In wrestling, a face is a character who is portrayed as being moral or approving (that is, faces are "good guys" or "crowd favorites").
The term face began as an abbreviation of babyface, and up until the mid 1990s, the two terms meant essentially the same thing. This changed with the birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling, the start of World Championship Wrestling's nWo storyline, and the Attitude Era of the World Wrestling Federation. These three things coincided and saw wrestlers like Steve Austin and Sting adopting heel tactics to overcome opponents. While technically tweeners, their immense popularity with crowds had their gimmicks categorized by many as faces (though they were not the pure "babyfaces" of old). Although wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser, Crusher and Fred Blassie had been babyfaces while using non-admirable tactics, the Attitude Era is usually credited with this new kind of face. Many wrestlers who would be considered face today would previously be considered a tweener.
Similarly, Kurt Angle was introduced to the World Wrestling Federation with a gimmick that would traditionally have him seen as a babyface, and yet was immensely unpopular with fans. Thus, while adopting many actions and mannerisms of a babyface, Angle's gimmick was seen by most as being "heel." The Spanish term used in lucha libre is a técnico (literally a "technician," one who sticks to basic wrestling techniques without cheating, in theory). Some reasons that can cause fans to turn against a wrestler with a face gimmick include: wrestler's repetitive in-ring antics; a limited moveset; a lengthy title reign; and lack of selling his/her opponents' moves and carrying his/her opponent. This often results in wrestlers who are supposed to be cheered receiving a negative or no reaction from the fans. A good example of that is Bret Hart, who started out as a face in his feud with then-heel Steve Austin, but then saw fans turn against him and cheer for Austin, after Bret Hart continued his agonizing hold after the end of one of their matches. Another example is the original character of The Rock (named Rocky Maivia) who was immensely unpopular despite his constant attempts to get the crowd on his side. John Cena is another example, who despite being a top face on RAW was heavily booed throughout most of 2006 until the week after Unforgiven 2006 after defeating Edge in a TLC match when fans got back on his side, albeit briefly.
Types of Babyfaces
While behaving as a face is often part of a wrestler's gimmick, many successful faces fall into one or more categories:
A face who either lacks traits of a traditional babyface or acts like a heel, but gets cheered nonetheless. Common tactics include attacking Dictators and other heels, breaking the rules as a way of "leveling the playing field" against cheating heels, only interfering in matches when they have had enough of the heels cheating on a certain babyface, and cutting edge, but popular promos.
Examples include Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, D-Generation X, Sting (since The Crow gimmick), Owen Hart (since the Montreal Screwjob from late 1997 to early 1998), and Hulk Hogan (since his face turn in 2002).
They give the fans what they want most of the time. This includes fair matches, or doing something that involves punishing a heel wrestler, such as ordering them to go back to the ring to continue/restart the match and yet punish a babyface that did something wrong such as no-showing certain events or winning a match in an unfair way.
Examples include Stone Cold Steve Austin; Mick Foley, Sgt. Slaughter, and Shawn Michaels as WWF Commissioners; Theodore Long, Team Orton after 2004 Survivor Series, and Stephanie McMahon during their runs as Raw and SmackDown! General Manager; Bret Hart in WCW; Jack Tunney as the on-air "President" of the WWF.
These faces are famous in one section of media other than pro wrestling and are well liked by the majority of the public. They act like a face and would start a major feud with (mainly) the top heel after the heel attacked him/her first. This also makes the storyline more interesting to the fans.
- boxer Mike Tyson (after revealing his true allegiance with Stone Cold Steve Austin by betraying then-heel Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV)
- boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. (in the beginning of his feud with The Big Show)
- actor/wrestler Mr. T
- actor Seth Green
- singer Cyndi Lauper
- game show host Bob Barker
- comedian/actor Cedric the Entertainer
- reality stars JWoww and Snooki
- entrepreneur/reality star/later President of the United States Donald Trump (in his feud with the heel gimmick of Vince McMahon)
A face with comical aspects to his/her gimmick. Though the actions are silly, he/she can still be a serious contender. Unlike Jokers where they make mistakes and get mad at the fans, they are the ones who pull pranks on the heels in a light-hearted way and always admit their mistakes which get them in punishment matches and they sometimes come out the winner. These faces also have outlandish outfits that make them believe in some “alter ego” that is liked by the fans. Most of the times they will make goofy faces.
Examples include The Hurricane, Colt Cabana (known in WWE as Scotty Goldman), The Hart Foundation tag team (mainly in their promos), Doink the Clown, Pirate Paul Burchill, Mick Foley (as Dude Love and Mankind), Eugene, Cryme Tyme, Goldust (in 2002 to 2003), and The Bushwhackers.
These are faces who are happy to have found work within a new country. They excite the crowd by expressing strong positive things about their new job/home. They do their best to speak the main language of the country they are working in.
Examples include Petey Williams, The British Bulldogs, Asuka, Alex Wright, Chris Adams, and Kofi Kingston.
A larger wrestler who often wrestles as a face rather than a heel. Large enough to be considered a Monster, but not quite unstoppable like the Juggernaut. Despite their superior size, the wrestler will often use quickness, agility, and/or aerial maneuvers rather than, or as a supplement to, their raw power. The main difference is that they play face characters that are often clean-cut compared to their Monster counterparts, who are often menacing in appearance.
Examples: Hulk Hogan (good example), Randy Orton (in 2002), Festus, Mark Jindrak, Sean O'Haire, Lance Cade (in 2003-2004), Heidenreich, DH Smith, Batista, Bobby Lashley, Rhino, Rhaka Kahn, and Samoa Joe.
A wrestler that can't be stopped by opposition. The behavior and tactics are totally opposite of the Monster, but the wrestler will occasionally pull off such tactics as a form of counterattacking or whenever the stipulations allow it. They are often called upon to "clean house" in a ring after a face or a heel who is about to turn face is getting beat down by a heel or a group of heels but this is not always the case. Usually the top babyface.
Examples: The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, Triple H (in his 2002 face run), Hulk Hogan (mid-late 1980s), Brock Lesnar (during his late 2002-2003 face run) Lex Luger, Andre the Giant (late 1970s), The Big Show, Goldberg, Kane, Batista, Bobby Lashley, Abyss and Chyna.
An underdog face below Heavyweight class often forced to go against a Monster, putting the motions of a physical mismatch on paper. This face gains popularity by sneaking out upset wins against much larger opponents, usually by executing roll-up pins or by taking advantage of a critical mistake made by that opponent. Majority of them are masked luchadors (Mexican wrestlers) in the United States. Theses faces gain the most sympathy.
Examples include Rey Mysterio (best example), The Hardy Boyz, Salinas, Zack Ryder, Shawn Michaels, The 1-2-3 Kid, Alundra Blayze/Madusa, Miss Elizabeth, Gail Kim (during her feud with Awesome Kong), Hornswoggle, Spike Dudley, Eddie Guerrero (during his face runs) and Colin Delaney.
Although his/her main job is to put over the action in the ring by not only calling the maneuvers and action in the ring, but by recapping the angles and other goings on that have occurred. He/she often support the face(s) in the match and are joined by color commentators, who take up for the heel(s). Though both are supposed to show neutral stance while announcing, the two will begin arguing.
Examples include Jim Ross, Todd Grisham, Joey Styles, Mike Tenay, and Michael Cole, Gordon Solie, Lance Russell, Gorilla Monsoon, and even World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon, who started his on screen career doing play-by-play announcing.
These faces often feud against foreign and traitor heels in effort of defending their home nation when it comes to the storyline (USA vs. Canada). However, during the course of the season, federations will visit the region that one of the wrestlers came from. So by depending on the popularity of the wrestler(s), fans often ignore the heel/face alignment for those shows. They often rely on cheap pops to gain support in their home territories, but not all of them do this.
Examples include any Canadian wrestler during any event in Canada, William Regal (England), Finlay (Ireland), Mick Foley (northeast USA), The Rock (Miami), Hacksaw Jim Duggan (Upstate New York), Ric Flair (southeast USA), and Stone Cold Steve Austin and any other Texas-born wrestler during any event in Texas.
A face that gets negative reaction from the crowd, despite regional territories not playing a role in the negative reaction. Fans often perceive them as overrated and/or stale, believe that the heel wrestler is the superior talent, or due to real life scandals that has nothing to do with the persona they are portraying on-screen. This has them become heels later on, sometimes even getting a positive reaction because of the change in character.
Examples include The Rock (as Rocky Maivia, and again during 2002), John Cena (since feuding with Kurt Angle in 2005), Hulk Hogan (mid-1990s), Bret Hart (early 1997 prior to WrestleMania XIII), Jeff Hardy (drug problems), Lita (after Matt Hardy reveals her real life affair with Edge to the public in 2005), X-Pac (during the WCW/ECW Invasion and drug problems), Michael Cole (between 2008 and 2011), and Roman Reigns (since 2015)
A babyface from the classic days of wrestling in today's wrestling. They care for new rules and regulations being made which did not exist during their glory days and will align themselves with today's top babyfaces to bring in a new era. They also get physically involved in matches such as helping the top babyface win or keep a championship.
Examples include Hulk Hogan helping out Zach Gowen, Arnold Skaaland assisting Bob Backlund into becoming WWF champion, and Ricky Steamboat's participation with CM Punk, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and Jeff Hardy.
These faces make the crowd into a fury, as something big is about to happen such as a finishing move or cleaning house after a hot tag. Most lack the size or instinct to be effective Juggernauts yet does not fit the role of Longshot, Technician, or Tenderfoot.
Examples include Junk Yard Dog, The Hardy Boyz, Sabu, Dusty Rhodes, Sandman, The Rock, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan (1980s), Roddy Piper, Trish Stratus, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Rob Van Dam, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, the Beautiful People during their face run, Christian Cage and Mr. Kennedy.
A large group of faces (or a tag-team) that are usually used by each other to watch each other's backs. They often feud with the Gang counterpart who either have greater numbers or stronger members. Though not as closely tied to one another as the Gangs, which usually last much longer due to more ability to work together and less selfishness between group members. However, they are less self-destructive due to everyone fighting for a common goal regardless of whether or not they can work together.
Examples include D-Generation X, The Brothers of Destruction, The Hardy Boyz/Team Xtreme, Acolytes Protection Agency (APA), Cryme Tyme, Too Cool, the WCW roster (during the n.W.o. invasion), The n.W.o. Wolfpac, The Misfits in Action, S.E.X., the WWF (during the WCW/ECW Alliance invasions), The Union, The Dudes with Attitudes, Blue World Order, The ECW Originals, Extreme Violence 2 (EV2), and The Hart Foundation whenever they were wrestling in Canada or Europe as pro-Canada,.
The most common of faces who always obey the rules and rely on takedowns, reversals, and counterattacks before finishing off with a submissive or pinfall victory.
Examples include Mr. Perfect, Bob Backlund, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Kurt Angle, Sting, Lou Thesz.
This underdog face is more emphasized on his/her inexperience, rather than his/her size, but not always a rookie. He/she could also be a somewhat experienced wrestler who never competed at a main event level up to a certain point. They feud with or compete against upper-midcarders and sometimes against the main event wrestlers, usually coming out on the losing end. They often lose after the more experienced heel wrestler takes advantage of a critical mistake, allowing the heel to win cleanly without completely burying the younger wrestler.
Examples include Maven, Randy Orton (in 2002), John Cena (in 2002),Brian Kendrick (in 2003), DH Smith, Cody Rhodes, Sapphire, and Colin Delaney. A perfect example being Jeff Hardy, who was billed as an underdog against the younger and less experienced Randy Orton, who ascended the ranks into the main event at a much faster rate than Hardy.