The double turn is a rarity in professional wrestling and something that doesn’t always work entirely in it’s process – it’s often confused fans more often than it’s succeeded. But when it does, as in the case of the 1997 double turn at WrestleMania 13 featuring Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, it can become an iconic moment. When it fails, such as the 1999 double turn at WCW Uncensored between ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, it fades into obscurity. For those not aware, a “double turn” in wrestling is when both wrestlers change alignments during a match or angle, with the originally perceived babyface becoming the heel and the heel becoming a face. Time will tell how last night’s double turn attempt impacts both men involved, but at the end of last night’s Monday Night Raw, the Cruiserweight Division got it’s first double turn in the show’s main event, with both newly crowned Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore and former champion Neville being the participants. And while it’s too early to predict the impact it will have on either, it was definitely one of the standout moments of the Cruiserweight Division so far and opened the doors to a whole new playing field.
With Enzo verbally ripping apart the entire Cruiserweight Division, primarily singling out the faces such as Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann and Gran Metalik, the top heel in the division, “The King of the Cruiserweights” himself, came out to defend the honour of the entire division and proceeded to verbally tear down Enzo. Both men picked their words carefully and in effect, both delivered pipe bombs of their own. Enzo’s comments on how “boring” the Cruiserweight Division had been and how his presence was supposed to “make them stars” carried a lot of the same sentiment that 205 Live naysayers have been saying for months, even going back so far as the show’s debut. His heel turn had been a work in progress ever since he started on 205 Live, where he would use underhanded cheat tactics to secure wins, even when paired with faces like Alexander and Gran Metalik. Neville’s counter-attack that Enzo was a “cancer” and had alienated himself in the locker room drew attention to the real life heat Enzo has been accused of in dirt sheets and podcasts for the past few months as well. WWE took real life internet concerns, complaints and sympathies and incorporated them all into this massive confrontation, that ended with Neville giving up the chance for any future title rematch in order to defend the virtues of the entire Cruiserweight division. He also ended his assault on Enzo by utilizing his Red Arrow move, a high risk offence move he’d withheld for most of his heel run due to the face reactions it elicited. It effectively took Neville out of the Cruiserweight Division (where he can now move up to new feuds on Raw outside his weight class) and opened up an entire roster of new opponents for Enzo, who is now the marked villain of the division with a monstrous target on his back.
Here’s a look at 10 infamous double turns in pro wrestling history – some successful, some not so much – that lay the groundwork for last night’s grand moment.
LEGACY OF THE DOUBLE TURN
Ted DiBiase and Dick Murdoch, NWA Mid-South, November 14, 1985
Ted DiBiase had been one of Mid-South’s top heels when he was granted an NWA World title shot against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in November of 1985. But when he came out for his match, crowd favourite Dick Murdoch came out to tell DiBiase that he didn’t deserve the title spot and that Murdoch did instead. Murdoch attacked DiBiase and brutalized him to a bloody mess, all directly prior to the match with Flair. The crowd turned on Murdoch and throughout DiBiase’s match against Flair, the crowd began to rally behind the bloody and bandaged DiBiase in a failed but gutsy challenge against the World Champion.
Jake Roberts and The Honky Tonk Man, WWF, February 21, 1987
During Jake “The Snake” Roberts first year in the WWF in 1986, he was one of the company’s most feared heels, thanks in part to his dark promos, use of his snake Damien, and his lethal DDT. He fought against Ricky Steamboat and then Randy Savage (whom they were turning face) and finally Hulk Hogan, but by early 1987, the WWF could smell that the fans were starting to warm up to Roberts instead of hating him. The Honky Tonk Man originally debuted in late 1986 as a face, bragging about being one of Hulk Hogan’s buddies and wanting to bring his good time rock and roll to the WWF. But as the months dragged on, it became apparent the audience wasn’t buying it. Soon, HTM began to act more “cool, cocky and bad” and right before his appearance on Roberts’ talk show segment, The Snake Pit, he allied with heel manager Jimmy Hart. During his appearance on the show, HTM famously swung his guitar over Roberts’ head, solidifying his own heel turn and setting up Roberts’ face run, which lead to their match-up at WrestleMania III later that year.
Demolition and Powers of Pain, WWF, November 24, 1988
The first tag team double turn happened during Survivor Series ’88 when both team captains of the two opposing tag teams turned. During the 10-man tag team battle that saw the face team, Team Pain, captained by Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian), defeat the heel team, Team Demolition (captained by Ax & Smash). But the way the faces won was decidedly heel in tactics. With Powers of Pain overpowering Demolition late in the match, Demolition’s manager Mr. Fuji turned on his protégés and helped eliminate Smash from the match-up. When Fuji was confronted at ringside, he struck Ax with his cane. Demolition turned face by attacking Fuji, to the crowds delight, but moments later he joined Powers of Pain in their corner, becoming their new manager. Demolition ran back down and cleared the ring after the match, but now the two teams feud would continue with both teams in opposing roles of heroes and villains.
Bret Hart and Steve Austin, WWF, March 23, 1997
To this day, it’s considered the most successful and iconic double turn in professional wrestling history. Bret “Hitman” Hart had recently returned to the WWF after a lengthy injury and was beginning to feel left out with the attitude shift in the company – it was in the early stages of becoming the Attitude Era at this point. He targeted one of the emerging top heels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who had been on a terror spree during Hart’s absence. During their classic WrestleMania 13 Submission match, Hart and Austin resorted to more of a slug fest than mat classic, but the story trumped all. Bret, normally a rule abiding babyface, resorted to dirtier and dirtier tactics to put down Austin, with the crowd turning on their once glorious hero. When Bret locked Austin in the Sharpshooter, with Austin passing out in a pool of his own blood, the crowd turned firmly behind the Texas Rattlesnake. It perfectly cast Bret Hart in his most dominant heel turn in his career and cemented Steve Austin as the WWF’s next breakout Superstar just in time for the Attitude Era.
The Rock and Mankind, WWF, November 15, 1998
At Survivor Series ’98, The Rock was entering the Deadly Games tournament to win the vacant WWF World title as one of the company’s hottest faces. He’d just left the Nation of Domination a few months prior and thanks to his red hot cocky new persona and catch phrases and his teaming with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin against the Brothers of Destruction, he was now a crowd darling. Mankind, growing more sympathy from the audience after his legendary King of the Ring match vs The Undertaker a few months prior, was still firmly in the grasp of evil, as the stooge for the evil Mr. McMahon and his handpicked warrior to win the title in the Deadly Games tournament. Mankind scraped and cheated his way to the finals (with McMahon’s help) to face the electrifying Rock, but the end turned everyone on their heads. But in a move taken directly from the previous year’s Montreal Screwjob, The Rock put Mankind in the Sharpshooter and McMahon called for the bell before Mankind could even react. The Rock, initially looking stunned at the decision, soon embraced McMahon, revealing McMahon’s devious plan all along. He’d set up Mankind as his patsy and used the Rock as his actual ringer. The move firmly made Mankind – or rather, Mick Foley – a beloved star for the rest of his days and launched The Rock into his most lecherous run as the Corporate Champion.
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, WCW, March 19, 1999
WCW attempted their own double turn at the end of the century, at their spring PPV Uncensored, when the heel leader of the nWo, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, faced face commissioner of WCW, Ric Flair, in a Barbed Wire Steel Cage match. Flair hand selected Charles Robinson to ref the match and was urged to use his own discretion in stopping the match. But it resulted in another debacle that signaled the end was night for WCW, who would go under two years later. Flair was repeatedly bust open during the match but for some reason, the bell was never rang and Hogan was never declared the victor (nor was his pin attempts on Flair even counted). Hogan also used his famous face move of “Hulking Up” during the match, something he’d withheld during his heel run. The swerve came when it was revealed that the referee of the match, “Li’l Naitch”, was in Flair’s pocket and let the match continue until Hogan was left unconscious in the ring and Flair had him in the Figure Four to win the WCW World title. Hogan would return to the Red and Yellow soon after, but the WCW fans were perplexed at such an awkward match-up between two of the 1980’s biggest wrestling icons.
Kane, Triple H and Chyna, March 28, 1999
Only weeks after WCW’s botched double turn, the WWF attempted a more complex double turn, that involved four people and a series of swerves. At the time, D-Generation X were fighting against The Corporation, who was also fighting against the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. D-X has suffered treachery prior to WrestleMania XV when Chyna left the faction to join Vince McMahon’s Corporation team. But the remaining DX team was determined to make a stand against The Corporation on the Grandest Stage of Them All – Triple H was facing off against The Corporation’s Kane earlier in the card, while The Corporate European Champion, Shane McMahon, was defending his title against DX’s X-Pac. During Triple H’s match against Kane, Chyna came down, seemingly to assist her Corporation teammate Kane. But instead, she turned on Kane and helped Triple H pick up the victory. Chyna had rejoined DX! Right? Right?! Later during X-Pac’s match against Shane-O-Mac, Triple H and Chyna came down to help X-Pac, who was getting teamed up on by the Corporate goon squad of Test and The Mean Street Posse. But right in the thick of it, Triple H landed a pedigree on X-Pac, and together, Triple H and Chyna raised Shane McMahon’s in victory. DX’s New Age Outlaws tried to come to X-Pac’s aid, but the lights went out and Kane appeared, sending everyone scattering. Kane was ousted from the Corporation and would end up teaming with X-Pac in the weeks to come, effectively solidifying Triple H as a heel and Kane as a face (with Chyna doing a turn twice).
Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio, June 16, 2013
Going into WWE Payback ’13, Dolph Ziggler was still a heel, but had just returned from a head injury following his World Heavyweight Championship win after WrestleMania 29 that year. Alberto Del Rio was in the midst of a rare face run, with the fans rallying “Si! Si! Si!” around the Mexican Superstar. But as the match wore on, Del Rio continued to target Ziggler’s previously injured head. As the match continued and Ziggler continued to fight back from Del Rio’s increasingly aggressive head shots, the crowd began to turn and by the end of the match, Alberto Del Rio regained the World Heavyweight Championship as a resounding heel, and Ziggler finally won the respect of the WWE Universe.
Paige and AJ Lee, July 21, 2014
On April 7, 2014, a debuting Paige – the NXT Women’s Champion for over 300 days – debuted on the main roster on Monday Night Raw. The fiery 21-year old won the crowd’s heart and in her debut match, defeated the villainous AJ Lee for the Divas Championship. It would be AJ Lee’s last match for several months as she disappeared off television. During that time, Paige had a brutally uneventful title reign, feuding with the likes of Alicia Fox and Cameron in less than remarkable match-ups (thanks to creative, not the women themselves). On June 30, AJ Lee made her return and quickly beat Paige for the Divas title she’d lost months earlier. Paige was furious and the fans began to turn on Paige after her lackluster title reign and the return of AJ Lee. On July 21, two weeks after feigning friendship, Paige turned full heel on AJ and the roles of April 7 were fully reversed.
Jay Lethal and Cody Rhodes, December 2, 2016
The last double turn didn’t even occur in a WWE ring, but instead a Ring of Honor one. At last December’s Final Battle PPV, Cody Rhodes made his ROH PPV debut as one of the top faces in the country. He’d left the WWE after that year’s WrestleMania and embarked on an indie journey of epic proportions, beloved across the country in doing so. His first major battle in Ring of Honor saw him going up against the cocky, arrogant Jay Lethal, a former ROH World Champion trying to get himself back into the hunt. Rhodes won with a low blow, but Lethal decided to shake Cody’s hand after the match anyway. Instead, Rhodes attacked Lethal and turned full blown heel for the first time since leaving the WWE and Lethal once again became a beloved star in Ring of Honor.
What are some of your favourite double heel turns? Do you think Enzo and Neville’s will work? Let us know in the comments below!