For hardcore wrestling fans there is seldom anything better than a heel turn. When that loveable babyface (a good guy for the uninitiated) becomes a bad guy and it is done well is a thing of beauty. A well-constructed heel turn can save careers and create superstars. Recently the WWE has had two major turns, one on each of its primary brands but which was most successful?
Daniel Bryan is one of the WWE’s most popular stars. He started off as a comedic heel and later a comedic babyface. As a fan, it was always frustrating to see his talent wasted as he was never really given the spotlight that his talent demanded. However, following a successful run as a tag team with Kane Bryan was propelled into the main event on the back of the “yes movement”. Fan power eventually saw him shock the world after winning the WWE championship at Wrestlemania in a match that he wasn’t even supposed to be in.
Bryan was forced to leave active competition following a severe head injury. He continued to appear on screens in an authority position and the fans’ affections for him never waned. Meaning when he returned to active competition earlier this year that his stock as a fan favourite was as high as ever.
The Lunatic Fringe
Dean Ambrose is another man who has been used as both a heel and a face. Perhaps his most successful period in the WWE was acting like a heel. When he first debuted it was as part of a trio of wrestlers that referred to themselves as the Shield. The trio of talented workers would come through the crowd to the ring all adorned in armoured vests. Their popularity quickly rose and even as heels they were hugely popular.
Eventually, they became babyfaces almost by de facto. And when Seth Rollins turned on Ambrose and Reigns that status was secured. Since then Ambrose has had title runs but his popularity has never reached quite what it was. It seems that he floundered a bit without his “brothers in arms” but this time last year the shield got back on the same page and since then he and Rollins have competed frequently as a tag team.
Daniel Bryans turn seemed more out blue. He went from full-blown Bona Fide face to turning on AJ Styles. Who is pretty much the most popular guy the WWE has. (Regardless of his alignment. It seems people just love AJ!) The beatdown was ferocious and he has since solidified his turn with the typical heelish “I don’t need the fans” schtick. Of course, he is still massively popular because his wrestling skills are otherworldly. Plus we all know that in real life he is a total loveable legend.
Ambrose’s had been hinted at with miscommunication in his partnership with Rollins. But it was the timing of it that made it more shocking. Ambrose turning on Rollins itself was probably far more predictable than the Bryan turn. However, it came on an episode of RAW where at the opening of the show the third Shield member, Roman Reigns, declared he had leukaemia and was relinquishing his title. He stood with his shield brothers in a genuine warm moment. The turn, therefore, seemed cold, sadistic and affront to a terminally ill Reigns.
So which was better
In terms of the emotional impact, you have to say the Ambrose turn was the better of the two, It was a throwback to the attitude era. A moment where a bad guy does something that truly seems despicable. That sort of emotional gut-wrenching seems hard to achieve in modern wrestling. It was a daring angle and one that hit the mark.