As you may have noticed, I take Pro-Wrestling pretty seriously. Because of this, it was important to me that this list hold some weight and have some real standards for choices. As with any art, sometimes qualifying importance is difficult, so in ordering these stables I decided that impact would be my primary factor of consideration. Things like quality of talent, intriguing storylines and longevity are also factors, but should not overwhelm the primary function of a stable, which is to create buzz and innovation. Maybe you disagree, please do. I know we here at DoG would love to hear your opinions. This list is intended to stir up conversation, not exclude others from it. I even left off one of my favorite stables. Alliance for Life!
10. The Nexus
“You’re either Nexus or against us.”
Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, Skip Sheffield and Darren Young
While the start of the modern era of the WWE is most often associated with CM Punk’s “Pipe Bomb” promo of 2011, its real beginnings can be found on June 7, 2010. Nearly 5 months earlier, the WWE debuted the first incarnation of NXT. Week to week action resembled a reality show more than a wrestling one and though ratings were not dismal, fan reaction was mixed. The early dismissal of internet favorite Daniel Bryan, along with wacky segments simply got the Smart Marks’ panties in a bunch. Little did they know, it was all part of the plan. Near the end of a “Viewer’s Choice” night on Raw, the participants of the NXT competition lined the entrance ramp. Sporting “N” T-shirts, not dissimilar to the NXT logo, the group rushed the ring. What occurred from that point on appeared to be chaos. Announcers and wrestlers alike were attacked, the ring was deconstructed and the show ended in near silence. Though the group would be diluted, rearranged (I personally think CM Punk’s New Nexus had potential that was never realized) and eventually disbanded, The Nexus had important impact in both the narrative of the WWE and the introduction of new talent on the whole.
“Paid, Laid and Made.”
Triple H, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista
Some people would say that the Four Horsemen never really appeared in the WWE, I say they just evolved. Though ultimately lacking the staying power of the Horsemen, Evolution was a near perfectly balanced stable that accomplished the main goal of any; to give the neverending narrative new stars. The stable featured: Flair, one of the greatest heels to ever enter the ring and arguably the greatest World Champion that the business has ever seen. Triple H, THE top guy in the business at the time. Randy Orton, an Adonis-like 3rd generation Superstar and “The Animal” Batista, a seeming force of nature. This group had a perfect synergy that not only elevated the status of Orton and Batista, but grew the legends of Flair and Triple H. Going into 2004, the stable possessed The World Title, The Intercontinental Title and The World Tag Team Titles. Though this state would not last forever, for a moment Evolution was the singular threat to the face roster of Monday Night Raw.
8. The Corporation
“’No chance, that’s what you’ve got.”
Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, The Rock, The Big Bossman, Ken Shamrock, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco
When your biggest hero habitually ruins the show, who should be your biggest heel? How about the guy running the show. Steve Austin’s persona was a slice of genius, exploiting the working man’s hatred of their stuck up superiors and allowing them to triumph. The problem is that in wrestling, no one stays on top forever. So then the stuck up boss did the logical, pay off the guy who can challenge the working class hero (with some other dangerous cronies to boot) and position him for the belt. This is The Corporation. The beauty of this angle is in the selection of talent. Sure, the audience does not want to believe that Stone Cold can be defeated, but they also know that The Rock could be the one to do it. He cheats, he deceives, but he should be at the top of the roster regardless. As the stable evolved, rotation became its M.O. Members were constantly dropped and added, to fit whatever faces tended were around. The stable merged with The Ministry and eventually faded. Regardless, The Corporation established one thing, if the hero challenges Mr. McMahon, they may not have a chance in hell.
7. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
“I am a bad guy, actual, in real life, and I do beat folks up for a living.”
They say that the heel makes the feud, if so, these men made Wrestlemania. An integral part to what Piper has called Vince McMahon’s “plan to take over the world,” in the days leading up to the first Wrestlemania there was no one in the business badder than these three. Piper stood as leader of the group, the antithesis of Hulkamania, not only in appearance but also ethic. Piper was an inflammatory, venom spewing jerk whose comments could enrage a crowd. Though some would claim that the era was squeaky clean, Piper pushed the envelope on a nightly basis. Backed by his bodyguard Ace aka “Cowboy” Bob Orton (who suffered from a chronic arm issue, allowing him to keep a dangerous cast on his arm) and the bulging Biceps of Paul Orndorff, the three were a legitimate threat to Hulk Hogan and his new found ally, Mr. T (yes, that Mr. T). While the heroes would triumph in the end, Hogan never got a clean pin on Piper, a fact Piper has never let us forget.
6. The Heenan Family
“You know that show of sportsmanship….the respect for each other, the enthusiasm they have….makes me sick!”
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, “The King” Harley Race, Hercules, The Islanders and “Ravishing” Rick Rude
There is another “Top 10” I could be writing, but I will just say it here. Without any challenge or any doubt in my mind, Bobby Heenan is the greatest Manager in the history of Professional Wrestling, and probably will be forever. While Wrestlemania III will always be remembered as the night Hogan slammed Andre, without the words of Bobby Heenan, the event would not be as important or influential as it was. Heenan’s stable was a more traditional model, wrestlers would be added and leave on the basis that Heenan was acting as their counsel. This would require that they be evil, but other than that, nothing else. While many of the greats would be paired with Heenan at one time or another and he was always able to add that extra bit to the feud. Many times, managers were used just to get a struggling talent’s character over with the crowd. Being a member of the Heenan family could never be seen as an insult to a talent’s abilities, it was always an honor
5. The Hart Foundation
“All you rednecks here and all the American scum coast to coast, you all speak with a forked tongue.”
Bret “Hitman” Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Owen Hart, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and Brian Pillman
Originally a tag team alliance between The Hitman, The Anvil and Manager Jimmy Hart, this stable would grow to be so much more. For many years, Bret Hart had been an all around fan favorite in the WWF. While his promos were not the best, his in-ring work was incomparable. Though the company was not as successful as it had been in past years, the crowds accepted Hart as their champion. As the last few year of the 20th century rolled in, so did change. The crowds in the United States began to favor the over the top antics and promos of stars like Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin, who was initially portrayed as a heel, was starting to be recognized by the crowd as a face. While this change was occurring, Hart’s popularity did not falter outside the U.S. and a stroke of genius occurred. What if Hart was a heel in America and a face outside of the country? Recruiting associates and members of the Hart family (two of whom were U.S. citizens) into one stable, The Hart Foundation became the top heel organization in the WWF, while still maintaining their face status in some regions. Both sides were obnoxious, both sides were right and both were wrong. Ultimately, it was the crowd who chose their heroes and there is nothing better than that.
4. The Fabulous Freebirds
“740 lbs of the baddest wrestling machine ever”
Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy and Buddy “Jack” Roberts
Appearing across the territories and in every major promotion of their time, The Freebirds are a thing of legend. Able to maintain the stability and momentum of their stable, the three original Freebirds (and later Jimmy “Jam” Garvin) were able to switch back and forth between face and heel personae, capture championships and feud with every region’s top stars. Along the way, they innovated what is today known as the “Freebird Rule,” allowing a group of 3 wrestlers to switch out members and defend a tag team title. Though not commonly instituted, later trios such as WCW’s WolfPac would occasionally call upon the precedent. Some even claim that the group was poised to be a big part of WWF’s Rock N Wrestling connection and left because they did not want to be broken up. The Freebirds represent a moment in time, a team that captured their culture so perfectly that they could be translated into many different promotions in relatively short periods of time. It was this unique feature that perhaps makes The Fabulous Freebirds the greatest territorial stable of all time.
3. D-Generation X
“You think you can tell me what to do? Do you know who you’re talking to?”
“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, Triple H and “The 9th Wonder of the World” Chyna
Are you ready? In the late 90s, the wrestling business was rapidly evolving. Most of the world was well aware that the action in the ring was predetermined and was seeking the outrageous storylines that could pop up in such a liberal environment. Behind the scenes, the WWF and WCW were bidding for the hottest talent in the business, some of whom were part of a group of friends known as “The Kliq.” Most of this group were huge stars and would support each other politically when opportunity knocked. For a few, that meant heading to WCW. For Shawn Michaels and Triple H it left an opportunity. Public perception of their backstage antics was less than kind. Good Ol’ HBK was rumored to be quite the self serving brat and Triple H his less popular buddy. As the internet rose, this perception continued to spread. In reaction, a decision was made. To let the two degenerates be as obnoxious as everyone thought they were anyway and boy did it work. For years, and through numerous iterations, DX has entertained through the sophomoric humor you might not admit to liking, great in ring performances and, let’s face it, some of the best merchandising and marketing that the business has ever seen. And if you ain’t down with that, I got two words for ya…
2. The Four Horsemen
“Not ‘some of the best’, THE best.”
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and J.J. Dillion
They faced some of the greatest legends of wrestling, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA and The Road Warriors were all in the ring, and half the crowd was still cheering for them. While it is not rare for an experienced, respected heel to be cheered by a portion of the crowd, this was something different. The Horsemen were arrogant, wild and violent. The problem for the faces in the promotion is that they also backed it up. While the matches were predetermined, these were still some of the best Professional Wrestlers in the world, and the audience knew it. Ric Flair was already a multiple time World Champion before the group was formed and Tully Blanchard was purportedly one of the hottest heels the promotion had seen. Not to mention that the excess and the parties were not just part of the show. The Four Horseman became icons not just from their in-ring ability, but because of their Playboy Club lifestyle. When you see the footage of college students showing up to tapings wearing 3 piece suits and woo-ing back at Ric Flair, you know they were on to something. That something lasted for over a decade. Yes, as with any longstanding group, the talent faces some dilution. But when that talent pool would go on to feature the likes of Dean Malenko, Barry Windham and Brian Pillman, it seems that the type of class the Horsemen represented lived on.
***The Following Announcement Has Been Paid For By the new World order***
1. The nWo
“You want a war? You’re gonna get one.”
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash
Eric Bischoff, head of WCW, needed a trump card. He had begun a Monday night war with Vince McMahon’s WWF and though he theoretically had more resources than his competition, could not pull ahead in the ratings to any significant degree. This lead to an idea based loosely off a Japanese angle, but perhaps more so off public perception. Obviously, the audience was aware that WCW was directly challenging the dominant WWF. They would fight for talent and much of the WCW roster was made of older wrestlers who had seen great success with Vince McMahon. When Eric Bischoff had the opportunity to snag 2 of McMahon’s biggest stars, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, a new direction was decided. What if he made it look like these stars weren’t part of his roster? What if they had just come to destroy WCW? While some lawsuits kept it looking like they were still in the WWF for a long period, they were portrayed as something outside the company. And then, the master stroke. WCW made the fan question everything they had thought up until that point. What if Hulk Hogan, who’s heroics no longer thrilled the crowd, joined them? Regardless of his waning popularity as a face, the crowd never expected this turn. Shouldn’t the greatest hero of the WWF be the greatest villain of WCW? Why watch the WWF when “their” best are on WCW programming? Years of WWF building Hulk Hogan as the greatest wrestler in the world paid off in a way they never expected and for a company they didn’t expect it to. Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash forming the new World order not only changed the story of professional wrestling, but the business itself. The WWF and WCW were now in a race that formed everything after it, thanks in great part to the N…W…O.