Power Ranking Greatest Heel Turns in Pro Wrestling History
The wide world of wrestling is arguably one of the craziest sporting institutions there is. For every dramatic decision, it seems there is something more dramatic waiting to happen.
Character changes are at the forefront of that. The challenge of turning a guy who has massive popularity with a crowd into one who will become a villainous, hated character is incredibly tricky.
Sometimes it just doesn't work. It is difficult for creative teams to try and morph people into characters that don't fit.
However, sometimes we get amazing results. Just like these ones. Jaw-dropping, exciting changes that stand the test of time.
Let's take a look at the 10 greatest heel turns in pro wrestling history.
- Paul Bearer turns on The Undertaker
- Paul Orndorff turns on Hulk Hogan
- Batista turns heel by beating John Cena
- Larry Zbyszko turns on Bruno Sammartino
10. CM Punk Cleans out The Rock
We start at the 1000th edition of Raw, and a match between CM Punk and John Cena.
The match itself ended when Cena's rival at the time, Big Show, took out the Cenation leader, leading to him winning by disqualification.
The heel turn came around in two differing segments across a number of minutes. First, Punk—who was a babyface at the time—refused to act when Show was beating down Cena, turning his back. That didn't really turn him too much, though, as most people enjoy seeing Cena take a beating.
The Rock then made the save for Cena before Punk shocked the world by laying out the Brahma Bull.
It was a move that would lead to their rivalry in early 2013—and it all started with a great heel turn.
9. Triple H Shuts Down DX
This is one I remember watching as a kid in the United Kingdom and going crazy when it happened.
Chyna had sold Triple H down the river at the Royal Rumble of 1999, and DX were in a power struggle with the Corporation heading toward WrestleMania XV.
One of the focal points of the feud was the match between X-Pac and Shane McMahon for the European Championship.
When Triple H emerged during the match, it looked like he was about to aid X-Pac in a championship win. However, he stunned the world when he hit the Pedigree on his stablemate, joining the Corporation in the process.
It set off a huge momentum swing that enabled Triple H to be the greatest heel in the Attitude Era. It was a huge moment in WWE history.
8. Bret Hart Goes Anti-America
When Bret Hart did the unthinkable and turned heel, it marked one of the more defining moments in recent years.
It helped to create the Attitude Era, after all—one of the most influential and important periods of the WWE's history.
It began when Hart shoved Vince McMahon after a match, which also helped to develop Vince into a more authoritative figure rather than just a commentator.
Hart then feuded with some guys—Steve Austin and The Rock, to name but two—who would become top babyface characters.
His anti-America skit was one of the defining moments of his career, and it helped cement his legacy.
7. Sgt. Slaughter Does the Same
Even though Bret Hart turned anti-American in 1997 in order to turn heel, there was a much more shocking turn of this type before Hart.
If you talk about archetypal American figures in pro wrestling, you are likely to think of Sgt. Slaughter. The guy who touted the United States for so long was to shock the world in 1990.
The WWF used the Gulf War to its advantage and created a character that would become sympathetic with Iraq. Naturally, that prompted a huge backlash from the WWF crowds.
It was a heel turn that saw Slaughter go against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 7, a match that he eventually lost.
Despite him forever being remembered as an American hero, back in 1990, he was anything but. It was an astonishing heel turn.
6. The Rock Goes All Corporate
If you talk about the greatest babyfaces in WWE history, The Rock would arguably be high up on the list.
The People's Champion had it all when it came to working a crowd over—charisma, humor and entertainment. But many people forget that he was actually an excellent heel, too.
His turn came at a time when he was one of the top guys in the company, and Creative decided to turn him into the corporate champ.
The turn occurred at Survivor Series 1998, when Vince McMahon called for the belt as The Rock had Mankind locked in the sharpshooter.
The celebration indicated to everyone that The Rock had sold out to Vince and Shane McMahon. Some epic battles with Mankind followed, including that epic "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble.
It seemed unthinkable to turn The Rock looking back. However, he was a remarkably good heel.
5. Andre the Giant Turns on Hulk Hogan
This turn was one of the most shocking in pro wrestling history—without a doubt. Andre the Giant had been unbeatable for years, with the odd defeat via count-out not really counting on his unblemished record.
However, in 1987, that all changed. Hulk Hogan's phenomenal championship reign had lasted three years, and the two friends met on Piper's Pit where Hogan would be accepting a trophy.
Many thought Andre was there to congratulate Hogan. Far from it, as it turned out.
Andre spectacularly declared he was hunting for Hogan and his championship, and it created the most important match in wrestling history.
Their tussle at WrestleMania III is renown for Hogan's epic slam, and without the turn from Andre, we wouldn't have had the match.
4. Stephanie Shows No Family Loyalties
This is one of those moments that nobody saw coming—which is what makes it a great heel turn.
At the time, Stephanie McMahon was engaged to Test. However, Triple H kidnapped her, took her to a wedding chapel and married her. It was one of those bizarre WWE-real life crossovers the Attitude Era was infamously brilliant for.
It was a match between Vince McMahon and Triple H that initiated the turn. After HHH had used a sledgehammer to get the win, Stephanie was left crying over her father's beaten body. Many felt Triple H was about to use his infamous weapon on his wife as he raised it above her.
However, she stunned the world when she broke into laughter and embraced her husband in a shocking move. What makes it better than most? Jim Ross' amazing commentary.
3. Shawn Michaels Turns on Marty Jannetty
One of the most famous heel turns in wrestling history is also one of the most significant. The Rockers were a great tag team—one of the best, in fact.
However, their split enabled one of the finest wrestlers in WWE history to make his mark in singles action.
It was Shawn Michaels who initiated the split and turned heel back in 1992. It was on Brutus Beefcake's Barber Shop show when it happened, as the fears of many Rockers fans came true.
Michaels brutally dropped Marty Jannetty with a Sweet Chin Music before tossing him through the window like a rag doll.
Although Michaels spent the bulk of his career as a babyface, without this heel turn, he would have been nothing.
2. Stone Cold Sells His Soul
This is so high up on the list because of how hard it must have been for the WWE to pull this off.
In the Attitude Era, there was no other guy like Steve Austin. The momentum and the popularity he had made it nearly impossible to turn him heel, and it certainly was a hard task.
Watching it happen at WrestleMania 17 was absolutely unbelievable. If you had followed the Attitude Era and the constant Vince McMahon vs. Austin bouts and feuds, you wouldn't have believed your eyes.
It wasn't the most successful heel turn in the history of the company. Far from it, in fact.
But it was one of those astoundingly shocking moments that shook the wrestling world.
1. Hulk Hogan Joins the nWo
Anybody notice in the title of this slideshow that it doesn't say "WWE history"? It says "wrestling history," and that is because of the No. 1 selection.
Hulk Hogan was the man when it comes to pro wrestling. Be it in the WCW, the WWE or anywhere else for that matter, Hogan was the top dog.
At WCW's Bash at the Beach in 1996, The Outsiders—Scott Hall and Kevin Nash—fought Sting, Randy Savage and Lex Luger. Hall and Nash claimed they had a mystery partner who would come down for the match, but nobody imagined it would be Hogan.
When all the men were down in the ring, Hulk came out, with everyone expecting him to aid Savage, Sting and Luger. Cue chaos—and the best heel turn in wrestling history. Several leg drops to Savage confirmed the fears of the crowd—Hulk Hogan was now a heel.
At the end of all that, Nash, Hogan and Hall stood in the ring, arms aloft. The New World Order was born—and so was one of the greatest stables in wrestling history.
This was arguably the most shocking moment in wrestling folklore.