The Four Horsemen is the professional wrestling stable against which all other wrestling stables are compared. There were stables before, but once the Horsemen were formed, they changed the landscape of professional wrestling. Ironically, the group was formed by accident, and not by a booker. During a television broadcast, there was not enough time for a series of interviews, so, since Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard and the Andersons had been working together and feuding with the same guys, they were asked to do their interviews together. During that interview, Arn Anderson dropped a line referencing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and at the next set of television tapings, the audience was littered with Four Horsemen signs, and thus the name stuck and the stable was formed.
The group was the first set of “cool heels” in professional wrestler, as they were as revered by the fans as they were reviled because of the things that they did, like breaking Dusty Rhodes’ leg or breaking Ricky Morton’s nose. Throughout the group’s existence, members were changed, and some wrestlers were better suited for the group than others. There were some Horsemen whose membership added to the group while others were added out of the necessity for the group to have four members. Therefore, here is a ranking of the tenures of the fifteen members of the legendary Four Horsemen.
15 Curt Hennig
Curt Hennig’s inclusion was actually a swerve intended to elevate Hennig as a heel as he was set to join the NWO. Arn Anderson was forced to retire due to a neck injury, and Curt Hennig was selected to take Arn’s place as the group’s enforcer. Hennig accepted the selection only to turn on the group shortly after. Because Hennig was a full member of the group for a short time, he is included on the list, but his tenure with the group is only memorable for the swerve.
Hennig joined the NWO, and the Horsemen, left without a fourth member and also without Arn Anderson, disbanded with Flair, Benoit and Mongo going their separate ways. Hennig was kicked out of the NWO, and formed the West Texas Rednecks with second-generation wrestlers Bobby Duncum, Jr. and the Windham brothers. Curt Hennig never added anything to the Four Horsemen, and his short tenure with the group is evidence of that.
14 Paul Roma
Paul Roma joined the Horsemen at a time when the only Horsemen were Flair and Arn. Roma teamed with Arn, and the duo won the WCW Tag Team Titles, which was Roma’s first professional wrestling championship. One month after winning the titles, Arn and Roma dropped the straps, and shortly after that, Roma turned heel, as the Horsemen were a good guy stable at the time, and teamed with Horsemen adversary Paul Orndorff.
Many fans and writers felt that Paul Roma was not a good fit for the Horsemen. The Horsemen were depicted as being the elite in professional wrestling, and Roma, with his résumé, did not fit the mold of an elite wrestler. Also, as the Horsemen were a baby face stable at the time that Roma joined, Roma portraying an arrogant heel was not a good fit. He would have been better suited for a heel Horsemen group, but timing is everything, and the timing was not right for Paul Roma to join the group.
13 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett was selected to join the Horsemen in a storyline that nearly split the group. Flair wanted Jarrett to join while Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael were against it. Jarrett was eventually granted membership, but McMichael was still wary of Jarrett, especially since Debra, McMichael’s wife, had begun accompanying Jarrett to the ring for matches that did not include McMichael. The division between the two members forced Flair to kick Jarrett out of the group, and Debra followed Jarrett.
Jarrett would continue to feud with McMichael, but the separation left the Horsemen in a weird place. At the time, the Horsemen were tweeners, as they were baby faces against the NWO, but heels to the rest of the roster. The duo of Jarrett and McMichael feuded with the popular Public Enemy, while at the same time they helped Roddy Piper battle the New World Order and Hollywood Hogan. Jarrett’s departure, and the Hennig situation some months later, led to the team splitting up, almost for good.
During one of the Horsemen’s good guy periods, the group and Sting found themselves feuding with the same opponents, so it was decided, due to the absence of original Horseman Tully Blanchard, that Sting should join the group. The decision was odd based on the fact that Sting had been one of the group’s primary targets, because Sting coveted the World Title that Flair held. Sting joined the group, but his stay was not very long.
While Sting was a Horseman, he was named the number-one contender for Flair’s NWA World Heavyweight Title. The Horsemen’s primary purpose at the time was making sure that Flair held on to the title, so instead of the idea of “keeping it in the family”, the group ordered Sting to give up his title shot. Sting refused, and was kicked out of the group, turning the Horsemen heel in the process. Sting’s tenure with the Horsemen was very short, but it helped to make Sting the star that he eventually became.
11 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko was part of the final Horsemen group that existed in WCW. While Ric Flair was off of WCW television, Malenko, along with Chris Benoit pestered Arn Anderson about reforming the Horsemen. Anderson ultimately relented when Flair returned, and the group was reformed, with Malenko as a member. This was a good guy group that feuded with the NWO and Eric Bischoff, who was the cause of Flair being off of television.
Once the feud with Bischoff was over, and Flair was named on-screen President of WCW (which he won in a match against Bischoff), the group turned heel, with the purpose of getting the WCW World Title for Flair, and keeping the US Title on David Flair. Because the group did nothing for the rest of the members, Malenko left the group and formed the Revolution, along with Benoit, Shane Douglas and Perry Saturn. Malenko’s time with the Horsemen was not memorable, but he can say that he was part of the last faction that carried the Four Horsemen name.
10 Ole Anderson
Ole Anderson was one of the original members of the Four Horsemen group. At the time, Ole carried the NWA National Tag Titles with Arn Anderson, and along with Flair and Blanchard, they formed the Horsemen group. Ole served as the elder statesman of the group, and worked primarily in tag team matches with Arn. When Lex Luger joined the group, Ole was kicked out for going to watch his son wrestle in school instead of “attending to Horsemen business”.
Two years after his departure from the group, Ole returned to the Horsemen as their manager, and welcomed Sting in as a member. Shortly after the end of the Sting-Horsemen storyline, Ole became a member of WCW’s booking committee, and took himself off of television. Ole’s calm but direct interview style was a perfect contrast to Flair’s over-the-top style, but as a wrestler, when the Horsemen were formed, Ole was past his prime while the other members were at their peaks.
9 Brian Pillman
Pillman’s inclusion in the Horsemen came about during a feud between Arn Anderson and Ric Flair, where Arn felt that he was overlooked and could actually defeat Flair in a match if given the chance. Pillman helped Arn defeat Flair, and Flair asked Sting to team with him against the duo. This led to a swerve where Flair turned on Sting and reformed the Horsemen with Pillman as a member.
Pillman cultivated his “Loose Cannon” persona during this time, and Pillman feuded with Kevin Sullivan and the Dungeon of Doom while Arn and Flair attempted to keep peace between the two groups. After the feud with the Dungeon, Pillman left WCW for ECW so that he could continue to work on his “Loose Cannon” persona in anticipation of a return to WCW, but Pillman elected to join the WWE and his friend Steve Austin instead. Though Loose Cannon Pillman did not seem to be a good fit for the Horsemen, the gimmick, and his time with the group, helped to elevate Pillman’s career, which unfortunately ended shortly after leaving WCW.
8 Steve McMichael
Mongo seemed to be the most unlikely member of the group, but Steve McMichael is one of the longest tenured members of the group. Mongo started out as a commentator on the inaugural WCW Monday Nitro broadcasts, even though his wrestling career to that point consisted of standing at ringside while Lawrence Taylor battled Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI. Mongo originally teamed with fellow football player Kevin Greene and feuded with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. However, the feud was a swerve as Mongo turned on Greene and joined the Horsemen.
McMichael captured the US Title during his time with the Horsemen, but he also lost his wife Debra to Jeff Jarrett. While Jarrett was a Horseman, Debra began favoring Jarrett to Mongo, and when Jarrett was kicked out of the group. Debra followed him. Mongo stayed with the group until it disbanded after the Hennig swerve, and returned when the group was reformed with Benoit and Malenko. Mongo left WCW just as Flair became President of WCW, and though he could never be considered a true “elite” wrestler, it could be said that he was a valued member of the Horseman.
7 Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was a wrestler who could be said was born to be a Horseman. He was not an arrogant womanizer, as the group was characterized in its early days, but he was an elite wrestler and was loyal to whomever he was partnered with. Benoit joined the Horsemen with Brian Pillman, and left the group when it disbanded for the final time, making Benoit the longest tenured member other than Flair and Anderson. When Pillman left WCW for ECW, Benoit took up Pillman’s feud with Kevin Sullivan, which led to Sullivan’s wife Nancy, known as Woman, aligning herself with Benoit and joining the Horsemen as a valet.
Benoit stayed a Horseman until the Ric Flair President of WCW angle, when Benoit and Malenko formed the Revolution. Perhaps Benoit’s finest moment as a Horseman was his performance at Uncensored 1997, when Benoit was the first man to enter the triangle elimination main event match, and was the last non-NWO wrestler eliminated other than Lex Luger, who eliminated three NWO members before losing to eventual winner Hulk Hogan. Benoit elevated himself with that performance, and stayed near the tops of the WCW and WWE talent rosters until his death ten years later.
6 Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious joined the Horsemen shortly after Sting was removed from the group. Sid was brought in originally as the enforcer for the Flair, Arn, Barry Windham group, but over time, he became a contender to the World Title, as Sting was the champion, and all of the Horsemen pursued the title. Sid was the MVP of the War Games Match at Wrestle War 1991, when he power-bombed Brian Pillman numerous times, forcing El Gigante to come in and surrender for an unable to continue Pillman. This victory was one of the only heel wins in a War Games match.
During Sid’s Horsemen run, he almost won the World Title when, during a match against Sting for the World Title, Barry Windham impersonated Sting and laid down for Sid, seemingly giving Sid the win and the title. The real Sting emerged from the backstage area, the match was restarted, and Sting emerged victorious. After the War Games match, the Horsemen temporarily split, and Sid joined the WWE, but while he was a Horseman, he was the anchor of one of the strongest Horsemen lineups.
5 Lex Luger
Lex Luger was brought into the Horsemen as an associate, despite the objections of original member Ole Anderson. Ole felt that Lex wasn’t elite enough for the team, while the other members had a desire to bring in a young talent to groom. When Ole was kicked out of the group, Lex was made a full member of the group. Lex’s association with the group began with James J. Dillon cheating to help Luger win the US Title. His association with the Horsemen ended when Dillion’s attempt to cheat to help Luger backfired and cost Luger his US title.
Lex attempted to feud with the Horsemen, recruiting Barry Windham to aid in his cause, but Windham turned on Luger and joined the Horsemen in Luger’s place. Luger went on to become one of the Horsemen’s fiercest adversaries, along with Sting. Lex Luger wasn’t a Horseman for very long, but while he was with the group, he helped to issue in the era when the Horsemen dominated the titles in Jim Crockett Promotions.
4 Barry Windham
Many followers of professional wrestling feel that the strongest lineup of the Horsemen featured Flair, Anderson, Blanchard and Barry Windham. At his peak, Windham was one of the most talented wrestlers in the business, and he was a perfect fit for the Horsemen. As he was equally adept at singles as he was at tag team wrestling, he could fill any role that the Horsemen needed. When Arn and Tully left WCW for the WWE, Windham stayed with the Horsemen. After a time, Windham left WCW for the WWE.
When Barry returned to WCW, he rejoined the Horsemen in a lineup that included Flair, Arn and Sid Vicious, arguably the second strongest Horsemen lineup. This lineup stayed together until Flair was fired from WCW. Flair went to the WWE, and Windham became a top contender to the World title. When WWE elected to induct the Horsemen into the Hall of Fame, they chose the Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham lineup, making Barry a Hall of Famer due to his association with the Horsemen.
3 Tully Blanchard
The Four Horsemen were originated in part because of Tully Blanchard and his manager James J. Dillon. Ole, Arn and Flair were storyline cousins, but during the group interview, the “cousins”, along with Tully and Dillon created the collection of talent that led Arn to make the statement about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Tully was the National Heavyweight Champion, and then, spent time as a tag champion with the group. Tully Blanchard was a versatile performer who was a valuable asset to the group.
Arn and Tully left WCW for the WWE, but while Arn returned to WCW, Tully was not invited to return. Tully failed a drug test while in the WWE, and when it was time for him to return to WCW, the management of WCW heard about the failed drug test and elected not to sign him. The Horsemen went on without him, but while he was a member, the group was never stronger.
2 Ric Flair
Over time, the purpose of the Horsemen came to be making sure that Ric Flair kept the World Heavyweight Title. Ric Flair was the star of the show, and the rest of the group, at times, existed to keep the championship within the group. However, the image of the Horsemen, jet flying and limousine riding, came from “The Nature Boy”. Flair was one of the only two men who were a part of every incarnation of the Horsemen, and many of the breakups of the group were because Flair was at odds with the management of WCW.
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest professional wrestler who has ever lived, and the Four Horsemen are just a part of his legacy. Flair has won more World Titles than any other wrestler in history, but because of his association with the Four Horsemen, Ric Flair is the only two-time inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame.
1 Arn Anderson
Arn Anderson was the heart and soul of the Four Horsemen. He was one of the four original members of the group, and he was a part of nearly every incarnation of the group. When the purpose of the Horsemen became making sure that Ric Flair gained and kept the World Heavyweight Title, this task became Arn Anderson’s primary role, and he was more than up to the task. Nicknamed “The Enforcer”, Arn Anderson made sure that Flair was always safe; and anyone who wanted Flair had to go through Anderson.
In addition to keeping Flair safe, Arn Anderson won tag titles with Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Paul Roma. When he could no longer actively wrestle, Arn served as mentor to young members Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Steve McMichael. It was Arn’s job to rein in “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman, and Arn was the reason that the Horsemen got back together for the last time after Flair returned from his final suspension from WCW. Arn might not have been the star of the group, but it could never have survived without him.