In wrestling, a turn occurs most frequently when a wrestler develops a new gimmick (persona) and changes, frequently from face to heel or sometimes vice versa. Non-wrestling performers such as managers may also turn.
A new gimmick is not always needed, as some gimmicks, such as Kurt Angle's and John Cena's, have remained essentially the same, just with good and evil versions of the same character. Another example of this is The Undertaker. A perennial fan favorite is tag team partners turning, often on each other, especially if they are related either in real life or in the storyline. During Kane's face runs when he was wearing the mask he was more of a laid back comical type guy and only got mad when someone annoyed him. However, since removing the mask, whether he's a face or heel, he acts more psychotic now and started using evil laughter.
Often, when wrestlers turn one way or another, they also take on a different appearance. This is sometimes an attempt to use a visual shorthand to identify the character (for example, growing a beard or stubble as a heel in order to look more sinister), or it could be an attempt to create a disconnect from a well-known character previously played by the wrestler.
Sometimes the appearance change is subtle. One example is Hulk Hogan's heel turn in 1996 - he began dressing in black, wearing tights instead of trunks, and added a black five o'clock shadow to his trademark blonde moustache. Another example is Stephanie McMahon's heel turn three years later- she still dressed and looked the same, but started wearing her hair curly instead of straight like she had before. (For a while after her heel days had slowed and she wasn't wearing the style every night, some fans coined the term "heel hair" for when she would wear her hair curly, as she would tend to get more heat this way).
Other times, wrestlers may turn and change their appearance into something a little more drastic. One of the most common ways to do this, as noted before, is to start wearing their hair differently. In the more drastic cases, a cut or dye job usually is in order. Some examples of this include the British Bulldog (who during the course of his 1995 heel turn traded his long locks for a flattop crew cut), Scott Steiner (who emerged with short, bleach blonde hair the night after WCW SuperBrawl VIII in February 1998, when he joined the New World Order), Molly Holly (who cut her bleach blonde hair short and dyed it brown as part of her character change in 2002), the Undertaker (who over the course of his career has had several character changes which required him to change his look), and Kane (who shaved his head after being forced to unmask in 2003, turning heel in the process).
There are various types of turns, used for various purposes. Turns may be used to "swerve" and surprise viewers. For example, on July 7, 1996 at Bash at the Beach long-time face Hulk Hogan turned on Randy Savage, Lex Luger, and Sting and joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the nWo. The turn inflamed the fans in the building so much that they began throwing things at Hogan, Hall, and Nash in the ring (something Hall claimed had never been done before, although he probably was mistaken), and one even jumped the rail in an attempt to attack Hogan (only to be intercepted by Hall and taken from the ring by security). The nWo storyline was critical in helping WCW gain dominance over the WWF. Hogan's heel turn, after nearly twenty years as a face, shocked the wrestling world as a whole, and helped to reinvent Hogan as a new, 'hip' and gritty version of himself called Hollywood Hogan, a character who may have been more hated as a heel than any run by Ric Flair before that. It has been called one of, if not the single most important turn of the last century in professional wrestling, and remains to this day one of the most memorable.
On November 11, 1996 - Long-time heel Negro Casas had turned face while his opponent, El Hijo del Santo was taking a break after the CMLL anniversary show. Bestia Salvaje, who was feuding with Casas at the time, claimed he was going to have a little surprise for him at a show at Arena México. The match was Casas, El Dandy, & Héctor Garza on the face side vs. Bestia Salvaje, Scorpio Jr., & Felino. Felino just watched as the match commenced and when Salvaje and Scorpio were attacking Casas, the fans begged Felino to help his brother. Felino removed his cape and his mask to reveal it was actually El Hijo del Santo. This shocked the lucha libre world as Santo had been a face his entire career and his father, the original El Santo, was the most iconic face in the history of Mexican wrestling. A near riot broke out in the arena, with fist fights and pushing matches between fans. The feud sold out the Arena Mexico (17,687 seat capacity) three weeks in a row and rejuvenated a rebuilding CMLL.
Jeff Jarret who was a heel all the time in the WWE, WCW and mostly TNA made his first TNA and wrestling face turn after Planet Jarret broke up, he started siding with his former enemies.
Some turns are used to break up tag teams and make way for the members to pursue solo careers. On January 11, 1992, Shawn Michaels turned heel when he applied the then-unnamed Sweet Chin Music to long-time tag partner Marty Jannetty during an interview with Brutus Beefcake, then put him through a plate-glass window, launching his singles career. Another example is the Steiner Brothers' breakup noted earlier, when Scott turned on brother Rick in 1998.
Some turns have a person doing a new finishing move or going back to their old finishing move, such as Eddie Guerrero using the Lasso from El Paso after turning on Rey Mysterio or during Kane's 2003 heel turn after he unmasked and turned on Rob Van Dam and started using the Tombstone again which Linda McMahon became the first victim when he started using that move again.
At times, turns do not have the intended effect. In these cases, a face turning heel will still be cheered while a heel turning face will still be booed. Examples of this are: At WCW's Fall Brawl pay-per view in 1999, Sting wrestled Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Sting turned heel in the process, attacking Hogan with a baseball bat to get the victory. However, few people got behind Sting as a heel, and by November, he had returned as a face.
Screw job turns
Tag Team Screw Jobs One of the more common ways to turn heel is to screw another face over during a match or other type of situation. Sometimes tag team partners will turn during a match. Four examples:
- The British Bulldog's heel turn (as noted above), where he attacked partner Diesel during a match.
- The breakup of the Steiner Brothers (as noted above), where Scott attacked brother Rick during a match and cost them the tag team championships.
- In 1998, Ken Shamrock had two partners turn on him during tag team matches, Mark Henry and Owen Hart. In both cases, the wrestlers joined the Nation of Domination faction.
- In December 2006 "The Tennessee Cowboy" James Storm turned on his long time Tag Team Partner "The Wildcat" Chris Harris by smashing him in the eye with a beer bottle and injuring his eye.
- At Hard Justice in 2007 Karen Angle turned heel on Samoa Joe by pulling a chair out of his reach shockingly to help her husband Kurt Angle win all the gold.
- At the 2009 Royal Rumble, Matt Hardy turned heel when he hit his brother Jeff with a steel chair, causing him to lose the WWE Championship to Edge.
The Run In
Another common way for heel turns for wrestlers involves getting involved in the match during a situation where the referee might have his back turned, or just coming into the ring to do something. Hulk Hogan's 1996 heel turn was of this variety, as he ran in during a six-man tag match which he was not involved in and joined the nWo. Other wrestlers have gone this route as well, including The Rock in 1997 and Trish Stratus in 2004.
Other times, wrestlers will be turned on by their managers or valets who go over to the other wrestler as their manager. Some examples:
- At SummerSlam 1996, during a Boiler Room Brawl between Undertaker and Mankind, Taker's manager, Paul Bearer, was supposed to hand his urn to the winner of the match- in this case, the one who escaped the boiler room and got to the ring first. Undertaker got to the ring first, but Bearer instead hit him with the urn and gave it to Mankind, joining forces with him.
- Paul Heyman, as a wrestling manager, has done this turn twice in recent years. At Survivor Series in 2002, he interfered in the WWE championship match between his man, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Wight (a.k.a the Big Show), and cost Lesnar the match. In an eerily similar situation four years later, he did almost the same thing as a special referee in an ECW world title match, leading Big Show to a win against Rob Van Dam.
- At Halloween Havoc 1995, Jimmy Hart turned on Hulk Hogan and sided with The Giant, allowing him to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
- Vince McMahon has done this on several occasions, but two are most notable. The first was the infamous Montreal screwjob, where he used Shawn Michaels to screw Bret Hart out of the world championship by calling for the bell when it wasn't needed. The second was during the main event at WrestleMania 2000, when he was in the corner of The Rock for the fatal four-way world championship match. During the course of the match he hit Rock several times, helping Triple H to retain his title and in the process reunite with his family.
During the Kane VS then Mr. Money in the Bank Edge match on RAW, Lita was the on screen wife of Kane. Lita would then turn on Kane by giving Edge the Money in the Bank brief case to knock out Kane and pick up the win. This was also for an opportunity for the World Heavyweight Championship. At the end Edge and Lita started kissing with Kane giving an angry look.
A Double Turn is a booking device used to make a "good" wrestler a "bad guy" and a bad wrestler a good guy at the same time while they are feuding. This is done either to further a feud with high fan interest by taking the feud in another direction or to play to the wrestlers' strength of character. Examples of double turns are:
In the World Wrestling Federation, On March 23, 1997 (WrestleMania 13), Stone Cold Steve Austin becomes a face during his submission match with Bret Hart by impressing the crowd with his determination and drive to win, even passing out from pain and blood loss rather than submit to Hart's signature hold, The Sharpshooter. Bret subsequently became a heel when he couldn't stand the fans honoring a man who he perceived to be "scum" and then engaging in increasingly ruthless tactics to beat Austin, even attacking Austin while he was unconscious.
In World Championship Wrestling, a face Ric Flair beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The next night, Flair became a mentally unbalanced megalomaniacal heel, while Hogan became a "tough guy" face in the vein of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
The top heel tag team in the WWF at the time, Demolition did a double turn with the top face tag team there at the time The Powers of Pain when Demolition's manager, Mr. Fuji, defected to the Powers in the middle of their match at Survivor Series 1988. The turn was inexplicable and an unsuccessful swerve for the Powers, as they weren't over with the crowds as heels and were subsequently pushed down the card and broken up.
When Shane McMahon started his last feud with his father Vince McMahon, Shane made his second to latest face run. However, during the Invasion storyline Shane was the owner of the WCW with Stephanie McMahon (who was still in her second to latest heel turn) was the Owner of ECW. Vince and the rest of the WWE team were being cheered while the Alliance turned out to be heels. At the end of the night of the first RAW after Survivor Series 2001, Vince McMahon made his fourth heel turn by siding with then WWE star and then heel, Kurt Angle.
After TNA Victory Road 2007, when the Steiner Brothers interfered in the main event, costing Team 3D the TNA World Tag Team Championship, the two teams immediately did a double-turn, playing off Scott Steiner's neck injury in Puerto Rico.