The View From Down Here – 5 Wrestling Turns

Columns, Features, Top Story

The talk this week in various columns and on the forums has been Ryback’s recent heel turn, or pseudo-heel turn, considering many in the audience kinda agree with him on turning on Cena, and some people just like anyone who turns on Cena.


Now, in my opinion, the Ryback turn was not too bad. What he said in what was probably the best promo he has cut in the WWE made sense – he was there for Cena but it wasn’t reciprocated. Cool. I get that. The problem is: it came a little bit out of the blue, and it’s Ryback doing the turning, who we as an audience really haven’t become emotionally invested in. Hell, half the audiences still chant, “Goldberg!” at him whenever he wrestles.


So, what were some of the best turns in wrestling, heel and face? I’ve watched WWF/E for a number of years, a little bit of AWA, a fair whack of TNA, and more than was probably healthy of WCW, as well as a lot of the local stuff and bits and pieces elsewhere, so if your favourite turn isn’t in here, then I may not have seen it.


Worth mentioning:


Bret Hart – my problem with the Bret Hart turn was not that he turned heel or that Austin turned face at the same time (though he really became a tweener, not a full-blown face), it was that the turn was not complete. Some have said – and I sort of agree – that it was really well done in that it changed his character. But he only actually turned heel in the USA. In Canada it solidified him as a complete hero. In Australia we agreed with what he was saying as well, so we treated him like we always had. It was only a half-turn. It was unique, but it wasn’t really a turn.


Andy “Voodoo” Roy – from my local promotion of RCW. His turn was done slowly, building up over a long time, but it was sort of foreshadowed when his girlfriend turned heel. But the way he turned on his best friend Chris ‘Mimic’ Basso after teasing it for so long, and them being so good together, and Mimic not believing that he could do it, was done just brilliantly, especially for a promotion that puts on a show a month.


Now to my list.


Number 5: Batista. Batista and Rey Mysterio were buddies. They tagged together, but they were thrown into a 4-way match where they were opponents. Rey cost Batista the victory and the title. Batista in return killed him. I liked the intensity Batista brought to his heel role at this point, and thought he had some of the best matches of his career as a result. Now, I know this one is going to get a lot of negativity, but I liked it, especially when he got the chair and instead of hitting Rey just sat on it and talked to him.


Number 4: Andre the Giant. It started innocuously enough – Andre got a trophy for being so damn dominant in the ring for so long, and Hulk Hogan was there to congratulate him. The next week, Hogan got a bigger trophy for being champ for a while (though not even close to Sammartino or Backlund). Andre got a little bit jealous. Then, on Piper’s Pit he asked for a title shot. Hogan cited friendship as a reason not to. Andre went and got Bobby Heenan to manage him, and the rest, as they say, is history. Little rushed, especially for the time, but still well done.


Number 3: Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer was hated by the Philly crowds. They loved to see him get beat up and lose. He was a pretty boy and played it up. One of those narcissistic heels wrestling loves so much. Then he had a match with the Sandman where the loser had to be beaten with a Singapore cane by the winner. Dreamer lost. But then, after the mandatory number of strikes (10? 15? I can’t remember… Wikipedia tells me it was 10, so take that for what it’s worth), Dreamer muttered those words that made him a legend: “Thank-you, sir, may I have another?” He got it. And he asked again. With that one repeated request he went from heel to legend who could take a beating and ask for more. He – and ECW – never looked back.


Number 2: Hulk Hogan. Bash at the Beach was set up. Three of WCW’s finest against Kevin Nash and Scott Hall and their mystery partner. The WCW guys were stuck when Luger was knocked out before getting to the ring. Hall and Nash were dominating. Sting was on the outside and Savage was at their mercy. Then out ran Hulk Hogan. He chased off Hall and Nash… and then dropped the leg on Savage. Yes, it came out of the blue, but it reinvigorated a stale character and arguably led to one of the biggest changes in the wrestling landscape – the coming of the nWo and the era of a cool heel and WCW domination of wrestling.


Number 1: Randy Savage. He was a heel when he entered WWF. But, because of his sheer skill and the attractiveness of Miss Elizabeth, his manager, crowds were cheering him. And then came Wrestlemania 4 and his title win in the tournament. Hulk Hogan was there to help him, the crowd cheered him even more, and the Megapowers were born. Over the course of the next six months they faced all challengers, alone and together, but always had one another’s back. However, Savage became increasingly paranoid about Hogan and Miss Elizabeth until Savage started to keep an eye on Hogan. Then he accused Hogan of wanting Liz for himself, as finally evidenced by the tag match where Liz was injured and Hogan walked out on Savage to take her to the back. Afterwards, Savage attacked Hulk. So we came to Wrestlemania 5 and it was a newly heel champion Savage against Hogan. Hogan won and Savage lost his mind. But he did win King of the Ring and Macho King gained Queen Sherri as his new consort. But he was still losing it more and more until, at Wrestlemania 6, he and Sherri faced the everyman Dusty Rhodes with Sapphire… and Miss Elizabeth. But Savage wanted to be on top, and so he cost the new WWF champion, the Ultimate Warrior, his title. So we come to Wrestlemania 7 and the career match, Warrior v Savage. After my favourite ever Wrestlemania match, Warrior won and he left the ring. Sherri attacked Savage for being a loser. He had lost literally everything. But Miss Elizabeth jumped out of the crowd to make the save and Savage accepted her and he was the face again. (It’s the Star Wars – Anakin Skywalker story. Seriously. From Attack of the Clones through to Return of the Jedi.) The greatest turn/s in wrestling, done by one man, back and forth, but it all meant something and did not come out of nowhere.


Okay, so how did I mess up this week? Agree? Disagree? See something I haven’t? (I never saw WCCW, so the Freebirds-Von Erichs turn was something I only saw on Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW on DVD. I also never saw the Windham heel turn. I understand they are also great. That’s the sort of thing I want to hear about.)


And that’s another view done.


Australian. Father. Perpetual student. Started watching wrestling before Wrestlemania 1. Has delusions of grandeur and was known to regularly get the snot beaten out of him in a wrestling ring. Also writes occasionally in other Pulse sections.Thinks Iron Mike Sharpe is underrated.