Throughout wrestling history, we can pinpoint standout heel and face turns that have changed careers and resulted in all-time great storylines and rivalries. There is no difference in the impact turns like this have made over in NXT. The Black and Gold brand has seen many shocking heel turns that have resulted in epic moments, matches and rivalries and today we are going to be looking at five of those heel turns that surprised the NXT Universe.
Okay, so this one may not count but I am defiantly including it. Throughout much of his NXT career, Adrian Neville was dubbed as one of the hardest working, most beloved and over babyfaces of the black and gold brand. Winning over the NXT universe with his fantastic athletic wrestling ability Neville is an all-time NXT great but one thing that had great power over him was, of course, the NXT Championship. Holding the title in what was a very lengthy reign, Neville became obsessed with keeping hold of the most prestigious prize in the history of NXT and, when one of his biggest and toughest challenges came face to face with him in the form of Sami Zayn, a shocking heel turn took place but, with mutual respect showing between the two, the rivalry came to an end. This is a turn often forgotten about and overlooked but none the less I remember watching him turn and being completely surprised and taken aback!
On the night fans saw Sami Zayn be crowned the new NXT Champion (one of the biggest moments in NXT history) fans also witnessed one of the biggest and most shocking heel turns in the brand’s history. The night had seen Kevin Owens make his debut for the black and gold brand making a huge impact in his first match for the company. Throughout the night the WWE truly focused in on the real-life friendship between Owens and Zayn and so it came as no surprise when Owens came down to the ring to celebrate the huge victory Sami had just accomplished. What did shock audiences, however, was the huge heel turn we saw just before NXT TakeOver went off-air. In a surprising turn of events, we saw Owens attack his long-term friend in a brutal beat down setting his sights on NXT gold and this shocking turn would result in one of the most iconic NXT rivalries of all time.
Up next, we have the only turn from the Women’s division I will be discussing today but what a great pick it is at that! From the moment she debuted Alexa Bliss appeared to be the sweetest and most innocent of stars on the black and gold brand. Her fairy like persona saw her dressed in a ballerina-esque attire and her big bright smiles and all-around gentle image saw her stand out as the biggest babyface we had seen in a while and so when she turned heel and teamed up alongside Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake it was one of the biggest surprise turns we have seen in the WWE Women’s division. The drastic change in character really does go to show how brilliant Bliss is in the area of character work and character development and she must be applauded from going from the image she created in her debut to one of the biggest and best heels in the WWE today.
One of my personal favourite heel turns in recent memory goes to Roderick Strong. Competing alongside Pete Dunne to take on the Undisputed era it looked as though Strong and Dunne were finally about to get the upper hand and take out the dominant faction. For weeks, if not months, Adam Cole & co made it their mission to have Strong join their allegiance but after plenty of refusal a tag team title match resulted in the next step of this story but in a shocking twist fans saw Strong turn on Dunne and assist The Undisputed Era in another win effectively joining the team and becoming a vital member of the faction. This was yet another prime example of NXT telling a story so well, executing a brilliant surprise and one heck of a heel turn. I know for sure I didn’t see this coming and it has gone down as one of the best and most shocking moments in NXT, TakeOver and WWE history.
And finally, arguably the best heel turns in NXT history and a sure all-time great turn in the history of the WWE, we have Tommaso Ciampa and the split of DIY. This was such an epic, shocking moment that re-watching even now leaves me with Goosebumps! After the end of a phenomenal NXT TakeOver main event for the NXT Tag Team Championships, fans witnessed Ciampa shockingly turn on his long-term partner and friend Johnny Gargano in a brutal attack no one saw coming. Fans had already been treated to a brilliant tag team match and this really was the icing on top of the cake! The audience and everyone at home were left completely shocked and stunned at what they had just seen, and this heel turn from Ciampa would result in one of the best storylines and rivalries in recent WWE memory and completely changed the shape of his career!
Heel turns when done correctly can not only shape a storyline but careers as we have seen with the names we have mentioned today. It must also be noted that other shocking NXT turns including Johnny Gargano and Sasha Banks very easily could have made this list also.
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