There have been a lot of top guys in the wrestling business over the course of wrestling history. But only a select rare few have been chosen to be The Face of the WWE. The person who will unequivocally represent the company to the mainstream. When non-fans think of professional wrestling, they’ll think of these wrestlers.
Over the years, The Face That Runs The Place has generally been the WWE Champion, as well as the wrestler who gets sent to morning talk shows to represent the WWE and occasionally put the late great Regis Philbin in a headlock.
10 Superstar Billy Graham
The man with the power, too sweet to be sour. There is a reason that the late Superstar Billy Graham’s documentary was entitled 20 Years Too Soon. It’s because he really was the prototype for what a WWE Superstar was. Everyone from Hogan to Triple H to Scott Steiner all ripped off Billy Graham in one form or another.
He held the WWE Title less than a year before dropping it to Bob Backlund and was the first “cool bad guy” that fans liked. The only reason his reign was cut short, and he wasn’t turned babyface is because of the handshake deal Vince Sr. with Bob Backlund, and was a man of his word, no matter what.
9 Bob Backlund
As the last Face before Hulkamania started running wild, Bob Backlund becomes an interesting footnote on this list. He certainly wasn’t as flamboyant The Superstar, or anyone else in any era ever. But it wasn’t his mayonnaise-level charisma that got him over with old-school fans.
It was his toughness, conditioning, and skill. He was the WWE Champion from the day he beat Graham in 1978 all the way to when The Iron Sheik defeated him at MSG.
8 The Ultimate Warrior
Let’s face(paint) the hard facts here. The Ultimate Warrior has spent more time being a neon-painted nincompoop than he did as the Face of WWE. By all accounts, a lot of that is his own fault as he had repeatedly gotten too big for his britches.
The prima donna attitude never works in the backstage of WWE. Had he been far more understanding of his place in the company, there is a good chance Vince would have kept pushing him as the top guy. After all, even today fans still do appreciate his intensity and inane babbling promos.
7 The Undertaker & Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels
With the entire industry in a downswing during the early nineties, the WWE was in a state of transition. At the helm, the company was trying to make sure that Bret Hart was the number one guy as the defending WWE Champion and face of the company. But he needed some help as The Hitman was kind of a bit of a throwback in a new coat of paint.
This is why title defenses against other big up-and-coming names at the time were so crucial. Bret and Shawn Michaels had a huge hand in making each other and their individual feuds with The Undertaker helped The Phenom solidify his legacy too. While no member of this trio was over as The Face as others on this list, their combined strengths kept the company afloat during The New Generation Era.
6 Roman Reigns
The current reigning and defending Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns has been running the show for well over three years now. But he is fulfilling a destiny that began over ten years ago.
Plenty of people in WWE, especially Vince were pulling for The Big Dog to be their next big babyface. But it was so forced that WWE fans weren’t getting behind him. Only after he became The Head Of The Table did fans ultimately start throwing their ones up and acknowledging The Tribal Chief.
5 Bruno Sammartino
The first man hand-picked to be the face of the Territory was the Italian Strongman, Bruno Sammartino. He was the WWE Champion for seven years before losing the gold to Ivan Koloff; which shocked the MSG crowd into silence.
But his legend and legacy stand atop the entire wrestling world. After regaining the WWE Title he held it for years – eleven years as the WWE Champion is a feat that will never be replicated.
4 Hulk Hogan
He is the first of the modern-day Faces. Hulk Hogan is the major reason wrestling came out of Smoky Elk’s Lodges and Armories and into arenas.
The only reason our top three get to be part of the top three is because Hulkamania ran wild and carved a path for everyone else to walk.
3 The Rock
As the WWE’s first-ever third-generation superstar, Rocky Maivia has some big shoes to fill. It took some time, but suffice it to say he succeeded and then some. Not only was he the Face of WWE, but he sometimes found a way to supplant Austin.
After his in-ring career was over, and he began to take over Hollywood, whenever and wherever The Great One returns – as evidenced by a recent SmackDown – he still has the WWE Universe eating out of the palm of his hand.
2 Stone Cold Steve Austin
If not for all the goodwill work John Cena does to enhance the WWE’s brand worldwide, then Steve Austin gets the number one nod hands down. While Hulk Hogan was able to let Vince McMahon take the show out of gymnasiums and into arenas, Stone Cold helped Vince get into stadiums and take the WWE public.
Sure, the WWE would have probably still gotten to the points that they have, but the charge out of the abysmal business of the New Generation into the Attitude Era and beyond all started with The Bionic Redneck.
1 John Cena
It’s wild to think about it. But John Cena isn’t just The GOAT because Michael Cole says it, it’s because it’s true. As far as being the Face of WWE goes, Cena has done it all and then some for over twenty years now.
No one else on this list had been on top of the company for that long. Yes, we live in a different time, but Cena is the hardest-working man WWE has ever seen. From a never-ending schedule of Make-A-Wish visitations to other appearances worldwide, he always represents the WWE and that is notoriety that you can’t buy.