3 WWE Superstars who were happy about turning heel & 3 who weren’t

When WWE decides to pull the trigger on a superstar’s heel turn, there are multiple factors to account for. Is the superstar’s popularity declining? What’s the long-term plan? Is the timing of the heel turn right?

WWE also has to think about timing when it comes to heel turns. We’ve seen several cases over the years, and even in recent times, where a superstar personally requests a heel turn.

John Cena is an example of a superstar with whom WWE had cold feet when it came to turning him heel. Ultimately, it never happened after 2005, even when it was reportedly set in stone.

This list focuses on three stars who were happy with WWE’s decision to turn them heel and three who weren’t:


#3. Seth Rollins: Unhappy with two heel turns in WWE (2014 and 2019)

Seth Rollins has spent a large part of his WWE career being a heel, and although he has thrived, he hasn’t always been happy about it. Seth Rollins is considered by many as WWE’s #2 full-time superstar behind Roman Reigns, and his grand slam accolades speak for themselves.

Interestingly, Seth Rollins wasn’t receptive of the idea of his 2014 and 2019 heel turns, especially considering the timing of it worked out quite well. But when looking at it from his point of view, it’s easy to understand his frustration.

In 2014, Seth Rollins turned on fellow-Shield members Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley), splitting up the faction and ending their incredible run together. It was meant to set up all three men as singles stars, and to establish Roman Reigns as the successor to WWE’s franchise player John Cena.

Although Seth Rollins’ heel turn in 2014 was arguably the best of the entire 2010s, he was far from happy with the decision. In an appearance on the Edge & Christian podcast, Rollins revealed that the decision for him to turn heel made no sense at the time, and almost caused him to walk out of WWE:

“When they said it was gonna be me that pulled the trigger. I was almost like, ‘No, I’ve been a babyface in NXT — [Dean] Ambrose is the heel. It’s not the other way around.’ It didn’t make any sense. I don’t know how to do this,” said Rollins. (H/T Givemesport)

Seth Rollins turned face in the summer of 2016 and maintained that status for a while. He became WWE’s top babyface in 2019 when the company needed a replacement for Roman Reigns, whose return seemed uncertain following his leukemia diagnosis.

Seth Rollins won the 2019 Royal Rumble and dethroned Brock Lesnar to win the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35. He won the title once again against the Beast Incarnate in the main event of SummerSlam 2019.

Following that, things went downhill. Not only did his Hell in a Cell match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt turn out to be a disaster, but he made comments on social media that were deemed to be controversial by wrestling fans.

His popularity declined, and fans began to turn on him, leading WWE to pull the trigger on another heel turn later that year. Speaking to Peter Rosenberg on the Cheap Heat podcast, Rollins admitted that he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of another heel turn:

“The short answer is no [excited about turning heel]. It wasn’t something that I was excited about out of the gate. I feel like I got a raw end of the deal, a raw shake, when it came to what I was doing at the time, And the position I was put in with The Fiend character and the Hell in a Cell and the Super ShowDown [Crown Jewel] matches after I had just come off what I thought was an incredible match and long story with Brock Lesnar from SummerSlam,” Rollins revealed. (H/T SEScoops)

Seth Rollins is closing in on two years since he turned heel. He has had less championship success since then, only winning the RAW Tag Team titles in early 2020. However, he had one of the feuds of the year in 2021 against Edge.

#3. Former WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan: Happy after getting his wish to turn heel

Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) made his in-ring comeback for WWE in 2018. It started well, but the aura of his return after two years had faded away quickly after WrestleMania 34.

While he remained a popular babyface, Daniel Bryan’s highly-anticipated feud against The Miz didn’t deliver, and he lacked momentum. Even then, he found himself in the WWE title picture, still being cheered by the crowd.

However, a little over a year after AJ Styles won his second WWE title, Daniel Bryan dethroned The Phenomenal One before executing one of the most shocking heel turns in recent years.

What was surprising was the fact that Daniel Bryan wasn’t getting booed by the crowd. But the timing and execution of it was done to perfection, and Daniel Bryan, who was one of the company’s biggest babyfaces of the 2010s, ended up pulling off an unexpected heel turn.

According to Dave Meltzer on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Daniel Bryan reportedly pitched for the heel turn himself:

On the latest Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer stated that Daniel Bryan himself had been pitching to turn heel for at least a month now. He pitched it to Vince McMahon, who finally agreed to it. Interestingly, Meltzer also mentioned that the title change was decided this past weekend and Vince McMahon also didn’t want to spread the events out, so he made the heel turn and title change in one night.

Given that he got what he wanted, it’s easy to see why he would be happy about it. The heel run was incredible, and it played a big role in Kofi Kingston’s WWE title win at WrestleMania 35.

While Kingston gets a lot of credit, Daniel Bryan didn’t get enough for being the perfect antagonist of the storyline – five years after he was the company’s biggest protagonist.

#2. Former WWE Champion Dean Ambrose: Unhappy about his heel turn in 2019

Former WWE star Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) turned heel for the first time in years in late October 2018. What made it worse was the circumstances surrounding that heel turn.

Dean Ambrose had just made his WWE return after spending most of 2018 on the sidelines. Two months later, Universal Champion Roman Reigns vacated the title, revealing that he was set to have his biggest bout yet – one against leukemia.

The shocking moment seemed to unite the entire wrestling world, and there were legitimate tears on the ramp when Roman Reigns embraced his fellow-Shield brothers Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.

However, by the end of the night, it was an entirely different tone. Dean Ambrose turned on Seth Rollins, getting an immense amount of heat.

It’s hard to blame Ambrose/Moxley since he knew it was a bad idea from the start. Seth Rollins told Yahoo! Sports in an interview that neither he nor Ambrose were thrilled about the idea of the heel turn. He explained why:

“The way that affected Ambrose, that wasn’t really his best look. No one wanted to see us fight each other, we had been through that, it didn’t feel good. I was upset, he was clearly upset and people didn’t want to see it, they wanted to see us be brothers and care about each other,” said Rollins. (H/T Fightful)

In hindsight, Dean Ambrose was right to be unhappy with WWE. But as we found out later in 2019, there was already a great deal of frustration on a personal and professional level at the time.

WWE’s handling of his heel run only made it worse, and he respectfully completed his contract before making the jump to AEW in mid-2019.

#2. WWE RAW Women’s Champion Becky Lynch: Happy about her 2021 return and heel turn

Becky Lynch’s rise in WWE has been unparalleled in the women’s division. While Charlotte Flair might be a more successful champion on paper, her rise to the top was straightforward, and not as dragged out as Becky Lynch’s.

Perhaps the WWE Universe finds themselves able to connect with Becky Lynch because of the ups and downs she’s had to go through in her WWE career. While Becky Lynch expressed skepticism over her heel turn in 2018, the circumstances of her 2021 heel turn were quite different.

In 2018, the heel turn backfired and led to her popularity skyrocketing, forcing WWE to quietly turn her face again. In 2021, Becky Lynch returned after a hiatus that lasted longer than a year. She was the woman (or The Man, as she called herself) in WWE, and she never lost the RAW Women’s Championship.

In 2021, the decision to turn Becky Lynch heel was because she pushed for it herself. According to PWInsider, it was reportedly Becky Lynch who requested to turn heel:

“PWInsider.com has confirmed with multiple WWE sources that Becky Lynch is now a heel,” Johnson wrote. “Yes, you read that correctly. We are told that going forward, Lynch will be positioned as the top heel on Smackdown, initially feuding with Bianca Belair.

Becky Lynch was reportedly inspired by Roman Reigns’ heel turn, and it seems to be a challenge for her on a personal and professional level. It will be interesting to see if Becky Lynch can maintain the heat she has right now.

#1. WWE Hall of Famer ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin: Unhappy and regretful over his heel turn in WWE in 2001

It’s believed that WWE’s famous Attitude Era began at WrestleMania 14 in 1998, and concluded at WrestleMania X7 in 2001. The golden period began with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin winning the WWE Championship, and it ended with the same result, but under different circumstances.

By 2001, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin was bar none the hottest babyface in WWE. Both he and The Rock were megastars of their era, and despite his popularity, Austin feared that his babyface run was on the verge of getting stale.

This resulted in the infamous WrestleMania X7 moment where Steve Austin turned heel during his match against The Rock in the main event. After winning the WWE title back, he shook Vince McMahon’s hand – a moment that was supposed to be shocking.

However, what it actually led to was a lot of confusion. Austin quickly understood that he was wrong about his character getting stale. Nobody wanted to boo him, and even when looking back at the match, Austin was cheered heavily upon his victory.

Speaking to Chris Jericho on the Talk is Jericho podcast, Austin revealed that he quickly regretted the decision for him to turn heel:

“When I turned heel after WrestleMania 17 and I wish I would’ve never done it and I wish I would’ve called an audible but I was a heel. When I commit to something, I am in so I’m gonna go to the end of the world – even though nobody wants to hate me, I’m kinda John Wayne of the wrestling world. But I was gonna do everything I could to make you hate me. So I was committed to doing that,” said Austin. (H/T Inside The Ropes)

Ultimately, Austin transitioned from being an intense heel to a more comedic one, as he went on to have some iconic comedy skits with Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon, and many other superstars.

Austin revealed that the reason why he took a comedic heel approach was the fact that his initial heel turn didn’t work, so he felt the need to be an entertaining bad guy.

#1. Roman Reigns: Happy after WWE finally gave in to his request to turn heel

The Roman Reigns heel turn was one that met with resistance from WWE and Vince McMahon for a long time. The company invested heavily for years in pushing Roman Reigns as the top babyface and successor to John Cena, but it never seemed to work.

The push ensured that Roman Reigns was WWE’s biggest full-time star, but fans wrongly criticized him for the push he received, when it wasn’t his fault at all. It was WWE who insisted on keeping Roman Reigns as a heel, but in 2020, a five-month hiatus and the COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things.

Upon his return at SummerSlam 2020, WWE finally pulled the trigger on Roman Reigns’ heel turn. It kickstarted the best run of his career, the longest world title reign he’s had by far, and a general resurgence.

By turning heel, Roman Reigns proved many fans right. He was never going to be the next John Cena, and he was set up to fail from the start of his push. By turning heel, he activated an entirely new side of his character, one that has become the best in WWE.

Speaking to Ryan Satin on the Out Of Character podcast, Roman Reigns said that the heel turn was something he always wanted to do, as he knew it would allow him to tap into different layers of his character

While admitting that the “numbers” wouldn’t allow the heel turn to happen, he jumped on the first opportunity he got. He told Satin that he felt he should have been the heel of the group from The Shield in 2014:

“I’ve always wanted to turn heel. I didn’t feel like I should have been the babyface out of the Shield group. We all agreed, we thought it should have been Seth, and then keep me as a bad guy,” said Roman Reigns.

Given how things have played out, Roman Reigns must be grateful that WWE finally pulled the trigger on his heel turn. He finally seems to be fulfilling the potential that many fans knew he always had.

 

Musical megastar Cher reached out to a former WWE Superstar. Any guesses why? Find out here.

 

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