Unlike major sports, wrestling has no offseason. While pro sports leagues above have months of downtime before their respective leagues start up for a new season, the WWE runs for over 300 days per year.
With there being so much time dedicated on the road traveling while being away from their families, professional wrestlers instill in groups of friends to make their time away from their loved ones worthwhile. Because of this, cliques in the wrestling business are born.
Now, while many believe cliques are childish and should stop after high school, wrestling isn’t normal life. Just because groups of people want to spend time together because they can’t be with their families, doesn’t mean that they’re trying to cause harm to anyone.
At least, that’s not what fans think. Wrestlers can have different opinions.
The cliques on the list range from all different circumstances and walks of life. On one hand, you have The Kliq, the most controversial group of wrestlers backstage in wrestling history. However, when it comes to ECW’s contingent, it was done for the betterment of the promotion. Or with the Canadian Mafia, it was just a bunch of men who had a common bond of a native country.
Yes, the on screen product drives the WWE. However, there is a strong portion of the WWE Universe that enjoys what goes on behind the scenes just as much as what goes on during television programs. That’s exactly why backstage cliques are so interesting to read about.
Okay, okay, no more holding off on this countdown. Here are 10 of the best backstage cliques in wrestling history.
10. The Four Horsewomen
While the Diva’s Revolution has been broadcasted over WWE airwaves for the last several months, it began down in NXT. However, no one spoke about a revolution – it just happened inside of the squared circle.
Started by Nattie and Paige, it was spearheaded by Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley. Week after week on NXT television, any combination of the four women were putting on five star matches in a WWE ring – something that had never been seen before.
At NXT TakeOver: Rival, the four women put on a great fatal four-way contest for the Women’s Championship, which saw Banks walk away with the title. The run of the Four Horsewomen continued up until NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, where the passing of the torch from Banks to Bayley took place in one of the best women’s wrestling matches in WWE history.
Although many knew that the four women shared a close bond with one another, it was never more apparent until Brooklyn, as the Four Horsemen had their “Curtain Call” moment, ala The Kliq. More on them later.
9. Triple H’s NXT Clique
While the Four Horsewomen were dominating the women’s side of things down in NXT, there was a male counterpart doing the exact same thing.
With NXT as hot as ever towards the end of 2014, Triple H knew that more top-level independent talents were needed to continue the transition from developmental program to its own brand. With Neville and Sami Zayn already in the fold, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami were brought in from all walks of life to add another element to the program.
While most of the NXT wrestlers had to pay their dues by setting up the ring, practicing everyday and having regimented gym programs, due to their lengthy and successful runs around the world, Owens, Balor, Itami, Zayn and Neville didn’t have to partake in many mandatory situations if they didn’t want to.
While some may deem it unfair, the five men earned what was given to them. That’s why Owens and Neville are tearing it up on the main roster; Balor is the star of NXT; and once Itami and Zayn return from injury, they will catch up as well.
It’s one thing when friends start a small little wrestling company when they are teenagers. It’s a completely something else when those teenagers grow to men and all wrestle in the WWE at the same time.
That’s exactly what happened for Matt and Jeff Hardy, Gregory Helms and Shannon Moore during the early 2000s.
Growing up in North Carolina, Matt and Jeff, due to their love for the business, created OMEGA, or Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts. Wrestling at local fairs and flea markets, the brothers used two of their good friends from high school – Gregory Helms and Shannon Moore, among others – as other wrestlers to get the company off the ground.
7. WCW’s Other Guys
During the glory days of WCW, the main event scene felt tired; after all, how many more times could fans watch Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper wrestle each other?
However, the undercard was a thing of beauty for wrestling fans. The luchadors were tearing it up in the opening match, while the cruiserweights had show stealing performances during the first half of the card.
Due to their bond over not only wrestling great matches but being held down by Eric Bischoff and the creative team, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio and Perry Saturn spent their time backstage and on the road together, as the only thing that was worthwhile for the wrestlers while in WCW were themselves.
Because their talent wasn’t appreciated down south, each of the wrestlers made the decision to go to the WWE. First it was Jericho, then months later came Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn in one fell swoop, and last but not least, Mysterio came two years later.
6. The Canadian Mafia
In what is by far the largest backstage contingent on the list, the Canadian Mafia stuck together during the late 80s and early 90s in the WWE.
With the country of Canada represented strongly in those days, the Canadian Mafia consisted of, at some point or another: Pat Patterson, Bret and Owen Hart, Bad News Brown, Jacques Rougeau, Dino Bravo, Rick Martel, Ron Garvin and the British Bulldogs.
No, the Bulldogs weren’t Canadian, but their close relationship with the Hart family made them honorary members. Back in those times, locker rooms were usually separated and if you walked backstage at WWE, you would catch the Canadian Mafia all in one room.
Owen Hart kept the Canadian Mafia strong following the original members’ departures. Hart recruited Edge, Christian and Test into the new incarnation of the Mafia, as a way to mentor the young Canadians. During Hart’s Memorial Raw episode, Edge makes note of the Canadian Mafia and has said that Hart played a big part in his maturation process as a wrestler.
5. TNA’s WWE Clique
While it may seem immensely farfetched in today’s wrestling world, there was a point when TNA was on the coattails of the WWE – and they gained even more ground when former stars Christian, The Dudley Boyz and Rhino jumped on board in 2005.
Although the four men weren’t known to ruffle feathers while in WWE, they slightly did so once they were all in TNA at the same time. Back at that time, it was reported on numerous dirt sheet websites that Christian, Bubba Ray, D-Von and Rhino made it a point to dress in a separate locker room than some of the other TNA talents.
However, any problems with the four men were quickly squashed. While they did have a locker room, they never distanced themselves from any of the other talents on the roster, while always making it a point to help the younger talent.
4. The Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff Clan
Back in the early days of the WWE, it always seemed, at least backstage, that Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart and The Nasty Boys came as a package deal. The four men generally shared a locker room while keeping to themselves.
Once Hogan jumped ship to WCW, whom did he bring along with him? That’s right, Hart and The Nasty Boys. However, with Eric Bischoff becoming so close with Hogan, he jumped into the fold with the four men, as the group became very tight knit.
And if you think the five some stopped when WCW closed its doors, you are sorely mistaken.
When Bischoff and Hogan were hired by TNA, the two were able to secure contracts for many of their close allies. Those allies included Hart, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Saggs.
3. ECW’s Brains Of The Operation
Because of WWE’s efforts in putting out multiple programs highlighting ECW, it is well known that it wasn’t only Paul Heyman who was behind the massive success of the rebel promotion.
During their most popular run from 1997 until ECW closed its doors in 2001, Heyman entrusted most of the locker room to perform duties outside of the ring. Whether it be setting up the ring, mailing out tickets, putting together merchandise packages or being used on their telephone hotline, a majority of the talent had multiple jobs backstage.
However, there were no more important wrestler/worker combinations than Tommy Dreamer, Taz and Bubba Ray Dudley.
On the DVD “The Rise and Fall of ECW,” Dudley proclaimed that the four men would generally meet during the week while shows were going on to set up the most important things to make the promotion continue to succeed.
Outside of being wrestlers, Dreamer was the head of the creative team, Taz came up with all of the logos and merchandise designs, while Bubba would call each arena to book shows for ECW. On top of that, the four men would travel to not only work on the logistics of the promotion, but to share their love for wrestling.
There may have been no greater time for backstage cliques in wrestling than the mid-1990s. While 99% of the people reading this list know who is going to be number one on the list, number two will highlight their biggest rivals: the Bone Street Krew.
With The Kliq running roughshod backstage, The Undertaker and Yokozuna decided to make a group of their own to ensure that no one would mess with their friends. Alas, BSK was born, as Rikishi, Savio Vega, Brian Adams, The Godfather, The Godwinns and Paul Bearer joined The Undertaker and Yokozuna.
In an recent interview with WWE.com, both Vega and The Godfather made it a point to say that the group was nothing more than friends who had things in common like a passion for the wrestling business, music, drinking and playing dominos.
However, it is obvious that the nine men have a true allegiance to the BSK. Many of the members have “BSK” tattoos, with The Undertaker’s being the most apparent, as it is seen when he removes his singlet from his torso.
Some people saw them as a gang, while others saw them as friends. Either way, no one wanted to have any sort of problems with the BSK.
1. The Kliq
A list counting down the best backstage cliques couldn’t end with any other group than this: The Kliq.
Now immortalized for their backstage behavior, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Triple H and X-Pac – and to a lesser extent, Justin Credible – all shared a common love and passion for the wrestling business. Due to owner Vince McMahon appreciating their commitment to wrestling, he often asked them their opinion on what to do in storylines.
While many wrestlers that weren’t liked by The Kliq viewed it as bullying, the group simply wanted to do what was best for business – even if that meant keeping the five men towards the top of the card.
However, it was obvious that they weren’t only looking out for themselves. In various shoot interviews, Nash has stated that The Kliq always respected and told McMahon to push wrestlers like The Undertaker, while also recommending Bam Bam Bigelow take a place at the top of the card, although he admitted that both sides didn’t like each other.
Sure, many wrestlers saw The Kliq as a major problem backstage. However, it can’t be understated that their vision and ideas for the business eventually brought wrestling to newer heights. Concluding with their now infamous Curtain Call, Nash, Hall and X-Pac bolted for WCW, while Michaels and Triple H stayed put in the WWE. With The Kliq now split, they were able to implement ideas into the two biggest wrestling companies in the world; and it isn’t a surprise that both WWE and WCW reached its highest points in their respective histories during that time.
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