The Wrestling Guy on the The Era of the Heel

As mentioned in last nights ECW Report, the WWE is undergoing a renaissance of top heels. Not since the late 1980s in the WWF has any company had anywhere near this depth and strength at the top of the card in the heel locker-room. In the late 80s, this talent increase wasn’t really a surprise, as the late 80s saw the unification of the majority of the territories into two major companies (WWF and NWA/WCW), but now, there’s no easy explanation for where this talent explosion is coming from. Let’s look at the late 1980s first to see how this amazing heel grouping came to be.

The WWF had four top card slimy heels in the late 80s and one absolute monster heel who stood above all the rest. Ted Dibiase was the slimy heel who corrupted people and tried to buy what he could. He was consistently atop the card, working face legends like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Dusty Rhodes, cutting classic promos and putting on amazing matches, even in the limited, cartoony WWF. As he said in his top notch (and free) shoot, he had a character outside the ring, but added a realism in the ring that took the act to a different level.

Right there with Dibiase as top heel was Randy Savage. Everyone already knows about Savage’s first WWF Title win, the mega-powers, and their epic breakup, but Savage, as is often missed amid his insanity and later shenanigans, spent most of his WWF run as one of the best heels in the world. Cutting psychotic, jealous promos and attacking with shocking speed, Savage was arguably the first cool heel- almost too skilled to be hated. Luckily, he was such a prick to Elizabeth, fans managed to hate him in spite of themselves.

Another major heel of this era, one who rarely gets the proper credit, is Rick Rude. Rude drew amazing heat with his pretty-boy gimmick and it was made his primarily role in the company to make the Ultimate Warrior into the best wrestler he could be. Rude, somewhat surprisingly, succeeded at this, leading Warrior to at least two very different, but still excellent matches- no mean feat. Rude was an expert in the ring, much like the two before him, but perhaps all three fall short of the final top smaller heel of this era.

Curt Hennig came into the WWF around this time and became Mr. Perfect. An amazing athlete, Hennig was all over the card, from main events to the mid-card, putting on great matches with main event wrestlers, while making the mid-card seem more important. There is no overstating how amazing he was, with his over-bumping making even smaller faces seem heroic, yet still remaining credible enough to put anyone away with the perfect-plex.

To go with these heels was top monster, Andre the Giant. The former face wasn’t mobile, but didn’t need to be. Always a beloved physical specimen, Andre merely had to cheat in the smallest ways, with chokes and such for the crowd to vehemently hate him. He was so big and over, everything he did was credible. Known mostly for his Hulk Hogan feud, he was also memorable against Savage, Jake Roberts, the Warrior and Jim Duggan.

This era also saw two members of the Horsemen join the WWF and become a top heel tag team. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard became the Brainbusters. Everyone knew they were really Horsemen, but either way, they came in and dominated pretty effectively, even though they shared the spotlight with the other major heel team of that era, Demolition. Mr. Fuji’s Road Warriors knockoffs succeeded with great tag psychology, a tough guy attitude and copies amounts of salt and cane shots from Fuji. Both teams are so amazing that they’re still beloved today.

Finally, the undercard had jack of all trades, Bad News Brown. With his rough and tough attitude, he was able to create an issue with everyone. He was legitimately dangerous, so even the wrestlers were careful around him, which came across on camera as an air of invincibility. He isn’t the worker many of the others on this list are, but he was as over and as credible as anyone.

How can the heels of today match up with this amazing list? Let’s head over to Examiner to find out.

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