Some of the greatest WWE matches in the past 5 years have taken place in NXT. Great matches, however, are usually only great because of the character work, and nothing can quite make a character like a heel turn can.
With NXT now in the spotlight due to the fact that the black and gold brand is now not only on the USA Network but is also being featured heavily in the build to 2019's Survivor Series, it might be worth looking back at some of the greatest heel turn angles in the short yet storied history of WWE's black and gold brand.
10 Bo Dallas
For the first heel turn, we are going way back, close to the beginning of NXT. While Bo Dallas was never properly utilized on the main roster, whether as part of the Miztourage, The B Team, or under his singles "Bo-lieve" gimmick, he was a mainstay of the NXT main event for a while. Dallas's overly-optimistic character began as a bland babyface, but over time, fans began to turn on him. While Dallas's singular "heel turn" moment is hard to pinpoint, Dallas truly embraced his heel turn by the time he left NXT.
9 Io Shirai
Coming hot off of the heels of Kairi Sane, one of the biggest Japanese female signings since Asuka, it was hard for Io Shirai to distinguish herself from those who came before her. That was, until she shockingly turned heel. After losing a steel cage match against Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women's Championship due to interference from the Horsewomen, Shirai snapped. Candice LeRae, longtime rival of the Horsewomen, came down to the ring to save Shirai, but Shirai instead unloaded on Candice, marking the beginning of her heel character.
8 Adrian Neville
While PAC is currently known as one of the biggest and best heels in the industry today due to his work as King of the Cruiserweights in WWE, his post-WWE indie runs, and his current work as a top heel in AEW, the man formerly known as Adrian Neville put together an impressive run as NXT Champion before losing his first name.
However, when newcomer Sami Zayn entered the company, Neville viewed him as a threat, turning heel on Zayn. The heel turn would be short-lived, as Neville and Zayn would reconcile after Zayn won the NXT Championship.
7 Wesley Blake
For most of his NXT career, Wesley Blake was part of a tag team. Along with his partner Buddy Murphy and valet Alexa Bliss, Blake and Murphy held the NXT Tag Team Championships for over 200 days. However, after Alexa Bliss went to the main roster and Buddy Murphy became the juggernaut of 205 Live, Blake was directionless. However, after being off of television for nearly an entire year, Blake would make his return to NXT with new partners Steve Cutler and Jaxson Ryker. The three men formed a heel trio team called The Forgotten Sons.
6 Alexa Bliss
When Alexa Bliss first debuted in NXT, she was far from the character that everyone knows and loves today. Bliss actually came into her own as a heel when she joined the aforementioned alliance with Blake and Murphy. B
liss became their valet when she distracted Enzo and Cass in an NXT Tag Team Championship match. Before this, she was just a bland "fairy princess" gimmick, but after her heel turn, Bliss would go on to feud with then-NXT Champion Bayley and Blue Pants, now known as "The Librarian" Leva Bates in AEW.
5 Samoa Joe
While Samoa Joe is currently injured, it is undeniable that, when Joe is active, he is one of the best heels in the business. Not only does Joe strike an intimidating force in the ring, but he comes off like a true destroyer with his in-ring work. In NXT, his heel work was kicked off by a great heel turn. After winning the first Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in 2015 with Finn Balor, Samoa Joe would turn against his partner and became the heel that everyone knew he could be.
4 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens' heel turn is perhaps one of the most memorable heel turns in NXT history that truly shocked everyone watching. All the fans that were watching NXT at the time knew that Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were best friends backstage.
Therefore, it made sense when Kevin Owens came out at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution and congratulated his best friend on winning the NXT Championship from Adrian Neville. However, while pretending to help Zayn up the entrance ramp, Owens turned on Zayn and gave him a powerbomb on the ring apron, turning heel.
3 Roderick Strong
This is one of the more recent entries on the list. When Bobby Fish went down with a knee injury, The Undisputed Era looked to be in dire straits. Adam Cole was set to pull double duty, defending Undisputed Era's tag team championships and then have a match for the NXT North American Championship. During the match, however, Pete Dunne's partner Roderick Strong would turn on Dunne, handing the win to The Undisputed Era and joining them as their fourth member. While The Undisputed Era has teased a split occasionally, Strong has remained in the Undisputed Era ever since.
2 Finn Balor
While Roderick Strong's turn is fairly recent, this heel turn is easily the most recent. While The Undisputed Era were running roughshod over NXT, it looked like three men were going to stand against them: Finn Balor, Tommaso Ciampa, and Johnny Gargano. However, when Finn Balor stood side by side with #DIY in a face-to-face confrontation with Adam Cole and his teammates, Balor would shock #DIY and the wrestling world by hitting an overhead Pele kick on Johnny Gargano, following it up with an elevated DDT 1916 onto the entrance ramp, spiking Gargano on his head.
1 Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa versus Gargano is perhaps the greatest wrestling feud of the decade, and definitely the best feud in NXT's history. While Gargano and Ciampa won the NXT Tag Team titles as #DIY, Ciampa would turn on Gargano when they would fail to reclaim the titles in a ladder match for the straps against the Authors of Pain. As Ciampa comforted Gargano at the top of the ramp, this comfort would quickly turn into aggression as Ciampa grabbed Gargano by the neck and threw him facefirst into the LED screen, marking the greatest heel turn in NXT history.