10 Losses That Changed A WWE Wrestler’s Character
Wins and losses play the biggest role in the wrestling shows since it’s what each character is driven by, but that doesn’t mean it only works for victories. Wrestlers who lose have the chance to build from that, whether changing things up character-wise or completely switching up their intent. A strong loss can improve a wrestler’s standing on television.
WWE has witnessed quite a few noteworthy instances of a performer reinventing their careers due to a losing effort. The storytelling adds layers to make the shift relevant with common sense in the mix. Sometimes a significant loss can transform a wrestler into a whole new Superstar.
WWE had a massive one-night tournament at Survivor Series 1998 for the vacated WWE Championship. The Rock was the fan-favorite heading into the finals against Mick Foley representing Vince McMahon from the heel side.
Fans were shocked at the finish of another Montreal Screwjob recreation for Rock to win via a double turn. Vince and Shane helping Rock win saw Foley betrayed and turning face. The face run in the following months made Mick a top face connecting with the audience like never before in his career.
WWE pulled the trigger on turning Bayley heel when having her help Sasha Banks attack Becky Lynch. Despite playing a heel, Bayley remained relatively the same character until her SmackDown Women’s Championship loss to Charlotte Flair at Hell in a Cell 2019.
The following episode of SmackDown would see Bayley sporting a new look with the shorter haircut, different gear, and no more Bayley buddies during the entrance. Bayley won the title back and moved forward with this new character for incredible success.
Bret Hart rising to the top of WWE would see his brother Owen eventually joining him in a feud. Royal Rumble 1994 featured Bret and Owen challenging The Quebecers for the WWE Tag Team Championship in a losing effort.
Owen snapped after the loss when Bret’s injury hurt their chances. The post-match attack saw Owen going after Bret’s injured leg and turning heel. Owen thrived in the heel role as a bitter younger brother to change his career for the better as a singles star.
The return of Bray Wyatt as The Fiend saw the in-ring debut of this new persona coming at SummerSlam 2019. Finn Balor was the face wrestler tasked with facing The Fiend and it resulted in a one-sided defeat to take him off television.
Wyatt needed the dominant win to move forward with relevance, but Balor endured a huge change as well. Part of The Fiend’s character is making others revert to their true self. Finn returned to NXT months later, showing an edgier side similar to the Bullet Club character he played in New Japan.
WWE brought Ric Flair back to the company in 2001 as an authority figure before he transitioned into a full-time wrestler again. Flair started losing matches to mess with his confidence and it reached a new peak at Unforgiven 2002 falling short against Chris Jericho.
Triple H mocked Flair for being a shell of his former self before moving to his World Championship title defense against Rob Van Dam. Flair made his way to the ring and shockingly helped Triple H for waking him up. The heel turn allowed Flair to thrive as the mentor of Triple H, leading to them forming Evolution.
The heel character of Randy Savage saw him adding Sensational Sherri as his new manager to great success. Both talents were strong in the role that helped make Savage a top heel heading into his WrestleMania VII match against The Ultimate Warrior.
The retirement match stipulation saw Warrior winning and Savage betrayed by Sherri after the match. Miss Elizabeth made her way to the ring to save him and reunite the couple. Fans instantly loved Savage again who did get another chance despite the stipulation to thrive as a face again. This character shift would not work as well without the losing effort and story afterwards.
Both Edge and Christian attempted to advance their singles careers when entering the 2001 King of the Ring tournament. Kurt Angle eliminated Christian in the semi-finals, but Edge defeated Angle in the finals to win it all.
Christian started showing signs of jealousy and resentment towards Edge after that night. The storytelling was outstanding as WWE set up the story months in advance before Christian finally turned on Edge to end their iconic partnership.
WWE brought Hulk Hogan back for the first time in almost a decade with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in 2002. The New World Order making their presence known in WWE was a huge selling point, but fans clearly started to want Hogan on his own.
WrestleMania X8 showcased this when Hogan was cheered over Rock from the heel side. The outstanding performance ended in Hogan losing, but he did turn face by helping Rock against a Hall and Nash attack. WWE turned Hogan face to have him win the WWE Championship on the following PPV due to the momentum from the loss.
The Undertaker witnessed many drastic changes to his character throughout the years. Fans enjoyed the American Badass persona from 2000 to 2003, but the run ended at Survivor Series 2003. Kane helped Vince McMahon defeat Undertaker in a Buried Alive match.
Undertaker took the loss to create a perfect scenario for him to return from the dead with the vintage Deadman gimmick. WrestleMania XX would see Undertaker coming back to defeat Kane and play this character for the rest of his career.
WWE took a huge risk with the infamous double turn of Steve Austin and Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. Many fans loved Austin’s rebellious acts that would have been viewed as a straight heel in the past. The submission match ended with Austin passing out with a bloody face to lose the match.
Bret turned heel along the way by crossing the line with his actions and showing no sportsmanship. Fans doubled down on their love of Austin after the defeat since it indicated his toughness. Austin won big by losing to get sympathy and connect with the audience.