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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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