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September 25, 2008

A matter of factions

Ric Flair is a free agent making personal appearances throughout the country and Mick Foley is working for TNA, but both are on a WWE program that has been running this month. Before each departed from WWE, the two legendary stars participated in a roundtable discussion with Tazz, Jim Ross and Gene Okerlund about wrestling factions on WWE 24/7’s Legends of Wrestling show.

In addition to the novelty of seeing Flair and Foley in one of their final appearances with the company (not to mention the novelty of seeing them seated next to each other given their past real-life heat), the show is worth watching because Flair holds nothing back. He had some interesting things to say about the nWo, Shane Douglas and some former members of the Four Horsemen.

Speaking of the Horsemen, they received a lot of love on the show – and rightfully so. It was kind of funny, though, how everyone – especially Tazz – gushed about the Horsemen with Flair sitting there. Flair wasn’t shy about putting himself over, either. When asked to name the top three factions of all-time, he named the two that he was in – the Horsemen and Evolution.

Here are my picks for the top five factions:

1. The Four Horsemen: As much as I would like to be a rebel and make a controversial selection for the top spot, I have to be honest, and that means joining the Horsemen lovefest. There were numerous Horsemen combinations over the years, but there were two that stood far above the others. And neither involves Paul Roma or Steve McMichael. I really liked the original lineup of Flair, Tully Blanchard and Ole and Arn Anderson. All four guys could wrestle, cut great promos and get under the fans’ skin. The best lineup as far as wrestling ability and star power, however, was Flair, Blanchard, Arn Anderson and Barry Windham. Windham wasn’t close to Ole Anderson on the mic, but he was significantly better in the ring and was nearly 20 years younger. Both of these versions of the Horsemen were money draws and had classic feuds with NWA stars such as Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Magnum T.A., Sting, The Rock and Roll Express, Nikita Koloff and Lex Luger.

2. The nWo: The nWo storyline was one of the most successful and influential angles of all time and a big reason for WCW’s 83-week winning streak in the Monday night ratings war with WWE. To me, the nWo was Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, although it was still a red-hot angle at the time when Syxx (Sean Waltman) and The Giant (Paul Wight) joined the group. As more and more members joined, however, the nWo began losing its luster.

3. The Fabulous Freebirds: Whether they were heels or babyfaces, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts drew money wherever they went. The Badstreet boys had their most successful run in Texas, where they had a legendary feud with the Von Erichs. Each man brought something different to the group: Hayes was the charismatic mouthpiece, Gordy was the big man and the best worker and Roberts was the grizzled veteran. Jimmy Garvin later became a Freebird, but he wasn’t there during the glory days.

4. DX: Along with Steve Austin, DX helped usher in WWE’s incredibly successful “Attitude” era. When Shawn Michaels dropped his babyface act, Triple H abandoned his Greenwich, Conn., snob gimmick and the two real-life friends turned the volume up on their smart-aleck personalities to form DX (along with Chyna), it was must-see TV. Considered an nWo rip-off at first, DX eventually became the cooler of the two factions. After Michaels departed due to a back injury, DX – led by Triple H, who was joined in the group by Chyna, X-Pac (Waltman) and The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) – became a hugely popular babyface act.

5. The Dangerous Alliance: The stable of manager Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) did not have the longevity or impact of the others on this list, but it was a talented ensemble. The group, which consisted of Steve Austin (when he was “Stunning” and not yet “Stone Cold”), Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton and Madusa, had a good run in WCW in the early ’90s. All of the guys were established stars and good workers and most of them were proficient talkers – although none were better on the mic than Dangerously. Rude was the centerpiece of the Alliance and had memorable feuds with Ricky Steamboat and Sting.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 4:26 AM | | Comments (30)
        

Comments

I really enjoyed the roundtable with Flair, however I thought it was pretty unfair for Flair to refer to the nWo as "the worst thing that's ever happened to the business" and then have DX named as one of the top factions of all time in the same discussion.

The Horsemen were the groundbreakers, but the nWo had the most impact ever. The Dangerous Alliance should be remembered as Heyman's chance to break out of the "Cornette"-esque upper mid card "funny and entertaining" manager role and into a main event position, and he was magnficent with the best heel manager promos of that era.

The Four Horsemen will always be my favorite, but the nWo stole the show with the help of the Crow Sting. Sting's role in the nWo story line fueled the nWo. The Horsemen beat you up and ran the show. At that time there was no better stickman than Flair and no meaner brothers than Arn & Ole.

Today we don't have that in the WWE, not sure why, but if they do Orton, DiBiase & Rhodes are sure bets. IMO they would need a stickman and this is where I thought would be a good place for Flair to become their Manager. Ah well I guess we will deal with Orton hating everyone.

What, you mean the Spirit Squad isn't the #1 faction of all time?

Interesting List, although my question would be how does one define a "faction"? Is it 3 or more wrestlers? I always thought of the Freebirds as a Tag Team more then a faction.

I'll have to give this one some more thought, because right now I can't think of anyone else I'd add to the list.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: On the Legends show a faction was defined as three or more wrestlers.

Great choices Kevin . I used to especially enjoy watching the Horseman ( Flair, Blanchard, & Anderson bros.) . The Freebirds were always entertaining as well .
Going back a few years earlier Kevin Sullivan's "Army of Darkness" got far less exposure , but were way over the top with their gimmick of devil worshipping . Woman , Purple Haze , Fallen Angel .... good times .
Ravens 14 - Steelers 13

How about Piper, Orndorff, Dr. D David Schultz and Cowboy Bob Orton? (although I'm not certain that Schultz and Orton were in the WWF at the same time)

Also, I would mention the Heenan Family in its various forms - - Studd, Patera, Bundy, Race, Rude, Brooklyn Brawler, etc.

My money's on the Corporation. Any group featuring the Mean Street Posse ranks high in my book.

In keeping with my earlier comment regarding the faction of Kevin Sullivan's "Army of "Darkness" (incl. Mark Lewin as "The Purple Haze", a very underrated wrestler ) I being a big Sullivan fan also remember "The Vasity Club ", that included Mike Rotunda , Rick Steiner , and later Dr.Death Steve Williams .
Another Sullivan led group that included Buzz Sawyer , Cactus Jack , called "Sullivan's Slaughter House ".
And then towards the end of his career as the Taskmaster leading "The Dungeon of Doom".
I also enjoyed Raven and his "Flock".
None of those hold a candle to the likes of the Four Horseman , Freebirds , etc. but I have a lot of memories watching them when i REALLY followed wrestling .
Kevin , how can you say today's brand of wrestling was better than this ?? :-)

RIP: Woman

Factions or Stables are one thing WWE is missing at the moment, and have for some time. I know it looks like Randy Orton is about to team up with Dibease and Rhodes and I think that has great potential, but they need another stable to go against it. Not sure who they'll use to team up, but whoever it is, I hope CM Punk is in there, WITHOUT CRYME TYME!!!!
Those two are the lamest thing in Pro Wrestling today other than Colin Delaney.

Now that I'm thinking about it, having Bourne and Mysterio team with punk in a stable could have potential to get them all over.


They missed the mark on creating a faction of the following wrestlers... too bad, it could have drawn more money than Stone Cold and Hogan combined:

1. Bastion Boogar
2. Mantar
3. Renegade
4. Giant Gonzales

If they get these 4 together, they can make Colin Delaney the leader and be known as the Wiggle Munches. Ticket Prices will triple in value and PPV buys will soar. That will help failing ratings too.


I guess the only other faction I can think of that merits consideration would be the Ministry of Darkness. Considering they had Edge, Christian, Farooq, Bradshaw and Gangrel among others, they weren't short on wrestling talent. I suppose they may've been too short-lived to really knock off any of the top 5 you mentioned.
I considered the Nation of Domination, but after Farooq and the Rock, I think the talent level really drops off, although they had some memorable feuds with DX.

Horsemen were #1. And that isn't just preference on my part; my actual favorite was the Dangerous Alliance. The Horsemen are #1 because it set the standard for all other heel factions. It was the first time that a stable was more than just a semi-top guy and a few mid-carders who needed something to do and a good manager to talk for them (Jimmy Hart's First Family, Cornette's Family, etc.). It was four guys who had established themselves as stars in their own right, all topped off by the number one guy in the promotion. Before that, the number one guy in a promotion was never in a stable. It was the perfect storm - Arn, Tully, and Ole gave the gang presence and toughness, and Flair added the swagger. And J.J. Dillion... well, he did have those shoes...

Kevin, I wonder if you're much into Japanese wrestling. If you are, do you know about Choshu's Army? It was the blueprint for the nWo. Five top heels in New Japan who not only feuded with all the top stars there, but actually made the jump to All Japan and feuded with their top stars, and managed to start their own promotion. Granted, it had nowhere near the widespread appeal and cool factor of the nWo, but it was the basis for almost every invasion angle run since, whether the promoters who run invasion angles know it or not.

I best remember The Dangerous Alliance for being in the the last good War Games match that WCW ever had.

The NWO was the strongest in Australia. Also don't forget Australia's World Championship Wrestling circa 1970 with The People's Army and the Mercenary Soldiers. Long live Big Bad John, Killer Karl Kox and Steve "The Crusher" Rackman.

Hey Kev, 2 questions for ya...what was the name of the faction, from the late 80's or early 90's, in WCW that had JYD, Paul Orndorf, and others, they were called DUDES or somerthing...I remember it was pretty lame...

And what was the name of Mick Foley's group in the 90's that fueded w/ Vince's Corporation?? I remember it only lasted a few weeks...

You should do your WORST FACTIONS list...J.O.B. Squad, that Canadian group w/ Test & Lance Storm, Spirit Squad, The Corporate ministry was pretty lame, The Wolfpack NWO, The Master P Army, that stupid army thing in WCW w/ Private Stash and G.I. Bro (Booker T)...wow, i cant remember anyones names but remeber the stupid gimmiks!!!

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: The Dudes with Attitude was the Sting, JYD, Orndorff group; Foley's group was The Union.

No other faction pulled off the mob mentality better than the Horsemen...their attacks were always intense. For anyone too young to understand how great they were, check out the segment where they fire Sting...It's Pro wrestling acting at its very best.

Flair did more damage to his legacy in that roundtable for me than at any other point in his long career. He was pathetic to an alarming degree. He was rude, and he seemed to just want to go back and live the glory days...he also kept hinting that he hooked up with Brooke Shields, or that Brooke Shields wanted him, and I seriously doubt that she even knew he was when they met.

Sad.

Of the old school wrestlers, is there anyone who is classy enough to serve as a good ambassador? All the guys who were part of the 80s boom period (the ones that survived) don't seem to have the skills outside of wrestling that the modern stars do...Edge, Cena, Big Show and Hunter for example are extremely charming and always do well in guest spots on TV...Is it just a generational thing?

the horseman were the best. who can forget these four terrorizing sam houston, saving flair from sure defeat, the anderson's feud with the r & r express, and tully's best of seven with magnum ta for the us strap. those were the days.

I always enjoyed The Varsity Club.

What??? No Nation of Domination?? The Rock, Ron Simmons...some other guy.... I been on the Orton band wagon for some time now. but he is no Miz...thats all im sayin'. Whooo-Rah!

Both the 4 Horsemen and the nWo ruled my world in the 80's & 90's. In High School, you had 4 other buddies (1 would be in JJ Dillon's role) and you were the 4 Horsemen. In the 90's, the nWo was a mindset, and you had your inner circle who was a part of that culture. Great times!
1. nWo
2. 4 Horsemen
3. DX
4. Varsity Club: (Sullivan, Rotundo, Dr Death Steve Williams, & Rick Steiner)
5. Bobby Heenan's "Family"

Still wish I could find my 4 Horsemen poster I got at the Great American Bash in 1988!

Can't say I disagree with your choices , I'd throw an honorable mention to the Varsity Club.

how bout the super powers ( i think thats what they were called). Dusty, Nikita, Hawk and Animal. i don't think they were around to long but they did go against the horseman. off the subject here Kevin but did you go to the Jim Crocket Sr. tag team tournament I think it was back in 1986. i was really to young to remember much of it. Can you do a post on that?? thanks for your time.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I did go to the Crockett Cup. It was in 1987.

Nice job, Kevin. Here is my top 5:

1. The original version of the Horsemen. Windham was OK, but Ole was truly "the rock" of the 4 Horsemen. The methodical beatdowns that he and Arn administered to Dusty, Magnum et all were legendary. Ole was a great talker as well. One of my all-time favorites.

2. Precious Paul Ellering's original Legion of Doom in Georgia that consisted of the Road Warriors, Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Spoiler and King Kong Bundy. They pre-dated the Horsemen by a few years, and may be the first true wrestling faction.

3. nWo - I remember telling a friend at the time that "this is the best wrestling that I've seen in 10 years." They really helped bring wrestling out of that early-mid '90s down cycle. I never thought that I'd see a heel Hulk Hogan, so they definitely had the shock factor. I miss Hogan's dyed black beard.

4. The Heenan Family - had to love the Brain's endless carousel of heels that he used to try and bring down Hogan. The Brain is the greatest manager ever, and one of the best color commentators ever as well.

5. The Russians - Ivan and Nikita Koloff and Krusher Kruschev. Even though I knew wrestling was fake, Nikita scared me as a kid. Uncle Ivan was the grizzly veteran, and Krusher was a great 3rd man. Even Flair was a "face" when he wrestled the Russians.

All the best tag teams and factions have names. That something WWE doesn't do anymore.

Like DX wouldn't have been anywhere near as popular if their group was called "Michaels and Helmsley" or the NWO as "Hogan, Nash, and Hall".

Why did they stop giving tag teams and factions cool names?

There is almost an argument to separate WWE (WWF) and non afore mentioned ie: WCW, NWA,AWA, etc. factions .
Of course WWE factions are more well known to the casual fan . But to us "elders" there were many good factions from a different era and from now defunct organizations .

I'll always be a fan of DX. They are the main reason I got sucked into wrestling.

As far as lame factions, my vote is for Right To Censor (I think that was their name) with Stevie Richards and Molly Holly.

I agree with The Iron Geek, props need to go to the original Legion of Doom. The Road Warriors couldn't be touched and everyone feared the DDT!

OK here's my top 5
1 DX (HBK and HHH)
2 The Midnight Express (Lane and Eaton)
3 The 4 Horseman
4 The Hardy's
5 The Kliq

1.4 Horsemen Ole and w/ Lex Lugar
2.NWO- Hogan and Syxx Pac
3.Fabulous Freebirds
4. DX w/ Chyna
5. Mid South Wrestling "The First Family" Jimmy Hart -manager
6. Legion of Doom
7.Harlem Heat w/ Scary Sherry
8.Evolution
9.The Hart Foundation
10.The Von Erichs

If the Heenan Family counts they have to be in there, Bobby Heenan could make a paint drying channel entertaining.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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