In light of Seth Rollins dramatic turn on his Shield team-mates Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, Richard Hoy-Browne picks out three of the heel turns that most shocked wrestling fans.
Steve Austin shakes hands with Vince McMahon (2001)
‘Stone Cold’ Austin vs. Vince McMahon was the rivalry that saw the WWF not only win the ‘Monday Night War’ against WCW, but also return to mainstream success after years in the wilderness. With the foul mouthed, beer drinking Austin playing the middle finger flipping everyman to McMahon’s evil, exploitative corporate leader, legions flocked back to watch the WWF and live vicariously through Austin as he did what many could only dream of –beating up their boss on a weekly basis. By the time Wrestlemania XVII came around, the rivalry had been stretched to its third year and Austin was due to face The Rock for the WWF Championship in front of his home state crowd in Houston, Texas. Feeling that his character had become stale, Austin agreed to turn heel and join forces with McMahon at the conclusion of the match, which was akin to making a deal with the devil himself for his wrestling persona. The turn was a complete disaster as many of the fans who had tuned in to watch Austin torment McMahon now saw him shaking his hand. It’s arguable that the WWF/E has never recovered, and Austin has gone on record many times to admit that it was a mistake.
CM Punk turns on The Rock (2012)
In the midst of his historic WWE Title reign, CM Punk had begun to cut a frustrated figure as he played second fiddle to ‘face of the WWE’ John Cena and a returning Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Tensions came to a boiling point at Raw 1,000, as Rock declared he would be challenging for the title at the following year’s Royal Rumble. That night saw John Cena cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and challenge Punk for the belt. The match would end in a disqualification following interference from The Big Show, with Rock making the save. Just as he was about to deliver his patented elbow on ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’, Punk came out of nowhere with a flying clothesline which drew a mixture of gasps and cheers from the crowd. Laying Rock out with a Go To Sleep, Punk cemented his turn to the dark side and followed it up with some of his all time best work.
Watch: Seth Rollins turns his back on The Shield
Hulk Hogan joins the NWO (1996)
For years Hulk Hogan had, in the ring at least, defined what a wrestling hero should be. Overcoming the odds and imploring his legions of Hulkamaniacs to ‘say their prayers and eat their vitamins’, Hogan was the All American hero idolised by millions around the world. By the mid nineties however, Hogan had begun to hear a smattering of boos for the first time, as his red and yellow shtick seemed passé in a wrestling world that was involving into a more mature animal. Despite the growing dissension, nobody expected Hogan to ever renounce his ways and become a villain – this was Hulk Hogan after all. It was a shock then as it turned out that Hogan was indeed the third man in the New World Order, joining Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in declaring war on WCW. It breathed life into Hogan as fans, who seemingly had wanted to boo Hogan for years, took to doing so with great relish. The NWO would go onto be both WCW’s greatest success and its biggest failure, but Hogan’s leg-drop on Savage remains possibly the biggest heel turn of all time.