Professional wrestling isn’t the only business to have inspiring squads within their own team that inspire fans to a frenzy. A sports fan may be a fan of a particular team – maybe it’s the combination of a particular starting line up that creates the magic for a single season. In wrestling, while fans may be loyal followers of a single brand of wrestling like the WWE, it may be an individual faction that kicks their level of fandom to whole new levels and becomes the team within the team that will be held up against all who follow for generations.
However, while fans of sports aside from wrestling live vicariously through their team from year to year, that winning combination of talent that takes to the field may end after a single season. The opportunity to re-create that magic lies with other players to develop their own legacies. Such is not the case in professional wrestling. In fact, the sport is filled with examples of going to the well to re-generate stables that were once popular with fans with often abysmal results. The following list looks at those pro wrestling factions that should have been granted a graceful exit from the sport and not have been re-hashed with a new combo of wrestlers.
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15 Raven’s Nest
Scott Levy found his iconic identity in Extreme Championship Wrestling after lackluster runs in WCW as Scotty Flamingo and WWE as Johnny Polo, his re-invention as Raven under Paul Heyman would become his most memorable role. A brooding intellectual with an almost cult-leader appeal, Raven would become one of the hottest stars to ever appear in ECW, factoring into some of the promotion’s most visceral storylines. His faction “Raven’s Nest” became an eerie presence that tormented fan favorites and fans alike. It seemed to be a winning recipe for success, so when Levy returned to WCW under the Raven moniker and started to amass a stable of followers, we were initially excited about what might follow.
Instead, “Raven’s Flock” in World Championship Wrestling lacked that creepy, lurking skeeviness of his ECW family, and instead presented like unwashed, lacking both ambition and appeal to the ticket buying public. Something definitely got lost in translation on this one.
14 The Kliq 2000
As professional wrestling has pulled back the curtain on the relationships and real political battles between the stars, especially during the Attitude Era, it may be hard for some fans to reconcile the fact that The Kliq was never marketed as a faction to wrestling audiences. It was instead a self-identified label that a group of ambitious peers gave to themselves backstage as they jockeyed for position in a competitive work climate. Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, Diesel, the 1-2-3 Kid and Hunter Hearst Helmsley became recognized as their own gang behind the scenes in a manner which created an under-current in the locker room.
Still, someone had the idea that re-packaging the Kliq would be a good idea and in 2000, Memphis Power Pro Wrestling saddled a group of graduates from Shawn Michaels’ wrestling school with the name “The Kliq 2000”. Luckily for Daniel Bryan, Bryan Kendrick, and Shooter Schultz, the squad name died long before their call up to the big show.
13 The Dungeon of Doom
When you start with a comically mis-matched combination of talent to begin with, how are you supposed to build on that to become a credible threat to anyone? Kevin Sullivan’s WCW stable as “The Three Faces of Fear” casting himself with John Tenta (as The Avalanche) and the former Brutus Beefcake (as The Butcher) weren’t exactly going to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, despite Sullivan’s success a decade earlier in Florida with one of the most gruesome and feared stables in that territory.
Still, to evolve the ghoulishness, the mottled visage of Curtis Iaukea appeared as if in a dream to Sullivan on WCW television to ordain that the stable would become the “Dungeon of Doom”. However, even with the addition of some credible asskickers like Meng and the Barbarian, nothing could be done to save this train wreck. Re-casting Tenta as “The Shark” and Beefcake as “The Zodiac” certainly didn’t amp up the fear factor either.
12 Karachi Vice
In the 1980s, Stampede Wrestling villain Gama Singh drew from the popularity of prime time drama Miami Vice to anoint his heel stable in the circuit as Karachi Vice. Featuring himself, the Cuban Assassin, a rotund white guy in a turban as Makhan Singh (later Bastion Booger), and their manager Abu Wizal, the Karachi Vice drew the scorn of audiences and became arguably the most memorable villainous faction in the forty year run of the original Stampede Wrestling promotion. The squad, which later added Gerry Morrow and Gary Albright (as Vokhan Singh) to the mix were running roughshod over the promotion at the same time as the original run of the Four Horsemen.
Following the death of the Stampede territory in 1989, dozens of re-boots of the “Karachi Vice” have been attempted even as recently as 2013 though each successive effort fails to re-ignite the magic of the original and, in fact, probably detracts from the success of the original.
11 The Nation of Domination
Over the past generation, we have already seen how the WWE has selectively omitted some of the history of this mis-managed faction, electing to only show snapshots of the squad at its most effective. The combination of Faarooq, Kama Mustafa, D’Lo Brown and The Rock campaigning as wrestling’s answer to the Black Panthers made the most sense and probably points to the group’s greatest success as a unit. However, rather than letting the squad die a natural death as its stars each evolved within their own careers, the addition of the overrated Ahmed Johnson and later the suddenly faction-less Owen Hart after the rest of his Hart Foundation teammates defected to WCW served only to confuse the fans and diminish the effectiveness of the stable’s appeal on paper as well as the ticket window.
However, in fairness, it didn’t start out great either – incorporating Crush as an ex-convict and the awkward PG-13 tag team that never seemed to find their feet in the WWE.
10 The Stud Stable
Quite possibly, wrestling fans have been subjected to a re-boot of this faction repeatedly simply because the name of the squad is just so well suited to the alpha male personalities of professional wrestling that it deserved not to be wasted and forgotten at a territorial level. While invariably including involvement of Robert Fuller and Jimmy Golden, this wrestling faction was first introduced to fans in 1982 in the Southwestern Championship Wrestling territory of eastern Tennessee and Alabama. Including Ron Fuller and Arn Anderson, the group enjoyed a four year run in the territory.
With Ron Fuller’s retirement and Arn Anderson’s ascent to Jim Crockett promotions, the stable was re-launched four times over the next decade, and would include dozens of members at different stages including Cactus Jack, Sid Vicious, Dutch Mantel (Zeb Coulter), Steve Austin and more. The later versions simply didn’t have the same impact as the original.
9 The Dudleys
Fans who are only familiar with the three Dudley “brothers” to make it to the WWE missed out on one of the most eclectic assemblies of talent ever brought together in a single faction. While we’re not sure if the Extreme Championship Wrestling Dudley brood would have translated with the national audiences, it sure made for a compelling collection of humanity as a combination in Philadelphia. Though not originally the star of the unit, Buh-Buh Ray Dudley was a stuttering underling that inspired chants of “what’s your name?” at the ECW Arena. He was joined by the African-American D-Von Dudley, the native American “Dances With Dudley”, a silent mascot “Sign Guy Dudley”, the grimacing enforcer “Big Dick Dudley” as well as the runt of the litter “Spike Dudley”.
While as a unit Bubba and D-Von would go on to become one of the most successful tag teams in wrestling history, the attempt to re-create some of the Dudley magic upon their entrance in WWE fell flat.
8 The Authority
Is it just me or did we not already see the Authority during the Attitude Era when Vince McMahon was at the helm as the Corporation? No? Wait ... Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at the helm of the WWE ... wasn’t that the “McMahon-Helmsley era”? No matter how you slice it, the corrupt and scheming villains atop the WWE has been a storyline that has been re-hashed to death over the past 20 years, with the seed first planted in the shadows of the Montreal Screwjob.
While we enjoyed the chaos that it created when the system continually set obstacles in front of Steve Austin, with each passing year, it continues to lose its brilliance. Whether the WWE’s Corporation, the anonymous Raw General Manager, The Authority, or WCW’s “The Powers that Be” the amount of attention that non-wrestling villains draws away from the product that is delivered between the ropes only waters down the product.
7 The Heenan Family
Bobby Heenan first coined the name for his villainous stable while in the American Wrestling Association where he guided the careers of Nick Bockwinkel, Jack Lanza, Ray Stevens and more. However, when he made the jump to the World Wrestling Federation in 1984, his stable over the next three years grew to be the best collection of talent perhaps ever guided by a single manager. With behemoths like John Studd and King Kong Bundy, physical specimens like Hercules Hernandez, Paul Orndorff and Rick Rude and some of wrestling’s most revered tough guys Harley Race and Haku the Heenan family represented the main event heels that were legitimate threats to the title on any given night.
With the addition of Andre the Giant to the mix in 1987, the Heenan family will be recognized as one of the best factions in wrestling history. So how did it unravel so quickly? By the close of 1988 suddenly Bobby Heenan found himself in the corner of characters like the Red Rooster and the Brooklyn Brawler. Ugh!
6 Right to Censor
We are familiar with the back story of the Right to Censor faction. In short, it was a big middle finger extended by Vince McMahon to the Parents Advisory Council after he defeated their legal and moral objections to his product in court. So he created a wrestling parody of his fallen foes which was certain to draw the ire of the wrestling fans. Inserting wrestlers that themselves had been featured as racy characters such as porn star Val Venis and the pimp The Godfather (formerly of the Nation of Domination) and having them shun their former identities ... in the end, with the addition of Steven Richards (of Blue World Order fame) and Bull Buchanan (formerly of the Truth Commission), this short-lived faction really started to feel like a collection of cast offs from other attempted stables.
This was one faction that ran out of gas almost immediately after the key was put in the ignition.
5 The Brood
The evolution of the Brood is still a head scratcher. While professional wrestling has seen a few shocking flip flops of characters in its day ... such as Demolition and the Powers of Pain switching alliances (and managers) on the same night at the 1988 Survivor Series, the series of events that changed the Brood are beyond comprehension. In 1998, the Vampire Warrior Gangrel debuted in the WWE and soon formed an eerie trio with the incoming Edge and Christian as The Brood. Drawing a little on a “Lost Boys” feel, the squad made the fans’ skin crawl at their direct and implied portrayal of a brood of vampires. Edge and Christian spent most of that first year feuding with the Hardy Boyz, managed by Michael Hayes.
However, as Edge and Christian started to ascend in the ranks, abandoning their initial role, somehow the Hardy Boyz slid into their spot to become “The New Brood” with Gangrel. This second edition of the faction doesn’t appear in the WWE Encyclopedia and we’re not surprised.
Nexus already got off on the wrong foot with fans projecting that the creation of their invading entity was too similar to the NWO’s launch in WCW. However, the big difference between the two groups was that the NWO represented a takeover from within, with the top paid stars in the company going rogue. With Nexus, the concept was exciting off the top, by finding a way to liven up the debuts of the most promising wrestlers from their developmental system onto the main roster.
Nobody can argue that they made an impactful debut, but once the original faction started to break apart, the introduction of CM Punk as the leader of their rebellion made absolutely no sense. Nor did introducing late comers to the party as the “new Nexus” when all of the original members were still with the company and, in fact, still on television. But it gets worse ...
3 The Corre
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 so let’s assume that the WWE’s support of the Nexus concept was solid. However, breaking off members of Nexus to launch their solo careers only to have them regroup under a new title is sheer lunacy. With the move of Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater to SmackDown, the WWE could simply have used this as an extension of the Nexus invasion and had a branch of the faction on each of their weekly syndicated programs. No ... instead they elected to re-brand Nexus as “The Corre”, creating a new faction out of one that wasn’t even dead yet.
While championship success seemed to follow these renegade members of the Nexus contingent, the faction really never achieved the success of it’s predecessor. So instead of continuing to build one stable, the WWE instead killed two. It was enough of a launch pad for Barrett and Slater ... for Gabriel and Ezekiel Jackson – not so much.
2 The Four Horsemen
Many wrestling fans will point to the Four Horsemen as the premiere faction in all of professional wrestling history. It’s almost a footnote that the quartet got their name by fluke, after an obscure reference made by Arn Anderson to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Arguably, the best combination of the stable was Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham, with J.J. Dillon in their corner.
Later editions which included Paul Roma and Steve “Mongo” McMichael simply could not compete with the dominance of the Horsemen in the late 80s. As much as fans were excited to see under-rated rising stars such as Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko get christened to the faction to elevate their status within the ranks of WCW, sometimes you simply can’t re-create the magic of the original winning formula. Even Evolution tried to build on the success of that original Ric Flair-led quartet ... though it won’t share the same place in history as the faction that inspired it.
1 The nWo
When discussing the NWO, there can be no doubt that the inception of this powerful wrestling stable took the wrestling world by storm. First, you had Hall and Nash, who were believed to have been sent by Vince McMahon to WCW to sabotage the company from within. Then you take the biggest fan favorite of the 1980s and strip away the red and yellow to put Hulk Hogan in black and white. At the beginning, the concept of the NWO and its takeover attempt of WCW captivated our attention. However, as soon as you reach the stage where the former man servant to Ted DiBiase factors into your plans for world domination, it could signal that your faction has grown too big for its own good.
The development of the sub-divisions within the NWO with black and white vs. black and red tipped the balance to indicate – this has gone on for far too long that it has sacrificed the integrity of the locker room as a whole.
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