[Tribeca] Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana! Shows Why Some Wrestling Gimmicks Succeed and Others Fail

Defining the terms "Babyface," "Heel," and "Gimmick"

It may be helpful to define the terms “babyface,” “heel,” and “gimmick” for those unfamiliar with these wrestling terms since they are important to this whole discussion. They’re actually pretty useful for understanding the basics of storytelling in general.

Babyface/Face = The good guy in a wrestling match. The person you cheer on.

Heel = The bad guy in a wrestling match. The person you jeer.

Gimmick = The overall character and personality of a professional wrestler.

A good illustration of the terms is the image above of quintessential 80s wrestlers Hulk Hogan (left) and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (right). Just from pure optics, it’s obvious that Hulk Hogan is the babyface and Ted DiBiase is the heel. Look at the color schemes of their outfits, their facial expressions, their postures. There’s even a class aspect to many babyface/heel dynamics. If you appeal to the blue collar working man, you’re more likely to be a babyface; if you’re rich and/or elite and look down on normal folks, you’re likely a heel.

As far as gimmicks, those tend to come through better in wrestling promos where you get to see a wrestler perform their character in full (see above video), but it’s all about the personality and traits of a given wrestling character. Hulk Hogan, for instance, is the Hulkster, and he’s obsessed with exercising, taking vitamins, saying prayers, and being a good ol’ ‘Murican dude with a legion of Hulkamaniacs in his corner following his good example. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase is a rich guy obsessed with being better than everyone else and belittling all of his lessers with shows of power and flippant wealth.

Do gimmicks matter?

Yes. Without a good gimmick, the crowd won’t cheer you as a face or jeer you as a villain. To achieve the right response from a crowd is known as being/getting “over.” Gimmicks are often fictional personas, but they’re the important factor to a professional wrestler’s overall success or failure. A great gimmick is a supplement and enhancement to any in-ring work that’s done.

Case in point: “The Ringmaster” Steve Austin vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Hubert Vigilla

Hubert Vigilla is a writer living in Brooklyn, which makes him completely indistinguishable from four-fifths of people living in Brooklyn.

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