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Heel Face Turn / Professional Wrestling

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  • A staple of Professional Wrestling, along with its cousin, the Face–Heel Turn.
  • A common way for a heel to turn face is to fire their manager, as Wrestling Managers Are Heels. Conversely, a manager may betray their client if the manager asks the wrestler to do something that violates the wrestler's honor. Or the wrestler has lost one too many times, and the manager is done with them.
  • When a face tag team breaks up, it is always the betrayer who turns heel. However, the split of heel tag teams are just as likely, if not more so, to have the betrayed member pull the face turn as the traitor. The Miz is especially fond of this, as no less than four heel alliances of his that fell apart had him remain the heel while his partner went over to the good side, regardless of whether he betrayed his partner (John Morrison, R-Truth), got betrayed (Big Show), or, in the case of Alex Riley, saw his apprentice stand up to his bullying.
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  • In the Mexican style of lucha libre, tecnico and rudo are about a luchador's personal alignment as much as they are about fan response, illustrated in such cases as Blue Demon giving up the ways of a rudo and becoming a tecnico to escape the wrath of El Santo after unmasking his Tag Team partner Black Shadow.
  • Some superstars who were originally Heels ended up later becoming Faces due to their popularity with the fans. A few examples are: The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, The Undertaker, Batista, and many more.
    • During the Attitude Era, this became the primary way wrestlers would become top faces: if you were a really cool bad guy, you'd eventually have the crowd behind you enough that you became the de facto face.
      • Unfortunately, this had the side effect of turning practically everyone into a Draco in Leather Pants, to the point that that someone would have to be completely unacceptable (e.g., Jeff Jarrett) to avert this.
    • In fact Macho Man, one of the only superstars to come close to rivaling Hulk Hogan's fame during Hulkamania, started as a heel and occasionally went back to being one. Roddy Piper was another example.
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    • One particular turn by Batista is especially well-done: Batista, the Royal Rumble winner, turning on Evolution stablemates Triple H and Ric Flair and declaring his intent to take Trips's title instead of challenging JBL of SmackDown (his runner-up John Cena would do just that).
  • Mick Foley's disgust at wrestling fans in ECW led to him doing an inverted face heel turn (by ECW standards, the heels were faces) and he turned into an ECW "heel" (by other standards, this would be a face.) Indirectly, this had the same effect in the collapse of ECW as Hulk Hogan's for WCW.
  • On one hand, WWE barely averted this catastrophe as part of the fallout of the Montreal Screwjob. At the time, Bret Hart was the biggest star in WWE, and quite possibly one of the most popular wrestlers in history. At the time, this was taken almost as a white flag of surrender by Vince McMahon in the ratings war with WCW.
    • On the other hand, Vince made a startling discovery: you didn't need faces. The fans loved heels. From then on, the entire WWE was in a war of heels, led by Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, The Rock, Kurt Angle, and many more...It was the 90s.
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    • It wasn't so much that it was nothing but heels battling out...that was WCW. The line simply shifted in a grayer direction as far as being a face. Austin, for instance, was a hero in the way John McClane is, meaning for all his positives, he's still a Badass asshole loner with a chip on his shoulder. It really just reflected the 90s as a whole.
    • The anti-heroes were also often the faces by comparison. Austin was a bit of a Jerkass but at least he wasn't abusing power at random (Vince McMahon) or subjecting innocent people to satanic sacrifices (The Undertaker).
    • And, of course, who can ever forget that the Screwjob was, to many, the unintentional birth of the "Mr. McMahon" character, who became synonymous with screwing over Austin's title chances in several creative ways.
  • During the infamous Invasion storyline, two entire companies (WCW and ECW) were portrayed as heels against the WWF/WWE. However, several of the wrestlers (Rob Van Dam in particular) were immensely entertaining and being cheered despite kayfabe trying to destroy the WWF. Almost immediately after the angle ended, Rob Van Dam, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Hurricane, and Tommy Dreamer turned face once their quest to overthrow the WWF failed.
    • The very night after the angle ended, Austin was looking to wreak vengeance upon Kurt Angle for interfering in his fight with The Rock and costing the Alliance the victory. Despite the fact that Angle was saving the WWE, when Austin beat the crap out of Angle, the crowd erupted as if the last few months since Wrestlemania X-Seven never happened. The fans were just happy to have a Stone Cold they could cheer again. It was the most jarring, abrupt heel face turn in the history of pro wrestling... and nobody had a problem with it.
  • Oddly enough, WWE heel Chris Jericho has been doing a nightly version of this — while still a heel on PPV and the other shows, on the rookie-oriented show NXT he becomes a Face in the eyes of Smarks whenever he joins Josh Matthews and Michael Cole on commentary, as he is sheer gold. He's also the "Pro" who's been most helpful to his rookie, Wade Barrett, and has gone out of his way on commentary to talk Barrett up, at one point demanding that Matthews and Cole do so too:
    Jericho: Talk about Wade Barrett!
    Josh Matthews: We are!
    Jericho: MORE!
  • Mickie James was Trish Stratus's Stalker with a Crush and eventually turned heel on her...except the crowds cheered for her because they loved her Psycho Lesbian character. When Trish retired, Mickie became a face by default when hated heel Lita cheated to win the title off her and sparked a feud. Even though her psycho characteristics were dropped, she remained insanely popular for the rest of her career.
  • It's quite common in Professional Wrestling for heel wrestlers to become popular for their movesets (especially common if the wrestler uses high flying moves, which are more associated with faces) and thus they have to turn face. Chris Jericho got this during his first Intercontinental Championship reign. Athena from SHIMMER is another example. As a result, heels tend not to do too many flashy moves, since they're not supposed to impress the crowd.
  • Depending on who you talk to, there could've been a brief turn for Vince Russo, who was a major heel in WCW, when he did his shoot promo at the Bash at the Beach 2000 event concerning Hulk Hogan. Even though there is constant debate on whether it was kayfabe or not (Russo was well known as a booker for "blurring the lines" between what was scripted and what was real life on any of the shows he booked), it's well known that Hulk Hogan's career has been marred by accusations of backstage politicking and using contract obligations to win matches that he shouldn't logically be able to win. This made many people relate to Russo's words (even though Russo himself was a very unpopular figure by that point).
  • Michael Cole seems to have gotten a unintentional turn (though he's since revealed that he was ready to go back to being face before this) due to how he handled himself on air during Jerry Lawler's Real Life heart attack during the September 10th 2012 episode of Raw. After the episode, fans have begun giving him more pops due to his professionalism and real emotion that he showed during the rest of that episode. Cole has not looked back since.
  • In a rare example of unscripted real-life events affecting a wrestler's alignment, Darren Young was playing a heel in August 2013 when he spontaneously identified himself as gay to a TMZ reporter. Public reaction to Young's coming out was almost universally positive. On the episode of Raw three days later, he and his tag partner Titus O'Neill were booked as faces in a match against the Real Americans, received a massively positive crowd reaction, and have been treated as faces since then despite WWE's not having officially acknowledged Young's sexuality in-universe.
  • The Shield, a heel faction, started to turn face in March/April 2014 after having problems with Kane and the New Age Outlaws, and fully cemented their face status when Kane let it slip that Triple H had authorized an attack some weeks prior, and came to the aid of Daniel Bryan after a beatdown from Kane, Randy Orton, and Batista. Unfortunately, it didn't last long, as Seth Rollins betrayed his team a few months later.
  • Randy Orton is a peculiar case. The reason he became a face wasn't because of any entertaining, hilarious antics like how a Draco in Leather Pants becomes a face. It was because the crowd liked watching him beat up people. It originally started because he attacked the McMahon family who, despite being the de facto faces of the feud, the crowd hated due to feeling like they had it coming for a while, so they cheered for Randy by default. However, it eventually evolved to the point where they just liked watching him attack people in general. No matter how many dogs he kicked, the crowd kept on cheering for him before the company threw their hands up and went with it. It's noted that when a popular heel turns face, their characters are tweaked to pander more to a crowd — not so with Randy. The only thing that changed about Randy's character is that he attacked faces less than heels, otherwise he was the same Jerkass Sociopath he's always been.
  • Nikki Bella has perpetually been a heel for most of her WWE run. When she and her sister - in the Bella Twins - were ever put against each other, Nikki was always the Evil Twin. Even when the sisters were faces for the early 2014 period, it was still being set up for Nikki to turn on Brie. Upon her return after a nasty neck injury at Summerslam 2016, she received such a positive reaction that she visibly broke character to smile at a couple of fans. She was given a Heel–Face Turn immediately on the next episode of Smackdown.
  • Paige almost always played a heel on the indies, and she herself says she's better suited to that role. When she debuted the Paige character in FCW, she was a heel, but got cheered anyway. Her popularity was so impressive that when FCW was amalgamated into NXT - and many stars kept their initial gimmicks - Paige herself simply appeared as a face doing the same things she had been doing before. Even more ironically is that she has tried to do heel turns on the main roster, and they've never lasted very long.
  • A shocking example of a hated heel becoming a very successful babyface is Melina. For four years on WWE TV she was known to fans as a screaming Alpha Bitch whose guts the fans hated - and for years she has attracted criticism from smarks that she had to be as nasty as her heel character. In 2008 they decided to turn her face by having Beth Phoenix mistreat her. Although an ankle injury put a halt to their feud, the pops Melina got upon her return were incredible. She came close to rivaling the insanely over Mickie James in popularity. She won one more Women's Championship and two Divas' Championships as a face.
  • The Undertaker's first Heel/Face turn was an unusual one: He was aligned with Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who was in a feud with "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Roberts was set up to attack Savage and Miss Elizabeth, but 'Taker stopped him. When Roberts angrily asked him whose side he was on, he famously answered "Not yours". This let him become a face without actually changing his persona or wrestling style.