There aren’t many things in wrestling I love more than a good faction or stable. The Four Horsemen, nWo, Kai En Tai, groups chock full of excellent talent that shines together or on their own. Even a crappy faction can have its moments, like when Sable became a part of the Oddities or Major Gunns from the Misfits in Action.
Think about the group mentality of it all, two is better than one, strength in numbers, all those clichés. The WWE “Gang Wars” storyline was built around the idea of factions, like the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas, Disciples of Apocalypse and others. In some cases, the faction brings together dominant superstars like when the Mega Powers aligned, but it can also be a vehicle to drive guys to main event status. While it wasn’t Edge that was supposed to be the star coming out of The Brood, the idea was to build a character that they could push into the main event. More on that later.
But none of these groups ends up lasting forever and in most cases it’s a power struggle that ruins the party. From the ashes though, some great wrestlers have emerged to go it alone and build some great legacies. The Nation of Domination didn’t last all that long when the Rock took the leadership role from Farooq, but it lead to one of the best runs in wrestling history. The Rock isn’t the only superstar to emerge from a faction and go on to super stardom. Here are the Top 15 wrestlers to do just that.
15 Nikita Koloff (The Russians)
In the 80s, Nikita Koloff was a beast and played your stereotypical Russian meathead alongside Krusher Kruschev and veteran Ivan Koloff. Think Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. The three were basically jacked dudes and out there to prove that Russia was the greatest nation on earth. Nikita had a terrible fake Russian accent, but it was a babyface turn and teaming with Dusty Rhodes that made him an NWA legend. Following the accident of Magnum TA that ended his career, Rhodes saw an alternative in making Koloff a top babyface for the NWA. The Soviet Premier at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, was gaining popularity throughout the country with his political reform of Soviet territories. Rhodes knew the evil Russian gimmick would soon be a thing of the past, so he struck while the iron was hot and made Koloff his biggest ally against the Four Horsemen. It was brilliant of Rhodes to get ahead of the curb.
He never won the world title, but Koloff held the tag team belts and some singles titles as well.
14 Raven (Raven’s Nest/Flock)
Some good wrestlers came out of this group including Perry Saturn, Stevie Richards and Billy Kidman, but it was Raven who showed why the others followed him. Raven was able to build his name by leading this stable. Sometimes it's a supporting member of a group that turns out to be the big star, but in this case, portraying Raven as a leader is ultimately what got him over.
Raven’s matches against the Sandman and Tommy Dreamer helped build the foundation of ECW. As a member of the WWE roster, Raven held the Hardcore Championship a record 27 times, but unfortunately, was never pushed higher up on the card. He’s also one of the few wrestlers who worked for WWE, ECW, WCW and TNA. It's a shame that the other companies couldn't capitalize on his skills like ECW did.
All of this after Raven went through gimmicks like Scotty Flamingo and Johnny Polo.
13 Dolph Ziggler (Spirit Squad)
Kenny Dykstra looked like he might be the man coming out of the dissolution of the Spirit Squad, but instead it was just a year until he was released by WWE. Dolph Ziggler, meanwhile, is still a superstar with the company, but who would have guessed at the time. Ziggler didn’t do much to set himself apart from the rest of the group, which may be why he’s still around. Ziggler was Nicky in The Spirit Squad and thankfully, he overcame this.
He totally transformed himself and is the only member who can say they had a run with the World Heavyweight Championship. If it wasn’t for injuries, Ziggler may have been an even bigger star.
When looking at this group, everybody saw them as a joke and it appeared this terrible gimmick would doom all five members' careers, but thankfully Ziggler's talent helped him overcome the stigma that the group gave him.
12 Batista (Evolution)
No, Batista is not on this list because of his run as Deacon Batista in Reverend D-Von's church entourage. Batista was one of four members of Evolution and while Orton's run as babyface flopped following his split from the group, Batista was given that same opportunity in early 2005 and flourished. By the time 2005 came around, the crowd was ready to cheer Batista and he left the group following his Royal Rumble win to challenge Triple H. Seeing anybody dethrone Triple H was huge at the time and the crowd fully got behind Batista when he defeated The Game at WrestleMania 21. Batista went on to become the face of SmackDown and carried the brand was World Heavyweight Champion.
Batista and Cena were the two biggest babyfaces in WWE in the mid 2000s and Batista's popularity arose due to his past work with Evolution and his split from Triple H. He went on to be one of WWE's top stars until his WWE departure in 2010.
11 Booker T (The Alliance)
The five time WCW World Heavyweight champion led the company as they lost the battle with the WWE, but that was what gave Booker the opportunity to become a Hall of Famer. As a member of The Alliance, he was one of the few who broke free of his WCW tag and developed into a WWE star becoming a Grand Slam champion and winning the King of the Ring in 2006. Booker wrestled the first match between WCW stars in a WWE ring when he faced Buff Bagwell and still contributes on the WWE preshow to Pay-Per-Views.
Sting didn't come to WWE in 2001 partly because he saw how the WCW alumni were being dismissed as inferior to WWE talents and Booker T was by far the best the original WCW stars had to offer. It took a while for the stigma of The Alliance to leave him, but Booker's talent and charisma eventually saw him break out to become a star in the WWE.
10 Randy Orton (Evolution)
Evolution was a modern day version of The Four Horsemen. The group was so successful, because everybody in the group had a clear cut role. Ric Flair was the wily veteran and clearly someone who was there to impart wisdom on the group. Triple H was the clear-cut leader, already being an established star and in the middle of his run as the dominant wrestler on the RAW brand. Batista was the enforcer of the group and Randy Orton was billed as the future of the business. He had the look, he had the skills and being a part of this group helped Orton find himself as a performer.
While in the group, Orton grew his 'Legend Killer' persona and became almost as hated a heel as Triple H. His run as a babyface following the split from the group failed, but he soon rebounded once he turned heel and began feuding with The Undertaker. Orton's run in the WWE has now lasted 14 years and it all started because of his terrific run with Evolution.
9 Nick Bockwinkel (Heenan Family)
The Heenan Family spanned a couple of decades and encompassed a number of legendary members like Mr. Perfect, Andre the Giant and Rick Rude, but Nick Bockwinkel was the man. A classic wrestler, Heenan led Bockwinkel to the AWA heavyweight strap during the 70s when the American Wrestling Association was as strong as any other territory out there. Honorable mention to Heenan though as he is considered one of the best managers of all-time and was one of a kind inside and outside the squared circle.
Heenan is the greatest manager of all time and he had quite a few talents that he accompanied to the ring in his career. He was able to be the mouthpiece for his clients and set the gold standard for managers in the coming years. Bockwinkel was the no.1 heel in the AWA and it's partly because he had Bobby Heenan by his side.
8 The Giant (Dungeon of Doom)
I’m no fan of Kevin Sullivan and his Dungeon of Doom was a gang of misfits that didn’t do all that much. The Shark? Zodiac? Come on, these guys were scrubs. But there was one thing they got right and that was The Giant, who won the WCW World Heavyweight Champion twice while he was in the group. He was the one guy that panned out from that group because his gimmick was simple and effective. He was a seven footer who just came down to the ring and destroyed anyone in his path. Many people also forget just how great of an athlete Paul Wight was in his prime.
While it might not be all that difficult to stand out from this faction, the Big Show continues to wrestle on a major stage with the WWE and has held every men’s championship over the past 15 years. Any surprise that Z-Gangsta wasn’t the man to emerge from the Dungeon of Doom?
7 Seth Rollins (The Shield)
Each member of The Shield has held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and Roman Reigns has held it the most, three times. The combined reigns of Rollins’ runs (say that five times fast) with the title tops the list and let’s be honest, he’s been the best champion of them all. I never really cared about Rollins when he was with The Shield, but that’s not because he wasn’t a great performer. All of his matches are fantastic and he really has no down-side.
Perhaps Rollins stands out above Ambrose and Reigns because he was the one who ultimately split the group up, by betraying them and joining The Authority. That action instantly made Rollins a top heel and he held the world title through the majority of 2015.
He has really made himself such a great wrestling character over his run with the title and seems like he will help carry the company going forward.
6 Rey Mysterio Jr. (Filthy Animals)
My favorite part of Mysterio’s career was his time in WCW. Feuding with Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero, Rey did impossible things in a body dwarfed by any of his competitors. One of the interesting times of that run was as a member of the Filthy Animals, a time where Mysterio shed the mask we all have come to recognize.
The group had a solid two year run with members that included Konnan and Billly Kidman, but neither can say they are a former WWE Heavyweight Champion.
Mysterio's career took a bit of a hit when he was unmasked, as Eric Bischoff felt he wasn't marketable in his mask. What's more marketable, a high flying underdog that comes to the ring in cool masks, or a guy that looks like a teenager? Thankfully WWE realized how marketable Rey was with a mask and he instantly caught on with the WWE Universe when he signed in late 2002.
5 Daniel Bryan (The Nexus)
Sure, Daniel Bryan wasn’t in the Nexus long, but nobody in that faction become a star like him over the past six years. It's hard to believe it’s been that long since the faction invaded Monday Night Raw, leaving John Cena, CM Punk and others in their wake. The group’s leader, Wade Barrett had a number of pushes before parting ways with WWE but none really got him over the top. After the incident of Nexus attacking wrestlers and ring crew at the conclusion of a RAW episode, Bryan was fired after an incident in which he choked Justin Roberts with his tie as part of the angle. Bryan was brought back by SummerSlam that year, but as a part of Team WWE fighting against The Nexus.
Bryan started a movement and won the WWE World Heavyweight Title when nobody believed he could. If it wasn’t for injuries, Bryan would likely still be atop the WWE.
4 Triple H (D-X)
Shawn Michaels was already the man when D-Generation X came together, while Hunter Hearst Helmsley was working the midcard. When Michaels left wrestling for a few years, it gave Triple H the opportunity to show off what he could do and he stamped his ticket to the Hall of Fame.
Triple H made the group his own and grew D-X into one of the most popular factions of all time, but Hunter didn't rest on his laurels. When he felt he went as far as he could with D-X, he turned heel, joining The Corporation and beginning his run as a top heel in the WWE.
Marrying the boss’s daughter didn’t hurt his career and led to another great group, the McMahon-Helmsley faction. Considering that Michaels was already the WWE Champion before the group came together, I’d have to say that Trips benefited most being part of the group, but everyone really thrived as the New Age Outlaws were tag champs and X-Pac was the European champ.
3 Edge (The Brood)
The Brood was intended to be a vehicle for Gangrel to get over with the WWE universe. Looking back, they were a little ahead of their time. Imagine if they were a faction when the Twilight saga hit, they would have been printing money for Vince. But alas, while Gangrel never really took off, a few years later Edge, the guy who never spoke a word, became a superstar. Edge’s in-ring work with Christian during the original TLC matches was incredible and the promos were top-notch as well. The group was completely revamped as Edge and Christian abandoned the whole vampire schtick and were simply a version of themselves, being a nerdy tag team. The on-screen brothers eventually split up and Edge, following a heel turn, really emerged as a top star in the business.
Edge won the strap an astounding 11 times and retired on top. Can’t do much better than that.
2 Stone Cold (Dangerous Alliance)
The Dangerous Alliance was a group of WCW veterans including Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson and Steve Austin, many of them holding titles while being managed by the legendary Paul Heyman. Stunning Steve was the youngest member of the group while wrestling in the midcard, but seemingly went nowhere. After WCW disbanded the Dangerous Alliance and later dumped Austin, he transformed himself.
He went to ECW and Paul Heyman was fully aware of how talented Austin was. He had gotten to know him quite a bit from their work together in that stable. He let Austin loose on the microphone and let him air his grievances from WCW. His work eventually got him noticed by the WWE.
After a sub-par run as The Ringmaster, Austin transformed himself into the Texas Rattlesnake, setting the business on fire and taking it to heights unseen since.
1 The Rock (Nation of Domination)
Is it any guess as to who would be the man to come out of The Nation or were you really hoping I’d drop D’Lo Brown or Ahmed Johnson’s name? Nobody benefitted from being a part of a group more than The Rock did. He was completely miscast as a vanilla babyface as Rocky Maivia. His career was going nowhere and WWE had no clue how to build him. When given the opportunity to turn heel and join The Nation, The Rock didn't hesitate and used the opportunity to find his true identity as a performer.
The facial expressions, the intensity and smoothness on the mic, it’s tough to find many better in the history of the business than Dwayne Johnson. Once Rocky Maivia joined the Nation and morphed into the Rock, Faarooq’s days as the leader were numbered. The Rock remains a huge draw in the ring and on the screen as a major film and television star.
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