A heel turn can often rejuvenate a stale WWE Superstar and help them return to their former standing. A move to the dark side can even help performers express themselves better and connect with the audience, laying the groundwork for a babyface run down the road.
However, wrestling promotions often turn wrestlers heel just for shock value, and these decisions end up backfiring. Having an incredibly popular character break away from everything that made fans gravitate towards them can have serious repercussions.
With that being said, let's take a look at five of the worst heel turns in WWE history:
#5. Randy Orton's heel run in 2013 left a lot to be desired
Daniel Bryan had one of the biggest moments of his career at SummerSlam 2013 when he defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship. However, his reign wouldn't last long as Randy Orton cashed in Money in the Bank after The American Dragon was attacked by Triple H – the special guest referee.
The Viper soon aligned himself with The Authority and was anointed the group's "Chosen One." On paper, Orton had an opportunity to have one of the best runs of his career. Still, he was soon relegated to the background as storylines involving other performers took precedence. The third-generation superstar's character merely stagnated.
#4. Rikishi feuded with Steve Austin in 2000
Stone Cold Steve Austin was written off WWE TV at Survivor Series 1999 when a mystery assailant ran him over. The perpetrator's identity was eventually revealed to be Rikishi, who had previously been a midcard comedy character. The scion of the Anoai clan claimed his actions were meant to help The Rock, a fellow Samoan, win the WWE Championship.
However, fans' perception of Rikishi didn't change, and they didn't buy him as a main-event level heel. After a match with Steve Austin at No Mercy 2000, the future Hall of Famer dropped down the card and returned to being part of the tag-team division.
#3. Sgt. Slaughter won the WWE Championship as a villain in 1990
Sgt. Slaughter was one of professional wrestling's most popular characters in the 1980s. He even inspired his own G.I. Joe action figures during his peak.
However, when Vince McMahon needed a heel to face Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 7, the WWE Chairman decided to make Slaughter an Iraqi sympathizer at the height of the Kuwait crisis.
The expectation was that the Detroit native would draw the ire of fans and be a great foil for Hogan. The gimmick was in bad taste. Slaughter himself wasn't as intriguing a villain as some of The Immortal One's previous WrestleMania opponents, such as Andre The Giant or Randy Savage.
#2. Turning Jim Ross heel wasn't a good idea (1996)
Arguably one of the greatest wrestling commentators ever, Jim Ross was part of some of the most iconic moments in WWE's history. He's a beloved figure among wrestling fans, and getting the audience to boo him was always a difficult proposition.
Ross turned heel during the Monday Night Wars in 1996 and introduced Diesel and Razor Ramon following the departures of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to WCW. However, JR's new persona wasn't a great fit for the commentary team, who already had Jerry Lawler's heel. The heel character was soon dropped.
#1. Stone Cold Steve Austin joined forces with Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 17 (2001)
Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of WWE's most lucrative box-office attractions. The Texas Rattlesnake attracted a new generation of fans to professional wrestling and was the driving force behind the success of the Attitude Era.
Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble and set up a blockbuster clash with The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 17. However, Austin was overly critical of himself and felt his character was getting stale. It proved to be a major miscalculation on his part.
At The Show of Shows, Austin joined forces with arch-rival Vince McMahon to defeat The Great One. This moment marked the end of the Attitude Era, and professional wrestling has never been as popular as it was on that night.
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