Every faction needs to have at least one talent that stands out as a top level performer. The majority of legendary factions feature one person leading the way. Fans think of the main event star and the other members of the stable become more relevant by proxy if they have enough talent to make the most out of the opportunity. Some factions actually had multiple leaders, but one person typically rises above the rest. The groups with a plethora of younger performers with great potential are often meant to set up future main-eventers. Basically, if you are the top name in a relevant faction, you should have a great career going forward.
We will look at fifteen of the greatest factions in the history of professional wrestling and, more specifically, take a look at who the leader was. Most of the leaders had Hall of Fame worthy careers. Unfortunately, a few of them endured a decline that ruined the rub they received from leading a top faction. The lives of the former stable leaders involved are all over the place these days. Let’s glance into the good, the bad and the irrelevant. We’ll find out what the former leaders of iconic factions are up to today.
15. Wade Barrett (Nexus)
The Nexus was absolutely incredible during a short time period. Their introduction as a group saw Wade Barrett lead a variety of talents from the original NXT competition in an attempt to invade the WWE. Nexus beating down faces, heels and random employees on a weekly basis made you believe they were feuding with the company rather than just another takeover storyline. Barrett did an outstanding job as the leader exuding star power with potential to be a future world champion.
John Cena and Randy Orton continuing to defeat Barrett at his peak made Nexus start to fall apart. Barrett lost all of his momentum and the successful faction could not last. WWE continued to squander Barrett for many more years never utilizing him well enough to make the main event scene. Barrett decided to leave WWE out of frustration earlier this year. The former Nexus leader is currently trying to get his acting career off the ground, but hasn’t ruled out a future return to pro wrestling.
14. Kevin Nash (nWo Wolfpac)
The New World Order dominated the wrestling industry for a couple of years to start the Monday Night Wars. WCW allowed the group to have too many members that ended up diminishing the overall purpose of the nWo. The faction split into two groups with the nWo Wolfpac being the face version. We rightfully remember the nWo having multiple factions as a mistake, but you can’t argue with the popularity of the Wolfpac.
Kevin Nash finally broke out of the shadow of Hulk Hogan to lead the Wolfpac. Fans got an insight into the charismatic and humorous side of Nash’s personality. The ascension of Nash in the Wolfpac made him a credible main eventer that got the red and black faction over. Nash went on to win the WCW Championship five times. The current life of Nash sees him semi-retired making rare appearances on the independent wrestling scene and appearing at WWE Hall of Fame events every year.
13. Raven (Raven’s Nest)
Many fans think of WCW’s The Flock when the talk of Raven’s career and a faction are discussed. Raven however had a much better stint with a more compelling group in ECW. The faction known as Raven’s Nest saw him lead the odd balls of Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie and a few others doing his bidding. Raven became the most fascinating character in ECW under the vision of Paul Heyman putting him in a position to succeed.
WCW tried to copy the format, but The Flock failed to provide similar success. The wrestlers to join Flock weren’t entertaining enough to help Raven get established. Van Hammer and Horace Hogan aren’t the kind of performers that will help get a faction over. Raven struggled for the rest of his career as a midcarder in WCW and WWE. You can still watch Raven on the independent circuit these days wrestling in a limited capacity.
12. Gangrel (The Brood)
An underrated faction in the history of pro wrestling would be The Brood. Edge and Christian saw their first stints of success come working as the henchmen of vampire hero Gangrel. The trio would emerge from flames on the stage in one of the best entrances you’ll ever find. Without The Brood, the success of Edge and Christian may have been prolonged much longer. WWE ended the time of The Brood way too early by having them join The Corporate Ministry in a smaller role.
Despite being the leader of the stable, Gangrel saw his career hit a strong decline. Gangrel fell lower down the card as Edge and Christian ascended. Wrestling fans can still watch Gangrel work on the independent scene, especially as a top name in the alternative project known as Freak Show Wrestling. Gangrel also tried his luck in a new career as a director for adult films.
11. Paul Heyman (The Dangerous Alliance)
WCW was home to many of the best factions in wrestling history. One of those factions that don’t get the credit it deserves is The Dangerous Alliance. Paul Heyman started to develop his reputation for being one of the best personalities and non-wrestlers in the industry. The managing skills were showcased with the inception of The Dangerous Alliance group. Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, Madusa and Bobby Eaton all united with Heyman leading the way.
Heyman did his best to add to the very talented faction of individual wrestlers and they were a force for a short time period. WCW never valued the talent of Heyman. It made sense when he left the company to lead ECW into the future. The career of Heyman went on to become synonymous with his success backstage running ECW and on screen as an iconic manager in WWE. Heyman still appears as the advocate of Brock Lesnar and is adding to his legacy as arguably the greatest manager of all time.
10. TIED: Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns (The Shield)
You can usually pinpoint one specific leader of a successful faction, but it was truly an equal partnership in The Shield. Roman Reigns was somewhat viewed as a leader of the trio due to the fact that WWE pushed him to the moon and had hopes of him replacing John Cena as the top guy in the company. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose however had equal roles during their time in The Shield.
Everyone shined and showcased potential to become future stars. Rollins eventually was the one to turn on Ambrose and Reigns to end the faction. All three men became singles stars and have blossomed into legitimate main eventers. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose each won the WWE World Championship at various points over the past two years and are the new main event stars leading the company into the future. The Shield becoming such a successful faction is what set them on the road to their current path in WWE.
9. Shane Douglas (Triple Threat)
ECW sparked creativity and productivity from everyone on the roster. Paul Heyman knew how to utilize his wrestlers to the best of their ability. The faction of the Triple Threat was the perfect example of that. Shane Douglas led the group as the top heel in the promotion and the ECW World Champion. Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow both made up the rest of the group with extra motivation after disappointing endings in WWE.
All three men wanted to prove they were special talents and did just that by perfectly executing a successful heel faction. Sadly, all three wrestlers ended up leaving ECW for WCW at various points for more money. Many would argue the Triple Threat was the best time period of each of their careers. Douglas is unfortunately the only of the three still living. Douglas still makes appearances at wrestling shows, but he has gone on to make a living in other fields away from the ring.
8. Bobby Heenan (The Heenan Family)
Bobby Heenan’s work is absolutely timeless. Fans of any era can watch his managing or commentary in older shows and it still provides top tier entertainment. The Heenan Family faction in WWE may have been his most noteworthy stint as a manager. Wrestling legends such as Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Rick Rude and The Brain Busters all joined the group at different points with Heenan as their manager speaking for them.
The wrestling knowledge saw him get himself over while still enhancing the talents he was tasked with trying to help get more hated. Heenan worked as a commentator for the rest of his career after the managing career ended. The later years of Heenan’s life have been less fun with various health issues impacting him. All wrestling fans are rallying behind him as he continues hang in there. Heenan is making a rare public appearance soon filming a talk show feature for the Highspots wrestling service.
7. Ron Simmons (Nation of Domination)
The Nation of Domination pushed the envelope in WWE during the earlier stages of the Attitude Era forming. A group of African-American wrestlers united in a hostile feud talking down to the white wrestlers and fans of the company. The original leader was Ron Simmons wrestling under the Faarooq. The other core members were D’Lo Brown, Mark Henry and Kama Mustafa. They were always an entertaining act, but took it to the next level when The Rock joined.
Faarooq saw his time as the leader of the faction come to an end when Rock convinced the rest of the Nation to turn on him. It ended up being for the best as Simmons started teaming with Bradshaw to form the APA. The successful tag team run helped Simmons get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Simmons made a great living and saved enough money to live comfortably today. The only public role he still has comes when he makes rare appearances at wrestling conventions or on WWE television.
6. Michael Hayes (Fabulous Freebirds)
Old school wrestling fans have an attachment to the legendary Fabulous Freebirds faction. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Jimmy Garvin were the three members to take the stable to the next level. The Fabulous Freebirds had one of the most heated rivalries in wrestling history against the Von Erich Family that helped carve their legacy as an iconic trio. Their use of the “Badstreet USA” entrance theme helped show how effective the pageantry of an entrance song can be in adding to an act.
Hayes joined WWE in the late-90s in a broadcasting role as Doc Hendrix. This led to him putting in the work to get a backstage job. Hayes is currently the lead producer and one of the most powerful people in the company. WWE inducted the Fabulous Freebirds into the Hall of Fame this year to give them the moment of honor for their time as a faction.
5. Bret Hart (Hart Foundation)
Bret Hart reinvented his career in 1997 when fans were starting to grow tired of him. WWE made Hart the first big main event face following the departure of Hulk Hogan. Hart was a great role model and one of the hardest working talents in the industry. The fans started to gravitate towards vulgar anti-heroes like Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. Hart turned heel by uniting with his relatives to form the Hart Foundation.
An anti-American gimmick was nothing new, but the Hart Foundation remained faces to the international crowds. It was truly unique and did a great job in telling stories to make everyone involved come out better for it. The Hart Foundation ended when Hart left WWE for WCW and the whole Montreal Screwjob played out. Bret’s various health issues forced him to retire young, but he is still enjoying life away from the ring. His family runs a loan company and he often gives out controversial wrestling quotes to stay busy.
4. Triple H (Evolution and DX)
The legendary career of Triple H has seen many chapters and two of those were leading iconic factions. Triple H took over as the leader of D-Generation X following Shawn Michaels’ retirement in 1998. The new version of DX went to achieve new highs as a fan favorite group. DX allowing fans to get in on the fun made them get to the next level as a group and they are remembered very well historically for it.
Triple H also led the 2003-2005 faction known as Evolution. Being the top present star, Triple H aligned with the past top star Ric Flair and future top stars Randy Orton and Batista. Evolution did outstanding work and it proved Triple H could help mentor young stars with potential if he committed to it. The current position of Triple H running NXT is an extension of that with him introducing the new stars of wrestling to the WWE world. Triple H‘s current job title is Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative and he’s being mentored to eventually replace Vince McMahon as the man in charge of the on-screen product.
3. Shawn Michaels (DX)
As mentioned earlier, Triple H replaced Shawn Michaels as the leader of D-Generation X because Michaels was the original leader. The Attitude Era started to kick into high gear when Michaels adopted a change that introduced D-Generation X to WWE. Michaels and Triple H showcased their comedic side and more of their actual personality and it connected with the fans.
The in-ring talent of Michaels always was at an elite level, but his character felt way too contrived as the white meat babyface until DX was formed. If not for his back injury causing him to leave the ring for four years, Michaels likely would have remained in DX for quite some time. He at least was able to have a couple of reunion tours with Triple H during his latter stint in WWE. Michaels is officially retired from the ring, but he’s taken a training position at the Performance Center to help the younger talents hoping to make it to the main roster.
2. Hulk Hogan (New World Order)
The biggest domino to fall in setting up the New World Order for huge success was Hulk Hogan turning heel after over a decade of being the biggest face in the industry. Hogan aligning with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash provided the perfect trio to start the nWo in their hostile takeover angle. WCW achieved their most successful era overtaking WWE thanks to the nWo becoming the hottest thing in the business.
Hogan turning heel was a huge risk for his career, but it paid off. Many could argue Hogan was wrestling’s best face during the 80s and the best heel of the 90s. The legendary in-ring career of Hogan finally ended a few years after his final match against Sting in TNA. Hogan earned a spot back in WWE as an ambassador until a racist rant from him was shown in a sex tape leak. The disgraced Hogan at least managed to win millions suing Gawker for it and he’s enjoying that money with the hope that time will allow WWE to bring him back.
1. Ric Flair (Four Horsemen)
The personification of everything a leader of a faction should be was shown with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen. Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and the various other members of the Horsemen all had talent, but it was clear in every single incarnation that Flair was the leader. The in-ring work and incredible promos of Flair made him the most complete main event star in wrestling for many years.
For as great as his entire career was, the Four Horsemen is the most popular thing associated with Flair. It added a lot to his legendary career as a leader of the most effective faction to last many years. Flair retired from the in-ring world, but still has a legends role with WWE. The Nature Boy also hosts his own podcast on a weekly basis and uses his celebrity to make various appearances from sports games to viral videos. Flair is the best faction leader in wrestling history for always going the extra mile as a performer.