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Top 5: Heel Turns

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The Rock WWF Champion Heel

One of the most entertaining aspects of WWE television lately has been Shinsuke Nakamura’s emergence as an evildoer. He had been a generally well-mannered individual during his first couple of years under the WWE umbrella. Something inside him snapped after losing to AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34, and he’s been hitting people in the lower nutsac region ever since. He also has periods of time where he can’t speak English.

Some guys are just better off as bad guys. A turn to the dark side can revitalize a career. Shinsuke seemed to be running out of things to do in WWE. Now, the sky’s the limit. He’s learned what many people before him have…it pays to be bad.

Here are the Top 5 Heel Turns in wrestling history.

5. Andre the Giant

Andre had been used as a good guy pretty much everywhere he went across the world for fifteen years. He drew tons of fans wherever he went & was one of the most popular wrestlers in the world for the lion’s share of his career. Given the nature of his career traveling from territory to territory as a special attraction, titles weren’t something he focused on.

Until 1987. A series of trophy presentations where Hulk Hogan upstaged the Giant enabled Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to convince Andre that Hogan & the WWF promoters took him for granted. Andre joined with Heenan & demanded a title shot.

There weren’t very many matches that could fill the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. WrestleMania was big, but it wasn’t what it is today. Andre the Giant as a heel challenging Hulk Hogan filled that dome. The Giant was breaking down physically & didn’t have much left, so it was time to establish the next generation. Andre’s run as a heel didn’t result in a ton of classic matches, but he did help stars like Hogan, Jake Roberts & the Ultimate Warrior reach another level.

4. Chris Jericho

Jericho has turned a number of times during his career. The shock factor has never really been there with him like it was for most of the turns on this list. Fortunately, Jericho makes up for that weakness by being wildly entertaining as a bad guy. His WCW heel run put him on the map, but his most successful stint as a bad guy came after he turned against Shawn Michaels in 2008.

The Y2J character had become hackneyed & played out, so it was time for Jericho to turn over a new leaf. He got out his Nick Bockwinkel DVDs, brushed up on his vocabulary & went from being a colorful rockstar to a monotone suit-wearing braggart. The new persona cemented Jericho’s status as one of the most critically-acclaimed wrestlers of his generation.

3. Shawn Michaels

Although HBK was the target of Jericho’s wrath in 2008, he should have identified with the situation. Michaels’ Rockers tag team with Marty Jannetty had run its course towards the end of 1991. After years of great matches, they were nowhere near title contention. If Michaels was going to live up to the potential people thought he had, change needed to be made.

A barbershop window would have to pay the price.

We all know where Michaels’ career went after that. The Heartbreak Kid worked his way up to the IC title level as a bad guy & established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the company. Nowadays he’s considered one of the best of all time. It all started with the run he had after turning against Jannetty.

2. Hollywood Hogan

Hulk Hogan’s move to WCW didn’t exactly go the way people had hoped. While the company gained more notoriety & got on more even footing with the WWF, Hogan’s babyface character was running out of steam. Traditionally, wrestlers turn heel when that happens. This was Hulk Hogan, brother. The idea of him turning heel was as ridiculous as it would be for John Cena to turn heel. Or even for Roman Reigns to turn heel, brother!

They did it.

Hogan went from being on his way out to the biggest name in wrestling once again. He & the NWO took WCW to the top of the business. Hogan’s heel run was great because it played into all the complaints his haters had over the years. People loved to see him lose on the rare occasions it happened.

Honorable Mention: Tommaso Ciampa

I don’t think there’s been a better-executed heel turn during this decade than Ciampa’s attack against his longtime tag team partner Johnny Gargano. Gargano has this certain factor about him that fans just get behind. Not many people can pull off the whitemeat babyface act these days, but he does it. Ciampa’s attack on Gargano stunned the NXT Universe.

The only problem: Ciampa was injured & wouldn’t wrestle for months afterward. Fortunately, Twitter is a thing now & Ciampa is one of the best at it.

I agree with Bill Watts. It’s not just enough to be a heel in the ring & on television. To achieve your true evil potential, you have to be a heel everywhere. Ciampa knows this.

1. The Rock

Rocky Maivia was going to be a superstar. Everybody knew this. That was exactly the problem. Fans in the late 1990s were tired of happy-go-lucky babyfaces that were destined to be superstars the moment they entered the business. Especially if that whole smiling act seemed fake, which it did with Rocky. The turn itself, when he randomly came back from an injury, helped Faarooq win a match & joined the Nation of Domination, wasn’t much. It was what came after that made The Rock a superstar.

Once Rock was allowed to be himself, he became exactly what WWE management thought he would be. Rock changed sides of the fence a handful of times during his career, with each turn gaining him more & more momentum. Becoming Mr. McMahon’s Corporate Champion right when the people were really getting behind him put Rock in the main event picture for good. Capitalizing off of fans’ annoyance with Rock always being going to do movies led to the Hollywood Rock character that was one of the most entertaining of all time.

Rock’s time as a heel didn’t last long. But he managed to accomplish in scant years what takes mortal men decades.


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Opinion

The Case For Ronda Rousey To Lose

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Ronda Rousey WWE Lose

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey may be one of the hottest commodities in wrestling right now but she should lose her first title match.  I know this is a very hot take but I think the best thing the WWE can do for Rousey’s character development, if she plans on joining the roster full time, is to lose to Nia Jax at Money in the Bank. I’m not saying by Pinfall or Submission, as that could hurt her character, but a well executed DQ finish. More on that later.

If, and most likely, when she beats Nia at Money in the Bank, she would become the third fastest WWE SuperStar to win a premier title at 141 days. The fastest being “The Dirtiest Player in the Game”, Ric Flair. He accomplished this feat at the 1992 Royal Rumble by eliminating Sid Justice and becoming the only one to win the Heavyweight strap by doing so. This was 113 days after he debuted but “The Nature Boy” was a 9 time Heavyweight champion at this point, 8 times in the NWA and 1 WCW reign. She has her accomplishments to this point, former UFC/StrikeForce Women’s Bantamweight champ and two Olympic medals, but this is Professional Wrestling. As much as I like “Rowdy” Ronda, she is not even on the same playing field as Flair was when he earned The Strap so quick. If Rousey beats Nia Jax it would slot her between Sheamus, at 116 days, and Brock Lesnar, who at 126 days beat The Rock at SummerSlam ’02. She and Lesnar have similar pedigrees, but the difference is we actually saw something in the ring from Lesnar first. All we have gotten from Rousey is a gimmick match at WrestleMania, which was great by the way but a gimmick still, and NO singles matches. Don’t get me started on the mic skills.

Ronda Rousey WWE

I think the only way to end this and still leave credibility for Ronda Rousey’s character is to have her loose by DQ. Be it by Alexa Bliss having a “Moment of Bliss” and trying to regain the trust of Jax after the “bully angle’ or whatever the “Road Dogg” throws together over there at Titan Towers.With this angle we would get the hype, like we have had with the Styles/Nakumara feud of late, and they could even finish in a cage match at Extreme Rulez. Imagine “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey winning her first WWE Women’s Title in the cage. That would make for good TV.

But we won’t get this. The same “Marks” who BOO Roman Reigns will cheer to the high heavens when Ronda wins from a premature, undeserved push. Roman deserves it. He has been around for awhile now and even came up through the NXT system. But because he comes from a wrestling family, The Anoa’i Dynasty, and has the proverbial “Machine” behind him the fans don’t give him the time of day. Or, maybe it’s because he falls in the “MAN” category (more on that here)  That’s a discussion for another day. We will most likely see her become a Brock Lesnar type champ, with part time appearances and this guy as her mouthpiece.

Make sure to tell me what you don’t like about my opinion on TWITTER @james_callear


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Opinion

What Happened To The Heels?

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Ric Flair Heel WOOO

Where have all the good heels in professional wrestling gone? Why aren’t there characters like the ones from my youth that struck fear in me while watching the NWA on Saturday mornings with my father?

Granted, I am a bit older than I used to be and I know what professional wrestling is now as opposed to being seven years old. Still, the heel wrestler has been eliminated like the “Loser Leave Town” matches from the days of territorial promotions.

After finally watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Ric Flair, it has occurred to me there will never be a heel as solid as the “Nature Boy” and a generation will never know what “real” wrestling was about.

I will need a moment of silence to get over this pain I feel.

Back in the day, when Kayfabe was alive and well, Kevin Sullivan terrorized my mind at night with his cryptic messages on Championship Wrestling from Florida. The Wild Samoans scared fans in the stands at Madison Square Garden. Gary Hart and his band of Japanese heels proved to be evil. They were just a few of the “bad guys” fans hated with a passion. There was no blurred line. Heels were hated, babyfaces loved. It’s a phenomenon that is scarce in WWE or TNA or even ROH.

We can thank Vince McMahon for that and the creation of Sports Entertainment. The name on the marquee used to be “wrestling” and that is what superstars did, helping to create my childhood memories of Dusty Rhodes and Sullivan, Dory Funk, Jr. and Jack Brisco.

Blake Oestriecher of Forbes.com wrote a story recently about the deficiency of heels in WWE. He makes a valid point, addressing the issue of fan support for the bad guys while the scales are tipped toward the babyfaces on both Monday and Tuesday nights. This would never have been the case if McMahon had just let wrestlers wrestle and honored the traditions of 1970s grappling.

Those days are gone forever.

“Overall, WWE has a lot of depth on the heel side. There are quality villains on Raw in the form of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal and on SmackDown with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and The Miz,” Oestriecher writes. “It’s not the number of heels that is the issue. Rather, it’s WWE’s presentation of those heels and the creative team’s inability to establish them as bona fide superstars in that role that have really hurt the quality of WWE’s programming.”

Oestriecher hits it out of the park with that one paragraph.

Mahal is as close to a throwback heel you will find in WWE. His look, his gimmick, the venomous dialogue he spews and takes heat from the fans. It’s a perfect combination. Mahal, who has become a fringe main event star, would be successful in the 1980s NWA with Rhodes championing the cause of fighting good versus evil.

Other than the former WWE champion, who else besides Brock Lesnar, who is back hibernating with the Universal Title under his pillow, is there to fill that role? Even Lesnar, who by all accounts is a heel based on his gimmick, his look, and his mouthpiece Paul Heyman, is cheered simply because of size, power and his ability in the ring.

“Now, with Brock Lesnar, who is widely viewed to be WWE’s No. 1 heel, apparently not set to wrestle again until at least July, WWE finds itself with a gaping hole on the heel side of Raw,” Oestriecher adds. “There is not one particular thing that will make up for the loss of Lesnar, who many still consider to be WWE’s biggest draw, and doing so on Monday nights won’t help the blue brand.”

This might be a case of fans learning to deal with deficiencies in booking, that creative writers don’t see three steps in front of them and the bad guy is really the good guy and the good guy is really bad because he doesn’t have the qualities fans want in today’s business. If that is the case, then why is Roman Reigns so hated by the wrestling community?

That’s another column for another time and place.

No matter what WWE does to try and correct its problem, there will never be a viable solution. The present and future dictate the company sticks to the script of uneven booking. And until the problem is eased – not fixed – we will all wonder whatever ever happened to the “real” heels of professional wrestling?


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Will ‘All In’ Be All The Smarks Want It To Be?

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Young Bucks All In

So the biggest thing the wrestling world seems to be talking about is All In, the one off indie show that Cody (Rhodes) and the Young Bucks have put together and are saying that it’s sold 10,000 tickets. If this is true, it’s quite a feat and would make it the first non-WWE show to sell that many since WCW folded in 2001. Since this news came out on Monday, smark fans have trumpeted this a the salvation of pro-wrestling because it’s supposedly a shot against WWE’s monopoly on the business, but is it really? Or are the smarks so desperate to prove their coolness that they’re ignoring some issues with this situation?

I’m going to preface the following by saying that I have nothing against Cody or the Bucks. I’m not a fan of either him or the Young Bucks and have no intention of watching All In, but I wish them luck on this thing. However, I feel the need to point out the problems I see with this whole thing.

1. The Lack of a Card. I realize that it’s a little early to be griping about the lack of a card, and if it were an actual promotion, WWE or not, I wouldn’t be, but the fact that as of right now, the only match on the card is Cody vs Magnus/Nick Aldis for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship is a little concerning to me. The Young Bucks, Rey Mysterio, Kenny Omega, Okada, Skrull, Tessa Blanchard, Pentagon Jr, Fenix, and Deonna Purrazo are going to be involved in some way, but there’s no other matches lined up.

2. The Title Match Itself. This is based on what I’m reading about the title match. Nick Aldis is actually scheduled for an NWA title match against PJ Black (Justin Gabriel) before competing at All In, though the article didn’t say when. Which means, if Aldis loses, All In’s main event will be a ‘Special Non-Title Match’, which is nice, but doesn’t have the same drawing power as an NWA Title Match. Do I think Aldis will lose to Black? No, but given that it’s the only match on the card so far, it’s a big risk to take.

3. The Emphasis on Cody and the Bucks. I’m willing to admit that I’m not into indie wrestling. I watch WWE and I used to watch TNA back when it was good, but even not knowing a lot about a lot of the people scheduled to appear, I’m worried about what the back up plan is if Cody and/or the Bucks get hurt, which is a distinct possibility in the wrestling business. Do they have a backup plan? We’ve all seen WWE have to throw out almost an entire WrestleMania card because of a rash of injuries, and that’s with a roster of around 50 guys. What do Cody and the Bucks have in reserve in case s**t happens?

4. The Lack of a Plan to Build On It. I think this the think I find puzzling about this whole thing: Is there a long-term plan for this? Does Cody have a plan of building on this, maybe making deals with other promoters and making it the WrestleMania or Starrcade of the indies? Given Cody’s background, I assume he wouldn’t do this without some kind of plan for the long-term.

5. What Kind of An Event Is This?  I ask this because as I was looking through the people who are scheduled to appear during All In and I noticed that there are a lot of Legendary performers listed. In fact, it seems that there are more people making appearances than are scheduled to wrestle on the show. So that begs the question: Is this a wrestling show with a fan convention attached, or a fan convention with a wrestling show attached? I will give Cody props for having the good sense to BAR Vince Russo from the Starrcast event.

Again, I’m not knocking this event, if Cody and the Bucks can actually pull this off in September, kudos to them, and I understand that fans who are not necessarily hardcore WWE fans are wanting to bask in the moment of somehow striking back at WWE, but let’s not get so caught up in the moment that we ignore the issues.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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