In professional wrestling, a face or babyface (or in British Wrestling tradionally referred to as a blue-eye) is a character who is portrayed as a heroic relative to the heel wrestlers, who are analogous to villains. Not everything a face wrestler does must be heroic: faces need only to be cheered by the audience to be effective characters. The vast majority of wrestling storylines place a heel against a face.
Traditional babyfaces are classic good guy characters who do not break the rules, follow instructions of those in authority such as the referee, are polite and well-mannered towards the fans, and often overcome the rule-breaking actions of their heel opponents to cleanly win matches. While many modern faces still fit this model, other versions of the face character are now also common.
The portrayal of face wrestlers changed in the 1990s with the birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling, the start of World Championship Wrestling's nWo storyline, and the The Attitude Era of the World Wrestling Federation. During this time, wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Sting used tactics traditionally associated with heels but remained popular with the fans. Although wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser, Crusher and Freddie Blassie had been babyfaces while using such tactics well before this, the Attitude Era is usually credited with this new kind of face.
Conversely, Kurt Angle was introduced to the World Wrestling Federation with an American hero gimmick based on his gold medal win at the 1996 Summer Olympics. In his promos, Angle presented himself as a role model and stressed the need to work hard to realize one's dreams. Although such a personality appears appropriate for a face wrestler, Angle's character was arrogant, talked down to the audience, and behaved as if he thought he was better than the fans. Angle's character served as a meta-reference to how wrestling had changed. Although his character was intended to be a heel and behaved accordingly, some commentators speculated that if Angle attempted to get over as a babyface using a more heroic version of the same character, he would have failed. Notably, Angle did not use any of these heroic mannerisms when playing a face character, instead acting as somewhat of an antihero with a few elements of the "lovable loser" character archetype.
Fans sometimes boo baby face wrestlers despite the way they are promoted. Some reasons this may occur include repetitive in-ring antics, a limited moveset, a lengthy title reign, lack of selling his/her opponents' moves, or an uninteresting character. This often results in wrestlers who are supposed to be cheered receiving a negative or no reaction from the fans. The Rock, who initially wrestled as Rocky Maivia (November 1996 to August 1997), was depicted as a classic babyface, but the fans despised him. His constant attempts to get the crowd on his side struck them as obsequiousness and made him even less popular. Ironically, The Rock would achieve widespread popularity among fans when he took heel turns, during which his attempts to humorously mock the crowd would often be met with cheers. John Cena has a history of receiving mixed reactions and even full heat from crowds despite being presented as a babyface.