The 411 Wrestling Top 6.02.10: Week 77 – World Title Turns
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions. Most of our topics will be based on recent events in the Wrestling World, looking at those events that make us think of times past.
So, on to this week’s topic…
The art of the great turn is one that make or break a career. Doing it while being World Champion is something that happens just so very few and far between that it magnifies the impact. This was a very tough topic and only a few writers were up to the task.
So what did our group of writers select? Let’s find out…
5. Randy Orton (2004) – The turn didn’t work and Orton fizzled out as a face, but I’m giving this the number five spot because the turn itself was accomplished well. Evolution attacking Orton was unexpected and has fuelled Orton’s character for years after in feuds with Triple H and Batista. In the short-term, it was weak, but it worked in the longterm ultimately.
4. CM Punk (2009) – Punk had cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase before, but that was on Edge, a guy who had done the same twice before, and a hated heel. So, Punk got a pass that time. When he did it again to the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy, it wasn’t really any different except to the fans. If the crowd hadn’t reacted as strongly, Punk could have remained a face, but the following weeks pushed him further and further towards being a heel as he feuded with fan-favourite Jeff Hardy, eventually giving rise to the Straight Edge Saviour character that he uses now.
3. Kurt Angle (2002) – Kurt Angle won the title as a face, but, by taking on Paul Heyman as his agent, he won the ire of the fans. Not only did this turn Angle heel, but it prompted his feud with Brock Lesnar, which was, at the time, a big thing with their match at WrestleMania. Had Lesnar not left the WWE, I imagine this turn and the subsequent events would have pushed it further up the list.
2. CM Punk (2005) – While the 2009 CM Punk turn was great, the 2005 turn was even better. I didn’t see this when it happened, but viewing the videos and reading about it has made me wish I had. CM Punk won the ROH World Championship on a night that many thought would be his last night with the company before moving to the WWE. Usually, that means putting the other guy over, except CM Punk won to the surprise of all — and to their joy. After the match, though, Punk turned on the crowd, threatening to take the title with him to the WWE, leaving ROH without a world champion. An excellent case of screwing with fan expectations and using the differing companies to a story’s advantage.
1. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (1989) – An excellent case of a champion winning the belt as a face to a giant pop and slowly turning heel. Fueled by jealousy and his own imagination, the Macho Man turned on Hulk Hogan because of Miss Elizabeth, eventually facing him at WrestleMania for the title. The same Hogan who had his back when he won the title and was by his side the following year. I’ve always liked Savage as a heel best, because his jealousy and dirty tricks always gave him that something extra that he lacked as a face, and this turn showed off why.
5. A.J. Styles (2010) – It may not seem like the greatest idea in the world in retrospect to some, but I enjoyed the way this turn played out when it happened. AJ was riding a wave of momentum and had beaten Samoa Joe and Daniels at Unbreakable, then Daniels at Final Resolution. Then he defended the belt against Kurt Angle on the three-hour live iMpact. The two had a last title match at Genesis, where Styles turned heel when Ric Flair distracted the ref and Styles nailed Angle with the belt. It was a surprising and bold move and I admire TNA’s guts for doing so. Even if Styles hasn’t been booked very well since, he’s put everything into this heel turn and I appreciate that.
4. Kurt Angle (2002) – It’s ironic that AJ’s heel turn came against Kurt Angle, because it was a remarkably similar turn to one Angle had done. The Olympic hero had just lost the Tag Team titles to Edge and Rey Rey when he was put up against the Big Show at Armageddon. The fans loved it, but soon after he took on Paul Heyman as an advisor and formed Team Angle, quickly becoming hated by the crowd. This led to Angle’s run through the Royal Rumble and his match with Brock at ‘Mania XIX, where he dropped the belt just before undergoing surgery. It was a great time and not only cemented Angle as a great heel for those months, but launched the WWE careers of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas.
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (2001) – This was one of those shocking ‘Mania moments you don’t forget. Austin was facing the Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven and was going to be the epic rematch of their ‘Mania XV match. They weren’t supposed to ever face again but Austin won the Rumble and Rock won the title the month after, so the rules allowed them to face off. Vince McMahon was getting involved in nefarious ways, including by forcing Debra to manage the Rock. This heightened the tension between them and when Kurt Angle put Debra in the Ankle Lock following a match with the Rock, Austin stunned Rock as a measure of vengeance. Their match at Mania was determined to be a No DQ match, and they went out there and kicked ass. What made this work so well were the little touches during the match, including Austin using the Million Dollar Dream from his Ringmaster days when he was a heel. Finally Vince came to ringside and Austin took a chair with him, beating him with it and winning the belt. It was wonderfully pulled off and I still enjoy watching this match and the turn which resulted.
2. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (1989) – It was really close between this one and number one. This is the template for heel turns with the title, really. Savage was a huge fan favorite after he won the WWE Heavyweight Championship at ‘Mania IV, and then made a slow heel turn thanks to jealousy. There was frankly only one person who Savage could have turned heel against and that was Hogan, so the cards were perfectly lined up. Savage put his all into making the turn work and it ultimately did…probably more than anyone dreamed that it would.
1. CM Punk (2009) – This was just brilliantly executed. Punk won the title from Jeff Hardy by cashing in his Money in the Bank shot after Jeff had taken the title from Edge at Extreme Rules. Punk’s heel turn was an extended one which played out very effectively, mostly thanks to that slow burn. Punk took his time but by the time he was done and fully turned heel, the crowd completely loathed him. When Punk finally beat a departing Jeff Hardy to send him out of the WWE, he was incredibly over and I really do think this was not only one of the best turns with a World Title, but one of the best turns period that we’ve seen in a long, LONG time.
Robert S. Leighty Jr
Finger Poke of Doom – I will mention this because while most hate this moment, I loved it as a kid. Hogan returned for one night to a big pop and the crowd cheered as he was ready to take on Nash for the WCW Title, but then the fingerpoke happened, the nWo reformed, and Hogan was a heel again.
5. Ric Flair (1994) – Flair was enjoying a babyface run as WCW Champion in 1994, but Hogan was heading to WCW, so things had to change. Flair went into his unification match with International Champion Sting as a face, and left as a heel with Sherri and both Titles just in time for a PPV match with the debuting Hogan.
4. Kurt Angle (2002) – Angle was a face and won the title from Big Show in December to a huge pop from the crowd, but that soon changed when he turned heel by announcing his new agent was Paul Heyman. That instantly made Angle heel and set the path from the Road to WrestleMania and his feud with Brock Lesnar.
3. CM Punk (2009) – Punk as a face cashed in Money in the Bank a year earlier to much fan fare as he took the World Title from Edge. Punk did the same thing a year little, and the crowd turned as he did it against Jeff Hardy. Punk played the role of tweener for bit before going full blown heel and telling everyone he was better than them as his fued with Hardy continued.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (2001) – This is actually a two parter as Austin turned twice in 2001. First some may debate how successful this was, but Austin turning heel and shaking Vince’s hands just moments after defeating the Rock for the WWF Title at WrestleMania X-Seven is still one of those surreal moments you though you would never see. Then heel Austin lead the Alliance against the WWF throughout the fall and summer before turning back face again the night after Survivor Series. The brilliant thing was that Austin really didn’t change, and Vince and Kurt Angle did and thus Austin was a face again.
1. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (1989) – Everyone knew the MegaPowers weren’t going to last, but boy did they blow up this team in epic fashion. Savage won the title at WrestleMania IV with the fans loving him, and with the help of Hogan. They tried to make a go of it as team, but Savage was paranoid of Hogan coming after his title and his woman. On the Main Event Savage finally turned back to the darkside in one of the most famous moments in wrestling history as he attacked Hogan in a first aid center while Liz screamed for a hospital bed. In the ultimate dick move Savage even threatened to splatter Liz, before Beefcake saved Liz. Great stuff here!