What is it that makes a compelling villain? Is it an utter lack of mercy? A willingness to wrong to others for self-gain? A twisted sense of morality? Cool clothing?
When designing a villain, it's always important to make sure that he or she resonates with the audience in some form or fashion. This doesn't mean that they are likeable, or that the audience wants them to win. Just that they find something about the villain appealing, even if it amounts to horrid fascination, like Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.
This is true when it comes to pro wrestling's version of villains, heels. Heel wrestlers in the WWE or elsewhere are supposed to spit in the face of what societal mores consider 'good' behavior, raising the ire of the crowd so that they cheer even louder for the hero, or 'babyface' wrestler.
However, despite the best intentions of different promoters, creative departments, and the wrestlers themselves, there are sometimes those heel wrestlers who the fans just can't stop cheering for.
Here are seven 'bad guy' pro wrestlers who the people just can't stop supporting with their cheers.
Tetsuya Naito only recently came into the internet wrestling community's crosshairs, but he's a wily veteran with nearly two decades of wrestling experience.
Naito began his career, by his own admission, as a 'generic babyface' who the crowd appreciated, but didn't necessarily cheer for. He gained a great deal of international experience in the mid to late 2000s, working for TNA and CMLL among other promotions.
Eventually, he found his way back to Japan, where he developed a new, roguish attitude that seems to bear a lot of resemblance to Stone Cold Steve Austin without being a straight up rip off of the character. Naito infuses a heavy dose of Gen X "Why should I care?" attitude into his persona, while simultaneously dialling up the intensity of his in-ring work.
These days, Naito has been shifted to babyface position, because NJPW can't stop people from cheering for him. He was even voted the top NJPW star of 2018, despite not being named Okada or Omega.
Why the fans keep cheering for him: A combination of respect for his abilities and the fact that his antihero persona is quite endearing to a lot of people.