Pruett’s Blog: The lost art of the major turn in WWE and TNA

Posted in: Pruett's Blog, MUST-READ LISTING
Oct 5, 2011 - 07:45 PM

By Will Pruett

Wednesday, October 5 – 7:45 P.M. (CT)

There is a major issue in wrestling today. It has been building ever since WWE bought into “shades of grey” booking in the Attitude Era, but it is at critical mass in this moment. When WWE needs something to light its product on fire, nothing is there. When they are in a seemingly desperate situation they break all of the rules with a C.M. Punk worked-shoot promo, replacing Vince McMahon, two WWE Champions and a full roster walk out.

If you look back at wrestling history, there is one thing that tended to light a territory on fire. Promoters have had this as an ace in their sleeve for a long time and it seems that WWE has forgotten it. They do not seem capable of executing a major heel or babyface turn.

Let’s look back at 2010 and the babyface turn of Randy Orton. Orton was the most hated heel in WWE going into 2010. Fresh off of an almost year-long rivalry with John Cena, he was still the most hated man in WWE. He was also the leader of the faction Legacy which featured Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes.

His turn actually did not involve him turning at all. Instead it was DiBiase and Rhodes turning on Orton and the fans cheering Orton in a “devil we know” type of situation. It wasn’t a radical change for Orton, just a small one. Suddenly the fans could cheer him because he was smiling more and punting good guys in the head less.

Another strong example of a turn that was not a turn is C.M. Punk’s recent transition. He was hated in his rivalries with Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio. In fact, most fans even despised him as he entered his feud with John Cena. It was not until that June 27th promo that fans decided to cheer C.M. Punk. There was no honorable action by Punk that led to that turn. There was nothing that he did to make the fans suddenly realize that their value system lined up with his.

The closest thing to a true turn that WWE has shown us in the recent months is Mason Ryan’s odd pseudo-turn on Raw last week.

On the other hand, the big dramatic turn has been overused in TNA. Mr. Anderson turned, turned and turned again in recent months. The same has been done with Scott Steiner, Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle. They never let anything slowly burn or slowly build. TNA pulls the trigger instantly and hopes that the big boost that comes from a fresh turn can carry their company. Sadly when that boost is all that they seem to try for, there’s an issue.

The solution to both of these problems is simple. WWE needs to remember that some of their greatest moments come from definitive turns. Shawn Michaels kicking Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window, Triple H’s double cross of Shawn Michaels in 2002 and The Rock’s alliance with Vince McMahon at Survivor Series 1998 all come to mind. This is a tactic they can utilize to present new stories without pulling out every trick in the “break glass in emergency” book within three months of each other.

The slow turn is not a bad tactic. It is one that TNA should be able to utilize more often. This would slow their usually break-neck storytelling pace down a little bit and give fans a chance to invest in their major acts prior to them turning over and over. If the fans care about the stars, then they will care about the turn. If you cannot make them care about the stars than the turn will never matter.

This is such a delicate art in booking. The turn is the one technique that can ignite a fire in a promotion like none other. All the worked-shoots and lockouts in the world cannot bring out the passion in the fans that one solidly executed turn can.

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