23 Shocking Heel Turns Every Fan WWE Fan Needs To Know
Chris E. Hayner
Wrestling’s 22 Best Heel Turns Every Fan Should Know
For the most part, you can only be a hero in professional wrestling for so long before the audience starts clamoring for a heel turn. Even Hulk Hogan, who constantly screamed about saying his payers and eating his vitamins, became an audience-hating villain at one point. You name them, and chances are they’ve turned their back on friends and fans before–from Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and The Undertaker to Romain Reigns, Ric Flair, and even WWE chairman Vince McMahon, himself.
Sometimes it’s done out of necessity–a hero is only as good as his primary antagonist–and other times it’s done simply to refresh a character that’s gotten a bit stale. If the newly-minted heel gets comfortable being hated, though, it can be a wonderfully entertaining thing to watch.
So, which heel turns are the best? We dug through far too much pro wrestling history to pick out the absolute biggest for you to check out below, ranked from worst to best.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin turns on WWE
Nobody expected “Stone Cold,” of all people, to turn his back on WWE. When he aligned with WCW and ECW during the invasion angle in 2001, it gave rival companies the legitimacy they desperately needed.
Shawn Michaels turns on Hulk Hogan
The emotionless look on Michaels after kicking Hulk Hogan in the face is one that will be remembered forever. The turn goes down as the moment two of wrestling’s greatest titans finally clashed.
Triple H turns on Daniel Bryan
There was no better feel-good story than the rise of Daniel Bryan in 2013. Then it all came crashing down thanks to a pedigree from Triple H and Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank title shot.
Triple H turns on X-Pac
The Attitude Era was loaded with heel turns. Still, the night in 1997 when Triple H pedigreed X-Pac, allowing Shane McMahon to beat him, stands as one of the character’s defining moments. It was the necessary next step in his evolution.
Tommaso Ciampa turns on Johnny Gargano
After teaming since 2015–and winning the tag titles– DIY came to an end in 2017, when Ciampa brutalized partner Gargano by throwing him into the screens and kneeing him in the head.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin turns on The Rock
The turn of Austin at WrestleMania X7 should have been a major moment. The Texas Rattlesnake aligned himself with rival Mr. McMahon and attacked The Rock with a chair. But the whole scenario was tainted; Austin devolved into an emotionally needy heel that loved to hug.
Sgt. Slaughter turns on America
It’s one thing to turn on “Real American” Hulk Hogan; it’s another to turn on America. In the middle of the Gulf conflict in 1990, Sgt. Slaughter became a Saddam Hussein sympathizer as he started a feud with Hogan. The Hulkster beat him for the championship.
The Rock turns on the fans
When The Rock returned from filming a movie in 2003, something was different. Gone was the People’s Champion. In his place was a cocky, “Hollywood” version of Dwayne Johnson that ate tofu, mocked the fans, and feuded with Hulk Hogan.
Seth Rollins turns on The Shield
In 2014, there was no hotter act than The Shield. That all came to an end when Seth Rollins smashed a steel chair across the backs of Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose–proclaiming he was ready to be a star on his own.
Stephanie McMahon turns on Vince McMahon
The sweet daughter of Vince McMahon proved to be anything but in 1999 when she turned her back on her dad, aligning with the man who, in storyline, drugged and married her in Las Vegas–Triple H. Together, the two ran the WWE as their own personal playground before Vince eventually joined them.
Kevin Owens turns on Chris Jericho
This is a bit of an odd turn, as Owens was already technically a heel. However, he was the cool heel. Destroying his best friend during the Festival of Friendship, though? That was a surefire way to make him hated.
Owens Hart turns on Bret Hart
There’s nothing quite as sad as brothers at war. In 1994 though, that’s what happened. Owen Hart attacked Bret’s injured knee. The feud culminated with a classic match at WrestleMania X, regarded as one of the best of all time.
The Four Horsemen turn on Sting
The year was 1990, and upstart babyface Sting achieved his dream of joining Ric Flair as part of the Four Horsemen. Everything was perfect until Sting accepted a title match against Flair. Then the Horsemen decided to take out the trash.
Bret Hart turns on America
How did the beloved Bret Hart turn heel? By going on a tirade against America and everything it stood for in 1997. Hart remained a hero in every country but America, where he was hated in his final months with WWE.
Andre the Giant turns on Hulk Hogan
When Andre the Giant realized he was being relegated to Hulk Hogan’s second fiddle in 1987, he enlisted master heel manager Bobby Heenan and demanded a championship match. When Hogan tried to talk things out, Andre ripped his shirt and tore off his crucifix.
‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage turns on Hulk Hogan
Anybody that loves ’80s wrestling remembers the moment the Mega Powers were torn apart by Savage’s jealousy over Hogan’s friendship with Miss Elizabeth. It all came to a head during 1989’s The Main Event, when Savage slapped his former friend across the face.
CM Punk turns on The Rock
In 2012, CM Punk was the biggest hero in the WWE. That all changed with one clothesline to The Rock, which made him wrestling’s most hated villain.
Chris Jericho turns on Shawn Michaels
Jericho has always functioned better as a heel, but never more so than when he smashed Michaels’ head through a TV in 2008.
The fans turn on The Rock
Rocky Maivia did not endear himself to fans at first. The crowd often chanted “Rocky sucks!” The only choice, of course, was to embrace the hate and become the villain. He took on the name The Rock, and launched his career.
Roman Reigns turns on literally everyone
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roman Reigns passed on the chance to main event Wrestlemania to stay home for the health of himself and his family. When he eventually returned, months later, it was with a fire not seen in him before. He gave up trying to be the top babyface in WWE. Instead, under the tutelage of Paul Heyman, he embraced his inner heel and became the most hated–yet respected–member of the WWE roster.
Since then, he has laid claim to the WWE World Championship and mowed through every contender that’s stepped in his path, all while proclaiming himself the dominant and unrivaled “head of the table.”
The ego Reigns puts on display every single week is the best work of his career, thus far. What’s more, it’s shaken up WWE programming in a way few other things have during this audience-free era of shows.
Shawn Michaels turns on Marty Jannetty
This superkick heard ’round the world took Shawn Michaels from tag-team wrestler to legit star. It was 1991 when Michaels gave friend and partner Jannetty a dose of Sweet Chin Music.
Vince McMahon turns on Bret Hart
This is the heel turn that may have saved WWE from bankruptcy. As the egotistical head of WWE, “Mr. McMahon” was the ultimate villain and waged a feud with Steve Austin that helped the company rebound and win its ratings war with WCW.
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan turns on WCW
The biggest hero in the history of wrestling turning his back on the fans? With his popularity sinking in 1996, Hogan went heel in the greatest turn of all time. The New World Order ran roughshod over WCW for the next few years — and eventually ran it out of business. Still, there’s no understating the importance of Hogan’s turn in wrestling history.