In wrestling there are two sides a character can be on: there are babyfaces, who are recognized as the heroes, or good guys/girls that are there to ensure that all wrongdoings are overcome. Then there are the heels, those characters are the counter to the babyfaces, always guilty of committing acts so deceitful and dastardly that most would never want to see these ruthless characters prevail.
New Japan Pro Wrestling has both types of characters, and why they stand out is that their heel characters are often not guilty of dastardly acts but rather mere their presence, or the mention of their name, makes children run in fear and grown men and women cower. Who are these men and what is it about them that makes them so evil that they don’t need to resort to breaking the rules?
If ever there was a wrestler in the annals of New Japan Pro Wrestling known to inspire fear just from his demeanour, it is Mr. Suzuki. There is nothing particularly fancy about his character, and there doesn’t need to be. He comes to the ring with nothing more than a pair of tights and a pair of short wrestling boots, but he is a straight-ahead warrior that will likely punch through anyone in his path. With each punch, kick and chop, audience members can surely feel it. His battles with talent, both gaijin or homegrown, have been legendary. And Regardless of who he is in the ring with he can make a star out of them. The menacing glare and look on his face, and the subsequent look of pleasure when he inflicts pain on his opponent, can cause anyone to cower. And when a match doesn’t go his way everyone at ringside, whether it is his opposition or officials, or young boys best beware as he is likely to go on a chair-swinging rampage. With the backing of his followers in Suzuki-Gun, he continues to be an intimidating force. Both in and out of the ring, Suzuki sets an example for his cohorts by striking fear in the hearts of his opponents and those watching in attendance.
As the leader and a key member of the Grand Bash Heel faction, Makabe continues to impress with how intimidating he can be. Always sporting a giant chain on the way to the ring, the ‘Unchained Gorilla’ will growl and scowl, and much like Minoru Suzuki use his presence to cause his adversaries to quiver in fear. Can he use dastardly tactics to do in his opponents? Typically, he doesn’t, and doesn’t really need to. He will hit hard, hit often and administer as much punishment as he will receive. Makabe is a bear in and out of the ring, and his rivalries have often led to brutal battles. A ring veteran of over twenty years, it has never been about wins and losses for Makabe, but more his ability to strike fear without even having to do a thing to his opposition.
One of the most technically sound wrestlers today, he is also one of the most arrogant, and we love him for it. A member of Minoru Suzuki’s Suzuki-gun faction, Zack Sabre Jr has given promos that have been pointed and scathing on many an occasion. He became a member of the faction over two years ago; when his impending debut for New Japan Pro Wrestling was announced, he quickly went from face to heel when he affiliated himself with Suzuki. During his time with the promotion and Suzuki-gun, he has accomplished a great deal, including winning the 2018 New Japan Cup. He has wrestled the best and made them look silly. Sabre Jr exudes confidence and is consistently able to out maneuver his opponents on any occasion. He is a heel that will take your strengths and make them your weakness, and psychological warfare is part and parcel of what makes Zack Sabre Jr.
He is a founding father of the Bullet Club but put that aside as there is so much more to Bad Luck Fale. He represents the muscle of that group even though he doesn’t always have to use it, as he can be a presence without having to say a word. At his size he is an imposing figure, and in the past, he used to escort Fergal ‘Prince’ Devitt to the ring by sitting Devitt on his shoulders. As the Underboss of Bullet Club, Fale continues to blaze a path for himself. We anticipate that he will continue to make an impact, on his own and with the other members of his group. This former rugby player turned wrestler knows all too well that the best laid plans are those made by the most dangerous of people.
This Los Ingobernables de Japon, stable member has emerged in a big way since joining the faction. Not the nicest of members, EVIL comes in and takes no prisoners. He will go after anyone without prejudice. His look is unique but fits the all caps name EVIL. Whether he is in the ring with a grappler or a brawler, he is consistently able to present qualities that makes him stand out as a heel even though he rarely resorts to anything underhanded or unruly. He doesn’t need to attack from behind because most of his opponents are frightened by what he will do to them face to face. Anyone facing this man has to wonder what lies behind those eyes? EVIL is a crucial part of LIJ and a performer not to be taken lightly in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
These five men all have one common trait when it comes to their ability to showcase just how fiendish and dastardly, they can be. They simply need to be. There is no need to cheat to win or create a scenario where they are absolute monsters in or out of the ring. They all equally present themselves with presence. It is that same presence that will often lead them to not only gain a physical advantage but one of a psychological one as well. Suzuki, Fale, EVIL, Makabe and Zack Sabre Jr all run the gambit on how their heel characters are portrayed. What isn’t however something to be denied that these are all men of extraordinary skill and one’s of elite heel status.
As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.