Jamie Lithgow, John Carbery and Brian Damage
Time for another ‘Top Five‘ and this time the theme is ‘white meat’ babyfaces i.e. those fist-pumping good guys, and gals, with no rough edges that kids love. However, as this is a ‘Top Five’ we shall no doubt be mentioning the babyfaces so good at being good that even old fogies like us can’t help but cheer for them too.
5. Sami Zayn: I’m starting with WWE’s current number one ‘white meat’ babyface – John Cena doesn’t count because half the audience boo him – Who doesn’t like Sami Zayn?! He’s like Dolph Ziggler in that he is universally loved by all sections of the audience, but there is an optimism surrounding him that WWE has long since detached from Ziggler. The magic of Daniel Bryan will likely never be recreated, but if handled correctly WWE may have the next best thing in Sami Zayn.
4. Rey Mysterio: Okay, towards the end of his run in WWE it became downright awkward to watch a Rey Mysterio match. Many fans never really forgave him for what was viewed as his exploitation of the late Eddie Guerrero. How much of this was actually Rey’s fault is unknown, but there was always the option to say no to WWE’s creative plans. Anyway, prior to this he spent ten years – save for a brief and forgettable run as a Filthy Animal – as a squeaky clean, underdog babyface who would routinely have outstanding matches. Kids loved him because he was the same size as them, but adults loved him because in his prime he was one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
3. The Hardy Boyz: I recently heard Edge & Christian describe The Hardys as The Rock n’ Roll Express to their Midnight Express. I’m too young to remember this feud, but from what I know it sounds like a pretty accurate description. On their own both Matt and Jeff are capable of playing heel roles – Matt’s V1 gimmick is a good example – but together there is just no way they can be bad guys, especially in WWE. Back in the day teenage girls loved The Hardys for obvious reason, but the insane stunts they performed made it damn near impossible for everyone else not to cheer for them too. The Hardy Boyz were the babyface tag team during what is considered the golden age of tag team wrestling in WWE.
2. Ricky Steamboat: The quintessential ‘white meat’ babyface. I may be wrong here, but I don’t think Steamboat has ever been a heel. The reason for this is simple; he was always so popular as a good guy that there was no need for him to turn. Like most wrestling fans, I gravitate towards Steamboat and buy into him as the righteous babyface whenever I watch his matches on old WWF or WCW shows. However, I can’t explain why. Maybe some people learn to be good babyfaces while some people, like Steamboat, are just born that way.
1. Sting: I’m referring to surfer Sting because when I was a kid he was my guy. I’ve always tended not to follow the most popular guys, and actually tended towards baddies. However, Sting was the exception to the rule. As a kid I was probably more WCW than WWF and Sting was their top guy. While I didn’t really care for Hogan, I was really into Sting. This can probably explained because I was a kid and Sting was a colourful, fiery babyface. That doesn’t fully explain why he was so over with the rest of the audience though. Absolutely brilliant, you just can’t boo a man called Sting…
5. Magnum TA: Magnum TA, Terry Allen to his friends, was a perfect face and someone who would’ve been huge for the NWA as champion had he not suffered his famous car accident. I’m basing his inclusion in this list almost purely on his performance against Tully Blanchard in their famous Steel Cage I Quit match for the United States Championship from Starrcade 85. After months of being antagonised by the future horseman and after nearly 17 minutes of bloody brutality inside the cage, Magnum got on the mic and cut one of the most perfect babyface promos of all time. TA claimed that he won the title in a fight, not a wrestling match, an ugly fight that didn’t honour the prestigious US title and that as champion he’d aim to be the best wrestler in America to redeem himself and the title he loved. While managing to sound genuine at the same time.
4 The Rock N Roll Express: If you want to see pure babyface fire look at a couple of Rock n Roll matches. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were teen heart throbs who always fought against the odds and even through a tinny TV speaker and a creaky old VHS the screams of the women in the crowd for the Express would deafen you. They were always righteous and you just know they called everybody Ma’am and Sir while still living after midnight.
3 Bayley: Honestly, I couldn’t stand Bayley when I first saw her wrestle. I thought her gimmick was dumb and I was put off by how happy she seemed. Yes, I can be a bitter old man at times. However, after giving her some time I couldn’t help but be won over by her. Bayley just comes across as a genuinely nice person and her promos and ring work are just so brilliantly wholesome, after twenty plus years of tweeners and overly produced faces like Reigns, she’s a breath of fresh air. I was so drawn in to her match with Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn I was honestly moved to tears by its end and it was all down to a perfect heel vs babyface combination. An honorable mention goes to Sami Zayn, but for me Bayley is the best of the modern WMB’s.
2 The Von Erichs: I grew up being a huge fan of Kerry Von Erich as the Texas Tornado in the WWF. He was a cool guy with a great look that had some pretty sweet matches in the upper mid card with the likes of Mr Perfect. Until I was about 15 I’d only read about his family, then I found a VHS tape presented by Bill Apter which featured The Von Erich’s heavily and I couldn’t help but be won over by them. David, Kerry, Kevin & even the reluctant wrestler Mike all seemed to possess a shared gene that allowed them to be perfect babyfaces. Sadly their babyface fire burned too bright and too fast, but when looking at footage of them in their home promotion WCCW you’d be hard pressed to find a face squadron who burned brighter.
1 Dusty Rhodes: In 2013 Dusty Rhodes was managing his sons, Cody Rhodes and Goldust, at the Battleground PPV against the Shield. Myself and a friend were watching the show at a lock in and we both loved Dusty so much we shouted at and successfully quietened the patrons of a rowdy bar so we could hear the Dream cut one of his legendary promos. Two jaded wrestling fans in their late 20’s couldn’t fight against the babyface fire brought by the Plumbers Son from Austin, Texas and we were happy to celebrate the man in public, if you will.
Go back and watch any of Dusty’s major rivalries from the 80’s and you’ll be watching a genius at work. Dusty Rhodes was the perfect good guy. He looked like he just walked out of the crowd, he was probably the greatest promo of his day and no matter what he always did what was right. I honestly can’t put into words what made Dusty so special as a babyface, but if you aren’t familiar with his work I promise you’ll have a great time seeing what the fuss is all about.
5. The Rock N Roll Express: A tag team so popular, they rivaled major singles stars for the pops they would get from rabid fans. They were truly successful in the ring and were the protype for several other tag teams to try and mimic their success.
4. The Junkyard Dog: We all know that Junkyard Dog was a beloved star of the WWF back in the mid 1980’s and also for WCW in the late 80’s early 90’s. JYD was also a mega star in the Mid South territory down in Louisiana and Oklahoma areas before that. JYD’s popularity helped Mid South become a true player to try and expand nationally.
3. Bruno Sammartino: Bruno was a man’s man in the ring and out of it as well. Arguably, one of the most successful pro wrestlers of the 60’s and 70’s. Anytime Sammartino wrestled….the arenas would be packed to the rafters. A true good guy that was beloved by millions.
2. The Von Erichs: David, Kerry, Kevin, Mike and even to a smaller degree…Chris Von Erich were the All American good guys in the old Texas territory of World Class Championship Wrestling. While I have heard stories about the Adkisson boys being just as wild backstage as the Freebirds…on screen, they were the heroes you wanted to root for and see succeed. This coming from a die hard Freebirds fan.
1. Ricky Steamboat: The ultimate babyface…squeaky clean and just good to the core. The thing is, people who speak of Steamboat found him completely likeable. I can’t think of many (If any at all) who had a bad word about him behind the scenes. What you saw is what you got from Steamboat and that was an all around good guy.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.