They were the bad guys-- the wrestlers you loved to hate and, arguably, the backbone of any professional wrestling promotion.
Here are wrestling's 10 all-time greatest heels.
10. Abdullah the Butcher
The "Madman from the Sudan" started his career in the late 50's and is still doing occasional appearances. Abdullah reached the height of his career in the 70's and 80's, traveling from promotion to promotion, using his 350+ lb. frame and bloodthirsty savage gimmick to take on the heroes from a myriad of regional promotions as well as countries such as Japan, Canada, and Mexico. Abdullah was extreme before there was such a thing as extreme wrestling.
9. Gorgeous George
The Flamboyant, well-manicured pretty boy became wrestling's first main stage bad guy with the advent of televised wrestling in the 40's and 50's. The preening, arrogant "Human Orchid" served as the template for other similar characters such as Buddy Rogers and Ric Flair. Boxer, Muhammad Ali, also credited Gorgeous George with serving as an inspiration in the area of self-promotion.
8. Jim Cornette
The tennis racket-carrying loudmouth manager was a hated mainstay on the Southern Circuit as well as in World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. Most famous for managing the Midnight Express, the spoiled rich kid with the bad attitude played the perfect bad guy and generated massive amounts of heat wherever he went.
7. The Fabulous Freebirds
Pass through Texas in the 80's and you'd find that nobody in the history of wrestling received more negative heat than the trio of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts-- Otherwise known as The Fabulous Freebirds. Pitted against the All-American, Texas-born Von Erich Family, The Freebirds played the role of nasty, cheating Georgia-based trailer trash and they excelled in getting under an entire state's skin. The team also worked for the WCW and UWF, but never generated the same amount of bad blood as they did in Texas.
6. The Four Horsemen
The NWA's Four Horsemen became the standard by which all heel stables are judged. The original group of Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, and Ole Anderson generated massive heat as a crew of hard-partying, elitist rich boys with a penchant for taking shortcuts in the ring. Although there were many incarnations of the Four Horsemen stable over the course of a decade, none provoked the ire of fans more than the originals.
5. Rowdy Roddy Piper
The kilt-wearing loudmouth was the top heel in the original Hulkamania era of the WWF/WWE and was as good on the microphone as anyone who ever cut a promo. The wrestler's "Piper's Pit" interview segment was a ground-breaking feature where Piper would interview prominent wrestlers and, more often than not, create some sort of chaos or drama. A well-schooled wrestler with plenty of seasoning in various organizations, Piper could also perform at the highest levels in the ring.
4. The NWO (New World Order)
When the WCW, backed by Ted Turner, signed top WWE talents, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, the idea was create the impression that the rival WWE was invading the organization. Later joined by Hulk Hogan and Sean Waltman (Syxx, X-Pac), the group battered and humbled WCW mainstays much to the dismay of the loyal fans. The NWO would grow to include many WCW defectors before splintering into two separate factions and losing its steam as an angle.
3. Bobby Heenan
"Pretty Boy" Heenan made his debut in 1965 and came to prominence in the blue-collar, hardcore Mid-West AWA organization in the 70's. The cowardly rich boy soon transitioned from wrestling to managing and became one of the most reviled characters in wrestling history, even sustaining knife wounds from enraged fans. Nicknamed "The Weasel" by the fans, Heenan would then move to the WWF where he continued his gimmick before becoming a full-time announcer.
2. Vince McMahon
In the absence of a strong heel to counter the mega-popular "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in the 90's, WWE owner, Vince McMahon, took the reigns and became one of the most despised wrestling figures of all-time. Playing the role of the arrogant, mean-spirited boss to Austin's redneck rebel, McMahon helped usher in a new era of massive popularity for the organization.
1. Ric Flair
Borrowing from Gorgeous George and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, the flamboyant Flair perfected the role of the arrogant pretty boy. The 16-time world heavyweight champion has spent over 40 years in the sport and is regarded as one of the best who ever worked the game. From his self-aggrandizing promos to his impeccable ring work, the "The Limousine Ridin', Jet Flying, Kiss Stealin', Wheelin' Dealin', Son of a Gun" is not only regarded as the best heel of all-time, but also, arguably, the greatest professional wrestler, ever.
Paul Magno has contributed work to Fox Sports, The Boxing Tribune, and several other websites. He also grew up as a hardcore wrestling fan in the 70's and 80's.
Staff, WWE Abdullah the Butcher Bio, WWE
Staff, WWE Gorgeous George Bio, WWE
Staff, Jim Cornette Biography, JimCornette.com
Staff, Fabulous Freebirds Bio, Online World of Wrestling
Staff, "Roddy" Piper Bio, WWE
Staff, NWO Bio, Online World of Wrestling
Staff, Bobby Heenan Bio, WWE
Staff, Vincent McMahon Bio, Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
Staff, Ric Flair Bio, Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame