December is winding down and Christmastime is here, so given the spirit of the season, it means we’re in store for another edition of the annual Naughty and Nice 3-Count, recapping the best babyfaces, heels (and sometimes tweeners) of the year.
As far as how I went about picking these names, I went with a mixture of accomplishments, longevity, intensity and character work, mostly in a kayfabe sense with a smidge of smark added in for taste.
Of course, this is mostly a personal preference and you may disagree entirely, so if that’s the case, give us your list in the comments below!
Keeping all that in mind, which men and women made my list? Let’s take a look (in no particular order)…
Matt Riddle starts the year off becoming United States champion, fucks up a promo with Asuka and perpetually gets goofier and goofier while achieving more and more success.
More than any other character this year, Riddle’s been my favorite to watch on a regular basis. His pairing with Randy Orton as RK-Bro has been so much fun that I’m going to hate to see it go, even though I’m excited for the inevitable feud between the two.
Many times, people like Riddle can come off annoying. The idea of someone being built around a level of ignorance that you’re supposed to find funny means it either works for you or you most likely hate it with a passion. Look at comedians like Pauly Shore, Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler. Normally, someone’s either a big fan and they think they’re hilarious, or they want to punch those guys in the face.
I can see why people might not like Riddle, but for me and seemingly most of the fan base, when he opens his mouth and seems so blissfully happy in his stupidity, it gets a chuckle out of me, particularly if Orton’s there to play the straight man for the comedic duo.
Riddle’s not just on this list for being funny, though. He’s always making new friends backstage, trying to convince Randy to do the right thing and help out other babyfaces, and even keeping a relatively calm demeanor in relation to heels and adversaries.
He’s got a flashy entrance, he’s gifting out scooters to MSK and he’s always got a fist bump ready for any bro ringside. That’s a true babyface.
No woman on WWE’s roster this year better exemplifies a top babyface than Bianca Belair. I don’t think anyone comes even close.
She has a completely different character than Riddle, but hits on all the other things. In particular, the best way to sum her up is “role model”—but not in the way so many women in wrestling have been using that term the past 2 years for heat.
Little girls genuinely look up to her. She calls herself The EST of WWE and strives to maintain that rank not out of ego, but because she wants to be the best version of herself. Tons of her promos have been about wanting to be an inspiration to people who doubt themselves and to show them they can achieve these things if they put in the hard work, just like she did.
Belair wasn’t a birthright champion in the making like Charlotte Flair or a lifelong superfan like Bayley. She doesn’t have stories of idolizing Eddie Guerrero like Sasha Banks. Instead, she just got on WWE’s radar by Mark Henry, took it as the next big challenge for her already impressive life at that point, fell in love with this gig and became one of the best on the roster.
Belair deserves to have won the Royal Rumble and to become champion in an historic main event of WrestleMania. That moment where she and Banks were crying before the match started was one of my favorite parts of the year and goes to show how Belair herself in real life is a legitimate babyface if there ever was one.
The New Day
Everything these guys do is just awesome. Big E’s achieved more this year than ever before and keeps trying to maintain his humorous demeanor as WWE champion, despite all the tropes and trends pushing him in another direction. Kofi Kingston’s been in it for the fun for the past few years and he seems to still be having a ball. Xavier Woods finally became King of the Ring and is clearly loving that.
They’re great at taking shots against heels, but they’re also great outside the ring at being the types who will go to a Boys and Girls Club or do a podcast about the importance of mental health.
Whether it’s UpUpDownDown, a promo on Raw/SmackDown, or something outside the squared circle, if I’m looking for some positivity, I know I’m going to get it with The New Day.
5 Honorable Mentions:
- Damian Priest – His partnership with Bad Bunny, calling out heels all the time and standing up for others while being super successful got him close to this list, but not quite the top 3.
- Cesaro – How WWE ignored the positivity surrounding his push against Roman Reigns yet again is beyond me. They just do not see it with The Swiss Superman, no matter how obvious it is that he’s one of the bigger babyfaces.
- Drew McIntyre – Just shy of the top 3 spots, The Scottish Warrior has been perpetually a standout babyface since Royal Rumble 2020. He’s lost steam, but he’s not lost his dedication to that alignment. Much kudos.
- Indi Hartwell – Family values, a blossoming romance that worked out in the end, bringing her best friend into the fold, being the impetus to turn the whole faction babyface and getting better as a wrestler all throughout the process? Major wins for Indi Wrestling.
- Tommaso Ciampa – While he certainly has an edge to him that makes him do some questionable things, Ciampa’s arguably the last remaining true black and gold NXT guy fighting the good fight.
The Tribal Chief is the most arrogant, conniving person on the roster who abuses his power as much as he can. It’s amazing.
With Paul Heyman by his side as his council, there’s always heat from the weasel side of things. The Usos provide backup to constantly interfere and to be boastful, never shy of touting how great they are and chattering away while Roman Reigns stays mostly silent.
But when Reigns talks, he’s belittling everyone, talking about how he’s smashed all his opponents. Best of all, he has. I love seeing a heel who actually does win. Even though he still cheats to win some of those matches, he looks strong in a way that you know he’s going to back up this idea of being champion for a long, long time.