It has been a long while since professional wrestling was exposed to the general public as being a pre-determined sport. During the 70s and the 80s, wrestlers were expected to keep kayfabe alive at all times. A fan would never see a babyface and a heel traveling together or hanging out in a bar.
An incident during those times saw "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and The Iron Sheik get arrested together. Vince McMahon was reportedly furious at both wrestlers, as Duggan was a babyface and Sheik was a heel. The news broke out and confused fans as to why the two were traveling together. Duggan was temporarily dismissed while Sheik was fired by Vince.
The incident took place back in 1987, and things have drastically changed more than three decades later. Let's take a look at 5 instances where hated heels broke character and praised their opponents.
#5 Charlotte calls Becky Lynch her "best friend"
After Becky Lynch won the Raw and SmackDown Live Women's Titles at WrestleMania 35, she got into a feud with Lacey Evans on Raw. On the blue show, Lynch resumed her feud with Charlotte Flair and the two women faced off at Money In The Bank for Becky's SmackDown Live Women's Title. Taking advantage of an exhausted Becky, who had just retained her Raw Title against Evans, Charlotte managed to get an easy win over "The Man".
My best friend is Becky Lynch. It was very challenging fighting for the same thing because we always travel together, eat together, work out together, share everything. So when we started competing against each other, I lost that one person that I relied on. But it made me stronger in the process.
#4 Michael Cole gives an update on Jerry Lawler
Michael Cole wasn't someone fans ever saw as a heel, yet WWE decided to make him one. The persona took over Cole when he began a feud with Daniel Bryan and later was seen praising The Miz repeatedly. Cole went on to defeat Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania 27, despite Stone Cold Steve Austin being the special guest referee.
In an episode of Monday Night Raw in September 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack on live TV. As the Hall of Famer was taken back in a stretcher, Cole fought through his emotions and explained what had happened to Lawler. Throughout the night, Cole broke character and gave words of encouragement to Lawler. This was deemed as "classy and professional", effectively ending Cole's heel turn that had begun two years ago. Thankfully, WWE never turned Cole heel again.
#3 Drew McIntyre heaps praise on Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns made his triumphant return to WWE on an episode of Raw, on the road to WrestleMania 35. He had been out for months to resume his battle with leukemia and received a huge pop upon returning to WWE TV. The Scottish Psychopath Drew McIntyre set his sights on The Shield and managed to defeat both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in separate matches on Raw. He met Reigns at WrestleMania 35, where The big Dog emerged victorious.
Weeks after the battle, McIntyre opened up on wanting to fight Roman Reigns and called him a fighter for overcoming every obstacle life had thrown at him.
To overcome everything that he's overcame, it shows what a fighter he really is and that's the kind of guy we need leading the charge backstage.
#2 Randy Orton congratulates Kofi Kingston on bagging a WWE Title shot
Kofi Kingston got a big push around a decade ago when he feuded with Randy Orton and went on to defeat him in a Traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 match. The push was suddenly halted after an in-ring incident that saw Orton going off on Kingston for not following the script. Reportedly, Orton used his backstage influence and it led to Kofi's main event push getting canceled.
On the road to WrestleMania, Orton, still, a heel, broke character and praised Kofi Kingston on social media. On Ali's post about his talk with Kofi, Orton chimed in on the comment section and congratulated him for getting an opportunity at the WWE Title at WrestleMania. Orton lost to AJ Styles at 'Mania, while Kofi won the WWE Title by defeating Daniel Bryan in front of a roaring crowd at MetLife Stadium.
#1 Batista thanks Triple H for making him a star
On the road to WrestleMania 35, Batista made his return to WWE TV by attacking Ric Flair during his 70th birthday celebration on Monday Night Raw. Batista was seen dragging an unconscious Flair out of his room as a way to send a message to Triple H. The two Superstars went on to hurl insults at each other for weeks to come, with Batista demanding a match at WrestleMania.
Triple H accepted the challenge and the two engaged in a brutal encounter at The Show of Shows. Batista later talked about his match on Lilian Garcia's podcast and proceeded to praise Triple H for helping him become a star.
I never have been around the bush about it, Hunter made me a star. He put a lot of stock into me. He invested a lot into me and put himself on the line physically for me. Not only did he put me over three times clean in the ring to make me a star, but also took the time to have me ride with him and have me pick his brain.