Pro Wrestling

12 Heel Turns That Changed Everything Source:

Everyone wants to be the hero, right? The hero gets all the fame, the fortune, and the appreciation. But it’s so hard to be the good guy. Maybe there’s someone better equipped for the job, making you feel irrelevant. Maybe you feel like your best friend is holding you back. Maybe nobody particularly wants you to be the hero in the first place. For those and so many other reasons, people who started out intending to do good things can end up finding that they’re more comfortable going the opposite direction. And when that happens in pro wrestling, the results of someone choosing the dark side over the light can lead to some of the most memorable feuds in wrestling history.

12. Seth Rollins Is “Plan B”

In over a year since debuting, The Shield was one of the most dominant forces in WWE. When united as one, they were virtually unbeatable, and they were riding high after beating one of the toughest factions of all time, Evolution, at consecutive Pay Per Views, in matches that absolutely tore the house down. And with Batista leaving Triple H and Randy Orton high and dry at the beginning of Raw the night after the second match, things were looking grim for The Authority in their war against The Shield. That is, of course, until Triple H revealed Plan B. Shield member Seth Rollins viciously attacked both his Shield brothers from behind with a chair, splitting the group instantly and aligning himself with Triple H. While it seemed like madness to break up a group at the top of their game, who had become incredible crowd favorites, the results speak for themselves. After going their separate ways, all three men, Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose, has won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at least once, establishing themselves as top stars in WWE that are set to carry the company into the future. It’s rare that every member of a stable finds success once it breaks up, but in this case, Rollins stabbing his teammates in the back led to the creation of three huge Superstars. Source:

11. Austin And McMahon

Despite fighting against Mr. McMahon and the corporate structure he represented ever since he exploded into popularity and kicked off the Attitude Era, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin returned from his career-threatening neck injury a changed man, and decided that he needed an extra advantage for his WWE Title match against The Rock at WrestleMania X-7. It was the biggest main event at the biggest WrestleMania since the days of Hulkamania, and Austin, seeing the end of his career approaching, had determined that he “needed” to win the title in order to feel complete. That need turned into a decision to align with his worst enemy in order to guarantee victory. After years of being the ass-kicking fan favorite, at the crowning moment of the Attitude Era, Steve Austin turned heel and shook Vince McMahon’s hand. It was supposed to be an industry-changing moment, and it was, although not necessarily for the better. Fans weren’t yet tired of Austin, and desperately wanted to cheer for him after he’d been gone for so long. That, combined with Austin’s heel act taking some very bizarre turns, likely was part of the reason why WWE moved up the timeline on the WCW Invasion, a poorly-booked mess that ruined any chance of saving the WCW brand, and which also hurt Austin’s character a great deal, driving business down from the incredible peaks it had reached only months earlier. Hey, we didn’t say these heel turns all changed things for the better. Source: S***

10. Chris Jericho Saves Himself

After Shawn Michaels retired Ric Flair by defeating him at WrestleMania, several wrestlers in WWE questioned Shawn’s actions. Chief among them was a recently-returned Chris Jericho, who began needling Michaels about whether or not he’d even cared about ending the career of one of wrestling’s biggest stars. The jabs progressed to personal attacks, as Jericho began pointing out just how much of a liar Shawn Michaels was, attempting to get Shawn to admit that he’d faked an injury in a match with Batista in order to score a surprise victory. The fans were clearly on Michaels’ side in the matter, which only seemed to irritate Jericho, who felt he was only pointing out the truth of the matter. Finally, Jericho snapped, attacking Michaels during an interview on The Highlight Reel, and sending HBK face-first through the obscenely expensive Jeritron 5000 video screen. This kicked off an incredible feud that lasted most of the rest of the year, and saw some of the most brutal and memorable matches of either man’s careers. Source:

9. Larry Zbyszko Stabs His Mentor In The Back

There was no bigger star in the wrestling world during his era than Bruno Sammartino. The Italian Superman held the WWWF Title for an unthinkable eight years at one point, and held records for selling out Madison Square Garden more times than any other human being. Along the way, he picked up an apprentice and friend in Larry Zbyszko, with Bruno teaching Larry everything he knew. Desperate to prove himself, Zbyszko challenged Sammartino to a match. During that bout, growing frustrated with his inability to defeat his mentor, Zbyszko attacked Bruno with a wooden chair and left his former friend laying in a pool of blood. The newly christened “Living Legend” was vilified by wrestling fans, and in an era where wrestling was still treated as serious business, actually found himself in legitimate danger from fan reprisals. The feud culminated in a steel cage match held at legendary Shea Stadium, where Sammartino earned a measure of revenge against Zbyszko. Source:

8. The Freebirds Betray The Von Erichs

Anyone who knows the history of World Class Championship Wrestling knows about the famous Von Erich family. They were the virtuous babyfaces who were worshiped by the fans, and the stars of the family-run promotion. When Kerry Von Erich was set to face NWA Champion Ric Flair, he wanted to make sure that the notoriously sneaky Flair didn’t find an opportunity to cheat, and had fellow good guy Michael Hayes assigned as the special enforcer. But when Hayes attacked Flair in an attempt to gift the victory to Von Erich, Kerry refused to take the offered shortcut. Angered by the actions of Von Erich, Hayes and his partner Gordy would turn on him, allowing Flair to win the match, turning the Freebirds into the most hated wrestlers in the entire company. The Von Erichs and Freebirds would go on to have absolute wars over the next few years, carrying World Class into a golden age.

7. The Mega-Powers Explode

After turning face and rising to the top of WWE by winning the World title at WrestleMania IV, Randy Savage formed an alliance with the most powerful man in wrestling, Hulk Hogan, in order to continue taking the fight to their enemies. Thus were the Mega-Powers born, potentially one of the greatest tag teams ever formed. Unfortunately, Savage had a well-known over-protective attitude towards his manager, Miss Elizabeth, and while teaming with Hogan, it blossomed into full-blown jealousy, feeling that Elizabeth was more enamored with Hogan than him. After Elizabeth ended up in the trainer’s room due to in-ring miscommunication, Savage’s jealousy towards Hogan exploded into anger, and he declared that not only was the partnership over, but he was now Hogan’s mortal enemy. It was the first iteration of an on-again, off-again relationship that would persist throughout both men’s careers, even spilling over into their personal lives.;jsessionid=ADB3830C1A0E3CC81ECF40D1EC09535E?r30_r1_r1:page=53 Source:

6. Totally Reeking Of Awesomeness

Many people forget that there was a period between their debut as The Brood and the Masters of the 5 Second Pose where Edge and Christian were just a pair of directionless good guys. They’d earned respect in their famous Ladder Match with The Hardy Boyz, but that hadn’t translated into any sort of interesting characters for the duo. Sure, the young girls screamed because they both looked like Teen Beat cover models, but they were in danger of getting lost in the shuffle behind the flashier Hardys and the instantly memorable Dudley Boyz. But that all changed when they shockingly won the WWE Tag Team titles in the Triangle Ladder Match at WrestleMania 2000. Almost instantly, success went to their heads and they turned into annoying, fast-talking pretty boys who flaunted their success and mocked everyone and everything around them. The new outlook, plus an extended comedic feud with newly installed Commissioner Mick Foley, turned them from bland heartthrobs into unique characters, and their rise was positively meteoric from there, becoming 7-time Tag Team Champions before splitting off into successful singles careers. Source:

5. Andre Tries To End Hulkamania

Andre had been many things over his career, but most importantly, he was beloved. But as we’ve noted before, friends of Hulk Hogan always seem to get frustrated and turn on the Hulkster at some point (just ask Paul Orndorff). Andre would continue the pattern, growing jealous of the way Hogan was lauded for being WWE Champion while he, a legend who’d been undefeated for decades (not actually true, but that was the story), was relegated to second fiddle behind Hulkamania. The subtle signs were there, but until Andre actually ripped the crucifix from around Hogan’s neck and aligned with Bobby Heenan, nobody had truly believed that the Giant would go bad. The end result was the main event of WrestleMania III, at the time and for years afterward the largest audience for a wrestling event ever, and one of the most memorable moments in professional wrestling history, as Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre and pinned him cleanly in the middle of the ring. Andre’s heel turn would also lead to the infamous “evil twin referee” angle, which saw Hulk Hogan finally lose the WWE Title after holding it for over four years. Source:

4. Bret Hart Hates America

We suppose that whether or not Bret Hart actually turned heel at WrestleMania 13 depends on which country you happen to live in, but it did have many far-reaching effects on wrestling. It was the first time Hart had been a heel since his days in the original Hart Foundation tag team, and allowed him to show a completely new side of his character that hadn’t really been explored. It was part of a double turn which officially made “Stone Cold” Steve Austin a fan favorite on the way to becoming the biggest wrestling star on the planet. And Hart’s pro-Canadian character inflamed an entire nation of wrestling fans in his home country of Canada, a passion for Hart which almost certainly was a factor in what would become the Montreal Screwjob, as without his super-patriotic character, Hart might not have been put in a situation where he felt it was impossible to have him lose in Canada, and the vitriol against Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels might have never been as large without an entire country’s rage behind it. Source:

3. The Barbershop Window

Despite being fairly talented young heartthrobs, The Rockers never really amounted to much in WWE, mostly because there were so many legendary teams on top of the promotion at the same time. So it’s understandable that after a while, they might start feel like they were never going to get their due. From such tension, heel turns are born, and in one of the most famous betrayals of all time, on an episode of The Barber Shop, Shawn Michaels superkicked Marty Jannetty, then tossed him through a window in the set, definitively ending the team. Michaels’ character transformation was immediate, hooking up with Sensational Sherri and christening himself The Heartbreak Kid. Success came quickly, as Michaels would become a multi-time Intercontinental Champion, then transition that into a move up to the main event, eventually capturing his first WWE Title at WrestleMania XII and going on to become one of the most hated, and then most beloved, wrestlers in WWE history. Source:

2. Die, Rocky, Die

Ah yes, The Rock. The man with a rich Samoan family history who WWE officials expected to be a really big deal in pro wrestling, which led to a massive push while he was still completely out of his depth and nowhere ready to be a big star. As a result, the fans immediately turned on him and refused to accept it, aggressively booing the alleged face Rocky Maivia. Sound familiar? At any rate, the infamous “Die Rocky Die” chants were a real thing, and it’s fortunate that Rocky suffered a serious injury right when fans were at their most virulent, because it allowed him to take some time off and return as an embittered glory hound who hated the fans for not accepting his greatness. As second banana in a hated heel faction, Rocky was somewhat insulated and allowed to grow into his new character, creating a persona that was so entertaining that he ended up being embraced by the same fans that had called for his death. And then he went on to be one of wrestling’s biggest stars and a legitimate Hollywood ‘A’ lister, because he actually was the incredible talent everyone in WWE thought he might be from day one. Source: WWE,fr

1. The Third Man

Honestly, we never thought we would see the day. Sure, the world was growing tired of Hulk Hogan’s act, but we just figured he would fade away and be forgotten like everything else from the 80’s. But when Hogan was revealed as the third man at Bash at the Beach, he not only kick-started an angle that would change the wrestling world forever, he completely re-invented himself for a new generation of wrestling fans, and saved his career in the process. For all the justifiable problems people have had with Hulk Hogan over his long career, he managed to play both the greatest hero of one era of wrestling and the greatest villain of a second, and he was spectacular in both roles. Nobody in professional wrestling has had as successful a career on both sides of the line as Hulk Hogan. He didn’t just thrive as two vastly different characters and as a result, extend his career for years longer than anyone thought possible, he was the focus of the biggest boom period in professional wrestling, and changed the entire direction of the wrestling world, twice. Source: the
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.