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Favourite character transformation ever?


air_raid
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Posted (edited)

I was thinking yesterday about how they took Bob Backlund from a has-been struggling to beat losers like Brooklyn Brawler with shite like the OConner roll, to a genuine threat with an over-as-fuck finish that he terrorized everyone with.

Look at this nondescript wally ;

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He was brought back right when a load of Hulkamania guys were getting jobbed out and leaving, and here he was, an even bigger anachronism. Brought in to lose to the younger guys, precisely the reason Ric Flair said "No thanks" - even losing to Razor at WrestleMania IX exactly as Vince wanted Flair to do. Described as a former WWF Champion but to fans my age with no memories or knowledge to pre-date Hogan, he looked like an absolute dork from the days that any nerd in the rasslin' could do enough wristlocks and wriggling to get to the top, but would have been crushed in the days of Hogan and Warrior - no wonder he stayed away for so long while REAL MEN were doing the wrestling, I surmised. Lasted an incredibly bland hour in the Rumble only because he was too beige for the baddies to notice until the final six. Seriously, jogging out in his daft collegiate wrestling jackets. I mean, he looked like the Steiner Brothers' dad ;

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Suddenly in the middle of 1994 he turned heel by attacking Bret after the match with the crossface chickenwing which looked fucking painful and impossible to break. Every midcarder that they could spare ended up in this hold - Typhoon, Dumpster Droese, Adam Bomb, Kid, Doink, Sparky Bobcore, you name them. It was over in an instant and protected as inescapable.

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This got over like you wouldn't believe, including attacking anyone from wrestlers to magazine writers to former manager Arnold Skaaland. The fact Bob had to sneak up on you to apply it, added to his new habit of staring at his hands, only added to his new psychopath aura.

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"Get him, Bob!!"

By the time they started hyping Survivor Series, even though 12 year old me was smarky enough to think "Fuck me, he's beaten Yokozuna and survived Diesel, they won't have him lose to Bob fucking Backlund" I was absolutely terrified for my hero, the Hitman, ending up in this horrifying hold. From getting his leg ripped apart by the Quebecers, to falling out with his brother, to getting Jacknifed a few times, 1994 had been rough enough for Bret. Then I watched Survivor Series and sure enough he ended up in the chicken wing for about 3 days, totally making me believe he was about to be injured for at least 6 months, and lo and behold, the belt ended up on Bob fucking Backlund. I was mortified.

But.... what a job they did transforming him from such a loser into a believable psycho, and Mr Backlunds rant afterwards on the youth of today and proclaiming himself to feel "like God!!!!!" was fantastic. They'd immediately created a supervillain for a new hero of the New Generation to knock off. Which of course, our Kev did, just a few days later.

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Looking back, this was an INCREDIBLE job by all concerned. OK, it was a short term job, but even the ending was sublime, Mr Backlund summarily dropped by a younger, bigger, stronger guy in no time at all then crawling up the aisle at MSG crushed, completely broken, FINISHED. Out of Nash's own mouth, he couldn't have put him over any stronger.

So.... whats your favourite time a promotion completely transformed somebody's character? Not just a heel/face turn but fundamentally who that person was? No, not a gimmick change where they change their hair/tights, put them in a mask and give them a new name or whatever, but something like Steve Austin going from a brooding silent bore to a beer guzzling, middle finger flipping boss-buster.

So?

Edited by air_raid
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Shawn Michaels' month-long heel turn in the summer of 2005 surely ranks up there with the greatest character work we've seen for decades. I've long held the opinion that Michaels is the most natural heel that wrestling has ever produced: how can you top someone as unbearable, smarmy, repugnant yet insanely talented as him? We were all grateful to have him back in 2002 and it was an even bigger surprise when he seemed to find his best working boots despite all his injuries. However, it is disappointing that there is a serious disassociation from his earlier heel work (presumably at his own request as I imagine he is mightily embarrassed about being a pissed, pilled-up reprobate). All wrestling fans know that the 'born again' image that he tries to cultivate is fooling no one: Shawn Michaels is a cunt and it was wonderful to see him embracing that again, albeit for a short time.

The promo pictured above is a real 'lightning in a bottle' moment. A cynic might say that the other ingredients such as being in Montreal or using Bret's entrance music as a cheap heat magnet means he can't take all the credit, but HBK was absolutely phenomenal on this evening. He was carrying the burden of preserving a feud with a largely absent Hulk Hogan (the pre-tape he did mocking Hogan was also some great heel work and was on the nose on a number of occasions), but this was the peak of the run. You only had to take one look at his suit that night to know he was going to be a weapons-grade bellend and he did not disappoint. What we saw on this night was an intriguing snapshot of what he could have been as a top heel (if he hadn't been so conscious of his newfound beliefs). A maturation of his earlier character in some ways, but no less of an irredeemable helmet than he was in the mid-to-late 90s. I don't think it is coincidence that Shawn managed to switch it on so effectively and make such a short run so memorable: he's a heel, and that's it. In some ways it is maybe a good thing that it only lasted a short time, but for me, it was by far his most interesting period during his 2002-2010 run.

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Diminishing returns on their subsequent runs may have earned them their fair share of detractors and revisionist thinking, but don't let the sort of fans who think London & Kidman had more miles left in the tank tell you otherwise: The Outlaws are one of the greatest teams of all time and a lot of it is based solely on one of the best transformations of all time. 

To me they're the best example of the absolute magic the Attitude Era worked for some people and a great case study in how fucking wildly different 95/96 looked from 98/99. I love that thing of guys who became massively over with the casual fans who came in 1998 just being there all along throughout the New Gen era undercover. 

Two absolute no hopers who bandied together and became the coolest thing about coolest faction of the fed the next year, all by just leaning into themselves a bit more. Every time I see them do a mad entrance during the Attitude Era I think of how they must have felt waking up in a hotel room, smoking a joint out the window and just having that feeling wash over them: "It's the summer of 1998, I'm one of the hottest things in wrestling, and last year I was singing for the Honky Tonk Man."

Lest we forget before they were some of the most over faces in the company, the brilliant run they had in the fall of 97 and leading up to WrestleMania as just being...well...scumbags. The dumpster angle is one of the brightest from the whole era. There's a clip I can't quite dig up right now where Road Dogg gets into a brawl as his music keeps playing, New Jack style, and the fans just roar his bits. Catchphrase wrestling? Bollocks. WWE would have put up with Enzo & Big Cass if they sold that many t-shirts. 

Over as rover and they barley lifted a finger in the ring. 

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Every few years my mate will ask me "Who was that old bloke they brought back in the wrestling, who waved all the time and looked like a tit?" and I'll tell him Bob Backlund, and he'll forget, and he'll ask me again in a couple of years time. 

Edited by gmoney
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spud changing from plucky underdog to "Rockstar Spud" was a great move from him. He pulled it off really well, and in my opinion, was actually his best character. I feel it got him to Impact/TNA as he could really unlock his wild side/charisma and if he stayed as the underdog, i feel he may not have made it as big as he did. 

The underdog character is great too, but not anywhere near as marketable or appealing long term 

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Edited by RalphyV2
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Posted (edited)

Steve Corino's completely organic rise from cowardly heel to courageous babyface in 2000 was one of the best things ECW ever did. The respect of the crowd felt really earned through the amount of blood he sacrificed.

For least favourite, them immediately hitting the reset button upon his winning the title and having him revert to being a piss-pants coward for some reason. Absolutely pointless.

Edited by CleetusVanDamme
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Posted (edited)

I was coming here to post about rockabilly. But Fook beat me to it.

On the plus side ive never seen that Akeem video. Bravo sirs 

I will mention sparky plug bob holly into hardcore as another one i liked. EDIT i just looked it up and he went from bodacious bob to hardcore holly....

Edited by quote the raven
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10 minutes ago, CleetusVanDamme said:

For least favourite, them immediately hitting the reset button upon his winning the title and having him revert to being a piss-pants coward for some reason. Absolutely pointless.

Plus going from despising Justin to wanting to form a new Impact Players with him almost overnight too.

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Super bland babyface Jericho into late 90s heel Y2J is still my favourite character of all time.

The pouffed up hair, the 1004 holds, the nicking opponents things, Ralphus and the JPS, the whinging, the hissy fits, the Monday Night Jericho t-shirt, it's all absolute gold, alongside some incredible matches (he was blessed with a brilliant division of course)

In my opinion he still goes to WWE at some point, but that heel run most definitely helped speed things up (aware he wanted out)

Look at him! What a prick! spacer.png

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Does Real Mans Man Steven Regal change to William Regal count? Because if so that’s my pick. That run from debut, through European Champion to tagging with Tajiri and becoming commissioner was an excellent run. Or at least through my rose tinted specs.

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@SuperBacon

What made the Jericho one so great was how gradual it was that he added the layers. The hissy fits and attacking opponents, the delusional rants, getting his opponents name wrong on purpose, all the way to topknot, JPS and everything.

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My favourite and least favourite is the same, JBL. Despite some less than stellar ring work Bradshaw did have the gift of the gab and being a smarmy arrogant heel was clearly a better fit for him than a gay cowboy eating the pudding. 

It should have been great, if it was subtle and over time slowly showing money turning him to a new man much to Simmons disgust and they kept him in the mid card for a spell while people grew to it. But it was shit because it was just the flick of a switch and rocket up the card. 

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Posted (edited)

I don’t know if it’s my #1 favourite but this is definitely right up there.

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From Blue Blazer Owen to High Energy Owen to King Of Harts Owen was quite a transformation. He always clearly had the goods bell-to-bell and with his flashy style you could see why they had him in that high flying babyface role in the late 80s/early 90s. Some of the stuff he was doing genuinely blew me away as a kid.

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But as great as he was to watch, he was going nowhere. It’s mad to think he originally came into the WWF in 1988 and it took until 1993 and a couple of stints in the promotion before he got his break. And even then it was gonna go to Bruce before Bret had a word. I guess the first run it was more of a timing thing with them still being in the thick of the Hulkamania land of the giants days. Then it was High Energy with Koko and the New Foundation with Anvil. Some decent matches but, again, going nowhere and the colourful pyjamas look wasn’t the best. Even in the early 90s. 

Once they finally planted the seed and got the ball rolling on the heel turn towards the end of 93 though, he took off like a rocket (pun intended).

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Kicked Bret’s leg out of his leg at the Rumble in 94 and that was that. Obviously I’m glad the WWF went in this direction but I can’t help wonder how different it would’ve looked had they done the Bret vs Bruce feud as they initially wanted. Probably would’ve been some unintentional comedy gold there with Bruce looking to seize his big moment and genuinely trying to outshine Bret. But I can’t imagine it’d have lasted more than 2-3 months tops. Thank fuck they went with Owen. They can’t have known just how incredible he’d be in that snivelling little shite heel role either. He’d shown literally nothing between 88-93 to make them think he could pull it off the way he did. The matches themselves with Bret were always gonna be great but I think the way Owen fully embraced the character and being such a horrible little cretin is what gave that feud legs. It gave him something to sink his teeth into and gave him the opportunity to finally be seen in a different light by Vince. And to think, if that Bret vs Owen feud never got the green light, who knows if Owen would’ve even stuck with wrestling? Didn’t Bret say Owen was thinking of jacking it all in and becoming a fireman or something around that time? Looking back, with how things ended for him, you wish he did get out. But going back to that time, 94/95, Owen becoming the ‘King Of Harts’ was one of the real bright spots during a rough time for the WWF. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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