9 Greatest Pro Wrestling Villains
If I were going to make a list of the greatest fake sports in the world, professional wrestling would be #1. Now, just settle down wrestling fans, I’m not knocking it. Pro wrestlers really are great athletes, and what they do really takes skill. I’ve heard it all before, and I’m sold. All I mean by “fake” is that the actual outcome of the competition—who wins, who loses—is rigged. Besides, fake is good. If the outcomes weren’t rigged, if the matches weren’t fake, there couldn’t be really awesome pro wrestling villains (aka “heels”). And the villains are the best part about pro wrestling, if you ask me.
In fact, in honor of these great athletes, the ultimate cheeseballs of the sport, I give you this list of the 9 Greatest Pro Wrestling Villains of All Time. I think everyone can enjoy it, but if you’re a pro wrestling expert and I made some terrible error in compiling the list, please, let me know in the comments section.
9. Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher, aka the Madman from Sudan, was really just Larry Shreve from Windsor, Ontario. For the first part of his long career Mr. the Butcher was what they call a “hardcore” wrestler, which is a style of pro wrestling that emphasizes graphic violence and no rules. Later on he made the transition into the more tame, mainstream wrestling league, World Championship Wrestling (the WCW). There, as before, his schtick was that he was from the Sudan, didn’t speak English, and had a “handler” who would sick him on his opponents. The dude was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
8. Triple H
“Triple H” comes from this dude’s former ring name, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Of course, Triple’s real name is Paul Levesque. Anyway, this guy was one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWE for years, but on November 6, 2000, TH made one of the more famous “heel turns”—a shift in a character’s storyline in which he goes from good guy to bad guy—in the history of pro wrestling. Triple H’s “heel turn” involved the stunning, shocking, and appalling* revelation that he was the mastermind behind the plot to run Stone Cold Steve Austin down with a car.
*Note the reaction of the commentators around 0:46 of the video.
7. Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik (real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) was one of wrestling’s most reviled and (therefore) beloved villains of the 1980s. He was a total bastard, and he butchered English. What more could you want? Of course, to buy into the whole villainous illusion, you had to ignore the fact that “sheik” is an Arabic term, but this guy is Persian. Who cares if Iranians are not Arabs? All that mattered to the WWF was that this guy was from the Middle East, which was, even then, a “scary” place in the minds of Americans. (That probably had something to do with the fact that Americans didn’t know the difference between Arabs and Persians.)
6. The Undertaker
For some reason I do not fully understand, The Undertaker never seems to make it on many lists of pro wrestling’s all-time greatest heels. But I always thought he was hilariously awesome, so I placed him right here at #6 on my list. Although Mark Calaway’s ring persona has undergone numerous tweaks and adjustments over the years, the best version of “The Undertaker” is the one where he is an undead soul-collecting mortician from the Old West with a penchant for the Satanic. As far as I’m concerned, any wrestling heel that takes things to that extreme deserves some recognition.
5. Rowdy Roddy Piper
In contrast with The Undertaker up there at #6, what I love about Mr. Piper (born Roderick Toombs) is his lack of gimmicks. Sure, he had the Scottish kilt thing, but compared to an immortal Satan worshiping mortician, that’s nothing. No, Rowdy Roddy Piper was one of the best wrestling heels of all time simply because of his ability to be such a ridiculously insane asshole. It also really helped that the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native had a crazy awesome Canadian accent.
4. Ric Flair
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair (real name Richard Fliehr) was a genuine throwback to the “golden age” of professional wrestling. Unlike most throwback types, the Nature Boy was just as good as many of the originals. (Like every sport, activity, or class of things, the “golden age” of pro wrestling was basically just the time period during which the sport first became widely popular. In this case, it was the 1950s. See #1 below). The pompous son-of-a-bitch had bleach-blonde hair, roasty brown skin, blingy jewelry, ornate costumes, and fancy suits. The man was utterly in love with himself, and people loved it. Come to think of it, Ric Flair would have fit in perfectly with the cast of Jersey Shore.
3. Freddie Blassie
Frederick Kenneth Blassman was born on 1918 in St. Louis, Missouri, and the height of his pro wrestling fame came in the 1950s and 60s. Blassie is basically credited as being the first wrestler to figure out that you could become a household name by getting people to hate your guts. This he accomplished by picking on all-American fan favorites and antagonizing the crowd. For a 1960 promotion in Los Angeles, the crowd so hated Blassie that he had to be escorted into the ring by uniformed police. In another match in 1961, a “fan” in the crowd threw acid on Blassie, and he had to run back to the locker room to wash it off. Of course, in real life, Freddie was a great guy—a WWII veteran and good pal of none other than Muhammad Ali.
2. Hollywood Hogan
Terry Bollea was perhaps the most famous and beloved pro wrestler of all-time. Of course, you knew him as the one, the only, Hulk Hogan. Now, at the beginning of his career, Hogan played the heel most of the time. But some time in the early 1980s, Hogan “changed his ways” and became a good guy. Then, for about 10 years or so, Hulk Hogan was a superstar. His blonde surfer dude looks and virtuous all-American persona made him the face of wrestling. So, when Hogan turned heel in 1996, colluding with “The Outsiders” (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) to attack the beloved Macho Man Randy Savage (may he rest in peace)? Well, that was the probably the biggest “heel turn” in the history of professional wrestling. At that point, “Hulk” Hogan became “Hollywood” Hogan, who was just a real big douche.
1. Gorgeous George
Without Gorgeous George, pro wrestling wouldn’t be what it is today. George’s prima donna “glamour boy” image was completely revolutionary when he introduced it back in the 1940s. By the 1950s, his flamboyant showmanship was through the roof. Gorgeous originated the “cowardly villain” variety of wrestling heel, and he would infuriate crowds by openly “cheating” at every opportunity. (You see, old George would wait till the referee and his opponent turned their backs, then pull some dirty underhanded trick in plain view of the aghast audience.) By the end of the 50s, Gorgeous George was a household name, and had cultivated pro wrestling’s first true mainstream following. For this reason, he is pro wrestling’s all-time #1 greatest villain. Congratulations, Georgie boy.