The history of factions in wrestling has delivered some of the most remarkable ideas. Fans witnessed the business change forever when the New World Order dominated WCW. This faction warfare put more eyes on the wrestling product to take the business mainstream. WWE found massive success with the Attitude Era changing the landscape of the industry. There’s no doubt D-Generation X pushing the envelope with edgy content that spoke to the times helped. The controversial faction added to the appeal of the Attitude Era and created a great deal of money coming into the company.
Many factions contributed to the business profit and the entertainment aspect of the wrestling product. The one constant for the best groups is they all had a great leader. A respected name with the credibility to back up the stable’s mission is pivotal to getting over. On the flip side, there have been some horrible leaders to ruin the potential of certain factions moving up in the rankings. A mediocre wrestler or disappointing leader can sink the chances of a stable growing before it even gets going. We’ll look back at the history of wrestling with eight of the best faction leaders of all-time and seven of the absolute worst.
15. Best: CM Punk (The Straight Edge Society)
The Straight Edge Society was a short-lived faction, but it showed how a great leader can lead a group of wrestlers. CM Punk was one of the best heels in the WWE and used his real life identity as someone with a straight edge lifestyle to talk down to the fans. WWE allowed Punk to take his heel antics to the next level with The Straight Edge Society faction.
Punk essentially had his own cult that saved talented wrestlers like Luke Gallows, Serena Deeb and Joey Mercury by giving them a chance to follow his word. The wrestlers not being used by WWE found a new chance to succeed. Punk’s superb talent set the tone for The Straight Edge Society, making them a compelling group that benefited all those involved to create good television.
14. Worst: Jeff Jarrett (Planet Jarrett)
One constant complaint during the early days of TNA saw fans upset with Jeff Jarrett dominating the television time. Jarrett used his influence on the product to position himself as the top heel on TNA for many years. This was shown with the inception of Planet Jarrett, as a heel stable trying to ensure Jarrett would retain the TNA Championship.
The other members of the group at different points were Monty Brown, James Storm, Chris Harris, Gail Kim and Team Canada. Jarrett was arguably the worst member of the faction, but everyone still worked under him. TNA would improve dramatically once Jarrett stepped aside and other stars were given opportunities. It was clear from the early stages of Planet Jarrett that Jeff shouldn’t be leading such a heavily focused faction in TNA.
13. Best: Paul Heyman (The Dangerous Alliance)
Wrestlers aren’t always the leaders of factions. Managers sometimes have the magic needed to get the performers over. This was the case when Paul Heyman led The Dangerous Alliance in WCW. Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Madusa were all extraordinary talents in different ways. WCW still couldn’t find a way to utilize them effectively.
Heyman became the mouthpiece for the unit of successful heels all working under his tutelage. The Dangerous Alliance was unfortunately short-lived or it could have been up there with the greatest stables of all-time. Heyman proved he was one of the best talkers and characters in the business during The Dangerous Alliance days, which would earn him many more opportunities later in his career for the WWE.
12. Worst: Lance Storm (Team Canada)
Lance Storm is one of the most talented wrestlers of his time and did many great things in the wrestling ring. Sadly, microphone skills and charisma were clearly not his strong suits. Unfortunately, personality is arguably the biggest factor in someone leading a faction. The leader has to speak and get the point across for the rest of the wrestlers.
Storm led Team Canada in WCW to mediocre results. It was meant to be an imitation of Bret Hart’s Hart Foundation, but Vince Russo weakly wrote the angle by making Storm the only speaker. Team Canada would get exposed by not having a strong talker to add to the promos that were desperately needed to get a stable like that across. Storm could have been a great member of the group, but should have never led the stable.
11. Best: Raven (Raven’s Nest)
An underrated faction that doesn’t get the respect it deserves is Raven’s Nest in ECW. Raven ascended to the top of the company as their most compelling character. The depth and range of the character forced fans to take note of him as the hottest act in ECW. Raven led Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie in the faction.
Meanie and Richards played the perfect lackeys that allowed Raven to assert his power as a top villain, manipulating them to his advantage. All three men benefited from the work of Raven making them all relevant in the ECW landscape. Raven even did a great job leading The Flock in WCW despite having less freedom or upward momentum. If WCW gave him the opportunity that ECW did, they would have had another main event star.
10. Worst: Wade Barrett (The Nexus)
The Nexus started off red hot, with Wade Barrett showing the potential to become the WWE’s next breakout star. However, his momentum faded within a couple of months, as The Nexus lost all of their credibility after taking losses to John Cena and Randy Orton. Once the luster of the faction started to wear off, Barrett was exposed as not having any specific special talent.
Barrett’s matches were slightly above average. His promos lacked in a way that is typically needed to get to the next level.The Nexus could have been the perfect platform to get Barrett into the main event scene, but he clearly wasn’t worthy of the opportunity just yet. Barrett fell apart with The Nexus losing standing as a top act and he ended up looking like a joke once the faction ended.
9. Best: The Rock (The Nation of Domination)
The Nation of Domination achieved success with Faarooq (Ron Simmons) as their leader, but it went to another level when The Rock surpassed him. The Rock flopped horrendously during his early stint as a face when he was shoved down the throats of the fans. Once accepting he was a hated member of the roster, The Rock evolved into an absolute star as a heel when joining The Nation.
Rock initially was just another member to add to the group, but fans started to gravitate towards him more than Simmons. The charisma and personality of The Rock was finally showing in the WWE after his stale run as a white meat babyface. Simmons would get kicked out of The Nation and The Rock led the groups to new heights in a feud with DX. The Rock’s career ascension truly started with his time leading the faction.
8. Worst: Kevin Sullivan (The Dungeon of Doom)
The 90s were full of silly cartoony characters and silly gimmicks in the world of wrestling. WCW did their part with The Dungeon of Doom. All of their monster heels were given literal monster gimmicks under the guidance of Kevin Sullivan. It was meant to create a plethora of heels for Hulk Hogan to feud with. Sadly, all it gave us was horrible television that showed how outdated WCW was becoming.
Sullivan being the leader was the biggest issue. No one viewed him as a top talent or someone that could influence wrestlers to legitimately compete with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage or Sting. The Dungeon came off like a joke, rather than a team of intimidating heels challenging the top faces. Sullivan would get transitioned off television shortly after the end of the faction and it was for the best.
7. Best: Bret Hart (The Hart Foundation)
Bret Hart had a legendary career in the WWE. The majority of his time as a singles star saw him work as a face character, as Hart loved being a role model to the young fans in the audience, but a drastic change would see him thrive as a villain. WWE fans started to turn on Hart in favor of an anti-hero in Steve Austin.
This led to Bret forming The Hart Foundation faction of anti-American wrestlers speaking out against the wrestling fans of the time for treating them unfairly. The Hart Foundation instantly became the hottest heels in the company due to Hart playing his character to perfection, with incredible feuds against Austin and Shawn Michaels. Bret leaving for WWE sadly cut it short, but he was still one of the greatest faction leaders ever.
6. Worst: X-Pac (X-Factor)
X-Pac’s wrestling career is significantly underrated, with the talented star playing a huge role in the undercard for the WWE. Sean Waltman always left it all in the ring with outstanding matches in an era where work rate was not as important. Most would refer to his time in D-Generation X as the most successful run of his career.
WWE appreciated his work in a successful faction enough to have him start his own group when DX ended. X-Pac led the disappointing X-Factor group with Albert and Justin Credible by his side. Fans didn’t care about the other two guys and X-Pac was beginning to grow stale. The crowd chanting “X-Pac Sucks!” became a popular chant to sum up his time leading X-Factor into obscurity.
5. Best: Hulk Hogan (New World Order)
The success of the New World Order could be credited to many variables, but Hulk Hogan taking the risk of turning heel is the biggest of them all. No one expected Hogan to join Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as the third man leading a hostile takeover of the WCW. Hogan was the most popular face in wrestling for over a decade when he finally turned in the shocking moment to form the nWo.
The idea was brilliant, as WCW needed the star power and charisma of Hogan to lead the faction. It allowed WCW to finally pass the WWE in the ratings for almost two years. Many would claim the New World Order to be the greatest faction of all-time during their peak and Hogan’s role as leader was the most valuable piece to the group being successful.
4. Worst: Vince Russo (Sports Entertainment Xtreme)
One of the more depressing factions to take form in the wrestling world saw Vince Russo both book and lead Sports Entertainment Xtreme in TNA. It was the first huge storyline in TNA during the early years, with Russo leading his form of shock jock wrestling against Jeff Jarrett and the tradition of the NWA. Russo aptly thought of the embarrassing S.E.X acronym for his group.
Russo’s tacky promos saw him try to cross the line with his edgy content every time he touched the microphone. Fans at the TNA shows didn’t care at all about anything he had to say. The only positive moment from the time was Roddy Piper making an appearance and breaking character to humiliate Russo in the ring. Sports Entertainment Xtreme was a bust and Russo set TNA back a few years with his awful role on television.
3. Best: Triple H (DX and Evolution)
Triple H had the rare pleasure of leading two legendary factions over the course of his career. D-Generation X was originally led by Shawn Michaels and it allowed Triple H to finally showcase his personality to the fans. The success continued when Michaels retired, as Triple H was named the new leader and led his version of DX to new heights as an extremely popular face faction.
Many would claim his success leading DX is what made him become such a star for many years with the confidence from that run. Triple H introduced another faction years later, leading Evolution as the top current star along with Ric Flair representing the past and Randy Orton and Batista as the future. Evolution was a huge success with Triple H once again leading the way for a memorable stable.
2. Worst: Gangrel (The Brood)
The worst faction leader of all time would have to be Gangrel. It’s rather unfortunate given that he was a hard worker that didn’t do anything necessarily wrong. Gangrel’s biggest problem is he wasn’t on the same level as the other members of the group. Edge and Christian joined him to form The Brood and were clearly better wrestlers in every way imaginable.
Gangrel was the veteran making him the leader, but that just made The Brood look silly compared to what they could have been. The fans bought into the gimmick and started to look at Edge and Christian as relevant players in the company. However, Gangrel always held them back, forcing WWE to remove him from the equation. Edge and Christian went on to become legends together and Gangrel would become a distant memory.
1. Best: Ric Flair (The Four Horsemen)
No one signified the qualities needed for a great faction leader better than Ric Flair. The Four Horsemen live on today with memories of the iconic faction still impressing fans. Flair stepped up as the leader of the stable, delivering in every way a wrestler needs to. His matches were second to none and his promos shined brighter than any other performer in the business.
Most importantly, Flair led the stable and helped get the others involved to connect with the audience. Flair’s work helped guys like Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham all become more legitimate in the eyes of the fans. Many wrestlers have tried to play a version of Flair’s character when leading factions, but no one has ever been able to match his results.