A Heel is a Professional Wrestling bad guy. He's the guy the fans constantly boo, who lives to make the fans angry and menace their favorites. Heels are typically the antagonists of a pro wrestling storyline or "angle." The Lucha Libre equivalent is known as a rudo.
Fans may boo a heel for any number of reasons; he may be cowardly, cruel, cocky, arrogant, whiny, or any combination thereof.
Sometimes a heel gets particularly popular with fans, and winds up undergoing a Heel Face Turn.
The color commentator often takes the heels' side, the better to egg the fans on. Also, expect a certain section of the Smarks to delight in the heels' victories.
It's important to keep in mind, they have their Pet the Dog moments without having to make a Heel Face Turn since they can be disgusted on another heel's action. They can still remain and make life a nightmare for a Face but they too have to put other Heels in their place.
See Foreign Wrestling Heel for a popular type of heel.
The opposite of a heel is a Face, the good guy that the fans cheer for. See also Tweener (a guy who falls in between Face and Heel status, fighting either side as the situation calls for) and X-Pac Heat (when the fans hate the actual person). The Heel Face Index has some more variations.
- Wolf (played by Michael Van Wijk) from Gladiators.
- Which leads to a subversion as he was easily the most popular Gladiator, although his attitude never changed throughout the shows run due to his deliberately poor acting. This even carried into the revival when he returned although toned down somewhat due to his role.
- Zack Ryder. Hated for bad jokes, arrogance, entrance music, hair style, goggles, see through jacket, pants with different length legs and his signature taunt "Woo Woo Woo!"
- Oddly enough though, many Smart Marks are fans of Zack Ryder. Though this may have something to do with his theme song...
- Has now turned face. His gimmick hasn't changed, but he is now an annoying douche towards heels rather than faces. Which is hilarious. Toning down the outfit may have helped too.
- Super Macho Man from the Wii version of Punch-Out!!. He's a complete showoff, who knocks the referee over and showboats like there's no tomorrow, thus the audience boos him when he makes his appearance in the ring. If he wins, though, the audience loves him again
- Almost every main eventer has been a heel at one time or another; Mark "The Undertaker" Callaway, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ric Flair, The Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kurt Angle, the list goes on...
- Famously averted by Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, who always remained the ultimate face in a career that spanned 3 decades. One of wrestling's more interesting What Ifs asks what would have happened if Steamboat had kept his given name—Richard Blood.
- Also famously averted by Tito Santana, a Mexican American wrestler who remained face throughout his entire career. Although best known as a mid-carder, his main event appearances have taken place while WWF Intercontinental Champion (1984-1985, usually against Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, the Magnificent Muraco and Randy "Macho Man" Savage) and the WWF Tag Team Championship (1979-1980 with Ivan Putski, 1987-1988 with Rick Martel), and his later feud with Martel (1989-1990).
- Muhammad Ali based his entire public persona on pro-wrestling heels, reasoning that the trick of "get the audience so pissed off they'll pay to see someone beat you up" would work just as well in a real sport as a fake one. He was right.
- Several other fighters do this. Josh Koscheck spent the whole of the Ultimate Fighter running up to his title match playing the cocky asshole heel to George St-Pierre's calm philosophical approach.
- Muhammad Ali's persona was largely inspired by Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson was incredibly arrogant and would often gloat over his fallen opponents. Justified because he was a black fighter in the early 20th century and would have been considered a heel regardless of how he acted. He chose to act in a way that showed that he wasn't a pushover.
- Andy Kaufman is another public figure who idolized and emulated heels, and eventually became one himself in a feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler.
- A few wrestlers have carved out a name for themselves as specialized heels, often maintaining their heel persona off-screen as well.
- Bruiser Brody was a heel his entire career, and well-paid for it (he was killed for it, too).
- Andre Roussimoff, aka Andre the Giant, would tour the world as "guest heel," to prevent Villain Decay, and then return for another short run.
- Big Van Vader (Leon White) would often be a "heel for hire," mostly for a few months in the US, and then very regularly in Japan.
- John Bradshaw Layfield (formerly Bradshaw of the APA, and the nephew of "Blackjack" Lanza) turned heel in 2004 and more or less never looked back. His transformation from trailer-trash Texan to conniving stock-market investor was inspired in part by his actual exploits on Wall Street, for which he became eminently respected in the world of finance. He portrayed himself as a corrupt politician throughout 2004 and 2005 (complete with a "cabinet" of henchmen wrestlers) and handed out American flags to spectators, then in late 2005 and early 2006 played the role of a xenophobic redneck who taunted Rey Mysterio, Jr.. (he did this to Eddie Guerrero too, in 2004) During the latter half of 2006 and most of 2007 he was a color commentator with Michael Cole on Smack Down, where he toned down his heelish traits a bit but still invariably rooted for the heel wrestlers. He returned to ring action in December 2007 to feud with Chris Jericho, during which time he not only reverted to many of his Jerkass roots but transformed into a Complete Monster as well (attacking the midget Hornswoggle, for instance) before finally retiring for good early in 2009. Throughout the entire post-2004 period, he was hardly ever seen without his trademark white cowboy hat and white limousine, which his outraged opponents were sometimes granted the pleasure of wrecking! (The Undertaker once chokeslammed Bradshaw through the limo)
- There is no way this list is complete without mention of the original heel - Gorgeous George (George Wagner), who gained mainstream popularity through his heel antics and over-the-top personality. The man invented the modern concept of the heel and inspired every guy who ever dyed his hair blonde and played up his amazing physique and outstanding in-ring abilities from The Nature Boy Buddy Rogers to Dolph Ziggler. Oh, and he was also a big part of where Muhammad Ali stole his "gimmick" in the boxing ring.
- An interesting subversion occurred during the WWF "Attitude" era, where, in a cutthroat competition with Turner's WCW, allowed wrestlers to develop their own personas instead of fake, gimmicky characters that were by and large unsuccessful. The most successful examples were often Face Heel Turns. For most of the "Attitude Era," heels outnumbered the faces, with usually Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart being the main opponents.
- Dwayne Johnson used this opportunity to transform from high-flying face Rocky Maivia into The Rock.
- The Ring Master became Stone Cold Steve Austin, who quickly became a face despite his intentions.
- The Undertaker switched his "American Badass" persona from face to heel, turning face half-a-year later and reverting back to the Deadman persona a year after that.
- "STP" became Thurman "Sparky" Plugg became Bob "Spark Plug" Holly became "Hardcore" Holly.
- In a subversion of the subversion, Mick Foley became Dude Love, a fake face.
- Managers can also be heels as well, as Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman have proven, and commentators too, and referees!
- Several wrestlers created the prototype for a particular type of heel, that is maintained to this day.
- The Iron Sheik created many of the tropes used by the Foreign Wrestling Heel, such as carrying flags into the ring, wearing ethnic clothing, and the evil mustache.
- The Great Kabuki created many of the tropes for the evil Japanese, such as scary masks, a sumo-based origin story, and ninja-style cheating techniques like blowing dust or the green mist/spit.
- Gorgeous George is the spiritual father of all LGBT wrestlers, ever.
- The Wild Samoans were the prototype of the Polynesian heel, such as the Polynesian afro and bare feet.
- Being a former professional wrestler, it's not surprising Brock Lesnar decided to act like one in his victory speech at UFC 100.
- His defeated opponent Frank Mir would end up borrowing the heel act in the lead-up to UFC 107.
- Taking Muhammad Ali's example up-page, he probably figures that annoying the fans is likely to draw fans willing to pay for the chance of watching him get beaten up. Judging by the PPV buy rates, he may well be right.
- Xochitl la Terible in Love and Rockets.
- Homestar Runner's Strong Bad.
- Mega Man Battle Network has the Heel Navis, who are called Heal Navis in the English translation.
- Idra of the StarCraft Metagame is one, in large part thanks to his bad sportsmanship and many a Rage Quit on his part.
- In-universe example with Avatar: The Last Airbender's Fire Nation Man.
- Older Than They Think: The Retiarii, the Fragile Speedster class of Roman gladiators, were generally booed and despised. The fact that their equipment often necessitated Bullfight Boss tactics didn't win them any love.