WWE was relatively good in 2016, except for a few glaring issues, but heading into the year 2017, we should mostly be confident about where the company is headed. To make the journey even better, the reinvigoration or further development of some characters needs desperately to be had, in the form of a well timed heel or face turn.
For some of the performers on this list, it’s a complete shot in the dark to save or quickly develop a character, but for others, it’s a well thought out, careful change in character that could catapult them to the top of the wrestling industry. Either way, take a look at 15 possible heel or face turns that could and should see in the year 2017.
15 Sasha Banks – Heel
Fans couldn’t boo Sasha Banks in NXT thanks to her involvement with the Four Horsewomen (especially Bayley), and her amazing matches with the Huggable One, and that fan support has clearly continued on the main roster, but there’s something off. ‘The Boss’ is a character that’s meant to be heel, and despite the crowd support, it just feels like it’s time for The Boss to return to her roots, especially with not much to do after losing what looks to be the finale of her rivalry with Charlotte. It may be hard to truly turn the crowd on her, especially as it will no doubt be done on Bayley (as it would lead to great matches between the pair), but if WWE give her the freedom that she was afforded in NXT, she could be an even better heel than Charlotte.
14 Apollo Crews – Heel
It’s easy to see why WWE signed the former Uhaa Nation, he looks great and moves like a cruiserweight, but the time he was meant to develop a personality and charisma in NXT was taken away, and he was thrust onto the main roster just after WrestleMania 32. Vince McMahon must have thought that these flaws would simply be masked by showing off what a great wrestler he is, but truth be told, the fans just couldn’t care because they can’t invest in the character. Maybe letting out some frustrations on the fans would help Crews seem more genuine, because he currently doesn’t seem interesting or entertaining at all, better try something soon, right? In all likelihood, he will be released or sent back to NXT within the next year, but if WWE stick with it, a heel turn could change the fortunes of this character.
13 TM61 – Heel
The Mighty Don’t Kneel were huge in Japan, and were the first gaijin team in over 2 decades to win tag team of the year over there, so naturally, their signing to NXT was seen as a huge deal. Unfortunately, due to the PG nature of the company, they have failed to hit the mark since arriving, despite fans seeing their obvious talents as a team. As most of their work in Japan was done as a heel team, this seems the perfect way to revive their run, because when the Revival leave for the main roster, NXT will need a talented, heel team at the top of the division, and it would hopefully add the edge to their characters that they have desperately needed lately.
12 Rusev – Face
It’s been a question for quite some time now, but how the hell is Rusev even a heel at this point? He sticks up for the honor of his wife, and gets constantly berated by arrogant baby faces, but is seen as a heel because… he’s foreign? Add on to that the him and Lana are the most popular characters on Total Divas and you’ve got a recipe for a great baby face turn (hopefully it doesn’t turn out like the other foreign monsters turned face e.g. Vladimir Kozlov or The Great Khali). This could ignite some fresh rivalries, and hopefully give him something of substance to do, as Rusev was stuck in a no-win situation with Roman Reigns and nothing else since the brand split way back in July.
11 Dolph Ziggler – Heel
Similar to Rusev, how the hell is Dolph Ziggler meant to be a baby face? I get that he is amazing in the ring and never puts on a bad match, but prior to his rivalry with the Miz, I’ve never been given a reason to cheer him. He is constantly telling people how good he is, he has an arrogant smile and looks 10 times better than I ever will, so why should I cheer for him? Anyway, after being stagnant for a few years and then coming up short against the Miz, a heel turn would be the perfect way to revitalize the character, and on a show with so few heels at the top (read the next entry for further clarification), it would be a great time to thrust him into the World Title picture. The man himself revealed not long ago that he didn’t want to wrestle for much more than 2 more years, so this would be a great way to capitalize on the final years of his career, if he sticks to his word.
10 Tommaso Ciampa – Heel
In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen their fantastic work in NXT lately, Tommaso Ciampa is currently one half of the NXT Tag Team Champions with Johnny Gargano, and while that looks good for the near future, these two are going to have an amazing rivalry before 2017 is done. While Johnny Wrestling does play a great heel (which most people probably don’t know because he’s such a great face), the Psycho Killer has to be the man to turn heel, as it just works with the way they’ve been presented so far. When this does happen, it has the potential to be the best rivalry in wrestling, as the duo have told a fantastic, emotional story as a tag team, and after the CWC, we know the two can have great matches against each other.
9 Big E – Heel
A lot of people will read this and groan at the thought of the New Day breaking up, and others think it’s about time, but if done right, it could set all three men off on the right foot for the next phase of their WWE careers. We know how talented all three men are in the ring, but it is no doubt Big E who has the breakout, main event potential, as either a comedic baby face, or serious heel. E turning on Kingston and Woods for always failing in matches would be a huge shock, similar to Rollins turning on the Shield, and with his overwhelming charisma, he could make it work. No matter who it is that turns from the group, WWE has the potential to make a top baby face and heel (Kingston and Big E) as well as a mid card star in Woods if all goes to plan and they don’t stuff it up (lets be honest though, they probably will).
8 Samoa Joe – Face
Samoa Joe currently exists like many on the WWE roster, a heel in theory, but he gains the support and cheers of those who know what an incredible performer he is. His rivalries with Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura have proven what a talented heel he is, but his arrival on the main roster will be a whole different story. After over a decade of tearing it up on the independent scene, many loyal fans of Joe didn’t think he’d ever make it to WWE, so those fans will no doubt be behind him when he finally gets his chance on the biggest stage in wrestling. This may not last for long (spoiler alert), but for the first part of Joe’s main roster run, he will no doubt be a white hot, genuine baby face.
7 TJ Perkins – Heel
Originally, I had Neville slotted into this position, as the cruiserweights needed an established star and a shot in the arm to get them going, so instead, I’ll suggest T.J Perkins. The 13 year veteran was a revelation in the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic, and those who weren’t familiar with him quickly became fans of his smooth, technical style. Since that point however, his status has dropped with a lackluster title run and not much since, so he needs to freshen up his character. The company also seems high on such stars as Jack Gallagher and Cedric Alexander, meaning that a heel turn could be what pushes TJP back into the spotlight (and especially when you consider that he took out three hot baby face favorites in the CWC, it should be familiar territory).
6 Asuka – Heel
I understand why the NXT fans (myself included) love to cheer Asuka, as she is one of the biggest women in Japanese wrestling history, but she’s just got so much potential as a bad-ass heel. Add that onto the fact that the only credible challenger coming through NXT is Ember Moon, a baby face growing in popularity, this is a turn that has to, and probably will happen. It wouldn’t be too hard either, as she already has the demeanor of a vicious, devastating heel. Either way, it will be very interesting to see how NXT build the division over the next year, with hopefully a few more challengers (please Candice LeRae) coming from the upcoming women’s tournament.
5 John Cena – Heel
This one has been long rumored and hoped for, and if you believe such backstage chatter, the WWE are currently concerned about John’s status with the company, given his recent time off and more frequent ventures into Hollywood. This real life tension could be turned into story, and could reinvigorate wrestling akin to Hulk Hogan, and now is a great time for it. It seems as though he is on a collision course with The Undertaker, which is a perfect time for Big Match John to step up as Smackdown’s primary bad guy. Knowing he is slowing down and can’t get it done, Cena should begin to use underhanded tactics to win matches, and to cheat to win the Rumble and then screw The Undertaker out of a victory in his final match in WWE would certainly reinvent the stale character of Cena.
4 AJ Styles – Face
AJ Styles came into the WWE as a baby face during his ‘surprise’ debut in the Royal Rumble, and had numerous great matches like that. Then his friends Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson arrived, and suddenly, AJ Styles was intent on ‘beating up John Cena’, and with the heel turn, his standing in WWE has continued to rise. He’s had incredible matches with John Cena and Dean Ambrose since then, but eventually, the crowd support is going to take over, and AJ will be back on the good side, with many great heels (such as the Miz and Baron Corbin) to battle. This might not be happening anytime soon, but before the end of 2017, expect AJ Styles to be heavily supported by the WWE Universe.
3 Samoa Joe – Heel
As mentioned before, it’s almost a certainty that Samoa Joe will be appearing on the main roster sooner rather than later, and if the reaction is anything like it was for his NXT arrival, he will definitely be received well and as a face. This may last for a while, but we all know that the Samoan Submission Machine works much better as a badass monster, and that’s the way WWE have to use him. The benefit of this is that Samoa Joe knows how to get proper heel heat from the crowd, and has the work rate to be able to put on great matches, while still maintaining the heat. Whether he is on RAW or Smackdown, there is a plethora of likeable baby faces for Joe to face, which will hopefully help him on the way to an amazing main roster run, which he most definitely deserves.
2 Roman Reigns – Heel
There will be fans out there who are sick of hearing this and will roll their eyes, and I certainly am one of them if it’s for no good reason, but this is the best move for WWE. With the lack of main event heels on RAW, a Roman Reigns heel turn would spark new rivalries and ignite old ones alike. Simply put, the Roman Reigns who makes terrible, corny jokes is never going to get over with the whole crowd, so why not use the genuine hatred and make him the best bad guy in recent WWE memory since the likes of Edge and 2008 Chris Jericho? We saw the crowds react to the no-nonsense, ass kicking Reigns in the lead up to WrestleMania 32, and if this returned in the form of a bad guy, fans would have a reason to tune in every week. His in ring work too has improved dramatically, so as a heel he would be incredibly effective against all performers, it just makes sense.
1 Chris Jericho – Face
The fans already love the living legend that is Y2J, and find it impossible to boo him, especially with how he has reinvented himself in 2016. This leaves these fans expecting a face turn at any moment, and it has even been teased for weeks between himself and best friend, Kevin Owens. We know that Jericho has an insane talent for reinventing himself, so when this eventual turn and subsequent rivalry begin, you can believe that he will have some new material to get fans firmly in his corner. This one is all but a given, as he will be leaving to work with his band again soon, so a hot baby face run before that happens is a must.