4 WWE heel turns Vince McMahon rejected and 1 he reluctantly agreed to
For example, the WWE Universe is often credited with boosting the careers of Becky Lynch, Daniel Bryan, and Kofi Kingston in the build-up to their high-profile WrestleMania victories over the last few years.
While WWE’s fans obviously played a huge role in their successes, it was Vince McMahon who ultimately decided to take advantage of those Superstars’ popularities by booking them in marquee matches at WWE’s biggest show of the year.
When it comes to WWE character changes, Vince McMahon also makes the final decision on which of his babyface Superstars are allowed to turn heel, and which heels are allowed to become babyfaces.
The majority of Superstars usually get their way when they feel that the time is right for their character to undergo a drastic transformation, but Vince McMahon has also been known to shut down the idea.
In this article, let’s take a look at four WWE heel turns that Vince McMahon did not allow to happen, as well as one that he reluctantly agreed to.
#5 Vince McMahon reluctantly agreed to let The Usos turn heel
In September 2016, The Usos turned heel for the first time in five years when they attacked Chad Gable and Jason Jordan on an episode of SmackDown.
Vince McMahon’s top babyface at that time, Roman Reigns, joined forces with The Usos earlier in the year during his feud with AJ Styles and The Club.
As a result of associating themselves with Reigns, The Usos began to receive boos from WWE crowds, even though they were also supposed to be good guys.
Speaking to talkSPORT’s Alex McCarthy in 2020, Jey Uso recalled that Vince McMahon was originally reluctant to turn them heel when they presented the idea to him.
“So, we finally went to the big man [Vince McMahon] and we said, 'Can we do this?' At first he was against it. It took a couple tries from us to convince him and then it was like, 'Hell yeah, you want to go out there with the outfits? This is what you want to do, right?' We were like, 'Yup, it's time.' Then it's like, 'Okay, the ball is in your court.'”
While The Usos were widely considered to be a success as a villainous duo, the start of their heel run did not go as planned.
The gear that they wore at WWE Backlash 2016 (see above) was not allowed to be worn again because they were told that it made them look too similar to Reigns.
#4 Vince McMahon did not want Ricky Steamboat to turn heel
Ricky Steamboat worked for Vince McMahon between 1985 and 1988, while he also competed in WWE matches in 1991 and 2009.
The WWE Hall of Famer told Ring Rust Radio in 2018 that he asked Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson in 1991 if he could perform as a heel in WWE, but both men immediately rejected the idea without hesitation.
“They [Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson] said it would not work, I was the premier babyface, and I told them that I've been in the ring with the best heels in the business. I actually believed that I could work as a heel because I've been in the ring with the best of them. They said, ‘Bottom line, it would probably hurt your career,’ and they shut it down.” [H/T Wrestling Inc.]
Steamboat said he was initially disgruntled with Vince McMahon’s stance because he wanted to experience working as a heel before his career came to an end.
However, on reflection, he is happy that Vince McMahon rejected the heel turn idea, as he is proud of the fact that his character stayed the same for his entire career.
#3 Vince McMahon did not want John Cena to turn heel
One of the most polarizing WWE Superstars of all time, John Cena gradually ditched his Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick in 2005-06 and became Vince McMahon’s ultimate babyface main-eventer for the next decade of his career.
In the same way that fans questioned whether Hulk Hogan might turn heel in the late 1980s/early 1990s, it was often speculated whether Vince McMahon would finally bow to fans’ demands and turn Cena back into a bad guy.
Former WWE writer Kevin Eck explained on The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast in 2017 that Vince McMahon once agreed to a Cena heel turn. However, he changed his mind due to a lack of babyface opponents and because of Cena’s deal with American retailer K-Mart.
“That was the feeling back then [lack of opponents], then we came up with some scenarios, and believe it or not, Cena was on board with it, but right around that time there was a big clothing line for John Cena at K-Mart, and Vince McMahon was like, 'Oh Jesus Christ, he has a deal with K-Mart, and now we're going to turn him heel?'” [H/T Wrestling Inc.]
Eck said some names were discussed as WWE’s next top babyface, including CM Punk and Sheamus, but Vince McMahon decided not to turn Cena heel in the end.
#2 Vince McMahon did not want Tito Santana to turn heel
Tito Santana worked under Vince McMahon across three different WWE spells between 1979 and 1998, including a 10-year run between 1983 and 1993.
The two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion defeated The Executioner in the first match at the inaugural WrestleMania event in 1985, which shows just how much faith Vince McMahon had in his babyface Superstar.
“Absolutely [Vince McMahon did not want to turn Santana heel]. Because it’s hard to hate Tito Santana. The human being is, you know, what you saw is what you got on Tito. Tito was a very, very warm, natural, just real person. And there’s nothing put on about him. He’s a good guy.” [H/T 411mania]
As well as his two WWE Intercontinental Championship reigns, Santana also won the 1989 WWE King of the Ring tournament and the WWE Tag Team titles on two occasions (w/Ivan Putski and w/Rick Martel).
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
#1 Vince McMahon did not want Hulk Hogan to turn heel
In another story from his Something to Wrestle With podcast, Bruce Prichard revealed that Vince McMahon wanted Hulk Hogan to remain a babyface due to the amount of money that WWE made from having his face on merchandise and other marketable products.
“I think Vince was always looking at it like, ‘You can’t just look at it for today, you have to look at what that decision means for business down the road.’ So turning Hulk heel, for me, creatively, I would have loved to have done that. I feel that rasslin’, that old mentality, would have been good business. He [Vince McMahon] didn’t.”
In February 2002, Hogan returned to WWE as a heel alongside fellow nWo members Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. However, WWE’s fans rejected the iconic Superstar as a bad guy, leaving Vince McMahon with little choice but to turn him back into one of the top babyfaces on the roster.
Hogan went on to have lots of interactions with Vince McMahon’s villainous Mr. McMahon character in the months that followed his return, leading to a match between the two men at WrestleMania XIX.