The world of old-school wrestling was tough to navigate! Parking lot attacks, constant match run-ins, sporadic heel and face turns and the influx of ambitious wrestlers into territories caused angst for challengers and champions alike. What was a wrestler or manager to do amid such conflict? Many old-school wresters had no choice but to put their differences aside and combine forces. When three of more wrestlers joined together, oftentimes with a mentor or manager, they would form what is known as a faction. Also known as a stable, the faction had an important place in old-school wrestling.
Factions were a necessity for not only protection but were sound business moves in the old-school wrestling era. Factions—much like any business conglomeration—combined wrestler skills and other resources in order to expand their influence and network. Factions would better enable members to vie for and to hold one or more championships such as a few individual titles or tag-team titles. Additionally, one or more members were regularly in the title hunt, the main event scene or high atop the rankings. What if some of the old-school factions were transported to today’s world of professional wrestling? Some factions would thrive while others would discover what worked in the old-school might not work today. With that said, it’s time to assess several widely known and a few obscure factions that would make it today and some that wouldn’t make the cut.
17 Make It - Hot Stuff International (UWF)
From a pure power standpoint, Rick Steiner and the Bladerunners were jacked to the seams except for their manager “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert. Nevertheless, the smaller Gilbert kept to managing and microphone duties while wrestling intermittently. Steiner and the Bladerunners were used primarily for fighting with Cowboy Bill Watts, Dr. Death Steve Williams and Ted Dibiase in the late-1980s. Nothing but gorilla presses, power slams and turnbuckle smashes—hell yeah! Many fans of today will recognize the Bladerunners, Rock and Flash, as the late Ultimate Warrior and Sting, respectively. That alone should give one an idea to the faction’s viability for today’s wrestling given their mix of both power and speed. Steiner was no slouch being able to match or outmuscle the majority of his opponents while taking to the air himself. These guys would have been fun to watch today battling the likes of Finn Balor, Kane or the Wyatts!
16 Wouldn’t Make It - The Machines (WWE)
The Machines—Giant Machine, Big Machine and Super Machine—had size covered, that’s for sure. Having consisted of a masked—and at the time “suspended”—Andre the Giant, Bill Eadie of future Demolition fame, and Blackjack Mulligan, the Machines were a counter to the Heenan Family Factions of the mid-1980s. Although Andre the Giant was limited during this time due to a myriad of injuries and film obligations, Eadie and Mulligan were usually the ones doing battle. The stable was gimmicky in that it recruited the “Hulk” Machine and the “Piper” Machine on occasion to grapple with Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy. These devices—the masks and other recognizable wrestler infusions—wouldn’t go on for long today.
14 Make It - Heenan Family (WWE)
There were numerous Heenan Family combinations that manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan put together in the AWA, Georgia Championship Wrestling (part of the NWA) and the WWE. The combination that sticks out the most is the 1987 version that consisted of Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Harley Race, Hercules Hernandez, Paul Orndorff, The Islanders and “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Damn—now that is a crew! Incredible size, experience, and a plethora of power and quickness, put simply, this team had everything to match up with anyone as seen in their feuds with Hulk Hogan, the British Bulldogs, Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, the latter being known as the Can-Am Connection. These guys would be giving Big Show, Triple H, and the New Day a run for the money in today’s WWE!
13 Wouldn’t Make It - Paul Jones Army (NWA)
I’ll go with the first makeup for this one: the Barbarian, Baron von Raschke, Teijo Khan, Super Star Billy Graham, Abdullah the Butcher and the Assassins. What a freak show! The Assassins were the only normal members of the group—and they wore masks. Saying Jones—who dressed and looked like Adolf Hitler—had an “army” was on point. It seemed overkill that Jones had that many guys just to stop Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant and the “Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez for that matter. One would think the Barbarian and Abdullah would have sufficed. The members of the feuded with Valiant during the mid-1980s and provided the sub-plots that led to Valiant and Jones ultimately getting into the ring for several hair versus hair matches and a Loser Leave Town Tuxedo Street Fight. The faction would be more novelty than noteworthy in today’s scene.
12 Make It - Varsity Club (WCW)
Underneath the letterman jackets were some tough son-of-a-bitches! Mike Rotunda, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, “Dangerous” Dan Spivey and Kevin Sullivan probably could have worn scarves, tank-tops and yoga pants and still be taken seriously. This combination came about due to Rick Steiner’s departure from the original group without Spivey. Even with the revamp, this faction was still in the thick of everything, feuding with the Road Warriors, the Steiner Brothers and Sting in the late 1980s. Each member was built like a tank, was good on the microphone and had a look of credibility. The Varsity Club could easily be seen mixing it up with Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger in today’s setting.
11 Wouldn’t Make It - Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation (WCW)
This one is tough! On one hand you had an older Terry Funk, a grizzled Dick Slater and an aging Buzz Sawyer—three badass guys who were off their rocker. Then you had the Great Muta who is one of the most technically sound wrestlers of all time. The Dragonmaster was not as widely known and was part of the large Japanese import of wrestling in the late 80s and early 90s. Yet, they all ran amok in the WCW feuding with Ric Flair and Sting in the late-1980s. This group had the look that Gary Hart and his kid’s karate teachers went to a construction site and recruited a few tough dudes for a street fight. In the real world this would work. However, fans with today’s wrestling perspective would not be so quick to accept an older typecast faction.
9 Make It - The Fabulous Freebirds (WCCW, AWA, NWA and WCW)
Talk about charisma, charm and chicanery and you’ve only scratched the surface with Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy and Buddy Roberts. The Fabulous Freebirds went everywhere and feuded with everyone from the Road Warriors, the von Erichs, the Four Horsemen, the Fantastics to Skandar Akbar’s Devastation Incorporated (to be covered later). They could be heels or faces. However, it really didn’t matter because they were so entertaining and extremely balanced. Michael Hayes was great on the microphone and at drumming up heat in the ring. Terry Gordy was the group’s power hitter and Buddy Roberts was the shifty tactician. There’s no doubt the raucous southern trio would shake things up in today’s environment. Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose and Cesaro would be on notice!
8 Wouldn’t Make It - Devastation Incorporated (WCCW)
Skandar Akbar had the run of the Texas territory area during the 1980s and early 1990s with his stable. The wrestlers who Akbar managed reads like a star-studded Hall of Fame listing: King Kong Bundy, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, “Hacksaw” Butch Reed, The Missing Link, The One Man Gang, “Stunning” Steve Austin, Kamala, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley), Ted DiBiase, Ice Man King Parsons, The Punisher (the Undertaker) and the Iron Sheik to name several. However, there was a catch. Akbar’s faction had more employee turnover than a fast-food restaurant. Although feuding with fan favorites like the Von Erichs, the Freebirds and Buriser Brody, this faction was very spread out and had members who did not endure long tenures.
7 Make It - Dangerous Alliance (WCW)
Led by manager Paul E. Dangerously, this was an underrated bunch to say the least. There was tough as nails experience in “The Living Legend” Larry Zybysko and “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson as well as the spider-monkey skills of “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton. The icing on the cake was “Ravishing” Rick Rude and “Stunning” Steve Austin. This group was incredibly balanced and showcased their talents and charisma with matches against Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham and Nikita Koloff in the early 1990s. Given the skills and abilities of the aforementioned, one could safely assume this group could hang with guys like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles and Heath Slater in any format.
6 Wouldn’t Make It - Dusty Rhodes’ Crew (NWA)
Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., Manny Fernandez, Jimmy Valiant and “Hands of Stone” Ronnie Garvin are type of guys you see together at a beach pub during spring break. You know not to mess with them because either one of them could beat you or your college buddies assess—all at once! And if they all joined in on the fray—that’s a wrap! Unfortunately, that’s where it stops. All these guys had the perfect look and angles for their time in the early to late 1980s. However, they would seem out of place and outsized amongst the glitz and moderately sized wrestlers of today. Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin in skinny jeans—yeah right! In all seriousness and with much respect to the aforementioned, they were victims of the times.
5 Make It - The Von Erichs (WCCW)
Forming a faction by family default, there will always be “What ifs?” with the Von Erich family faction. Notwithstanding, the Von Erichs were what good-guy wrestlers should look and be like in any era. All three men were tall, chiseled and extremely versatile with both power and high-flying moves. Even through Kerry and Kevin were adequate talkers, David was the group’s true microphone technician. Aside from the issues that beleaguered the family, each of the Von Erichs was “The Total Package,” mixing it up with a variety of opponents from the Freebirds, Bruiser Brody, to King Kong Bundy. There is no doubt that the Von Erichs would have kept pace in today’s wrestling world tangling with guys like Brock Lesnar, Rusev and Rhyno.
4 Wouldn’t Make It - The Four Horsemen (NWA)
The Four Horsemen are arguably one of the best wrestling factions of all time. Led by manager J.J. Dillon, the team of Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard and Arn and Ole Anderson were feud magnets and a big reason why the NWA of the mid-1980s was considered the best period of wrestling ever. I may catch hell for this one, however, the initial formation of the Four Horsemen would not hold up well in today’s landscape. Save for Flair and Arn Anderson, the remaining Horsemen, Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard, would have a challenge matching both skill and physicality with today’s stars. However, replacing Ole Anderson and Blanchard at the same time with future Horsemen Lex Luger and Barry Windham would provide a youth infusion and similarity to today’s athletes.
3 Make It - The Legion of Doom (GCW/NWA)
This stable could have just stopped with just Jake “The Snake” Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude and the Spoiler, who are all formidable foes in their own right! But damn, the Road Warriors, too? That wasn’t fair! Paul Ellering pretty much had all the badass heels in one stable with this grouping back in the early 1980s. This stable feuded with Ole Anderson, Buzz Sawyer as well as the Brisco Brothers. As time would show, Roberts, Bundy, Rude and the Spoiler disbanded after a short time leaving just Ellering and the Warriors—probably all you needed to run a faction. However, even the Road Warriors and The Spoiler would have been formidable and would have worked in today’s wrestling given their size, ring psychology and look. Nevertheless, the first grouping would be just fine scuffling with and beating down Randy Orton, the Miz, and Kevin Owens.
2 Wouldn’t Make It - Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness (FCW)
The Army of Darkness was some weird stuff. Consisting of Kevin Sullivan, the Purple Haze, “Maniac” Mark Lewin, Bob Roop and a few other intermittent wrestlers, this faction carried out a devil worshiping gimmick in the NWA territory of Florida during the mid-1980s. They would walk to the ring in demonic face paint, black robes, wearing snakes and leading chained women amid heavy metal music, black lights and smoke. Although fans might not know Mark Lewin and Bob Roop, these guys along with Sullivan feuded with everybody that came through the Florida territory: Dusty Rhodes, Superstar Billy Graham, Bruiser Brody, Blackjack Mulligan and the Road Warriors. Though their list of competitors is long and shows depth, their gimmick would be dated and a little too much for today’s crowds.
1 Make It - The Russians (NWA)
Hating on the Russians in the wrestling world was low-hanging fruit during the 1980s. During the Cold War heyday of the 1980s, Ivan and Nikita Koloff along with Krusher Kruschev were always atop the most hated lists. They even had German wrestler Baron Von Raschke wrestle with them sporadically, further bolstering the supernova of hate from the crowd. However, there’s something to be said for versatility. Ivan, Nikita and Crusher would feud with everyone to include the Four Horsemen, the Rock n’ Roll Express, the Road Warriors, Magnum T.A. and Dusty Rhodes. That’s quite the variety of styles! There would be no doubt these guys could hang with everyone today to include Roman Reigns, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler or the New Day for that matter. And oh yeah, hating on the Russians in today’s wrestling world is still good business!