5 Heel Turns That Saved A Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Professional wrestling is a story of heroes and villains, with the babyfaces fighting for the side of good and the heels fighting with evil intents. Most of the time, it is clear who is a face and a heel, with the heels cheating to win while lying and betraying those who trust them. The babyfaces are the ones who smile for the fans, try to win matches cleanly and remain trustworthy allies.

However, the best stories in wrestling occur when the heels see the light or the babyfaces turn to the dark side. A perfectly executed heel turn is one that can excite and infuriate fans and help lead a babyface floundering in their current role to immense highs as the new villain in the stories. Sadly, when done wrong, a heel turn can almost ruin a wrestler's career.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Arguably, the best heel turn in professional wrestling history took place at Bash at the Beach when Hulk Hogan marched down to the ring to defend the honor of WCW against the invading nWo and then dropped a leg on Randy Savage and turned heel for the first time since before Hulkamania ran wild in WWE.

RELATED: 8 Wrestlers Who Loved Being In The nWo And 7 Who Hated It

By the time Hulk Hogan turned heel and became Hollywood Hogan, he was getting fewer and fewer cheers as fans were starting to tire of his Hulkamania gimmick. When he turned heel and became the leader of the nWo, Hogan became one of the biggest stars in wrestling once again and added years to his career.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

One of the most popular homegrown stars in WCW history was Diamond Dallas Page. He started wrestling late in life, initially as a heel manager before turning into a singles star. DDP himself said that he would sit backstage and watch everyone's matches and then go home and study tape to become a better wrestler.

RELATED: 10 WCW Wrestlers That WWE Did Not Want to Succeed

DDP then became one of the faces of WCW in their war with the nWo, won world titles, gave Goldberg the best match of his career, and was hugely popular everywhere WCW went. Football players even did the Diamond Cutter when they scored touchdowns in honor of DDP. When WWE purchased WCW, DDP took the buyout to join WWE, and they gave him a stalker gimmick before saddling him with a motivational speaker gimmick, both as a heel, and his career soon ended.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

One of the most famous heel turns of all-time was when Shawn Michaels superkicked his Rockers tag team partner Marty Jannetty through Brutus Beefcake's Barbershop window. Coming to WWE from the AWA, the Rockers were one of the most popular tag teams in the world in the style of the Rock 'N Roll Express.

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The Rockers however never won the WWE tag team titles, although there was one time where they did win the belts, but WWE ignored the moment and retconned the entire title change. However, once Shawn turned heel and became HBK, he soon became a world champion and one of the best wrestlers in WWE history.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Andre the Giant is one case where the heel turn was hugely successful for a short time. Andre hired Bobby "The Brain" Heenan to be his manager and then challenged his friend Hulk Hogan for the WWE world title. Hogan couldn't believe that his friend would ever want to be a world champion and cried about it. Then, he bodyslammed Andre at the biggest WrestleMania in history and ended Andre's kayfabe undefeated streak.

RELATED: Top 15 Insane Backstage Stories From WWE's Golden Era

However, once this was over with, Andre continued to feud with Hogan on a smaller level before ending his career with minor feuds against Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Ultimate Warrior. Andre went from the most popular wrestler in the world to a heel that could barely move in the ring anymore by the end of his career.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

When Rocky Maivia debuted in the WWE, he was a Blue Chip Athlete and was an immediate success. The third generation star whose father was the first ever black WWE tag team champion (Rocky Johnson) and mother was blood relatives with the Samoan Dynasty, was a great athlete that the fans hated.

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He was a babyface, but after winning the Intercontinental title early in his career, fans stopped cheering and chants of "Die Rocky Die" started. Thankfully, Vince McMahon heard the boos and realized a change was needed. He turned Rocky heel, changed his name to The Rock, and the biggest star in professional wrestling history was born.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Stone Cold Steve Austin was the face of the WWE during the Attitude Era. The good thing about that era was that there were a lot of stars, from The Rock and Austin to DX and Undertaker, and any of them could headline any show at that time. However, the biggest star was clearly Stone Cold, and it was all about his feud with the evil Mr. McMahon.

RELATED: 10 WWE Heel Turns That Make No Sense

Even though Austin was not a babyface in the purest sense of the word, he was the face of the WWE fans and stood up to the bullying and arrogant boss that preceded and ruled over WWE. Then, at WrestleMania 17, Stone Cold turned heel against The Rock and joined up with Mr. McMahon. It was a massive swerve and was shocking, but Austin became a whining heel and fans didn't care.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Before Mr. McMahon, Vince was just one of the announcers in the WWE. The WWE did not promote anything about McMahon behind-the-scenes and only showed him as an onscreen character that had nothing to do with authority. However, when Bret "The Hitman" Hart lost his world title to Shawn Michaels before leaving for WCW, and McMahon screwed him in the Montreal Screw Job, something changed.

RELATED: Top 15 Heel Turns That Changed the Course of WWE

McMahon has said he thought fans would be on his side, but when fans started booing and chanting that he screwed Bret, McMahon took it in stride. Instead of the babyface loving announcer, McMahon took on the role of the evil Mr. McMahon and soon started a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin that helped WWE win the Monday Night Wars.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

In the old days of the '60s and '70s, many wrestlers have stories of fans trying to hurt or even kill them because they played a heel in professional wrestling. People tried to stab Rowdy Roddy Piper, and WWE had to distract fans so they could get Ivan Koloff to safety after he beat Bruno Sammartino for the WWE world title.

RELATED: 15 Wrestlers Whose Careers Went Downhill After They Won A World Title

In the '90s, things were different, but for some fans, it was still real to them. When Sgt. Slaughter, the long-time American patriot, took on the role of an Iraqi sympathizer character during Operation Desert Storm, he received death threats for him and his family. In an era where most fans knew better, Slaughter turning heel brought out the worst in people. It also marked the end of Slaughter's full-time in-ring career, as he never recovered.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

In the '80s, Bret "The Hitman" Hart was a perfect heel in the Hart Foundation, arrogant and condescending. However, after the Hulk Hogan-era in WWE ended, fans wanted smaller more athletic wrestlers to lead the way, and guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels stepped up and grabbed that always elusive brass ring.

RELATED: Top 15 Greatest Matches of Bret "The Hitman" Hart

However, after a few years on top as one of the best pure in-ring wrestlers in history, fans started to look elsewhere for a new favorite wrestler. When Stone Cold Steve Austin began to show an aggressive side, fans liked it. When Hart beat Austin at WrestleMania 13, fans started cheering Austin. Hart smartly turned heel, started his Anti-American, proud Canadian gimmick and one of the hottest angles in wrestling history took place. Hart was a beloved babyface in Canada and the most hated superstar in the United States.


5 Heel Turns that Saved a Wrestler’s Career (& 5 That Almost Ruined Them)

Bill Goldberg was the biggest name in WCW after he debuted. He tore through wrestlers and beat everyone -- from jobbers to mid-card talent to main eventers. His winning streak built up, and he finally beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW world title on Monday Nitro in Atlanta -- his hometown -- to a monster pop.

Then, WCW dropped the ball and had Kavin Nash win the title and end the winning streak thanks to Scott Hall and a taser and then the Finger Poke of Doom the next night put the belt back on Hulk Hogan. Goldberg was still hot, although it slightly hurt his momentum. However, when Goldberg joined Vince Russo and turned heel, it that finally ended his monster push as the fans started to tune out completely.

NEXT: 15 DUMB Decisions That Drove WCW Out Of Business

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