If you haven’t already, make sure you read Part one of this series. This is an examination of perhaps the rarest angle in professional wrestling, the double turn. For those unaware of the exact context of a double turn he’s an excerpt from part one:
In its simplest sense — a double turn is a match in which the heel going into the match turns babyface at some point and the babyface turns heel. This is done either to take a pre-existing feud to another level or direction or it is spawned by a company’s recognition of overwhelming, or at the very least, notable fan support for the heel or heat on the babyface.
Now without further adieu, here is part two of Double Turns and You: The History of the Rarest Angle.
The next turn often is forgotten and, well, it’s with good reason. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair from World Championship Wrestling’s Uncensored 1999. I may be missing some exact details about what happened in the match or leading up to the match but bear with me, this was post-Fingerpoke of Doom WCW (see: The March Towards Death) , so I had just about checked out mentally. I also didn’t want to go back and watch the match because it was a total clusterfuck.
Regardless, the back-story centers around Ric Flair. Again, realize this was WCW doing their best to lose as much money as possible in one year so if things seem weird, or awful, or confusing, it’s not my crappy writing, they were that bad.
Anyway, Flair defeated WCW President Eric Bischoff at Starrcade 1998 in a match that was built up on out of the ring issues stemming from Bischoff suing Flair for no-showing a WCW Thunder taping to see his son (the recently deceased) Reid Flair’s wrestling tournament. The case was eventually settled and Flair returned in triumphant fashion on September 14, 1998 in one of the best segments in Nitro history. Flair and Bischoff feuded for a few months before culminating in the aforementioned match at Starrcade.
Bischoff was victorious due to nWo interference, this time courtesy of Curt Hennig, who last year turned on Flair and the Four Horsemen to join the nWo. The following night Flair cut a ridiculous promo, his famous strip down to the boxers promo (don’t ask) and demanded a rematch against Bischoff, this time for the presidency of WCW. The match (December 28, 1998) was won by Flair despite, you guessed it, nWo interference, and the new WCW President was none other than The Nature Boy Ric Flair!
Flair’s next match was at the SuperBrawl pay-per-view against WCW Champion (won via fingerpoke) Hulk Hogan. Hogan came out on top when Flair’s son David turned on his father. Undaunted Flair made a rematch for Uncensored 1999 and billed it a First Blood Barbed Wire Steel Cage Match, oh boy. This match had extra stipulations as not only was Hogan’s title on the line but Flair put his presidency up for grabs.
The match was a total abortion of wrestling. It was a microcosm of what would eventually cause this company to lose seven figures in 1999. Flair started the contest by saying he wanted referee Charles Robinson to end the match only at his discretion, “no puny scratches or paltry blade jobs”. WCW announcer Tony Schivanone immediately plants the seed (great subtly there!) by asking if Robinson can call the match down the middle since he was such a huge Flair fan growing up. Mind you, he’s referred numerous Flair matches before, but whatever. It’s WCW.
Anyway, the First Blood match made no sense considering about eight minutes into the match Flair is busted completely open and has his wound opened up further by barbed wire. MATCH OVER, HOGAN’S THE PRESIDENT. Oh. No. Wait. The announcers have no idea why the match hasn’t been stopped; Hogan doesn’t stop the attack slamming Flair into the cage, hitting a big boot and a leg drop. Hogan then proceeds to cover Flair, Robinson doesn’t count which leads Hogan to become very upset. This is a First Blood match, remember?
Flair gets up and knocks Hogan out with brass knuckles, Hogan is now bleeding. MATCH OVER! No. Sorry, what the hell? David Flair and Torrie Wilson run down to the ring to interfere I guess. Flair drops an elbow and covers Hogan only gets a two count. (First Blood Match). Hogan hulks up, another leg drop; Robinson is slow to count and only gets to one before Flair kicks out. Robinson is then knocked out and Hogan, the heel, goes to check on him but Flair low blows Hogan. Arn Anderson at some point runs down to the ring and slips Flair a tire iron. Natch wallops Hogan with the iron, puts Hogan in the Figure Four and while Hogan’s shoulders are down, Robinson fast counts and calls for the victory. Both men covered in blood.
Wow. So the match made no sense but the double turn was all but complete. It may have been the least impactful double turn, as Hogan remained a tweener for a better part of the year until returning in his full red and yellow garb in August. Flair remained a dastardly heel until going completely off the deep end in storyline and ending up in a mental institute. 1999 was a bad year in WCW in case you didn’t notice.
While we’re on the topic of ridiculously confusing late 1998/early 1999 wrestling booking, let’s discuss this Vince Russo-rific double turn: Kane and The Undertaker from 1998’s Judgment Day: In Your House. This one differs from the others because The Undertaker was only loosely a face going in. Or perhaps Kane was loosely a heel. On the other hand, maybe they were either heels or both faces going in either way; let’s talk about Judgment Day 1998.
Kane “debuted” in the WWE at October 1997’s “Badd Blood: In Your House” famously breaking down the Hell in a Cell door and attacking his brother The Undertaker. Throughout his first year, Kane flip flopped from heel to face numerous times. First turning face in the lead up to WrestleMania 14 when it appeared he was aligning with his brother. This was followed up at Royal Rumble 1998 when Kane turned on The Undertaker, costing him the WWE Title in a Casket Match against Shawn Michaels and naturally burning The Undertaker alive by setting a locked casket on fire, run of the mill stuff here.
Kane won the WWE Championship at King of the Ring defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood match with help from The Undertaker, who was on the slow burn towards a heel turn. Kane lost the title back to Austin the next night and formed a team with Mankind to bide time before he was back in the title picture.
That time came at “Breakdown: In Your House” when The Undertaker and Kane defeated Austin for the WWE Title. The stipulation set forth by Vince McMahon was that the brothers were not allowed to pin each other. Their solution was to pin Austin simultaneously giving the WWE “dual-champions” — except the title was vacated by McMahon shortly after leading to a title tournament at the Survivor Series 1998 pay-per-view.
After briefly turning face by turning on McMahon, who famously flicked Undertaker and Kane off before getting his ankle crushed by ring steps, the brother were booked to face each other at “Judgment Day: In Your House” with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the guest referee.
Leading into the match the clear fan favorite was The Undertaker, the fans naturally got behind the long-time fan favorite. Towards the end of the match, Paul Bearer (long time manager of both men) handed Kane a steel chair to hit The Undertaker. However, when Kane turned his back, both Bearer and The Undertaker hit Kane with a chair. Undertaker went for the pin but Austin refused to count, ended up attacking The Undertaker and counted out both brothers leading to his firing at the hands of McMahon.
Either way, The Undertaker was a full-fledged heel and Kane, while not the white-hot babyface most of these turns produced, was certainly the sympathetic babyface going forward. He participated in the Survivor Series 1998 Deadly Game tournament but lost to The Undertaker due to Bearer interference. Around this same time, The Undertaker revealed that he was indeed the one that set the fire that killed his parents, reversing the long held belief and claim that Kane was the one that did it.
At the following month’s “Rock Bottom: In Your House” Kane interfered in The Undertaker and Austin’s Buried Alive Match, Tombstoning The Undertaker and causing The Corporation (McMahon’s heel faction) to have Kane committed to an insane asylum. In late December 1998, Kane officially turned heel again by aligning with The Corporation to get himself out of the insane asylum.
The Undertaker would remain heel through the rest of 1998 and into much of 1999. During which, he formed The Ministry of Darkness and later the Corporate Ministry before taking time off to nurse a groin injury. He would return in mid-2000 with a new biker gimmick and a fresh face turn. Regardless, while it’s one of the lesser-known double turns, Kane and Undertaker did indeed do the deed at Judgment Day 1998.
The next double turn is perhaps the weirdest and most disappointing. I had mentioned Demolition and the Powers in Pain in 1988 as the grandfather of double turns, the following between Lex Luger and Barry Windham at the Great American Bash 1991 is the drunken uncle.
To understand why the Luger/Windham double turn was such a disappointment, you have to put yourself in the period and in this case, it’s the recently post-Ric Flair WCW. Yes, WCW Executive Vice President and former “Pizza Guy” Jim Herd fired Flair leading up to this pay-per-view, which was originally to be highlighted by a Steel Cage match between Flair and Luger. The match had received a ton of publicity and promotion on WCW TV, magazine ads, newspaper ads and so on. The match was set, everyone was excited, and here we go!
Not so fast.
Two weeks before The Bash, Herd fired Flair over a petty contract dispute. This was not a one-time blowup though; Herd and Flair had clashed from the moment Herd assumed the role of EVP. There were rumors that Herd not only wanted Flair to cut his hair and wear an earring, but also become the character “Spartacus”. This, of course, was meant to make Flair change with the times.
After Flair’s firing, the WCW World Championship was in flux, literally. Flair had put a $25,000 security deposit on the title that would be refunded (with interest) when they lost the title. Flair waited and waited but never received his deposit; as a result, he kept the title and showed up on WWF television belt in hand proclaiming himself “The REAL World’s Champion”. It was one of the best periods of WWF television, for WCW things weren’t so great.
WCW scrambled to create a new world championship belt in anticipation of the Great American Bash match — now a Steel Cage match between the face United States champion Lex Luger and current Arn Anderson teammate, the newly-minted “Number Two Contender” heel Barry Windham. Due to the short notice, the best WCW could do for a “new” title was to slap a “WCW World Heavyweight Champion” plate on the front of an old Championship Wrestling from Florida belt that was still owned by Dusty Rhodes. It looked awful, worse than most Backyard Wrestling title belts.
So that’s the lead-in to this fantastic match and to make matters worse, the match was awful. It wasn’t so much that in-ring was horrendous (it was) but the Baltimore fans made their feelings felt early and often. The match was littered with numerous, loud “We Want Flair” chants.
Towards the end of the match, Windham hit a one-legged kick off the top rope (furious action, you guys) while managers Harley Race and Mr. Hughes walked towards the ring. Race walks up to the downed Luger and tells him “Now’s the time”. THE TIME IS NOW! Jim Ross tries his best to sell what’s happening but he even sounds confused or unsure of what’s going down.
Luger then immediately rises up ala Hulk Hogan no-selling any number of guy’s finishers, hits Windham with Race’s famed Piledriver (Luger would rename it the ‘Attitude Adjustment’) and wins the WCW, Florida Championship Plate thingy. The fans have no idea how to react. Some cheer, few boo, most just don’t make a noise at all. Race, Hughes and Luger all walk out together and the crowd is still unsure of what exactly is going on. Thankfully, Ross explains what’s going on, explains that Luger is clearly with Race now and well, apparently that’s a heel turn. Ross also thankfully explained Windham was a victim and deserved sympathy. Still, the long-term plan was to turn Windham face and Luger heel. It kind of worked. Thank god for Jim Ross.
The aftermath of Great American Bash saw Windham as the sympathetic, perennial upper-mid carder desperately trying to get the title back from the brash, arrogant Luger. The only problem — WCW really didn’t follow up. Windham, now a face, moved into a tag team with Dustin Rhodes and an eventual feud with WCW Tag Champions The Enforcers (Anderson and Larry Zybszko).
Luger went on to start a racially charged feud with Ron Simmons, which saw him retain the title at Halloween Havoc 1991 in a two out of three falls match. Luger’s run on top did not last long as contract disputes with WCW saw him barely visible on WCW television for a number of months. Eventually, at SuperBrawl II, Luger lost the WCW title cleanly to Sting. Afterwards, WCW and Luger parted ways and Lex was on his way to Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation. Oye.
The last double turn I’m going to cover is perhaps the favorite of my childhood (after Austin/Hart, of course) between The Rock and Mankind at Survivor Series 1998.
This is still a Russo-rified, somewhat confusing timeline and angle, but this is Russo done right. This is Russo when there’s a clear purpose, a clear intention and ultra-talented workers are performing it. It doesn’t help to have the inevitable McMahon filter, regardless this is double turn done right. This turn set the stage for WWE’s most popular year.
The situation picks up almost immediately after The Undertaker and Kane double turn at Judgment Day: In Your House. As mentioned in that portion, Austin was the guest referee but refused to count for either men and ended up being fired as a result.
Following his firing at Judgment Day, Austin showed up on the following Raw is War and pointed a toy gun at McMahon’s head. This famously resulted in McMahon peeing his pants only to find out the gun wasn’t loaded with bullets but a sign that read “Bang 3:16” instead. To end the segment, Austin pulled out an envelope that contained a new five-year contract that had been signed by Vince’s son, Shane McMahon. Austin stuffed the envelope in McMahon’s pocket and informed Vince that it guaranteed at least one title shot. McMahon, understandably outraged at his son Shane, immediately demoted him to the position of referee.
Austin was back, but what to do about the still vacant WWE Championship? Austin was supposed to count one of the two men (Undertaker or Kane) and it was to be all wrapped up. Instead, the title remained in flux. As a result, he created the “Deadly Game” WWE Title tournament to occur during Survivor Series 1998. At the end of this pay-per-view, we would finally have an undisputed champion.
Leading into the Survivor Series, Vince McMahon seemingly out of random started a beef with The Rock. The People’s Champion had recently turned face on the merits of his entertaining promos and a recent disbanding of The Nation of Domination and McMahon had a problem with the people, thus he had a problem with The People’s Champion.
McMahon order Rock into a match with former Nation stable mate Mark Henry under the stipulation of Rock’s contract. Despite McMahon’s entourage (the beginning of the Corporation) at ringside interfering on behalf of Henry and distracting the appointed referee. Rock hit his patented Rock Bottom and who should show up but the recently demoted Shane McMahon. Shane counted the pinfall and Rock was not fired and was all system go for the Deadly Game tournament at Survivor Series.
Mankind’s path to Survivor Series was much different, where The Rock was out to make McMahon’s life a living hell, Mankind was looking to become Vince’s surrogate son. Mankind played the heel/tweener role all summer but couldn’t help but get some cheers after his heroic effort in the famed Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring 1998. Mankind, in his Dude Love character, had earlier in the year sucked up to McMahon and played a key role in the true beginnings of the McMahon/Austin feud. However, when he made it his sole goal in the WWE to cheer up the sulking Mr. McMahon, Mankind turned full-fledged heel.
McMahon initially reserved to the idea of Mankind being his right-hand man, began taking a liking to Mrs. Foley’s baby boy and started showering him with gifts. The most notable, of course, was the WWE Hardcore Championship. In addition, McMahon gave Mankind a pedicure, haircut and a brand new suit. Make no mistake; Mankind was the handpicked “Corporate” champion going into the Deadly Game tournament.
Without getting into intricate details on the tournament, The Rock beat two Corporation members (Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock) to secure his place in the finals. Mankind and Austin met in the semifinals in a match that was completely controlled by Austin who had just hit his Stone Cold Stunner on Mankind. Sensing his handpicked champion was against the ropes McMahon jumped out of his wheelchair (the result of the broken ankle from Undertaker/Taker), pulled the normal referee out of the ring and knocked him to the ground. Mankind rose up, hit the Mandible Claw on Austin only to be thrown against the ropes and receive yet another Stone Cold Stunner.
Austin went for the pinfall, but of course, there was no referee. Thankfully, Shane McMahon ran down to the ring, slid in and started counting 1…2……. ….. “3! 3! Where’s 3?” pleaded Jim Ross as Shane slowly slide into Austin’s sight and gave Austin the finger. Shane was a part of the plan all along. McMahon’s cronies, Hall of Famers Gerald Brisco and Sgt. Slaughter climbed into the ring and hit Austin with a chair. Mankind rolled over and Shane counted the 1, 2, 3 officially turning heel and putting Mankind into the main event against The Rock.
The stage was set, the handpicked “Corporate Champion” Mankind versus the brash, egotistical People’s Champion The Rock. After the last match, you would have to assume Mankind would have the decks stacked in his favor. Vince and Shane walked down the ramp early in the match to see their handpicked champion prevail. After a hard fought battle, Mankind latched the Mandible Claw on The Rock only to have Rocky reverse it into his finisher, The Rock Bottom. It looked like it was over, and then Rock grabbed Mankind’s leg, turned to the McMahon’s, raised his patented eyebrow and placed Mankind in the Sharpshooter.
Much like the infamous Montreal Screwjob at the previous year’s Survivor Series, Vince screamed to the referee and timekeeper to end the match and it was announced The Rock was the brand new champion. As it turns out, Mankind wasn’t the handpicked champion. Vince and Shane entered the ring while Mr. McMahon declared to the world that he successful screwed not only Stone Cold Steve Austin but also Mankind and all the fans.
Austin eventually ran down and got the best of The Rock but the turn was complete. Mankind instantly became the sympathetic babyface who, like Austin, had been screwed out of the WWE Championship by Mr. McMahon. Worse yet, he was a pawn in the entire scheme. A mere Ponzi in a larger McMahon plan.
The visual of him sitting on the mat with his hands in the air as McMahon and The Rock embraced became the driving force in his increase rise to the most popular non-Stone Cold character in the WWE.
Mankind had numerous rematches with The Rock including a bout at the next month’s Rock Bottom pay-per-view, their spectacular Royal Rumble showdown and the highly rated SuperBowl Halftime Heat match. He was also able to win the title a few times, most notably; defeating The Rock on a Raw is War show (in my favorite all-time Raw moment) where WCW foolishly revealed he would win before it happened. Millions of viewers turned to WWE immediately hoping to see the title change. Many consider that night the turning point in the Monday Night Wars and it’s hard to argue given rating patterns following that night. In many ways, Mankind and The Rock’s feud catapulted the WWE to new heights at the end of 1998 going into 1999 and set the stage for a huge WrestleMania XV main event between The Rock and Steve Austin.
The Rock after a brief flirtation with the babyface side was now the biggest heel in wrestling. Not only did he turn his back on the fans that had started supporting him, but also he was the lynchpin in a gigantic conspiracy by the McMahon’s.
It’s not often double turns are done right (see the Uncensored 1999 and Great American Bash 1991 examples for reference) but when they are done right — as it was for this Survivor Series 1998, they can bring companies to new heights.
That’s it for now. Did I miss any double turns? Let me know in the comment section below. We’d also love to hear your favorite double turns or your favorite memory of any of the famous double turns in the comment section or on Twitter @VoicesWrestling.