The Five Count: Favorite Factions

There’s strength in numbers, and if pro wrestling has taught us anything—and it’s taught us many things—there can be money as well.

When one-on-one contests became somewhat stale, it led to the advent of tag team wrestling (among other things), and when promoters saw how much fans enjoyed seeing four of their favorites in the ring at once, they concocted ways to get six or even eight competitors into the action. The ultimate evolution—no pun intended, I swear—of this proved to be the wrestling stable or faction: a group of wrestlers as well as managers, valets and various hangers-on who would band together for competitive domination, to eliminate a common vow, or just to have a good time and sew some chaos along the way.

Factions have been at the center of some classic wrestling angles and conversely stuff like the Gang Wars, but today we’re concerned only with the former as the Five Count looks at the greatest wrestling factions of all-time. Be sure to check out the latest WWE Factions DVD as well.

 

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Ben Morse

5. THE HART FOUNDATION

A case where quality over quantity gets them on the list, but the lack of the second drops them down a few spots. It’s hard to think of too many more bad ass line-ups than Bret Hart leading brother Owen as well as brothers-in-law the British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart along with family friend Brian Pillman against the perceived American villains of the WWF. The stretch in 1997 where the Hart Foundation ran roughshod over wrestling—holding the WWF, Intercontinental, European and WWF Tag Team titles at various points—represents one of the most intense and frankly fun in the company’s history. The group’s status as heels in the United States but heroes everywhere else around the world also made them one of a kind. If the Montreal Screwjob never happened and the Hart Foundation lasted longer than the six or so months it did, this faction would place much higher.

4. THE HEENAN FAMILY

If you were a heel worker in the WWF during the 1980’s, when it came time to get a manager, you had to be crossing your fingers and hoping you’d be paired with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. No disrespect to Jimmy Hart, Slick, Mr. Fuji, etc., but if you look back over history, obviously being part of the Heenan Family meant you were considered an A-list villain during the Rock & Wrestling Era and into the early 90’s.

Just scratching the surface of the Heenan Family roster provides an insane who’s who of antagonists during one of wrestling’s biggest boom periods: Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Harley Race, Rick Rude, Paul Orndorff, the Islanders, Mr. Perfect, Hercules—and the list goes on and on. Even when they weren’t challenging Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage or the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF title, you knew the Heenan Family would be insinuated all across WWF programming, and through the talent and larger than life presence of Bobby Heenan, every member down to the Red Rooster and the Brooklyn Brawler gained instant credibility.

3. D-GENERATION X

No stable or faction in the history of the WWF or WWE has had the impact or staying power of D-Generation X. Not only do they have longevity, having first surfaced in 1997 and then having three years on top as well as sporadic reunions for over a decade, they’ve shown versatility, succeeding in equal measures as obnoxious heels or entertaining babyfaces, a line many groups have been unable to successfully cross.

Looking back, it feels like DX really started just to give Shawn Michaels and Triple H something to do that would appease their egos, but the two of them along with Chyna ran with the gimmick, pushing the envelope as rebellious degenerates and helping to really kick start the Attitude Era. With the subtraction of HBK but addition of X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws a few months later, the group really began to have legs as more than a hobby for main eventers, making their mark in every division of the WWF.

Many have mixed opinions when it comes to HHH and HBK reuniting as a somewhat tamer DX years later when Shawn had been born again and WWE shifted to PG programming, but you can’t deny the pops that theme gets each and every time. It says something when every member of this crew of once young upstarts gathers in the ring at Raw 1000, all now in their 40’s, and still seem like the coolest guys in the building.

2. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

By the time the NWO angle finally ground to a halt in 2002, six years after it began in a totally different promotion, the group had faded to lower than a shadow of its former self, but the end of the story shouldn’t overshadow how incredibly it began or what massive changes it wrought across the landscape of pro wrestling.

When Hulk Hogan turned heel for the first time since becoming a household name, joining Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the New World Order, it changed the game. While other heel stables had attacked babyfaces in parking lots or caused major injuries to our heroes, no entity dominated a promotion and galvanized the entire roster into seemingly feeble opposition like the NWO did. On the other side of the coin, these black and white-wearing outlaws captivated fans’ attention and imagination like nothing in nearly a decade, turning the Monday Night Wars into a real battle and kicking off a new boom period for wrestling.

WCW had never enjoyed the success it did when the NWO became hot, nor would it ever return to that perch once they eventually cooled off. Before Austin 3:16 shirts became commonplace at every high school in America or professional sports figures celebrated a victory with the DX crotch chop, New World Order merchandise and hand signals crossed over into the mainstream consciousness.

In the end, WCW and Eric Bischoff would lean too hard and too much on the NWO, making it a crutch destined to collapse, but what they accomplished and the role played by the group’s founding fathers and key members cannot be ignored or undersold.

1. THE FOUR HORSEMEN

They may not have been the first wrestling faction ever, but it’s a pretty solid argument that without the Four Horsemen, this list doesn’t get written.

While the WWF had the super heroic Hulk Hogan running roughshod over their promotion during the 1980’s, the NWA elected to make a technically skilled and cocky showman their figurehead in Ric Flair. While the “Nature Boy” straddled the line between rulebreaker and fan favorite for a bit, once he aligned with “cousins” Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson as well as Tully Blanchard and manager JJ Dillon to destroy the beloved “America Dream” Dusty Rhodes, without question a bonafide bad guy sat atop the National Wrestling Alliance. While Hogan had friends, Flair had allies, and thus did the Four Horsemen first ride.

During their most golden years from 1986 to 1989, the Horsemen represented excellence in the ring as some of the best athletic performers in the business and guys willing to put their bodies through hell to put on the finest matches around, but also as characters, consistently delivering classic interviews and making fans love to hate them, or just love them; regardless, they bought tickets. When Lex Luger replaced Ole and Barry Windham subsequently replaced Luger, the faction elevated these young stars rather than vice versa. The Horsemen dominated the World, United States and Tag Team titles during the second half of the 80’s, packing arenas with crowds that wanted to see them finally get their just desserts.

For the better part of a decade, the NWA and later WCW tried and mostly failed to recreate the magic of the original Horsemen, with odd fits like Sting and Sid Vicious as well as flat out lackluster choices such as Paul Roma and Steve McMichael (though I personally liked Mongo). Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and even Curt Hennig—a Horseman for only about a week—seemed more apt for the mold, and made for some good moments and matches, but the Horsemen as babyfaces or even just not dominating against the likes of Hogan and his buddies never felt quite right.

However, ultimately, doesn’t it say quite a bit that while the Horsemen name honestly only had about three good years followed by far more lackluster ones, it’s still held in pretty universally high regard? When the group went collectively into the WWE Hall of Fame, certainly you didn’t hear any arguments against them being deserving inductees. That’s how much of a mark the Horsemen made over a relatively brief period, be it through hard work or kismet, and every faction that has come since will be held up to them as the standard, something that’s unlikely to change.

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Aaron George

I feel like my list may seem like blasphemy in the eyes of some, but like the 14th century woman practicing the black arts or the 21st century cartoonist depicting Mohammed, I face you guys full of self righteousness and candy.

5. THE LEGACY

So I’ve probably already lost you. To be honest I’m not entirely sure if I love the faction itself or that I just love the IDEA of this faction. There’s something really cool about the idea of a bunch of second generation guys getting together because they feel like they deserve to inherit the business. I think once you look past Manu (the Samoan backhoe?) and Sim Snuka (of The SIMS fame) the core group of Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes was quite solid and worked very well together. It’s also easy to forget that that Team Sons (which is what they’d be called today) lasted for well over a year and provided a solid face turn for Orton. Imagine that they made that psychopath likeable by comparison. If they achieved nothing else they are still the only team to ever act as a unit for the entire Royal Rumble and help their leader/president win the damn thing. That on its own should get them into the Hall of Fame as it will undoubtedly go down as a greater feat than winning the WWF title in a 14 man tournament.

4. THE HART FOUNDATION

I feel I’d have my Canadian citizenship revoked if I didn’t include Bret and his merry men. Not that I’d be unhappy if the Mountie showed up at my house demanding an explanation, but I digress; seriously though these guys made 1997 a spectacular year for any Canadian fan. Full disclosure I was never a huge fan of Bret Hart (hold on there’s someone at my door…) but I loved the heel turn, and as a 17 year old I was loving the rivalry with the U.S. I’m also a huge advocate of grouping of guys that make sense. Bret, Owen, Bulldog, Pillman and Who made perfect sense and the group totally played to one another’s strengths. The Canadian Stampede was an amazing climax for this faction and unfortunately it was downhill from there, but for those few months they were the hottest thing going and the alternating Canada/U.S. Raws created an atmosphere we’d never have again (until EVERY John Cena match). These guys will always be remembered for great matches, hilarious guilty faces and the one Bret Hart title win that I was actually happy for. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also loved when Bret attacked the Patriot while he was listening to the American anthem. Just great heel stuff. (By the way, the guy at my door before: Dino Bravo’s bones.)

3. THE HEENAN FAMILY

Bobby Heenan is a golden god, and anyone in his presence immediately gains credibility and heat (even Steve Lombardi for fucks sake!!!). I love the lineup he had for the end of 1987/early 1988. You had: Andre, the man who gave me nightmares in his monochromatic suit trying to murder Hulk Hogan; King Kong Bundy, head shining in the lights trying to squash Hulk Hogan; Ravishing Rick Rude with his dashing tights trying to bang Linda Hogan and the Islanders trying to eat Hulk Hogan? (Is that racist?) This was my introduction to what a stable was. They watched each others backs, they beat up the best of them and to me they were very, very scary. All woven together by a master, who if he just put his hands in his pockets, gave you the impression that he was up to no good; they were the epitome of all I hated about bad guys. People would come and go, but Bobby’s family would always be a constant threat to my heroes until Mr. Heenan graced us with his presence as a broadcast journalist. I never got tired of watching these guys work and when Mr. Perfect was added to the stable it started me down the path of cheering for the guys who enjoyed the company of men like “the Weasel.”

2. D-GENERATION X

Let’s be clear here: I am only speaking of the original incarnation of Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Chyna and Rick Rude. While the second incarnation was great in its own right (I was never a huge fan) and the third version is a god damned abomination that belongs in the seventh circle of Hell, the first was magic. It was just so different. It was the first stable I saw on WWF television that looked and behaved like thugs. They just beat the shit out of guys. The bloodied up the Undertaker, they demolished (axed and smashed) the Road Warriors and they made Bret Hart submit to his own hold. All the while they pushed the envelope and really helped turn the business around. These guys were the template that would propel the WWF to the heights it would attain in the early 2000’s and they don’t get nearly enough credit for it. You know who else doesn’t get enough credit (besides Randy Savage in the WWE): Shawn Michaels. During this run he is an INCREDIBLE heel, despised in every way, but at the same time funny and constantly bringing it in the ring. Should we really have been surprised when Taker and Shan tore the house down at Mania 25? Their feud in late 1997-98 was awesome. They were just a cooler faction than we were used too and there was something special about seeing guys you’d never imagine could be friends in real life team up. Their segments were always must-see moments and I think they give us the most credible Shawn Michaels throughout his entire run. Seriously go back and watch his entrance at WrestleMania XIV and tell me he doesn’t look and act like the biggest star in the business. These guys changed everything and if there were any justice in the world (HHH would always play second fiddle) they would have had a much longer run together. Two words for ya: Great Stable. (Also suck it…)

1. THE ALLIANCE TO END HULKAMANIA

Here’s your Mount Rushmore: Meng, Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Z-GANGSTER and THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION! If only weak link Ric Flair hadn’t lost in that barely lit cage…

Cough. Cough. Excuse me I was told that was the greatest night in the history of our sport.

1. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

The greatest faction in the history of WCW. (cue the hate mail and shotguns) This faction was so great that they legitimized an entire promotion. Sure they went crazy in later years by adding tons of members and giving Stevie Ray promo time, but make no mistake about it they changed the business. Remember when I said that DX were thugs? These guys ramped that up by about 1000 percent. “They’ve got base baaawwwl bats!” would screech a very annoying Larry Zybysko. They beat up people with bats, they created anarchy throughout an entire promotion, hell they made the top face of the company rethink his life in the rafters for over a year. Hogan, Hall and Nash were just a perfect storm of having the right type of talent to do this angle and then to know exactly how to push them. They never lost and were perceived as such a threat that the traditional heel/face lines were thrown out the window. Sting and Flair would ride in an ambulance together; even Kevin Sullivan stopped screaming about Hogaaaaaaaaaan. They really did take over. All of this built upon perhaps the best and most effective heel turn of all time. If I mentioned about that Michaels gets no respect for being a great heel, Hogan truly is one of the greatest bad guys of all time. People loved the nWo, but boy did they boo Hogan, and that helped sell the concept as a whole. They were cool when they needed to be cool, tough when they needed to be tough, hated when the faces needed heat but above all those things they made WCW the number one promotion in the world. Hardly anyone in Canada gave two shits about Ted Turner’s operation until people started donning the black and white. I know it sucked me in, and even when I watch it today I’m still amazed by the simplicity and beauty of the whole angle. nWo: greatest faction, 4 life. (ugh what an awful closing line, come arrest me Jacques.)

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Steve Rogers

5. THE ALLIANCE

Thought there should be at least one oddball on this list! But seriously, once the decision was made that WCW was not going to be a separate touring company after all, and a group of former ECW stalwarts came in to, well, keep that brand name going despite no actual plan for it (as opposed to the WCW plans that were scrapped, but man that first Heyman promo was such a mark out moment) and join forces, it created a Super Group that rivaled the nWo in terms of roster size.

Granted there was no reason why it needed to exist after the Invasion angle started to fall apart and it was clear the WWF was willing to wait out the WCW personnel sitting out their Time Warner deals, not to mention seemingly every heel in the company joining the Alliance towards the end, it still was a memorable faction. And ultimately providing one of pro wrestling’s biggest selections of What Ifs when it comes to angles and story lines gone horribly wrong.

4. D-GENERATION X

Most will probably point to the original lineup with the newly turned prick heel Shawn Michaels, a re-packaged Triple H and Chyna that gave WWF viewers another reason, besides Stone Cold Steve Austin, to flip the channel from WCW during a time where things were starting to align for WWF’s rise and WCW’s fall. While that is true and there weren’t too many duos that could to being heel-ish punks like Michaels and Triple H (though the less said about Michaels and Triple H’s comedic based  reformations during the 2000s, the better), the stable was never better than its heel/tweener/face run from WrestleMania XIV to WrestleMania XV.

While an upper mid-card act, the group’s work in 1998 through early 1999 was a key component in the WWF’s killing blows to decisively end the Monday Night Wars. You had Triple H gunning for the Rock’s Intercontinental Title as the “surviving” factions of the 1997 Gang Warz battled during the summer of 1998, the New Age Outlaws bridging the tag division gap between the dreck of the mid-1990’s and the heights of the early 2000’s and Sean Waltman bringing it as X-Pac in the middle of the European title mix. May have been broken up a bit too early, and Russo-ifically (though the Outlaws and X-Pac as goons for the Facgime was a nice way of keeping the name around, even if it was one of several names for the McMahon-Helmsley Era of 2000), but it’s on the strength of that year that the puts the stable high on anyone’s rankings.

3. THE DANGEROUS ALLIANCE

Part Horsemen and Part Heenan Family, the Dangerous Alliance was the premier stable of WCW in the post-Horsemen era.

While Paul Heyman had the stable going in the AWA, early in his WCW run, and even in ECW, it’s when he centered the stable around Rick Rude going after “the Franchise” Sting’s U.S. heavyweight title, this was when it was at its peak.  Today the crew would be probably be known as Paul Heyman Guys, and Gal in Medusa, but as the Dangerous Alliance, the ominous name lent itself well as they cut an impressive swath through WCW in 1991-1992; Rude U.S. Champion, Steve Austin TV Champion, and Arn Anderson as Tag Champion with either Larry Zbyszko or Bobby Eaton.

Sure they lacked the staying power as the unit drifted apart in 1993—and Heyman was Philadelphia bound—as well as the big gold in the company (not to be confused with the Big Gold’s time as the International Heavyweight Championship, which Rude would hold after the group’s dissolution) but sometimes the most memorable things tend not to last all that long.

2. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

If The Four Horsemen were a game changer in terms of how wrestling factions or groups were formed and acted, the nWo took that model to the next level, and in the process helped define an era in professional wrestling.

Modeled after a New Japan angle, the idea of an invading organization to cause some chaos while controlling all the power and gold of the promotion made the gimmick an instant hit.  Of course it didn’t hurt that the first two members of the stable were well known WWF Superstars which made the angle very intriguing if someone didn’t realize that the former Razor Ramon and Diesel were officially WCW employees. Add into the mix the heel turn of Hulk Hogan and you have the ingredients for one of the most powerful stables in wrestling history.

Of course like the Horsemen certain behind the stage issues caused the downfall of the nWo.  Though more due to lack of proper endgames or simple storyline directions thanks to too many political egos in the back, bloated rosters and splinter groups and eventual disinterest (and the less said about the WWF version, the better) than anything that ended the Horsemen’s various runs. But none of that can take away how the nWo played a huge part in WCW’s rise in popularity, and pro wrestling as a whole, in the mid-to-late 1990’s and their place among the greatest factions in pro wrestling history.

1. THE FOUR HORSEMEN

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

What else can you say that hasn’t already been said many, many, many times already?  The template for the kickass cool heel faction that controlled all the important gold in the promotion and the one that all others that came after strive to be.  Hell, Place to Be Nation’s own Steve Corino was part of a faction that based their name off of the Horsemen called XTreme Horsemen.

Unfortunate events during the 1990’s, both based on storylines and behind the scenes goings on, probably has dimmed the group’s total history’s luster in comparison to factions that weren’t as long lasting, but no one could touch the Horsemen in the 1980’s. And the less said about certain additions to the roster in the 1990’s, the better.  While there are genuine political reasons for the selection of the Barry Windham era of the Horsemen as the WWE Hall of Fame line up, an argument can be made that any of the three 1980’s lineups were the best.

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Marc Clair

5. D-GENERATION X

Although D-Generation X usually isn’t one of the first groups to pop into my mind when thinking of the greatest wrestling stables of all time, attempting to compose this Five Count list made me quickly realize there was no way they could be left off such a list. When Shawn Michaels and Hunter Heart Helmsley, along with Chyna and eventually Rick Rude, got together to form the first incarnation of DX, I saw them mostly as WWF’s answer to the nWo (more on them later): the rebellious “too cool to follow the rules” group who did what they want and wouldn’t let any sort of authority stop them.

But D-Generation X became more than another nWo. The first go-round of the group featured the Heartbreak Kid’s best heel work of his entire career. He played the role of the cowardly weasel champion, too afraid to face his foes one on one, always hiding behind his cohorts Hunter and Chyna. While this version of the group was short-lived due to Michaels’ back injury that would keep him out of wrestling for four years, it is the version I remember with the most fondness.

Upon HBK’s departure, HHH used the opportunity to step up and rebuild the group as the WWE’s top heels, surrounding himself with the insanely-over New Age Outlaws and a returning Sean Waltman aka X-Pac. Over time the group would become less serious and more about dick jokes and impersonating their rivals, but its members always remained an integral part of the storylines. Even after the group died out, it would find new life once again as HBK and HHH gave it one last burst of life with a series of reunions in the 2000’s which included a run as tag team champions.

With a resume such as this, D-X belongs in any conversation of great wrestling stables.

4. THE DANGEROUS ALLIANCE

One of my favorite time periods as a wrestling fan is early 90’s WCW. With a seamless blend of weird booking decisions, backstage drama, and great in-ring action, the time period was memorable for positive and negative reasons. And one of the greatest positives of this time was my 4th ranked greatest stable of all time: the Dangerous Alliance led by Paul Heyman aka Paul E. Dangerously.

The group featured a virtual who’s who’s of great in-ring workers: “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson. Oh, and some up-and-coming mid-carder by the name of “Stunning” Steve Austin. Toss in the managing of Dangerously along with Madusa as the bad-ass sultry valet, and you have one of the greatest collections of wrestling talent of all time.

The Dangerous Alliance was WCW’s premier faction at a time when the vaunted Four Horseman had briefly fallen to the wayside thanks to Ric Flair’s departure to the WWF. They were the driving force behind WCW in 1991-1992, and the faction would see almost every one of its members achieve championship gold: Rick Rude as U.S. champ, Eaton and Anderson—two of if not the two best tag team wrestlers of all time—as tag team champs, and Austin as the Television champion. The Dangerous Alliance was relatively short-lived, as the group began to fall apart after its loss to Sting’s Squadron at WrestleWar ’92, but it will always live on in my heart as one of the greatest stables of all time.

3. THE HEENAN FAMILY 

With Bobby “The Brain” Heenan being my personal favorite manager of all time, it stands to reason that the stable built around his management would be among my top stables of all time. Heenan managed various versions of the “Heenan Family” in different organizations throughout his career—notably in the AWA and Georgia Championship Wrestling—but for the purposes of this list I will focus on the version of the Family that become such a huge part of my early wrestling fandom, that of course being in the World Wrestling Federation.

Throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s WWF, the list of wrestlers under Heenan’s tutelage is a rogues gallery of heels of the era, and it’s an impressive one: “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Harley Race, Rick Rude, Barbarian, Haku, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard, Mr. Perfect, and even Ric Flair.

Heenan was always able to get the most out of his wrestlers and the most out of their feuds through his involvement. You didn’t just want to see Heenan’s wrestlers lose their match or feud, you wanted to see Heenan himself get his comeuppance. And he often would—whether it’s getting destroyed by the Ultimate Warrior at Survivor Series, smacked around by Andre the Giant at WrestleMania VI, or booted out of the building by Gorilla Monsoon to end his WWF career—Heenan always paid the story off, and often did so by making his own body a punching bag for the face. And this is what not only makes Heenan one of the greatest managers of all time, but it bumps the Heenan family all the way up to the three spot on this here Five Count list of greatest stables.

2. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

Of all the stables on this list, none changed the course of wrestling history like the New World Order. The moment of its inception—when Hulk Hogan dropped a leg drop on “Macho Man” Randy Savage and turned his back on WCW and all of his fans—to this day goes down as one of the most genuinely shocking moments in professional wrestling history. The nWo’s formation didn’t just signal the beginning of a new stable, it marked the start of a new era of professional wrestling, and would propel WCW to the lead in the Monday Night Wars for quite some time.

Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall, the original incarnation of the New World Order, would absolutely dominate WCW upon the formation of the group. Almost immediately Hogan became the World champ while Nash and Hall—the “Outsiders” (or Interlopers, in Dusty-speak) –won tag team gold. The nWo dominated screen time and storylines for years to come, and nearly every main event angle for a three-year period directly involved the nWo.

In its later years, the faction would expand into “Red” and “White” groups, and become watered down to the point that C-listers like Brian Adams, Stevie Ray and Scott Norton were considered mainstays of the group at one point. The nWo even saw a mini-revival in the WWF, which quickly became a joke of a group consisting of Big Show, Booker T, Nash and X-Pac. If anything these later, lamer versions only reinforce what name value “nWo” has, and that name value stems directly from the unbelievable, unpredictable impact that “nWo Proper”—Hogan, Nash and Hall—had on the wrestling business.

1. THE FOUR HORSEMEN

I’ll admit: everything up until this point in my countdown has sort of been killing time for the real show, the real main event, the real greatest wrestling stable of all time, and that is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the Four Horsemen. For over a decade the Four Horsemen, with the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair as its patriarch was the premier stable in professional wrestling and deservedly so.

The Horsemen were everything a wrestling faction should be: great wrestlers, with a well-defined leader, a clear hierarchy, and a team mentality that could never be broken. The goal of the Four Horsemen stable was always clear: to protect and support Ric Flair and ensure that he retains his gold, at all costs. Any dissension from this prerogative—as we saw during Sting’s brief run with the group—would be met with immediate backlash and expulsion.

My favorite incarnation of the Four Horseman is probably the circa 1988 version, with Flair as World Champion, Barry Windham as U.S. Champ, and Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard as Tag Team Champs, all managed by J.J. Dillon. Something about these four wrestlers—all in-ring generals in their own right—all wearing championship gold and holding up the “four” sign made them seem like the coolest cats in town. And they undoubtedly were.

Unlike the other stables mentioned in this list, the Four Horsemen were able to maintain their clear purpose and team mentality throughout its various incarnations. The Horsemen were always about winning, always about being the best, and always about “The Nature Boy.” When you have a group based around the greatest wrestler of all time that always included the best in-ring wrestlers of the day, it’s hard to call that group anything but the Greatest Wrestling Stable of All-Time.

 

Joel Barnhart

5. THE SHIELD

This threesome has only been around for about 18 months, but their impact on the modern WWE landscape has been tremendous enough for them to make this list. To have a consistent, 18-month, main-event level run is tough to have, particularly when wrestlers first come up.

The group has been involved in feuds (and excellent, excellent) matches with everyone from Ryback (when he was on the cusp of the main event scene), to Sheamus, to John Cena, the Rhodes Brothers, to their current position against re-born Evolution. Other than Ryback, each and every tangle for this group has been with a known, proven commodity. This is to say nothing of their incredible, face-turning series with the Wyatt Family earlier this year.

All three of them bring something unique to the group, a key for any successful faction: each individual contributes something to the success of the whole. With their music, entrance from the crowd, excellent matches, and the individual charismas of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns, the sky’s the limit for this faction.

4. D-GENERATION X

Personally, this is not my favorite faction. Far, far from it, actually. I was never a fan of the sophomoric antics of any incarnation of this group. However, their impact on wrestling is clear. While a lot of these other groups could be successful in any promotion and any era (imagine a Shield-Freebirds matchup in World Class, or the Dangerous Alliance squaring off with the nWo…), DX was purely a case of “right place, right time.”

Shawn Michaels, HHH, X-Pac, the New Age Outlaws, Chyna, Rick Rude. A faction that could match up well with a lot of opponents, everyone from Bret Hart to The Rock to Stone Cold Steve Austin. But this group is known more for their “uncensored” interviews and their ability to pull back the curtain, for better or worse.

DX, in its heyday, was the “cool table.” It was where everyone wanted to sit.

3. THE DANGEROUS ALLIANCE

We go from one of my not-so-favorite factions to maybe my all-time favorite. The Dangerous Alliance was an all-star collection of heels gathered by Paul E. Dangerously in late-1991 WCW. Yes, there were other versions, but this is the best known incarnation of the group. Paul E. had been “fired” from his commentary job for being “too controversial” (Gee? Really?) so to get revenge, he assembled this gang of mercenaries to decimate the heroes of World Championship Wrestling one-by-one.

This group was at the center of a turnaround for WCW. The promotion had languished in mediocrity for about two years until that fateful night at Halloween Havoc ‘91 when Paul E. Dangerously introduced “Ravishing” Rick Rude as the first member of the Dangerous Alliance.

Soon enough the group would add Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton, and Steve Austin. They captured nearly every championship—Rude the U.S. title; Austin the T.V. title; and Anderson and Eaton the tag titles—while their No. 1 target, Sting, held onto the World title during the majority of the faction’s run.

It was a great setup with the top WCW heroes—Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, Brian Pillman, Nikita Koloff, Ron Simmons, and the Steiner Brothers—taking on the DA in a long series of fantastic matches. It culminated, of course, in the 1992 War Games which is perhaps the greatest match in WCW history.

2. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

The group that changed history. While a lot of factions are game-changers, few have an impact beyond the wrestling world. It can be argued that DX did, as well as the Four Horsemen in the 1980’s, but without a doubt, the New World Order had it.

Everyone had an nWo t-shirt at some point in the late 1990’s. Everyone. Even your mother. (Probably.)

When Scott Hall interrupted the classic Mike “The Mauler” Enos-Steve Doll matchup to deliver his “You wanted a war? You got one!” promo, it changed the game. It was the ultimate mix of pulling back the curtain, while keeping kayfabe alive. People believed it was a war—ask the trailer that Nash lawn-darted Rey Mysterio into—they bought it hook, line, and sinker.

When Hogan joined the group at Bash at the Beach 1996, it took things to another level. Now there was no limit to how deep this poison could run, or how bad it could get. The battle lines were drawn, with WCW represented by the Four Horsemen, Lex Luger, Diamond Dallas Page on one side and the nWo in the middle.

The story created “Crow” Sting and while the story should have reached its climax at Starrcade 97, the beast that was the New World Order was already busy consuming itself. Once the story ran its course, the faction overstayed its welcome and eventually played a part in destroyed WCW.

1. THE FOUR HORSEMEN

There were many variations in this stable, but no matter the foursome (ok, maybe not Paul Roma) the Horsemen were iconic. The four fingers is the true “symbol of excellence”.

The group had it all: Style inside of the ring, outside of the ring. Toughness between the ropes and a no-nonsense gang mentality.

There was something for everyone in the original group: the gruff, brawling, intimidation of Ole and Arn Anderson, the arrogant superiority of Tully Blanchard, and the ultimate playboy swagger of Ric Flair. When manager J.J. Dillon was added, it just added another guy that fans just wanted to see get his.

Later versions of the group included a who’s-who of the wrestling world, with Barry Windham, Lex Luger, Sting, Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Chris Benoit, Brian Pillman, Steve McMichael, Jeff Jarrett (sorta), and Dean Malenko.

Most of those guys brought something unique to the foursome, no doubt, but it was the original incarnation of Flair, Blanchard, and the Andersons, that held Jim Crockett Promotions hostage for years and dominated the pro wrestling scene like no group before or since.

 

And now, our overall Five Count…

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5. THE HEENAN FAMILY

The strength of personality projected by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan made anybody he managed in instant top heel, and his Family boasted an incredible array of talent.

4. THE DANGEROUS ALLIANCE

During a lull in strong WCW stables with the Horsemen on hiatus, manager Paul E. Dangerously and his army of studs stepped up to fill the void. While the Dangerous Alliance may not have lasted long, they dominated during their run.

3. D-GENERATION X

The most prominent gang in WWF/WWE history, DX succeeded in multiple incarnations with several focuses. Whether you enjoyed the original rebellious Shawn Michaels-led smaller crew or the more lighthearted HHH-run bigger group, the degenerates had something for everybody.

2. THE FOUR HORSEMEN

The granddaddy of wrestling factions, the Horsemen made it cool to be bad. Everybody who voted for them on top cited a combination of their single-minded purpose—keep the World title on Ric Flair—and incomparable in-ring prowess spread amongst multiple members. At their best, with their vintage early line-ups and including J.J. Dillon in the overall package, the Horsemen set the template for all stables to come.

1. THE NEW WORLD ORDER

Perhaps the most controversial Five Count winner of all-time, as four out of the five of us has the Horsemen as number one, but the nWo had enough number two votes that Aaron snubbing Flair and company altogether sealed their fate; it should be noted that Scott Criscuolo has filed an official protest. Nonetheless, there’s no denying the impact the New World Order had on wrestling, really igniting the Monday Night Wars and putting WCW on top for the first—and only—time. While later incarnations may have faltered, the early lineup particularly with Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash changed the game.

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.