At WCW’s Bash at the Beach ppv in July of 1996, Hulk Hogan executed one of the most important heel turns in the modern era of professional wrestling. Not only was his change in attitude completely out of character for the man that led wrestling to amazing heights as the ultimate face in the 1980’s, it also changed the landscape of the industry by launching the angle that ignited the famous Monday Night War, the nWo.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Just which side ARE you on, anyway?
Hogan’s turn was shocking. It meant something in the big picture, because it kicked off a long-term booking plan.
Let me start by stating that I am NOT against heel/face turns. As I’ve described in my other columns, I simply want to see things happen for a reason. When the creative team takes the time and effort to keep heel/face turns logical, we fans can understand the character’s motivation and follow along with new booking plans.
Too often, however, the turn is scripted as a short-term swerve, and creative has no idea how to proceed with the character’s new outlook. That’s when things go awry.
At TNA’s Destination X ppv, The Alpha Male Monty Brown turned heel by hitting DDP with the Pounce, thereby aligning himself with Jeff Jarrett. I was either going to love or hate his sudden turn, depending on how they explained it on the following iMPACT! broadcast.
The explanation was that Brown felt his window of opportunity for title matches against Jarrett had closed. Rather than rely on DoA Dusty Rhodes, Brown decided to take matters into his own hands. Monty told Jarrett on iMPACT!, “Remember, you owe me one.” The favor Jarrett now owes Brown will of course be a future championship match for The Alpha Male.
My verdict? As far as I’m concerned, “fan favorite” Monty Brown gave a sound reason for the decision he made, and he explained it in short order. He wants to be the NWA World Champion, by any means necessary. This was a logical, properly executed heel turn. The way TNA turned Brown was both surprising and fun, and since they took the first opportunity following Destination X to explain it, the turn worked for me. Well done, TNA.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that during the rise of the nWo, Dusty Rhodes personified tradition. He was the antithesis of all the nWo stood for. He was about honor and about opponents facing each other in the ring like men. He stood for the time-honored history of professional wrestling, of hard-nosed champions and bloody victories. Then he joined up with the biggest pack of underhanded, back-stabbing, cowardly cheats around! He turned on fellow “traditionalist” Larry Zybysko at Souled Out, after promising to have The Living Legend’s back.
That simply does not compute. If you know the storyline reason given for Rhodes’ heel turn, please remind me at email@example.com. I really don’t recall the explanation we fans were given at the time.
Psycho Victoria was a fun, compelling character. She was single-minded of purpose, focused on her hatred of Trish Stratus. She was big, strong and dangerous, and she represented a constant threat to Trish’s women’s championship and more importantly, to her health and safety. Then with no explanation at all, she morphed into Dancin’ Victoria, kissing babies and smiling her way down the ramp. She must’ve had one hell of a therapist, or a lobotomy. We fans were left with NO storyline explanation for her turn whatsoever. It is simply unfair that we watch week after week, and get no continuity from creative in certain storylines. Imagine a “bad guy” character from your favorite TV drama suddenly cozying up to the “good guys” with no explanation! That would not fly.
My best friend came up with a very cool concept for how Victoria could have been turned. What if her psychosis caused her to manifest multiple-personality disorder? When she suddenly started appearing as a smiling, dancing, wanna-be babyface, JR and the King would openly question her actions, speculating as to her mental condition. She would show occasional signs of her previous insane personality slipping through the cracks of her new happy faÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â§ade as she struggled to maintain one identity. Perhaps in the middle of a match with a beloved female face, Victoria would “snap” under the pressure of the two personalities and severely injure her opponent. Imagine her laughing and screaming, staring wild-eyed at the carnage she’d just inflicted. Due to her increasingly fragile mental state, she would be both feared and pitied, similar to how Mankind was treated by fans in the beginning of his face turn. That would be a well-written, interesting character change.
Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and many others have turned so many times throughout their careers, I couldn’t even begin to chronicle each switch. For a select few like Flair, it doesn’t matter; the crowds will love the Nature Boy forever. For others, I believe it truly weakens the character, and hurts his ability to maintain a solid fan base.
Sting’s slow mutation into the Dark Crow character was not a face or heel turn, but he still changed drastically. When he did morph into this other character, there was a detailed, easily understandable reason. The most loyal “Franchise Player” in WCW history was setup by the nWo and made to look like a traitor. He was abandoned by his friends and peers, and was no longer trusted and respected. When he changed his look and demeanor, it made so much sense; it was indicative of his new, darker persona. He stopped talking. He stopped smiling. He became a gloomy, brooding anti-hero, and with good reason. It was entertaining, engrossing, and logical.
That’s all we can ask from the creative teams regarding the characters we watch every week. Give them something interesting to do, and a decent reason to do it. That will keep us coming back for more.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – Sometimes people wish you “God speed”. Just how fast is that? Can the human body tolerate that kind of velocity? Does Mick Foley wish people “Good speed”?