The many Faces (and Heels) of Wrestling alignments


Way back when: Rowdy Roddy Piper and Gorilla Monsoon

[In English as it was written for my blog at ewrestling.com, and reposted here.]

We all know it as one of the mainstays of wrestling psychology. How feuds are fueled and matches booked is down to the alignment of the wrestler: Is he a Face or a Heel. Somewhere along the line we also got the classic Tweener.

But in modern wrestling there is more to it than just these three options, there are nuances that get lost in the shuffle if we just talk about «faces and heels».

I will try to subdivide these factions into archetypes, but no such system will be all-encompassing, and many if not all modern wrestling superstars will have elements of more than one archetype.


The True Face a.k.a. The Paladin

He follows his moral codex, and would rather lose than break the rules. He’s dedicated and want the crowds support rather than their love. Often he has above-average wrestling-skills and triumphs when they shine through in the end. Usually he seems a bit two dimentional, and his feuds are seldom spectacular, due to him never bending the rules. Ofte a jobber-to-the-stars.

Typical examples: Evan Bourne, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston (recently)

The Smart Hero
He knows that to beat the bad guys you sometime have to break the rules, usually with a nudge and a wink to the fans. He’s prefers to fight fair, but if the opponents starts playing dirty he knows a thing or two that’s not mentioned in the rulebook as well. Usually the main-event faces end up in some shade of this archetype, as they can better let the Heels get a taste of their own medisine.

Typical examples: John Cena, Edge (when face), John Morrison.

The Sneaking Goofball – Hidden Bad-Ass

Cheerful, happy and well-loved this guy want’s to have fun in the squared-circle, but can sometimes seem a bit nonchalante. They are often a bit goofy or even naïve, but Do. Not. Push. Them! If they get pushed to far they are fully ready kick ass and not bother taking names, with or within the rules.
Unlike The Smart Hero they will have to be bullied into going to extremes though.

Typical examples: Santino Marella, Big Show, Jerry «The King» Lawler


The Face-In-Name-Only a.k.a. The Anti-Hero

He uses the psychology of a heel, has a heelish-gimmick and the moveset of a heel with vicious and devastating results. The only thing that separate him from a heel is that he takes down heels, and have the fans support in doing so. Often a result of a popular Monster-heel turning face.

Typical examples: Kane (when face), Undertaker, Randy Orton.

The Tweener
The true tweener is a rare breed. Able to look as natural agains a face as against a heel, very few wrestlers actually stay a tweener for long. Most often it is a phase in a transition from heel to face or vice versa. My examples are all wrestlers who kept this alignment for a longer period.

Typical examples: HHH, Shawn Michaels.

The Likeable Rogue a.k.a. The Magnificent Bastard
He doesn’t break the rules because he has to, but because he wants to. But he is fully capable to hand you a deserved beat-down cleanly. Usually full of catchphrases, mannerism and a healthy dose of self-irony. He toys with the fans and other wrestlers, and always seem to come out his feuds with at least a partial victory., and leaving his opponents with eggs on their face (pun intended) even when they win. He loves to point out any hypocracy in the Smart Heros actions.

Typical examples: The Rock, Chris Jericho, Edge (when heel), The Miz (aspiring)

The Cocky Champ-To-Be
He’s not champion because he’s not good enough, but due to meddling faces and bad-luck. At least in his own mind. He usually have above-average skills, and tend to get in trouble with the governing bodies in the promotion. He is the heel most likely to not see himself as a heel, but rather just as a keen competitor using every means possible.

Typical examples: Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio

The Ruthless Villain

A man on a mission, usually a belt, but it could also be to act out his revenge for real or perceived wrongs he has suffered at the hands of a face. Look for henchmen, and a willingness to sacrifice them if need be.

Typical examples: CM Punk, Wade Barret, Cody Rhodes

The Monster
Just what it says on the box. The Monster doesn’t so much cheat to win as just disregard any rules or regulations when the fight is on. Seemingly unstoppable at times, always a threat to the safety and careers of any faces who’s unlucky enough to get in his way. Powerful manhandling and destruction is his trade, and a large number of his matches will be squashes. The Monster is what Creative breaks out when a face has become seemingly undefeatable. When a heel can conceivably defeat anyone on the roster in a single one-on-one fight, we have ourselves a Monster.

Typical examples: Kane (when heel), Ezekiel Jackson, Sheamus

As noted, many, if not all, wrestlers will have elements of different alignments, and you might not agree with all my examples. But all in all I think this covers the different ways faces and heels can be portrayed in modern wrestling.