Betrayals in wrestling are part of the product, as much as the ring is.
You see a tag team come together, have success and then a crippling loss, you immediately think about who is turning (at least I do). It then, fingers crossed, creates a captivating singles feud in which both men are given the chance to flourish in the singles picture. We’ve seen so many betrayals in wrestling, some of them are memorable, like Seth Rollins turning on The Shield, and what came of it. When it is done right, you get someone like Seth who was one of the most hated men in wrestling at that point and became World Champion because of it.
We do get betrayals of other kinds, the wrestlers turning on the fans, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin when he sold his soul to the devil known as Mr. McMahon. Betrayals can lead to a compelling narrative, so they are a very important aspect of wrestling. Unlike Seth Rollins and Stone Cold Steve Austin, we can get betrayals that get lost in the shuffle, I’ve got five for you.
Paul Heyman Turns on CM Punk
Managerial ones are lesser-seen, so we start with one. This is a turn that die-hard fans will remember because of the SummerSlam match it set up between Punk and Brock Lesnar. What is forgotten is how the betrayal happened and the immediate aftermath of it. This all came about after Punk told Heyman to stop accompanying him to the ring like he had done for the prior 10 or so months. During the Money in the Bank 2013 PPV, Punk was a part of the ladder match and was in prime position to be the winner as he was the only man on his feet. As he climbed the ladder, Heyman appeared to cheer him on, before cracking him with a ladder a couple of times and leaving. We had an additional swerve before this happened as Curtis Axel, Heyman’s other guy, came down to attack Daniel Bryan to stop him retrieving the briefcase.
Following Money in the Bank, we got the match between Punk and Lesnar where the latter came out victorious in an absolute banger. Punk continued his hunt for Heyman by taking on Curtis Axel and Heyman in a No DQ 2-on-1 handicap elimination match, where he nearly got Heyman before being attacked by Ryback. After defeating Ryback at Battleground, Punk faced Ryback and Heyman in a 2-on-1 handicap Hell in a Cell match, where Heyman stood on top of the cell for the entire match. His downfall, as Punk won the match and scaled the cell to get his revenge on Heyman, ultimately ending in a GTS to Heyman. Looking back, the betrayal was surprisingly important in the landscape at that point of WWE as it was the last run of CM Punk’s WWE career before departing the company in 2014.
Davey Richards Turns on Eddie Edwards
The American Wolves were one of the best non-WWE tag teams to ever grace a professional wrestling ring. Debuting as a team in Ring of Honor in 2008, they quickly made a name for themselves as tag and singles competitor. Both men reigned as the World Champion between 2010 and 2012, they reunited as a team and signed for Impact Wrestling in 2014. Five tag title reigns later, Davey suffered an ACL injury which side-lined him for a significant amount of time, leaving Eddie on his own to embark on a solo run. Resulting in Edwards reigning as TNA World Heavyweight Champion after defeating Lashley, with Davey at his side.
The following month, Richards turned and cost Edwards the world title, shocking the entire Impact fanbase. A tag team you could never see splitting under these circumstances but it made sense for Richards to be the heel, returning from an injury and being jealous of his partner. Following the turn, Richards and his wife, Angelina Love, attacked both Edwards and his wife, Alisha. Richards changed his look and had Love by his side, calling himself ‘The Lone Wolf’. The feud between the four wasn’t loo long, resulting in a street fight that ended in a no contest, a brawl between the men and a last man standing match which resulted in Richards winning.
Edwards got his revenge when he and Alisha defeated Davey and Angelina in a Full Metal Mayhem match at Slammiversary XV, a match that I featured in the best five mixed tag matches. But that was it, the feud ended with each man getting one with over the other and no blow-off match scheduled. Richards left Impact Wrestling to pursue his studies in healthcare so an abrupt end to the feud. This entry isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey because the build-up was top notch.
James Storm Turns on Chris Harris
At Turning Point 2006, James Storm went to clock Homicide with the bottle but the shards of glass would fly into the eyes of Harris, causing the team to lose and causing Storm to blame Harris. A rematch was made between America’s Most Wanted and LAX, dubbed ‘Team vs Titles’ with the stipulation being, if AMW lost, they would disband. They did lose, but through James Storm hitting Harris with the beer bottle. A team that won the 2005 Tag Team of the Year from the Wrestling Observer, over just like that.
Harris was not seen on TV until Against All Odds, two months after the split with him wearing an eye patch. He would continue to attack Storm despite claiming his vision was at 30%. Storm would defeat Harris in an awful Six Sides of Steel blindfold match but would defeat Storm at the following PPV in a fantastic Texas Death Match. After the feud was done. Storm would move on to teaming with Bobby Roode to form Beer Money Inc and Harris would embark on a singles career which didn’t go anywhere.
Cody Rhodes Turns on Hardcore Holly
This is the move that established Cody Rhodes as a future great of the business as he went from chipper babyface to slimy heel instantly. In his early WWE days Cody and Hardcore Holly began a feud, with Cody losing three straight matches. However, due to his persistence in their matches, Rhodes earned Holly’s respect and the two began a tag team. The pair had a match at Survivor Series 2007 against the champions, Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade, which ended in defeat. On the 15th anniversary, episode of Raw, Rhodes and Holly defeated Cade and Murdoch to win the World Tag Team Championships, Rhodes’ first title in the company. The following May, they began feuding with Ted DiBiase Jr, who had yet to have an in-ring debut in WWE.
He threatened to take the titles from them in his debut match. At Night of Champions, DiBiase’s partner was revealed to be none other than Cody Rhodes, who turned on Hardcore Holly. DiBiase and Rhodes became the world tag champion in a brilliant swerve, but disappointingly we didn’t get a direct follow up between the three men. DiBiase and Rhodes just moved on to other tag teams and Hardcore Holly left the company after seven months of inactivity. What this led to was The Legacy, a multi-generational stable led by Randy Orton who ran rough shot over WWE for two years launching the careers of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Right now, Cody’s doing alright.
Samoa Joe Turns on Finn Balor
It is crazy that the 2019 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was the fifth one we’ve had, where has the time gone? Let’s look back to the first ever tournament in 2015 where the winners were a thrown together tag team of NXT Champion at the time, Finn Balor alongside newcomer to the brand, Samoa Joe. They won the competition defeating The Lucha Dragons, Enzo & Cass, The Revival and Baron Corbin & Rhyno, the latter being one of the most random tag teams I’ve ever seen. Sidebar, Corbin and Rhyno defeated a young, up and coming DIY on their way to the final. Following their win, Balor was defending his NXT Championship against Apollo Crews who won a title show in a battle royal that Joe thought he’d should get outright. The match ended in a no contest after Corbin interfered and attacked both men. Joe came out to seemingly make the save but turned on his Dusty Classic winning partner, igniting one of the best feuds we’ve had in NXT.
The weird thing about their feud is Balor retained his title against Joe twice at two separate Takeover’s, in London and Dallas respectively. Joe then won the title at a live event, completely untelevised. What this gave the NXT fans was the ruthless mercenary version of Samoa Joe we know and love who did whatever he could to not only win but punish his opponents. He was the first person to defeat Balor whilst under his ‘Demon’ persona at NXT Takeover: The End which was their last singles match before Balor moved onto the main roster.
Lots of betrayals are overhyped and easily remembered, like Triple H on Shawn Michaels or Evolution on Randy Orton so you can understand some class feuds getting lost in the shuffle.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!