The villain of any piece will usually be the nastiest person in the cast by definition: the antagonist, the person who instigates the conflict that drives drama and precipitates tragedy. Yet, by the nature of story itself, not all bad guys are quantifiably bad people.
After all, the adversary for the protagonist doesn’t have to be evil to get the job done, and (especially these days) people like their black sheep a little greyer than before. The Devil himself would be played as a gentleman; a monster would be recast as misunderstood.
Not in pro wrestling. We like our villains to be deep-seated, thoroughgoing b*stards. If they have any redeeming features, then they’re not real heels… and to be a real heel, you have to be unrepentant, gleefully corrupt, twisted, maniacal, and above all, gloriously over-the-top.
But it’s what a heel does that gets him heat, not just who he is, and the true, dyed-in-the-wool, loathsome pro wrestling villain needs to pull out all the stops. The history of the business is littered with the greatest bad guys in all of storytelling history, and if you want to be on that list, you need to do something wonderfully bad, and it needs to be horribly great.
Anyone can badmouth the fans, deliver a low blow behind the referee’s back, or work an unpopular gimmick. These, however… these are the most hated heel moves in wrestling history.
20. The Hitman And Flair
Harley Race, one of the most influential men ever to set foot in the ring, ended Ric Flair’s first NWA World Heavyweight Championship by beating the Nature Boy in a two-out-of-three falls match in June 1983.
Of course, history records that he would drop the title back to Flair at the very first Starrcade at Thanksgiving in 1983, subtitled A Flair For The Gold. By this time, Race was a twenty-three year veteran and this was his (at the time) record-breaking, seventh NWA world title. He’d even get an eighth, eventually… but this was Flair’s time.
Race didn’t want another piece of the Nature Boy, and offered a $25,000 dollar contract on his opponent, open to anyone that wrestled for a living. Take out Ric Flair and the money was theirs. In the end, ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton and Dick Slater took him at his word, delivering a spike piledriver that took Flair out for months and teased his retirement… that is, before he dramatically returned in September ‘83 to take out Orton and Slater and set his sights back on Race’s gold again.
Race wouldn’t be the first heel to offer a bounty on a babyface he didn’t want to fight, but he was the most notorious: Harley freakin’ Race was one of the most intimidating men in the history of the sport, and everybody knew it.
If Harley Race needed Flair taken out, that said more about Flair than a hundred promos could. Starrcade ‘83 was the night that Flair, already a top guy in the NWA, became a real star, and it was Race that put him there.