “The Enforcer.” His no-nonsense style, his superb technical skills, his knowledge of the ring and how to keep an opponent weakened, and his superior psychology are the factors that put him on this list. He was subtle in all of his actions, therefore you always felt like they meant more. Every time I watched Anderson dissect an opponent, I felt like he’s just toying with them. He always had a sinister confidence in everything and it came out when he would cut interviews (some of the best in the business.) The Arn Anderson character would probably not ever get over today, but thankfully, now that he is an established veteran in this sport, his dedication and loyalty to the craft of professional wrestling can never be overlooked or tarnished. Arn is a true legend and everything that most heels aren’t: real. His cold, dead stare was probably one of the scariest sights to see when an opponent looked across the ring at him.
3) Jake “The Snake” Roberts WWF 1991-92
Jake Roberts; there are so many things you can say about him. He had a horrible childhood, a rough personal life his whole career. He had demons and he battled a nasty drug addiction and always will for the rest of his life. But, you can never dismiss the man’s performance. Whether he used these inner demons to help put this character over when he went heel in 91, I don’t know, but there may have never been a more sinister heel wrestler ever conceived. Jake was a face for many years in WWF, but he was always on the edge, balancing between good and evil. The guy carried a deadly snake with him for god’s sake! His first act was during Randy Savage and Elizabeth’s wedding reception. He sent them a gift in a giant box and when they opened it, a massive cobra popped out! That’s devious! He tortured the couple, psychologically, for months and even had his snake bite Savage on the arm on TV! It goes down as probably one of the most shocking memories of watching wrestling for me when I was a kid. The guy was sick. His catch phrase at the time was “Trust me.” He would give an evil half grin when he said it and it just disturbed the hell out of me. Jake could give kid nightmares if he wanted to. He was that good and deep of a performer. When you watched him in that time, you would think he had ice water in his veins he was so cold. A truly chilling man.
2) Chris Jericho WCW 1997-98
This may seem like an outlandish pick, but it is completely justified. We’ve all heard stories about how chaotic WCW was at the time, and for the most part, that was part of its problems. But, I always saw Jericho as someone who had slipped through the cracks and done his own thing. The heel turn started by Jericho throwing temper tantrums at ringside, throwing objects, slapping the ring announcer, your usual stuff. But, when given the ball, he turned the wrestler Chris Jericho into a star and I always thought that no one knew what he was doing because Bischoff and the other higher ups were too concerned with Hogan, NWO and other main eventers. Jericho began wearing strange hairstyles, he wore Juventud’s mask, he started calling the program “Monday Night Jericho”, he did certain moves in the ring, and he did everything he could to annoy as many people as possible. And it worked. His best feud at the time was with Dean Malenko. He made fun of the fact that Malenko never talks by calling him boring or “Stinko Malenko.” Dean Malenko was known as the man of 1,000 holds, so Jericho dubbed himself the man of 1,004 holds… and he proceeded to list them off on the air of Nitro, even cutting back from a commercial break for him to finish. When he lost the Cruiserweight title in controversial fashion, the famous skit “Jericho Goes to Washington” was born, a take off of famous film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where he proceeded to run off every rule, regulation, or loophole he could find. He pulled a guy out of the ring crew; an overweight, toothless, bald man named Ralphus and made him his valet. He would hold up signs that said “Jericho Rules” and celebrate, and then he would rip them out and laugh at the fan. He had thousands, maybe millions of Jerichoaholics world wide, but his most famous stunt was the one that finally got him in trouble. At the time, Bill Goldberg was the hottest star WCW had and they were protecting him at all costs. Well, Jericho wanted a rub, so he started making fun of Goldberg and challenging him. He even beat up a midget version of him and told everyone he broke the streak. WCW then seemed to monitor Jericho’s actions, but that year or so where he was out of control was some of the most original and funniest stuff ever put into a wrestling character to this date. In late ’99, Jericho joined the WWF where he got in a famous verbal war with the Rock. His first feud was with Ken Shamrock and he continued his strange yet amusing ways when he knocked Shamrock out in a parking lot and embarrassed him by putting him in a Walls of Jericho while the Fink( his new Ralphus) took Polaroid’s and put women’s clothes on him. This miscreant behavior was stopped quite soon after his arrival when he was forced into a feud with Chyna, who pretty much killed all of his heat.
1) Bobby “The Brain” Heenan WWF 1985-90
A manager? That’s your No. 1 pick? Yes, and proudly so. Heenan was a wrestler at one time, and will take a HELLACIOUS bump, but he didn’t have the physique to present himself or the physical prowess to work a wrestler’s schedule. The Brain is, quite possibly, the funniest man in the business, past or present, and his announcing is probably the most entertaining I’ve ever heard. But, as a heel manager, Heenan excelled every time out. He only managed the best; he only attacked and feuded with the best; and when his men didn’t measure up, he got rid of them. Red Rooster was booted and berated by Heenan, Andre was slapped in the face by Heenan, and Mr. Perfect was also criticized on public TV (of course, he got back at Brain by pouring water on his head.) He had a passion for hating Hulk Hogan and when he managed Andre the Giant, he was at his most cruel and calculating. He threw wave after wave of men and plans at Hogan, including joining with Dibiase to get the twin referee brother of Earl Hebner to screw Hogan out of the title for his charge. Heenan had managed someone to every title the WWF had at the time, Rude and Henning to the IC, Brainbusters and the Colossal Connection to Tag Team Titles, and Andre and Ric Flair to the World. One of Heenan’s greatest performances came later in his career with the last man he managed in WWF, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. It was during Wrestlemania 8. He broadcasted the match and was an emotional wreck during the match. After it, Flair, Henning and Heenan cut a magnificent promo, then Heenan took back to the announce booth and remained frazzled, putting Flair over and shouting heel comments throughout the rest of the show. The guy is one of a kind and my favorite heel in wrestling.
Andre the Giant (1987 heel turn-WWF- ripped Hogan’s cross off his chest)
Owen Hart (1994- King of Harts- WWF-turned on his brother)
Kaientai DX (1996-97- Michinoku Pro- precursor to DX)
Vader (1992- WCW- Monster run as merciless killer)
Harley Race (1980-83- NWA- No Nonsense bruiser- World Champion- his leisure suits were the best)