Old School, cause I'm an old fool....
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: The South
Re: Analyze This: Wrestlers that crossed the Heel/Face barrier
Honestly Lucha Libra does not probably provide a good answer for you with the one exception of El Santo, due to the nature of their "wrestling culture". As you know the distinct rudos, and technicos sides have their own followings complete with different sets of commentators. What I mean is many rudos or "heels" are cheered simply because they are rudos. So if a rudo becomes popular with the fans he is usually only risen to the top level in the rudos camp. I hope this makes sense. It is not uncommon at all for a popular rudo to be cheered much louder than a less popular technico.
It takes a little getting used to watching their product becuase you expect the technicos to always be cheered but they are not and especially when new to lucha libra the language barrier can easily make one confused as to who the good guys really are.
Anyways back to your original question. It is hard to find an really good example in the WWE, as guys usually are turned face as soon as they start really getting cheered. The WWE will determine their camps based on the level of cheers. Therefore guys who are clear answers for your question like: Jake Roberts, Stone Cold, The Rock, Kennedy etc... when they start getting an audible level of cheers they will 90% turn face in short order. Of course the boos for Cena seem to be an exception.
As far as answering what you ask, to me the best example was The Road Warriors. They were regularly cheered throughout the wrestling world throughout their early heel days from Georgia, to the territories they visited, to the AWA.
In Memphis, Jerry Lawler was wildley cheered in spite of his heel status because of the "local guy star going for national exposure" angles they ran with him in the 70's. Memphis was also unique because of the longevity of certian stars. Guys like Lawler, Austin Idol, Dutch Mantell, and Bill Dundee would flip flop between heel and face but still maintain their "cheers" because of the style of the wrestling. Unlike other territories where the lines were drawn based on the rules, everyone bent the rules in this territory and fans cheered for the wrestler whether or not the territory was using them as a "bad guy" or not.
Ric Flair and the Horsemen also had large levels of fan support in spite of their heel status. But the NWA wisely kept them heel for their original run.
The nWo, mainly Nash and Hall also qualify here. However not all members of the nWo recieved this same treatment.
On a much smaller level guys like Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho could count on a decent amount of support from the "smart" wrestling fans assembled.