The wrestling faction, or stable, from the Horseman to X-Factor (remember them?) has long been a part of the business. In this post, we will examine the best and worst of these groups and what their impact has been on wrestling history. Now, before we start, let me ask 1 question….what is a faction or stable? I’m sure there are many different views on this, but since I’m steering this boat, let me tell you what I used. A stable must be made up of at least 3 partnered, in-ring performers. In my opinion, managers and non-wrestling valets don’t count. So, while the original Hart Foundation doesn’t count (it was just a tag team managed by Jimmy Hart), the larger Hart Foundation in 1997 (adding The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, and Brian Pillman), does according to my criteria. Ok…so let’s get to it, and since there seems to be only one logical place to start, let’s dive right in and discuss…
The Four Horsemen is the gold standard of stables in most minds. This WWE Hall of Fame group was actually created by accident in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in January 1986, due to time constraints for a TV taping. Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and manager JJ Dillon were interviewed as a group after a mass beating of Dusty Rhodes. Arn looked into the camera and said, “The only time this much havoc had been wreaked by this few a number of people, you need to go all the way back to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!” The moniker stuck and the rest is history. A year later, Ole was out and young Lex Luger replaced him. Not long after that, Luger was kicked out and replaced (eventually) by his own tag partner, Barry Windham. Ric Flair states this quartet is “The Horsemen”. Over the years, many variations existed, with legendary members such as Chris Benoit, Michael “PS” Hayes, Sting, and Curt Hennig. Of course, Paul Roma and Steve “Mongo” McMichael were members as well.
The Fabulous Freebirds pre-date the Horsemen by 7 years. Made up of Michael “PS” Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, and “Playboy” Buddy Roberts, the Freebirds were great and drew packed houses everywhere they went, but are most remembered for their heel run in WCCW against the Von Erich family. Starting in 1983, the “4th Freebird”, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin made sporadic appearances with the trio when needed. By 1988, the group was gone, though a tag team of Hayes and Garvin used the names for a few years after. Occasionally they would be joined by a 3rd member; most notably a masked Brad Armstrong called “Badstreet”. Their moment of fame exists in the opening sequence of 1986’s “Highlander” taking on Jim Brunzell, The Tonga Kid, and Greg Gagne.
The New World Order (n.W.o) was a game changing idea for WCW in the late 1990’s which gave the company a big leg up in the Monday Night Wars with the WWF. Infamously formed when the Hulk Hogan turned on Randy Savage, Luger, and Sting, joining Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, the group was an instant success. The company soon signed Ted DiBiase and then, Sean Waltman from the WWF, who he joined the group as Syxx (an obvious play on his former moniker, the 1-2-3 Kid). Though Waltman became injured and was released soon after, the expansion of the New World Order was just beginning. Over the 18 months, no less than 25 wrestlers wore the colors of the nWo, diluting the product badly. Splinter groups of nWo Hollywood and the nWo Wolfpac emerged, damaging its credibility even more. Eddie Guerrero formed a Latino World Order in WCW during this time, and ECW had Stevie Richards’ mock them with the Blue World Order as well. Over the years many attempts were made to capture the popularity of the group again with different lineups and even multiple attempts by Hogan, Hall, and Nash to cash in, once in the WWF and later as “The Band” in TNA. The complete membership of nWo includes stars like “The Giant” Paul Wight (currently The Big Show), Curt Hennig, Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart, Sting, Shawn Michaels, Dusty Rhodes, and Scott Steiner. However, it also includes the likes of Vincent, Louie Spicolli, the Disciple (that was Brutus Beefcake under all that hair), Horace Hogan, and yes, Dennis Rodman.
Degeneration X was developed by Shawn Michaels and Triple H in the WWF in 1997. The original lineup included Michaels, Helmsley, and his bodyguard, Chyna. If you contend that Chyna didn’t wrestle, she is a 3-time InterContinental Champion and Women’s Champion, I think she qualifies. Rick Rude was attached to the group for a short period in the beginning as well, before heading to WCW and the nWo. When Michaels’ back injury forced him to retire, a new incarnation of the group was formed under the leadership of Triple H. This DX version included Chyna, Sean Waltman (now called X-Pac), “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, “Road Dogg” Jesse James, and Tori. The group disbanded by 2000 when HHH went solo. X-Pac would form the highly lame and aforementioned X-Factor (with Albert and Justin Credible), while all the other members were given their releases. Michaels and Helmsley reformed as a tag team in 2009, and a reunion with X-Pac and the Outlaws occurred at Raw 1000 in July 2012.
Evolution was an idea by HHH and Ric Flair in 2003. With 3rd generation wrester Randy Orton and the behemoth Batista, 2 handpicked youngsters from the WWE’s Ohio Valley Territory, the group was supposed to represent the past, present, and future of professional wrestling. For 2 years, the quartet ran roughshod over the company, at one time holding the WWE Championship (HHH), InterContinental Championship (Orton), and Tag Team Titles (Flair/Batista) all at once. The end of Evolution began when Randy Orton became the youngest ever WWE Champion, defeating Chris Benoit at SummerSlam 2005. He was attacked and kicked out the next night on RAW. Soon after, Batista won the Royal Rumble and left the group, culminating in his defeat of HHH for his 1st World Championship at WrestleMania 21. Currently the original quartet has an astounding 43 World Championships between them. Inspired by Evolution, Randy Orton formed Legacy in 2008, consisting solely of legacy stars. Joined by WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes (son of Dusty) and Ted DiBiase Jr (son of the Million Dollar Man), the group was a powerhouse through 2010.
The Hart Foundation was a short-lived, yet highly popular (or hated, depending where you lived) faction formed by Bret Hart after his win over “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. The group was made up of Hart, his brother, Owen, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, and Brian Pillman. The group spouted pro-Canadian/anti-American rhetoric and attempted to be baby faces in Canada while being heels in the US. It was very odd. But, at one point, they held every active WWF title at the time, WWF Champion (Bret), InterContinental Champion (Owen), European Champion (Bulldog), and Tag Champions (Owen/Bulldog). On October 5th, 1997, Brian Pillman was found dead, overdosed on pain medication. 1 month later at Survivor Series, Bret Hart lost the WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels in the “Montreal Screwjob” before departing for WCW. Neidhart and Smith left soon after, but Owen stayed on, before falling to his death at the Over the Edge pay-per-view in 1999. In 2008, Nattie Neidhart (daughter of Jim), David Hart Smith (son of Davey Boy), and Tyson Kidd (trained by Bret) formed the Hart Dynasty and carried the Hart Foundation’s legacy forward. The group disbanded when DH Smith was released. Kidd and Neidhart are now married and can be seen on “Total Divas” and various other WWE programming.
Other Notable Stables:
The Nation of Domination (WWF) was a racially charged faction initially led by Farooq (Ron Simmons), and later The Rock, with D’Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa (aka The Godfather), Mark Henry, Ahmed Johnson, Savio Vega, and even Owen Hart (huh?). Obviously important for being the group that changed Rocky Maivia into The Rock, they are best remembered probably for DX’s impersonation of the group.
The Heenan Family (AWA/NWA/WWA/WWF) was any group run by Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” in any company. Over the years, famed members include Hall of Famers Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Harley Race, The Blackjacks, and “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, “Mr Perfect” Curt Hennig, and Big John Studd. Other legends include Nick Bockwinkel, Angelo Poffo, The Valiants (Jimmy and Johnny), Baron von Raschke, Austin Idol, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, and Ken Patera.
The Dangerous Alliance (AWA/WCW/ECW) refers to multiple stables managed by Paul E. Dangerously. In the late 1980s in the AWA, the short-lived group consisted of “Aborable” Adrian Adonis, “Loverboy” Dennis Condrey and “Ravishing” Randy Rose (the Original Midnight Express). At WCW Halloween Havoc 1991, Paul E began to form a new Dangerous Alliance which would include “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, “Stunning” Steve Austin, “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko and Madusa. In 1993, he again revived the Alliance in ECW with members that included WWE Hall of Famer “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, “Magnificent” Don Muraco, Taz, “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, Sabu, and Simon Diamond.
The Triple Threat (ECW) was developed by “The Franchise” Shane Douglas before he left for the WWF and essentially was his extreme vision of the Horsemen. The original lineup included Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit, who would both leave for WCW and actually join the 4 Horsemen together. Later Douglas returned and reformed the group with “Bam Bam” Bigelow, “No Gimmicks Needed” Chris Candido, and “The Queen of Extreme”, Francine.
The Beautiful People (TNA) was such a good idea; I can’t believe Vince McMahon didn’t do it. Originally a tag team of Knockouts Champion Angelina Love and Velvet Sky, they became a faction with the addition of Madison Rayne. Later when Angelina left, she was replaced by 3rd generation star Lacey Von Erich. They main evented shows with talent, sex appeal, and mike skills; they even had a male valet in Kip Sopp (also known as Billy Gunn) for a time.
The Corporate Ministry (WWF) was a melding of 2 equally bad ideas, The Corporation, led by Shane McMahon, and The Ministry, led by The Undertaker. One of the silliest storylines ever included Taker kidnapping Stephanie McMahon to make her his unholy bride. Eventually, Undertaker took control and melded the 2 factions, awaiting the arrival of the “Higher Power”, which ended up being Vince, just awful really. Some talent in the group, well Taker, HHH, Farooq and Bradshaw, but Mideon and Viscera pretty much wipe that out. There were 3 interesting young stars in the Ministry when it started tho, but they spun off as a group called…
The Brood (WWF) was a gothic, vampire type group led by Gangrel. He wasn’t a bad talent, and everyone found his drinking of the blood and great intro very appealing, but this trio was all about future WWE Hall of Famer Edge, and Christian. This was a hungry young tag team just waiting for a break, and they found it with Grangrel, and before you knew it the Brood and Gangrel was gone and Edge and Christian went on to main event WrestleMania’s for the next decade or so.
I could go on and on, there are so many more cool and crappy factions out there, though most of the remaining ones are on the crappy side. There was Raven’s Nest in ECW, WCWs New Bloods and Filthy Animals (I call them Decaffeinated X), The Union, Los Borquas, Spirit Squad, or 3MB in the WWF, The Main Event Mafia and Christian’s Coalition in TNA, and so many more. Factions seemed to fade for a bit, but are coming back strong as of late. The Nexus made waves in the WWF a few years ago, and right now, you can’t watch RAW without the SHIELD and the Wyatt Family coming onscreen. These stables can create stars, which is what their purpose is, so watch closely, you never know when the next HHH or Edge or Steve Austin is onscreen, but more likely you are seeing the next Mideon. I know, I know, who could replace Mideon?! That’s all for now, keep your shoulders off the mat.