The Ruthless Aggression Era is a wildly underrated era in my opinion. With big time Attitude Era stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock no longer their full time, they needed a new crop of superstars to pick up the slack and carry the company that is wildly respected across the country. The Ruthless Aggression Era had many strong heels that represented themselves greatly and it is good to remember their work.
Kane: Kane would be on this list, but it is just that his gimmick was so stereotypical and repetitive. He did his job well, had it not been so tiring seeing the same schtick over and over again. Plus, he has feuded with his storyline brother, The Undertaker, about 938 times.
Big Show: Big Show in the Ruthless Aggression Era was the pure embodiment of what a giant monster heel should be like. When he would go to the ring, he would dominate his opponents flawlessly and send shiver down the spines of anyone who got in his path. Now he is just plain annoying.
Brock Lesnar: Brock Lesnar is just a pure freak of nature. His combination of speed, power and athleticism has been unmatched and will never be topped again as far as I can tell. It is just a shame that first WWE run came up so short. Who knows how great he would have been had he stayed during the Cena years. Now, he is only a limited part timer, but will deliver when he is needed.
John Cena: There is a reason why people want John Cena to turn heel so badly. It is because of the fact that he was very entertaining during his first run as a heel in WWE. Some critics may say that it was too gimmicky and stereotypical “white trash”, but he was still able to entertain. The fans, though hated him, was over with him as a heel and it made his face turn that much more monumental. But now, it’s just plain naive.
Now onto the list:
5. Kurt Angle: Kurt Angle’s run as a heel was so well-played. Angle was a complete snotty, cocky heel. What made him great though, was that he was not all talk. He was able to back up his talk so often with his elite mat skills. In my opinion, there is not one man on this Earth who can out perform Kurt Angle in a real wrestling match when he is in his prime. Not only that, his promos, I believe were very underrated. Don’t believe me? Watch his promo at New Year’s Revolution in 2006, or his opinions on Tribute To The Troops. Angle was the perfect heel, but he wasn’t the typical cowardly heel that WWE makes most people be today. Angle may have cheated in some matches, but in others, when it counts most, he performs well and he wins clean. That’s what made him great.
4. Randy Orton: Now Orton really didn’t get his prime time until around 2004, where he was long into one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship runs of all time. Not only that, his “Legend Killer” gimmick made the fans despise him to the utmost. He would slap the face of legends like Dusty Rhodes. He would spit in the face of legends the likes of Mick Foley. His Legend Killer gimmick got so popular, he was granted what most wrestlers today will not get: a singles match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. He may not have ended the streak, which he shouldn’t have, but he would pick up a win against him in Summerslam of that year, and later in a 2 on 1 handicap casket match, all culminating in a bloody Hell In A Cell match against him. This is the Orton that is missed desperately by some, and especially by this writer.
3. Chris Jericho: Chris Jericho is widely respected for his willingness to put people over him. But his work as a heel displayed what he was truly capable of. He just made it so easy for people to hate him, especially by his way of calling the WWE fans “assclowns.” His promos were very believable and he was able to maintain his in ring credibility in the process. Most people will say that his best work came in 2008, however, when he was coming off fresh from a long hiatus from WWE. He was voted Superstar of the Year, largely in part due to his feud with Shawn Michaels. In one of the most vicious displays of heelish behaviors for me, Jericho smashed Shawn’s head through a monitor, effectively cracking the screen, and giving Jericho the ultimate heel heat, viciously attacking a legendary icon like HBK. Jericho personifies what a heel should be like, and hopefully there will be some future Chris Jerichos in the locker room, which I don’t see.
2. Edge: When WWE decides to use a real life love triangle as an actual WWE storyline, you know its real. Everybody knows the story. In 2005, Lita was having an affair with Rated R Superstar Edge, while he was supposedly in a relationship with Matt Hardy. This display not only got Edge some astonishing heel heat from the crowd, but from the locker room as well. Edge’s reputation was known as mud ever since that moment in terms of being a heel. But that was just the start. He began his heel crusade in 2004, when he turned on the popular Chris Benoit in a tag team match against La Resistance. Ever since that moment, Edge has been finding ways to have people hate him. Whether it was by cashing in his Money In The Bank contract against two of the cream of the crop in WWE (John Cena and The Undertaker) or whether it was by flipping the crowd off on TV, Edge’s behavior was truly refined as Rated R. Did you you know this guy got to sleep with an almost naked Lita on live television? Give that man some fried chicken.
1. Triple H: Let’s not front here, Triple H sucks today. But in his prime, as leader of Evolution, RAW ran through Triple H. No matter which way you slice it, Triple H just has the meticulous feel of an elite heel, which he did. He would cheat or have interference from nearly every match he has been in. His promos had fans and fellow wrestlers despising him. He was always trying to find ways to become World Heavyweight Champion. I could bring up the example of how he introduced a bounty to someone who could leave a lasting injury on Goldberg, giving him a guaranteed win for the WHC. Who can forget that iconic sledgehammer though? Whenever a person holds up a sledgehammer, I always think of Triple H and that smirk of his. There are so many classic examples of Triple H’s best work as a heel I can’t even name the all. Perhaps it was when he left Ric Flair, a widely respected WWE veteran, a bloody mess. There are certain things that you have to do to get you as an over the top heel in WWE, and Triple H was that guy. Everybody knew that he was elite, that he was the best, and that he was that damn good.