Heel turns in wrestling are more confusing then one may actually think. The idea of someone who has been loved, admired, respected and cheered by fans to suddenly turn their back on said fans and become a rule breaker beating upon folks they previously called friend with underlying tactics, sneak attacks and dirty dealing is not in any way, shape normal. In the trope of television there's usually some quality back story, but in wrestling, not always the case... they just woke up that day and said "I'm evil now".
Said biggest case in just turning heel for NO REASON other then... he just did...could be argued to be a man who today is considered one of the evilest, vilest., dangerous, sadistic, satan worshiping, black magic wielding maniacs alive, a man known simply as Kevin Sullivan. Before he became the man who fits all those descriptors to a tee he was a super fit, ex collegiate wrestler turned body builder who was affable, kind and always looking to help folks out. Then one day, out of the blue, they're in a match and they use illegal tactics to win, start saying they never needed anyone and show up at the next event talking about the devil.
Of course the most notable heel turn probably has to go to Hulk Hogan. It was a true 360 for him. Although he started his career as a flamboyant, over the top, evil guy with an obnoxious overbearing rude hate everyone manager before becoming the world famous True American, Say Your Prayers, Take Your Vitamins, star of Rocky III (actually he was still a heel as the character Thunderlips was at this time), Suburban Commando, No Holds Barred, Gremlins 2 and Rock n Wrestling, Hulkamania running wild, 224 inch pythons man most knew him as. Of course until that fateful day on July 7th, 1996. He had been through a 2 year stint as the top face of the newly branded World Championship Wrestling who when he debuted had actually been completely out of the wrestling limelight from August of 93 till June of 94 which in programming that was weekly was a long time. As the same exact Hulk Hogan he was in the 80s fans actually started to boo him simply out of boredom and this allowed for the perfect opportunity. WCW had been able to sign two other major stars to WCW who had become big back when Hogan's star was failing in Razor Ramon and Diesel. Never mind the fact that both men had previously been in WCW as The Diamond Studd and Vinnie Vegas (as well as Master Blaster and OZ). They were using their real names at this time of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash though and were for weeks threatening to have a third partner who would shock and surprise everyone. Ignoring all rumors and hearsay of what was supposed to happen... the man turned out to be Hulk Hogan who became the ultimate heel within seconds, betraying his best friend Randy Savage AGAIN as well Sting and Lex Luger and cutting an intense promo. Fans were so angry and dismayed they threw stuff in the ring. It got over tough and even though Hogan was no evil and made that full heel turn, he became more popular than ever.
Wcw Bash At The Beach 1996 17/17 by emf818
That throws another wrench into just the concept of the heel turn, as that reaction is a common one. Fans want to see goody two shoe, happy folks turn evil. When they do they boo for a second, but then they cheer. People love evil. In wrestling and maybe even in television shows, the heel turn can be the best thing ever for certain folks. It's worked multiple times on getting someone over when the fans started disliking their good guy character or in some cases hating them right away as good. The Rock, Bret Hart, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Sting, AJ Styles, they've all done it. Even John Cena...well, he did the reverse heel turn and everyone awaits the day he does it again. The heel turn isn't essentially going bad, but reinvigoration, rediscovery and an opportunity to try something new and different. It also gives the chance to one day regain the fans appreciation by suddenly becoming good when a bigger bad guy comes along and a person suddenly just starts fighting them. A lot of times they'll be NO change in personality even, but suddenly face to heel or heel to face... nothing changes, but the fans see you one way because of who you're facing. A perfect example of this are Edge, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Owens/Steen, Samoa Joe... all men who have gone back and forth between heel and face and changed NOTHING. Didn't change the way they acted, the way they wrestled, the way they talked.
Yeah folks, wrestling is weird and even someone like me who has been watching it for 30+ years, has been to every kind of wrestling show you can think of from WWE to TNA to ECW to CZW to CHIKARA to that rinky dink fed you've never heard of to that one off show which tons of folks doing stuff you'll never see doesn't truly ever completely fathom it. I do know that it is an amazing theatrical production that defies most concepts and frustratingly at times (and my biggest pet peeve) logic as well. Yet I love it and honestly I think anyone if they came into it with an open mind would find something they loved about it too.
Hell, I was going to discuss the best heel turn I experienced LIVE and almost forgot, but before I leave you, I should tell you a story of current Championship Wrestling from Hollywood announcer Kevin Condron... a man who was never truly a technico (the lucha libre Mexican word for face) but at the same time never truly a rudo (the term for heel). Kevin was a performer for the company known as CHIKARA based out of Philadelphia. He made his first appearance to people in 2013 as new young masked superstar Kid Cyclone. His charisma, energy and passion soon gained him a very quick following. During the very intense, powerful storyline in CHIKARA in which many characters were actually murdered Cyclone became more and more angered and unhinged. Especially when his best friends were murdered right in front of him and he felt no one but he was trying to truly do something about it. During this tale Kid Cyclone reached out to fans seeking support against the big bad destroying CHIKARA and he got it. He got a lot of support actually. At the what would be considered the season finale of 2014 though Kid Cyclone did the unthinkable in a Lucha Libre based company. He ripped off his mask, declared the tradition dead, said he never needed any of the fans, he never wanted to wear a mask and he never wanted any of what he had for the last year. He spoke with more passion and fervor then even Hulk Hogan. Yet, instead of alienating us... he gained even a bigger following. He lost some folks too, but he gained new ones because people love crazy, they love "evil" especially when "evil" still thinks it's good. His story progressed and he gained a stable of two men (both folks who were former henchmen of the monster who killed his friends) and eventually killed the friend of one his henchmen, becoming a self deluded monster himself before it all caught up with him and he was destroyed as well. Kevin Condron is an egomaniac, maybe even a megalomaniac for as much power he ever has. Condron would go on to do some amazing things in CHIKARA before being sadly and unceremoniously have his story get a very poor ending... but luckily while his CHIKARA story seems done he's landed very well and he's a joy of a person, even if he is a conspiracy theorist with thoughts and ideas that maybe not everyone shares. Yet, that again is what gets people over.
Look at the world... heel turns, they aren't what you think... they never are.
written for therealljidol Season 10-Topic 6: Heel Turn