Tiffany takes a look back at the face and heel turns that simply did not work. Did yours make the list?
Last week, I talked about why it’s not enough to turn a wrestler heel or face, there has to be a plan, the wrestler has to actually benefit, and, more importantly, the fans have to get behind it. Take any of those things out, and your turn falls apart like a cheap pair of shoes. However, there have been turns that REALLY didn’t work out or didn’t work as planned. Let’s take a look at those.
This took place in the 70s, which was before my time, but according to the lovely commenter that told me this story, Johnny Power was a SUPER over babyface for the Cleveland, Ohio based National Wrestling Federation, until he briefly turned heel against Ernie Ladd, with the help of Ox Baker, and the fan reaction was so violent that it began a cascade of events that basically killed the NWF. I’m not familiar with Power, but I’m going to guess that the fans didn’t get behind that turn.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
If you’ve never heard this story, yes, Hacksaw Jim Duggan briefly turned heel, and turned his back on the United States and became Canadian. Fans didn’t get behind it because Duggan was a beloved figure, even if his days as a badass in Mid-South were long gone. However, the story behind it, as told by Lance Storm, of using Duggan’s RL cancer as the catalyst for the turn and his patriotism as the catalyst for the return, would’ve at least made for an interesting story.
Even though Dusty started out as a heel in the early days of his career, his turn in the 90s and run as manager of the Outsiders did NOT go well, from my understanding. No one could understand why Rhodes, who bled WCW and ran the company for years, would turn his back and join the nWo. Fortunately, it didn’t last long.
I have no idea what was going on with this, as I wasn’t watching WCW at the time, however, from doing research, and talking to people who DID watch WCW then, my understanding is that WCW was losing in the ratings and needed to do SOMETHING to try and get the fans back. I’m not sure just WHY they thought turning fan favorite Goldberg heel and having him sell out to Bischoff and Russo was the way to go. Needless to say, it flopped.
This was my first introduction to DDP and what makes it memorable to me was how ANGRY my boyfriend at the time, who was a HUGE WCW fan, was over this. DDP had been a heel several times in WCW and the tweener People’s Champion of WCW, but his revelation as the creepy stalker of Undertaker’s legit wife at the time, Sara, was not a great introduction for WWE faithful, or a good turn. DDP’s reasoning for the escapade ‘Make me famous!’ enraged fans like my ex, who RAGED that DDP didn’t need the Undertaker to be famous. DDP would eventually turn face-ish, but the horrible introduction and his sudden retirement due to injuries basically doomed the turn and his WWE run. My ex never forgave WWE for how they did DDP and Booker T, and having now seen them in WCW, I understand why he was so mad.
It’s hard to pin down any one particular face turn that flopped for Randy Orton, fans like him, heel or face, but I think we all have accepted by this point that Orton’s true form is as a psychotic, sadistic heel and trying to make him a babyface is pointless.
The McMahon Family
Much like Orton, while the McMahon Family have played the faces from time to time, but they’re at their maniacal best as the heel owners of WWE. I will say that Shane McMahon’s most recent return as a face and turn into an egotistical heel was quite a storyline.
Hulk Hogan (2002)
This was an interesting mirror image of Hogan’s heel turn in WCW. When Vince McMahon brought back the nWo as a way to keep WWE out of the grip of Ric Flair, his unwanted business partner, he’d counted on the fans embracing the once hot faction in its original form. There was just ONE little problem: The WWE faithful didn’t want to boo the still beloved Hulk Hogan. Not only that, but they also wanted THEIR Hulk Hogan back. Not the black and white, nWo, WCW version, but the ‘real’ Hogan, the Hogan that wore red and yellow.
Unlike his WCW run, where Hogan was up against the beloved Ric Flair, and his own less than stellar wrestling, and needed the heel turn to revive his career; in WWE, Hogan was still revered as the red and yellow superhero of the 80s and early 90s, and no amount of heelish acts, including nearly killing the Rock with an semi, could make the WWE Universe turn on their beloved Hulkster. Thankfully, Vince McMahon realized that he’d make more money with red and yellow Hogan of old, than the nWo version.
The Rock (2003)
Even though the Rock’s initial heel turn in 1998 made him a huge fan favorite, his heel turn in 2003 went less well. While fans had embraced Rock as a heel in 98, his return as an arrogant, Hollywood heel and screwing over Hogan at the behest of Vince McMahon, went over like a lead balloon. About the only thing remotely interesting about that turn was Rock vs Goldberg, which is pretty sad. Rock would get a pyrrhic victory over Stone Cold Steve Austin, but that was after Austin had been gone for nearly a year after a falling out with Vince McMahon.
The Midnight Express
I didn’t watch WCW as a child, but listening to Jim Cornette, the manager of the Midnight Express, talk about the group’s final years in WCW, as well as as a group, and watching WCW on the Network, made this turn very interesting. The Midnight Express had been proud heels, as well as one of the best tag teams in the business, when Dusty Rhodes, the booker of WCW, decided to turn the Midnight Express face in order for them to feud with the Original Midnight Express, managed by Paul Heyman.
I can’t really say this turn didn’t go as planned, the fans seemed to enjoy being able to cheer for the Midnight Express, but the turn didn’t really fit a group that had been so proudly heel. When they turned heel on the Dynamic Dudes, the fans were ecstatic, though that could also be because the Dynamic Dudes SUCKED!
The Road Warriors
If there was ever an example of a heel turn not only not going as planned, but having some wild, unintended consequences, it’s this one. Even though the Road Warriors started out, and looked like, badass heels, they’d quickly gotten over as babyfaces. However, in 1988, Dusty Rhodes, the booker for WCW, decided to turn them heel, by having them beat the shit out of the heel Midnight Express before the match even started.
However, the turn didn’t work because the fans didn’t want to boo the Road Warriors and, I’m guessing, to try and get the the heel turn back on track, Rhodes booked the infamous ‘Spike’ angle where the Road Warriors drove one of their spikes into Rhodes’ eye. If that sounds familiar, that’s because AEW, headed by Rhodes’ son, Cody, rebooted that angle with Chris Jericho, his Inner Circle faction, and Jon Moxley, to much more success. For Rhodes Sr, the angle lead to his ouster as booker, which lead to his departure from WCW, and left the booking in the hands a rotating cast of people, including the infamous Jim Herd, who didn’t know wrestling and ran off most of the established talent that DID know wrestling. That’s a whole lot of mess stemming from an attempt to get a heel turn over.
The Four Horsemen
Yes, that did happen. For a brief time in 1989-90, the Four Horsemen, one of the most notorious, and influential, heel factions of all time, were babyfaces, even including Flair’s arch-rival, Sting. However, thankfully, the turn turned out to be a ruse and they turned on Sting, and returned to their natural state as heels.
This was actually going to be included in the first article, but I forgot. The Usos had been DESPERATELY needing to get away from their babyface gimmick which had gotten stale, especially against New Day, so when WWE decided to turn them heel in 2017, it did make the Usos hot again, but it didn’t make them heels because the fans cheered even louder for them, over the beloved New Day. The Usos officially turned face again by helping Roman Reigns in his feud with Baron Corbin.
As I said in my first article on this, there’s more to a successful heel or face turn than just the wrestler snapping or seeing the error of their ways. There has to be a plan, but it’s clear that no amount of planning will work if the fans aren’t into the turn, or if they don’t react the way the booker expects them to and, as much as we mock them, the fans make the business move and they’ll always have the final say on whether a turn works or not.
Note: I forgot to mention them last week, but I owe a HUGE amount of thanks to @view_raw, @rbonne1, @ChairshotGreg, and @HeelWillMahoney for all their help with these two articles. I also want to thank Richard C for the Johnny Power story that spawned this.
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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