The 10 Greatest Heroes/Faces in WWE History

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Last week, TheStreet brought you a list of the 10 greatest heels in WWE history. But what good would any of these dastardly villains be without a hero to stand in the way of their nefarious schemes?

WWE has a long and storied history of heroic figures for whom fans cheer wildly. Nothing gets a crowd of 20,000 people on their feet and screaming like a babyface finally giving a heel his or her comeuppance.

But who are the best faces (good guys) to ever set foot inside the squared circle? Who are the wrestlers that deserved the loudest cheers and the adulation of the fans? Let's get to the list.

10) Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan is currently out of action thanks to a pair of surgeries on his neck and shoulder, much to the depression of wrestling fans across the world. The bearded superstar finally captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 only to get injured weeks later and surrender the belts.

You could mark the start of Bryan's journey to the top at several different points. His arrival to WWE, his first United States Championship, WrestleMania 28 and SummerSlam 2013 are all legitimate starting points. Regardless of when it started, fans rallied around Bryan in a way that few wrestlers had earned in the previous 15 years.

"Yes!" chants were everywhere during Bryan's rise to the top, and not just in the confines of a WWE arena. Michigan State athletes and fans did the chants at football and basketball games. The Seattle Seahawks, Bryan's hometown football team, participated. ESPN even took note of the phenomenon. Fans raucously chant Yes! at the mere mention of Bryan's name during his current absence.

WWE constantly craves mainstream, crossover appeal and Bryan was the first superstar to really achieve that since John Cena and possibly CM Punk. Hopefully the fan favorite can return to his previous levels of success when he returns.

9) Sting

Whether we're talking "Surfer" Sting or "Crow" Sting, Steve Borden has brought entertainment to wrestling fans for decades. At first, he sported a blond flattop haircut with blue and white face paint as he portrayed his surfer gimmick. But his career reached another level when he transformed into a character inspired by the movie The Crow in early 1996.

Sting traded in his colorful paint for black and white, with black tights that had a scorpion on them. He grew long, dark hair to fit the new character. After Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan formed the New World Order, Sting really dug into his new gimmick. He delivered a scathing promo about his perceived betrayal of WCW to join the nWo and eventually uttered the famous line, "The only thing that's for sure about Sting is that nothing's for sure."

From that point on, he did not speak on WCW television for more than a year. He silently stalked the nWo from the rafters as he wielded a baseball bat. He would descend to the ring and attack nWo members, which were growing in number seemingly every week. He would offer WCW wrestlers the chance to hit him with it and when they hesitated, he would nod in acceptance and leave.

Sting was the ultimate cool good guy, a silent hero. At a time when almost everyone was in the New World Order, Sting stood up for his company and let his actions do the talking.

Sting has actually never joined WWE, though he is part of the company's upcoming WWE 2K15 video game, but many fans expect him to eventually sign a deal to appear on WWE television.

Finally, we can't mention Sting without including this. It's just too good.

8) Junkyard Dog

Junkyard Dog became the top face in Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling promotion in the early 1980s despite the borderline offensive way in which Watts, who had --at best-- a limited understanding of African-American culture, presented him. Watts named Sylvester Ritter the Junkyard Dog and had him come to the ring with a dog collar attached to a chain.

And JYD was so charismatic and so skilled at his craft that he owned this unfortunate presentation and turned it into his most memorable asset, one fans actually look at fondly to this day.

JYD remained popular with the crowd when he headed north to the then-WWF in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, he never won any major singles titles in the promotion. He passed away on June 2, 1998 at age 45 in a car accident near Forest, Mississippi on his way home from his daughter's high school graduation in North Carolina. 

But JYD remains a hero in and out of the ring for the way he dealt with and overcame the racism that affected him.

7) Dusty Rhodes

If Ric Flair is one of the greatest villains of all time, then Dusty Rhodes is certainly worthy of a spot on this list. Rhodes' feud with Flair in the National Wrestling Alliance for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship is legendary, as the two fought for the belt for years.

Flair, of course, used every dirty trick in the book to keep the title, and Dusty would constantly chase The Nature Boy for the belt. The American Dream only took the title off Flair once, but he was a three-time champion.

Dusty Rhodes "Son of a Plumber" eventually became a booker for Jim Crockett Promotions and invented many of WCW's famous match types, including War Games, BattleBowl and Lethal Lottery. The term "Dusty Finish" also comes from one of his most common booking maneuvers, in which a match ends under controversial circumstances, usually due to a referee getting knocked out.

6) Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat

Ricky Steamboat never turned heel. Ever. And the man wrestled for the better part of two decades.

He was as straight-laced as straight-laced can get. His legendary feud with Ric Flair (The Nature Boy seems to have a lot of those, doesn't he?) played up the fact that Flair was a "kiss-stealin'" ladies' man, while Steamboat was the happily married man who stayed on the straight and narrow. The two put on some of the greatest matches in the history of the sport in 1989 that have maintained their luster to this day.

Steamboat also had some all-time classics with Macho Man Randy Savage, including their best match at WrestleMania III for the Intercontinental Championship, which The Dragon won.

5) Bruno Sammartino

The Italian immigrant was the ultimate good guy throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He defeated the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, on May 17, 1963 to capture the then-WWWF Championship. He held the belt for 2,803 days, a record that still stands. If that weren't enough, he recaptured the belt on Dec. 10, 1973 and held it for 1,237 days. His combined reign of 4,040 days is almost 2,000 more days than Hulk Hogan's 2,185.

But Sammartino was more than just numbers. He was so popular in 1965 that the NWA and WWWF held talks to merge the two promotions' world championships in a match that Sammartino would win over another legend, Lou Thesz. "The Italian Superman" has said in interviews he was not involved in the discussions but squashed the idea when he realized he would be working nearly every day each month and would almost never see his family.

Sammartino was also clean outside the ring, as he severed ties with WWE and its product during the 1990s because he did not approve of the graphic violence and lewd content. But Triple H reached out to him once the product went PG and asked him to watch for a few months in the hopes he would return. Sure enough, WWE inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

4) The Rock

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson did some great work as a heel, but he spent most of his career as a face, ultimately becoming one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of the business.

The Rock oozed charisma with his $500 shirts, $200 sunglasses and, yes, even his Elvis sideburns. His trademark catchphrases "Know your role and shut your mouth!" and "If you smell what The Rock is cookin'" (among others) made him easy to root for and allowed people to latch onto him.

He and Stone Cold Steve Austin rose to prominence together and led the Attitude Era side-by-side. When Austin was hurt for much of 2000, The Rock soared to new heights and became the undisputed top dog in the WWF. The crowd lost its mind every time the Brahma Bull showed up to lay the smackdown.

He garnered his first mainstream attention in the early 2000s as the host of Saturday Night Live and his appearances in The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King. He left WWE in 2004 to pursue a full-time acting career and is a major motion picture star today.

3) John Cena

Whether you chant "Let's go Cena!" or "Cena sucks," it's impossible to deny that Cena has been the undisputed top face in the WWE for a decade. Many fans are tired of his routine and his stale character, but Cena is easily on the level of The Rock and the two men that follow him on this list.

Cena has been a face since 2003 and has never turned back to the dark side since then, partly because he is a superhero come to life for his legions of young fans. Cena is far and away the biggest merchandise mover for the WWE, so it's easy to understand why the company does not want to mess with the formula.

The 15-time champion has done practically everything in WWE and conquered seemingly every heel who has come his way. He's even beaten some faces, including The Rock and Daniel Bryan. Through it all, he's preached the same three words: Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.

To WWE's credit, it has played off the fan base's discontent with the leader of the Cenation and has publicly acknowledged the fact that most adults can't stand the guy. But aside from his steadfast heroism in the ring, the man is a wonderful human being outside the ring by all accounts.

Cena has granted more than 450 wishes for the Make-A-Wish foundation, far and away the most in the organization's history. He's learning Mandarin because the WWE has little presence in China, and he's such a devoted company man that he wants to help his employer establish itself in the country.

With a body of work like that, it's hard to deny him a spot near the top of this list.

2) Stone Cold Steve Austin

The Texas Rattlesnake was the most popular wrestler on earth in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Don't believe me? Just listen to these five crowd reactions, three of which occurred after Austin had been out of the company for extended periods of time.

The Rock was undoubtedly the 1A to Austin's 1, but the crowd always got just a little bit louder for Stone Cold. Whether he was beating the tar out of Vince McMahon or just competing in a regular match, the audience in attendance and at home went bananas every time Austin 3:16 emerged through the curtain.

The Stone Cold Stunner brought the crowd to its feet. Austin's skills on the microphone were just as important, as his take-no-prisoners attitude and foul language resonated with the blue collar fans. Stone Cold still remains one of the most popular wrestlers in history, but there's one man who eclipses him.

1) Hulk Hogan

Say what you want about Hogan constantly politicking backstage to keep himself at the top of the mountain. And say what you want about the corny "brothers" and "jacks" and "dudes" he spouted off during his heyday, Hulk Hogan was and still is the most popular wrestler to ever lace up his boots.

People who have never seen a single second of a wrestling match know who Hulk Hogan is. He almost single-handedly popularized the sport in the mainstream in the 1980s with the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection." He was in the main event of eight of the first nine WrestleMania events and was at ringside for WrestleMania IV, the one main event in which he did not wrestle.

Hogan, like the aforementioned Cena, was basically a walking superhero. He told kids to say their prayers and eat their vitamins. He accomplished incredible feats of strength like body slamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. He held the WWF Championship six times for a combined 2,185 days, including a 1,474-day reign from 1984 to 1988. Hulk Hogan basically did not lose in the 1980s.

Hogan is back in WWE nowadays to do little more than come out in his red and yellow attire, say "brother" a few times and promote something for the company. Yet, he still gets wild cheers nearly two decades past his prime.

Did your favorite face make the list? Do you agree or disagree with our entries? Drop a comment to let us know.

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