When looking at some of the most dominant wrestling factions, there was usually a leader who was the foundation of the group. It was either that, or the responsibility was shared among the members in an even distribution. More often, there was one person viewed by many as the top star. Even legendary groups like The Four Horsemen had someone who had the most individual success – Ric Flair had 16 world championships to his name.
In most cases, there are wrestlers who build factions as a way of bringing in young stars to provide assistance to their cause. Randy Orton formed Legacy with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, Jr. It was a successful heel faction for a period of time. But Rhodes and DiBiase would eventually turn against Orton for an unsuccessful handicap match at WrestleMania XXVI.
Even the best wrestling factions have internal tensions that either leads to a split or a change in leadership. In many cases, there are wrestlers who are able to surpass the original leader of the group. Some of the best wrestling legends got their start in a faction. Edge and Christian were part of Gangrel’s Brood. Randy Orton and Batista were part of Evolution.
In a lot of ways, factions are a good way to introduce a new superstar to television. The established veteran acts as the lead to help bring up someone to a credible status. That is until, as the old saying goes, the student surpasses the teacher.
The following are the top 15 wrestlers who were surpassed by one, if not more, of their stablemates in a faction.
15 Dudley Dudley (The Dudley Boyz)
When you hear of the Dudley Boyz, Bubba Ray and D-Von likely come to mind right away. The two put so many opponents through tables as they won every major tag team championship in professional wrestling. Their careers spanned through the biggest promotions like WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling. But believe it or not, neither man was part of the Dudley Boyz debut in 1995.
Instead, the group was seen with Dudley Dudley as the leader; he billed himself the only “pure” Dudley in the family. There was also Big Dick Dudley and Lil’ Snot Dudley. But none of them really made as much of a mark in pro wrestling as Bubba Ray and D-Von did. This is another example of veterans being able to help debut future legends on wrestling television.
14 Kevin Sullivan (Dungeon of Doom)
Kevin Sullivan’s time in World Championship Wrestling was mostly defined by the Dungeon of Doom faction. The group was mostly a collection of extremely bizarre characters that attempted to “destroy” Hulk Hogan during the mid-1990s. The one wrestler who was a viable threat was The Giant (now known as the Big Show). Paul Wight was brought into WCW and booked as the son of Andre the Giant.
But The Giant was more of a standalone wrestler who was a legitimate contender for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. When he made the decision to leave the faction and move on to the New World Order, the Dungeon of Doom slowly faded away through 1996 and into 1997. While he struggled to accomplish his goal of destroying Hulkamania, at least the Taskmaster (Sullivan) could say he helped The Giant debut.
13 Al Snow (J.O.B. Squad)
One of the weirdest factions to ever be created can often be viewed as a bit of a joke. What else would you do with superstars who were mostly on the losing end of their matches? Long before Heath Slater formed the Social Outcasts, Al Snow had the same battle plan when he created the J.O.B. Squad in 1998. The original members included Bob Holly, Too Cold Scorpio and Snow himself. But they would add other “jobbers” like the Blue Meanie.
However, one of them actually won a championship. Duane Gill, better known as the Goldberg parody “Gillberg,” would defeat Christian for the WWE World Light Heavyweight Championship. It was mostly a comedy act, but it was probably a bit of a joke to have talented wrestlers like Snow and Holly placed in such a booking.
12 Prince Nana (The Embassy)
Prince Nana has a long history with Ring of Honor that dates back to when the promotion was just starting out in 2002. While there was a time where he left ROH, he’s been the leader of The Embassy faction that debuted in 2004. Now Prince Nana is not going to have the same recognition that many faction leaders on this list may have. But when he has done is associate himself with some of the best to work in ROH.
The early years of his faction featured wrestlers like Puma (better known as T.J. Perkins) and Matt Sydal. But in recent years, he’s been seen bringing in some of the best independent wrestlers like Joey Ryan, Dave Taylor and Tomasso Ciampa. Certainly, he’s helped a number of stars get a bit of a rise in ROH before moving on to bigger and better things than what The Embassy had to offer.
11 Jimmy Jacobs (The Age of the Fall)
With a career that first started back in 1999, Jimmy Jacobs spent several years as possibly one of the most underrated independent wrestling stars. He had a chance to lead his own faction with The Age of the Fall in 2007. It was a memorable debut as he, Necro Butcher and Tyler Black (now Seth Rollins in WWE) had attacked the Briscoe Brothers. Most notably, Jacobs stood under a bleeding Jay Brisco as he hung above the ring.
But the young Tyler Black was building up a following of his own. It wasn’t long until Jacobs and Black feuded in 2008 that led to the end of the faction in the summer of 2009. Jacobs still maintained quite the respectable following through the independent circuit. But Black has obviously surpassed Jacobs on route to the ROH World Championship and an eventual WWE contract. The rest is history.
10 Gangrel (The Brood)
One of the weirdest gimmicks that stood out during the WWE’s Attitude Era of the 1990s was easily Gangrel. The WWE’s resident vampire had recruited Christian as the both were eventually able to convince a young Edge to join their faction. This would lead to the creation of the Brood in 1998. The three were not the most dominant group, but they certainly left their bloody mark in the WWE at the time.
Eventually, Edge and Christian would become one of the best tag teams in the WWE, who found themselves splitting away from Gangrel. The leader would try to regroup with The Hardy Boyz as part of The New Brood in 1999. Unfortunately for Gangrel, both Matt and Jeff would leave him as well and continue to help revolutionize the WWE’s tag team division at the time.
9 Petey Williams (Team Canada)
Petey Williams was certainly one of the pioneers of the X Division in TNA Wrestling. Fans around the world fell in love with the flip-over piledriver known best as the Canadian Destroyer. In 2004, Williams would take over as captain of Team Canada, replacing Teddy Hart. But over the few years the faction dominated TNA Wrestling, there were a number of talents who got a lot of love from the TNA faithful.
Bobby Roode was a standout for Team Canada, although it would be a few years before he would eventually become a TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Eric Young was also beloved by the fans for his scaredy-cat gimmick. It was a comical character, but one that would evolve into one of the fan favorites in TNA history. While Williams was a two-time TNA X Division Champion, both Young and Williams held the world championships.
8 Farooq (Nation of Domination)
Ron Simmons was the first African-American to win a world championship in professional wrestling history for World Championship Wrestling in 1992, but Simmons is more known for his time in WWE as Farooq. He would be billed as the leader of the Nation of Domination in 1996. Over time, Farooq would be joined by names like D’Lo Brown and Kama Mustafa (a.k.a. The Godfather).
But one young star who would rise in popularity while under Farooq was The Rock. It got to a point where The Rock would actually take over the faction in early 1998 and rebrand the group as “The Nation.” This was the beginning of The Rock’s rise to stardom as he would slowly show more of his swagger that would lead to him becoming a fan favorite. But The Rock’s start was under Farooq, who would later become a great tag champion with Bradshaw.
7 Wade Barrett (The Nexus)
Before becoming the focal point of the WWE development system, NXT was considered a competition among WWE rookies looking to become the next breakout star. Wade Barrett would be the winner of the first season in 2010. However, he would take the momentum from the NXT win to form a faction of his own. On the first night on a June 2010 episode of RAW, all NXT Season One cast members came out and destroyed just about everyone who was in and around the ring.
It was a great way to start the group’s dominant run. However, a lot of the attention went to Daniel Bryan after he strangled announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie. Bryan would be terminated but returned to join Team WWE during a match with the Nexus at SummerSlam 2010. Fans had put Bryan over despite how good Barrett was as a heel leader.
6 Dean Ambrose (The Shield)
While there was nothing officially announced, Dean Ambrose was viewed as the unofficial leader of The Shield around 2013. That was because Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were at one point holding the WWE Tag Team Championship while Ambrose was the WWE United States Champion. Ambrose was also doing the majority of the promos at the time. The thing was that all three were viewed as big stars.
Rollins was exciting fans with his aerial abilities and Reigns would have a breakout performance during the 2014 Royal Rumble with a record-setting 12 eliminations. The group would eventually break up after defeating Evolution, followed up by Rollins turning heel against both Reigns and Ambrose. All three have had main event success, but Ambrose has fallen below his two “brothers” in terms of championship wins.
5 Paul Heyman (Dangerous Alliance)
Maybe it’s a little unfair to say that Paul Heyman was surpassed by many of the wrestlers who were in the Dangerous Alliance faction. He was the leader by managing a number of talented wrestlers between the American Wresting Association in the 1980s and in World Championship Wrestling in the early 1990s. In WCW, it had quite the collection of members that included Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko and Michael “P.S.” Hayes.
However, it was a young Steve Austin who shined the most shortly after Heyman helped Austin come to ECW in 1995. After being fired by WCW, a disgruntled Austin was able to develop the attitude that is such a big part of the “Stone Cold” character WWE fans know so well. Austin can credit Heyman and the Dangerous Alliance for helping launch him into the superstar he is today.
4 Ivan Koloff (The Russian Team)
Ivan Koloff is best known for being the man who would break Bruno Sammartino’s seven-year reign as the WWE Champion in 1971. But during the 1980s, The Russian Bear created a stable, The Russian Team, in the National Wrestling Alliance with Krusher Khruschev and Nikita Koloff. The three had won the NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship and other tag titles in NWA. However, Koloff’s kayfabe nephew Nikita would become a big star.
It wasn’t long until Nikita Koloff would make a big run of his own through Jim Crockett Promotions – winning the NWA National Heavyweight Championship, the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship and the NW World Television Championship. It’s a shame Nikita never had a chance to work in WWE, but he still had a nice run that earned him a spot in the NWA Hall of Fame in 2008.
3 Shane McMahon (The Alliance)
When Shane McMahon was revealed as the man who bought WCW right from under his father’s nose, he was responsible for forming the Alliance with ECW. It was this group of wrestlers who went to war with the WWE during the Invasion storyline from July 2001 to November 2001. Shane McMahon might have been the man who helped create the team, but Booker T was the man who was the most popular from the group.
It was Booker T who would debut in WWE as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and feud with top WWE stars like Kurt Angle for the championship. After the Alliance fell to WWE at the 2001 Survivor Series, Booker T was kept because of being a current champion at the time. While a number of WCW legends couldn’t find consistent success in WWE, Booker T would find championship success as the ninth WWE Grand Slam Champion through the 2000s.
2 Triple H (Evolution)
Triple H is always going to be viewed as one of the best wrestlers in WWE history. But The Game had a few stablemates who would become major stars in their own right. With Ric Flair, Triple H formed Evolution at the height of his reign as World Heavyweight Champion during the original brand split from 2003 to 2005. The two young stars to come from it were Randy Orton and Batista.
Orton would become the youngest world champion after defeating Chris Benoit at SummerSlam 2004. This led to the faction turning on Orton. But over those few years, fans started to get behind Batista. Tensions were teased until The Animal would win the 2005 Royal Rumble and challenge Triple H at WrestleMania 21. Both Batista and Orton had successful careers of their own while Triple H was still in the main event picture.
1 Shawn Michaels (D-Generation X)
Similar to Triple H in Evolution, Shawn Michaels was an established main event superstar when forming a faction. Both Triple H and Michaels would help form D-Generation X in 1997. Over time, the two found themselves winning championship gold in the WWE. Michaels was the WWE Champion entering WrestleMania XIV in 1998, while Triple H was the European Champion, but Michaels would go on a long hiatus from the WWE after losing to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Triple H would become the new leader and create a DX Army that included The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and “Road Dogg” Jesse James) and X-Pac. This was the version of D-Generation X that had the most popularity. Fans knew Michaels was an original member and was part of the revival in 2006. But Triple H as the leader made DX the most memorable stable in the Attitude Era.