The 10 biggest heel turns in WWE history

Big Show did what he thought was the best move for his career in joining The Authority at Survivor Series in 2014.
Jeremy Timmerman

Triple H has become the modern master of heel work in WWE programming.Perhaps the most basic componennt of WWE programming, like any television show, is the struggle between the good guys, or babyfaces, and the bad guys, or heels. But unlike other shows, characters tend to switch back and forth between the two sides.Over the course of WWE history, there have been a variety of such turns, some that mattered a great deal and some that didn’t. Here are 10 of the biggest, some because of the wrestler involved, some because of the circumstances and some because of the impact on the company.

#10 Big Show turns again

Perhaps no one has turned from heel to face as often as the Big Show has in his lengthy WWE career, but one of his more recent turns stands out.

At Survivor Series in 2014, the Giant was on Team Cena with John Cena, Ryback, Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan against the Authority with the bosses’ control of the company on the line.

As the match wore on, it came down to Show, Cena and an apparently injured Ziggler against Seth Rollins, Kane and Luke Harper. Sensing the odds weren’t in the good guys’ favor, Show knocked out Cena and joined the Authority in the process.

The plan didn’t work out immediately, since Team Cena won, but it led to another heel run for the gigantic superstar.

#9 Mark Henry \"retires\"

Few in-ring moments have been as surprising as Mark Henry’s fake retirement speech.

Mark Henry has been both beloved face and hated heel in his WWE career, but he rarely got quite the reaction he did on June 17, 2013. After missing time with an injury, Henry had been teasing his retirement on social media and came to the ring for the big speech, interrupting champion John Cena in the process.

The speech turned out to be a trick, as Henry attacked Cena and announced his intent to pursue the WWE championship. He never reached that pinnacle, but the moment was a surprising one anyway.

#8 Christian turns on Edge

Christian turning on Edge helped launch the two performers’ singles careers.

Edge and Christian were among the top tag teams of the Attitude Era, but in 2001, Edge started becoming more of a singles star. He won the King of the Ring tournament that year, and jealousy started growing between the two.

On Sept. 3 of that year, Christian turned an in-ring celebration into a defining moment as he attacked his “brother” with a chair and sparked a feud between the two. Both went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship among other singles titles, but they never won tag-team gold again despite brief reunions.

#7 Curt Hennig goes NWO

Curt Hennig turning on Ric Flair was something of a surprise at 1997’s Fall Brawl.

This fits the bill for the list, technically, since the WWE now owns WCW’s history, as well. Known as Mr. Perfect to WWE fans, Curt Hennig left the company to join the WCW in 1997. In the early days of his run with that promotion, he seemingly turned down the NWO to join Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen in a War Games match at Fall Brawl 1997.

Before that match could happen, though, Hennig was supposedly attacked backstage by the NWO and came to the ring in sling. That turned out to be a ruse, as Hennig viciously attacked Flair and joined forces with the NWO.

#6 The Rock goes Corporate

The Rock turning into a Corporate champion was a dream scenario that developed his character.

The path Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took to the character beloved by fans today was a long one that began with a bad face character named Rocky Maivia. From there, he evolved into the Nation of Domination’s star, but perhaps the biggest step was his heel turn to join Vince McMahon’s Corporation stable.

At the Deadly Games tournament at Survivor Series in 1998, The Rock joined McMahon’s side in winning the WWF title against Mankind, and the self-absorbed, third-person-speaking, pie-eating superstar that became a hit with the crowd was born.

#5 Randy goes Savage

Randy Savage turned on Hulk Hogan in the backstage area.

Few superstars of the late 1980s and early 1990s captivated audiences the way Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man Randy Savage did, and the two joined forces as the Mega Powers, with Miss Elizabeth as their manager. Savage and Elizabeth were in a relationship, though, and that led to the team’s downfall.

On Feb. 3, 1989, the two were in a tag-team match when Elizabeth got hurt at ringside. Hogan carried her to the back for medical treatment, and that’s when the jealousy finally boiled over with Savage attacking Hogan for the heel turn.

#4 Seth Rollins sells out

Seth Rollins beat his fellow Shield members with a chair on the way to joining the Authority.

If there’s one moment that has defined the roster for the current era of the WWE, it was the ending of the June 2, 2014, episode of Raw. The night before, at WWE’s Payback pay-per-view, the Shield – Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose – defeated Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista as a massively face team.

But the Authority had a plan, as Rollins turned on his Shield brethren the next night on Raw, hitting both men with a chair. From there, Rollins became the Authority’s new poster boy, winning the Money in the Bank briefcase and eventually the World Heavyweight Championship, while Ambrose and Reigns went on to lead the face side of the roster.

#3 Stone Cold Steve Austin

This handshake had to infuriate die-hard fans of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Perhaps the defining feud of the WWE’s Attitude Era was the one between the main event rebel Stone Cold Steve Austin and his real-life boss and heel authority figure, Vince McMahon. Their animosity gave fans incredible moments throughout that time period.

That’s what makes the main event of Wrestlemania 17 so shocking, at least for a lot of fans. As Austin squared off with The Rock for the WWF Championship in a no-disqualification match, McMahon made his way down to the ring, eventually helping Austin win with a folding chair. The two shook hands and celebrated, and announcer Jim Ross’ reaction only added to the classic moment.

#2 Hogan goes Hollywood

Hulk Hogan being the third founding member of the NWO was a shock to the wrestling world.

While this may be another liberal use of the phrase “WWE history,” no one can doubt the impact of Hulk Hogan’s move to join forces with the Outsiders and form the NWO. Before this point, Hogan had been the ultimate face, thrilling Hulkamaniacs across the globe in his red and yellow attire.

But on July 7, 1996, all that changed when he was revealed as the third member of the NWO that threatened to take over WCW. This turn was so shocking and horrifying to the Bash at the Beach crowd that they pelted Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash with trash as the three men taunted them.

#1 Michaels turns on Jannetty

This Superkick sparked Shawn Michaels’ singles persona and career.

Even if the Rockers tag team wasn’t one of the all-time greats, for some reason this moment in WWE history is what a lot of people think of when they think of heel turns. The team, made up of Shawn Michaels and Michael Jannetty, was appearing on Brutus Beefcake’s “Barber Shop” segment when Michaels turned on Jannetty, Superkicking him through a window.

The result was that Michaels turned from the tag-team performer he had been known as to that point to the narcissistic singles superstar that became a legend both alone and in D-Generation X.

Edited by Staff Editor
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