The Kliq is one of the most infamous groups in wrestling history.
Initially coming together around 1995, the group was eventually made up of Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash/Diesel, Scott Hall/Razor Ramon, Sean Waltman/1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac, and Triple H. A tight group of friends, the group looked out for each other and ended up becoming close confidants of Vince McMahon and other WWF/WWE higher-ups.
As has been revealed over the years, The Kliq were so tight with Vinny Mac that they’d attend booking meetings, suggest storylines, decide who was winning matches, and advise McMahon on who was worth pushing as a top star. And of course, so much of what they said and did was all intended to benefit one set of individuals: themselves!
Over the years, other superstars have become close with The Kliq or with certain members of the group, such as how Jeff Jarrett sometimes rode with them in the early days, Aldo Montoya (the future Justin Credible) was a good friend of theirs, or how the likes of D-Generation X’s Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Chyna were obviously close to Hunter and at times Shawn.
But while they usually looked merely after themselves, that in turn meant that The Kliq tried to – and at times did – ruin the careers of many a fellow superstar. And with that, here’s 17 performers who this infamous group did their best to derail.
Now Mo of Men on a Mission fame may not be as big a name as the rest of the superstars listed in this article, but that’s not to say that he was off the table when it came to feeling the wrath of The Kliq, and in particular the wrath of Shawn Michaels.
So the story goes, Michaels was furious that Mo’s tag team partner, Mabel (who you may no better as Viscera or Big Daddy V), had left a show early due to sickness. When HBK saw Mo walking backstage, he lost it and struck him from behind. As Mo himself tells the tale, he then told The Showstopper not to put his hands on him again otherwise he’d give him an ass kicking.
With Shawn having gained plenty of political power by this point in time, he had a word in Vince McMahon’s ear that resulted in Mo being pulled from TV for 9 months. In a depression about the situation, Mo has gone on record to say how this left him suicidal and that it took pep talks from the likes of Randy Savage and Davey Boy Smith to stop him from taking his own life.
Whilst Tatanka was one of the most popular superstars on the WWF roster during the early and mid-‘90s, The Native American surprisingly never got the chance to hold a title in the company.
From various interviews over the years, Tatanka himself has confirmed that he seemed to hit a wall in the WWF around 1995 – which is coincidentally the same time that The Kliq started to gain influence backstage. In particular, Tatanka pinpointed Shawn Michaels as being unwilling to play ball with him, even highlighting his WrestleMania IX bout with Michaels.
That match was for The Heartbreak Kid’s Intercontinental Championship, although HBK would retain the belt after Tatanka picked up a victory only by countout – meaning the title didn’t change hands. From Tatanka’s mouth, the original plan was for the then-undefeated Lumbee Indian to win the match and win the title, yet Michaels decided to nix that idea.
15. Adam Bomb
You may know him better as one half of WCW’s KrokinK tandem or as Wrath, but Bryan Clark had a 2-year stint in the WWF as Adam Bomb between 1993 and 1995. Initially a heel managed by Johnny Polo, Bomb would turn face before his WWF tenure was up, although he never quite managed to make any major mark regardless of whether he was a good guy or bad guy. He did, though, manage to run into The Kliq during his WWF stay.
According to Clark himself, he was one of the main targets of The Kliq’s pranks back in the day, and he pinpointed Scott Hall/Razor Ramon and Sean Waltman/1-2-3 Kid as being his main tormentors. In the shoot interview in which he made those comments, he didn’t specifically mention any incidents that took place, but he did add that he absolutely hated Shawn Michaels during that time.
Given how Adam Bomb was at one time a babyface who gave out nuclear missiles to kids in the crowd, it’s unlikely that Clark would have gone far with the gimmick. But then again, Vince McMahon likely got all tight in the pants by Clark’s 6’9” frame…
14. Steve Austin
It’s gone down in the annals of wrestling legend that Shawn Michaels was having second thoughts about losing to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV and was close to reverting back to the familiar behaviour of “Shawn being Shawn”. Luckily, The Heartbreak Kid would do what was best for business and lose the WWF Championship to Austin at The Showcase of the Immortals, but that so nearly wasn’t the case.
As the legend goes, The Undertaker – who’d spent years seeing Michaels playing politics and refusing to lose certain matches – was sick and tired of HBK’s behaviour, and began to tape his fists in order to make Shawn perfectly clear that he needed to go out there and do what was asked of him at ‘Mania XIV.
Of course, all went to plan and The Texas Rattlesnake went on to become the hottest star of the hottest period in wrestling history, but that’s not to say that Shawn Michaels didn’t have thoughts of sabotaging all of that.
13. Chris Jericho
The problems that Chris Jericho had with The Kliq was at a time when Shawn Michaels had retired and Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were in WCW. By this point in time, Triple H and X-Pac were still with the WWF, and they had formed a new, tightknit backstage group with their D-Generation X cohorts, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, and Hunter’s then-girlfriend, Chyna.
Jericho had not long arrived from WCW and was struggling to find his feet in the WWF. Then came a feud with Chyna over the Intercontinental Title. As Jericho himself notes in his second book – Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps – he had some problems with the DX crew during his first year in the company.
This all seems to have started when Y2J accidentally gave Chyna a shiner in one of their matches – a match in which Vince McMahon had told Jericho to not hold back in. In addition to this, Triple H had told Jericho to go to him if he ever needed anything, which resulted in Hunter telling the Canadian to find a map when Jericho was asking for help in getting to an arena one night. Classy behaviour, Hunter…
In the history of the WWE’s King of the Ring tournament, there’s been some legendary winners who used the tournament as a way to skyrocket themselves to superstardom – from Bret Hart, to Owen Hart, to Steve Austin, to Triple H, to Kurt Angle, to Brock Lesnar, to Edge. And then there’s Mabel.
Following two brilliant winners in Bret in 1993 and Owen in 1994, 1995 saw Men on a Mission’s Mabel given the crown.
At just 24 years of age and having only had 2 years in the business, Mabel was still as green as they come, but Vince McMahon was in awe of his sheer size. And so, Mabel was given the King of the Ring nod and then put into angles and matches with huge names like The Undertaker and Diesel.
But it’s with Kliq member Kevin Nash/Diesel that the future Viscera had some serious problems. In fairness to Nash, though, the problems were all of Mabel’s own making. As revealed by Nash himself, Mabel’s inadequacies in the ring led to him botching a sitdown splash on Big Daddy Cool, in turn straining Nash’s abdomen during their SummerSlam 95 bout.
11. Bam Bam Bigelow
Despite at times being praised by The Kliq for being such a great worker, Bam Bam Bigelow still found himself falling victim to backstage politics at certain points in time.
It’s generally well known that The Beast from the East found his main event aspirations shot down in the 1980s when his popularity became a little too much for Hulk Hogan to deal with, and so Bam Bam was pushed down the card. And the Asbury Park native found himself again having troubles in 1995.
This time, Bigelow saw his momentum derailed due to The Kliq pulling strings backstage in order to suit their own purposes. The plan at one point was to have Bam Bam and Million Dollar Corporation cohort Tatanka win the Tag Team Championships, only those plans were pulled after The Kliq convinced the WWF higher-ups to go in a different direction – a direction that saw Kliq member Sean Waltman instead win the titles under his 1-2-3 Kid guise alongside Bob Holly.
10. Jim Neidhart
Let’s just put it out there: Jim Neidhart won’t be the last member of The Hart Foundation to appear in this article.
Now whilst that stable had its run-ins with The Kliq over the years, The Anvil often fared better than his brethren when it came to the political minefield that was bubbling behind the scenes of the then-WWF in the 1990s. That’s not to say that he was exempt from The Kliq’s antics, though.
Following the infamous Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series ’97, Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith were allowed out of their WWF contracts (even if Davey had to buy out his deal) so that they could follow Bret Hart to WCW. But it wasn’t totally smooth sailing for The Anvil on his way out of the World Wrestling Federation.
In his final WWF appearance, Neidhart actually joined D-Generation X on a November ’97 episode of Raw. Of course, this was all just a ruse from the Degenerates, and they’d turn on Neidhart to fully embarrass him on his way out of the company.
9. Pierre-Carl Ouellet
When The Quebecers came to an end in 1994, Pierre was repackaged as Jean-Pierre LaFitte – an eye-patch wearing pirate. Despite the slightly cheesy nature of the gimmick, LaFitte was given a strong push and placed in a feud with Bret Hart that led to some fantastic matches.
Regardless of impressing against The Hitman, though, trouble wasn’t far around the corner for LaFitte. And by trouble, I mean The Kliq.
During a house show in Montreal, the plan was for LaFitte and Diesel to battle to an indecisive finish in order to setup for a rematch at a later date. Unfortunately, Shawn Michaels got involved backstage and had the match changed to LaFitte losing clean to Big Daddy Cool. Furious at this, the French-Canadian stood his ground and refused to lose.
The match would end in a double countout, but The Kliq were incensed by this and used their influence to see LaFitte buried to the extent that he’d leave the WWF not long after this. So brutal was this, Michaels even admitted in his autobiography that they purposely “buried him”.
8. CM Punk
For CM Punk, he’s one of the superstars who ran into trouble with The Kliq in more recent years that most of the other entries on this list.
While a lot of Kliq shenanigans went on during the mid-late ‘90s, Punk fell afoul of backstage BS in the 2000s when the WWE had Triple H and Shawn Michaels as two of its major players and most influential backstage names. According to former WWE writer Court Bauer, both The Game and The Heartbreak Kid tried to sabotage CM Punk from The Straight Edge Superstar’s initial tryout with the WWE.
Both of these notorious backstage politicians were straight in Vince McMahon’s ear to say how Punk didn’t have what it took to be a WWE superstar and that he was always going to be a nobody who’d never amass to anything in the business. Punk was an indy darling and nothing more, at least in the eyes of Hunter and Michaels.
Of course, years later, when CM Punk was the hottest star in the industry, Triple H used his power to come out of semi-retirement just to needlessly beat Punk before heading back behind the confines of his desk at Titan Towers, plus longtime Kliq pal Kevin Nash would also turn up to layout Punk at that time, too.
7. Owen Hart
After Vince McMahon refused to let Owen Hart out of his contract following the infamous Montreal Screwjob – despite doing so for Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith– there was a huge opportunity to push Owen as a true main event player. After all, when The Rocket returned to the company after a small hiatus, he was set to do battle with Shawn Michaels in what was an instantly hot, real-feeling feud.
Unfortunately for Owen, Michaels used his backstage stroke to instantly kill the feud between the pair. Rather than having The King of Harts as a huge babyface seeking vengeance for his brother, instead Hart had a brief match with Shawn before being quickly transitioned into a feud with Triple H.
The reason for this was that The Heartbreak Kid was worried Owen Hart would shoot on him or work extra-stiff during their planned feud. Given how Owen is always referenced as one of the true ‘good guys’ of the business and an immaculate professional, the chances of him going into business for himself were slim. Still, that didn’t stop Shawn Michaels from putting the kibosh on plans for Hart’s main event charge, and Owen would see out his WWF days in the midcard before his tragic death in 1999.
6. Shane Douglas
The Franchise had a whole load of buzz surrounding him when he signed for the WWE in 1995. Having cut one of the all-time memorable promos just a year before as he threw down the NWA Title and launched ECW in a new direction, Douglas was as hot as they come – and then he became “Dean” Douglas in the WWF.
The whole gimmick of playing a smarmy college Dean was an awful one and a total waste of Douglas’ talents, but even worse for him was that he soon butted heads with The Kliq.
What’s different here to so many other Kliq run-ins, though, is that the group actually saw a lot in Douglas initially and thought he’d be a nice addition to their brotherhood. Not wanting to get involved in all of the bogus politics that came with the offer, Douglas snubbed The Kliq… and so his cards soon became marked.
Not only did The Kliq constantly tell Vince McMahon how awful and overrated Douglas was, but Shawn Michaels forfeited the Intercontinental Championship to The Dean rather than lose it to him. And that all got even more fishy when Douglas lost the belt to fellow Kliq member Razor Ramon just 11 minutes (!) after being handed it. Within a matter of months, Douglas would be back in ECW and attempted to get his career back on track.
5. Chris Candido
For poor Chris Candido, his problems with The Kliq were far more than just backstage pranks and refusals to lose. No, for Candido, his problem was that his real-life other half was supposedly having an affair with Shawn Michaels.
We all know the rumoured story by now: Candido was a longterm item with Sunny, aka Tammy Sytch, but HBK took a shine to Sytch and the two began a relationship that all of the boys knew about, including Candido himself, yet nothing was done to put a stop to things. In fact, in interviews over the years, Sunny herself has admitted that this was indeed the case… only to then change her mind in other interviews and deny anything ever happened. Ah, that Sunny, always the rambling attention-seeker…
The stories go that Candido did actually confront Michaels at times, which is why his WWF career ultimately didn’t really hit any sort of heights, and he even battled depression because of how things were. Added to that, there’s the fact that Kliq member 1-2-3 Kid also took a dumpski in Sunny’s packed lunch, further heightening the animosity of the situation.
4. The Rock
Obviously The Rock is one of the true icons of the wrestling business, but once upon a time he was merely an up-and-coming young rookie.
Back in 1997, Rocky Maivia was the Intercontinental Champion and had the backing of the WWF higher-ups. Sure, he may have been getting poor crowd reactions as a misplaced all-smiling babyface, but the company was behind him regardless. It was at this time, though, that The Kliq began to view Maivia as a threat.
Behind the scenes, The Kliq were encouraging Rocky to drop the IC Title to Bret Hart. This would take momentum away from the soon-to-be Rock, whilst also meaning that Hart would be moved out of the main event scene that Shawn Michaels was looking to dominate. Bret had become a friend of Rocky’s and refused to take the title from him, and so that got the ire of The Kliq further.
Years later, Michaels would actively campaign to Vince McMahon to have Triple H face Steve Austin in the WrestleMania XV main event rather than The Rock against Austin. Of course, Vince would stick with Rocky, and that would be the first of three WrestleMania bouts between The Great One and The Texas Rattlesnake.
Poor Leon White. As Big Van Vader, he’d cemented his status as one of the true monsters of the wrestling business. After decimating Japan and then running roughshod through WCW, Vader turned up in the WWF in 1996.
Brought in as a hulking behemoth of a man, things looked good for The Mastodon as he was put in some high profile angles, most notably set on a collision course with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 96. From various reports over the years, the initial plan was for Vader to actually beat Michaels and become the WWF Champion.
Of course, in one of the most infamous Heartbreak Kid stories, Shawn refused to lose to Vader at the last minute. And even worse, the match itself saw Michaels openly berating Vader throughout the match, which was just one of a whole boatload of unprofessional acts regularly carried out by The Showstopper at that point in his career.
Vader would never recover from the SummerSlam 96 bout and he’d ultimately just slip progressively lower down the card before he became a jobber to the stars and eventually left the company towards the end of 1998.
2. Davey Boy Smith
The story of the British Bulldog being screwed over by Shawn Michaels at 1997’s One Night Only show is the stuff of infamy.
For poor Davey Boy, he was the reigning European Champion going into the PPV. Not only that, but the show was held in Birmingham, United Kingdom, meaning Bulldog was the returning hero in his own country. Going up against Shawn Michaels at the PPV, the original plan was for Smith to actually defeat the Heartbreak Kid and retain the gold. Unfortunately, though, Michaels had a different idea.
Deciding on the day of the PPV that he didn’t actually want to lose the match, HBK used his influence backstage to get the match changed so that he would actually defeat Bulldog and take the European Title. What made this even more shocking is that, based on the original plan, Davey Boy had promised his terminally-ill sister that he was going to win the match and thus dedicate the bout to her.
Shawn would ultimately beat Bulldog in his own country to needlessly win a title that he didn’t need whatsoever. In fact, he’d soon drop the European Championship to buddy Triple H in an absolute farce of a match, adding further insult to the whole fiasco.
1. Bret Hart
The heated real-life rivalry between Bret Hart and The Kliq’s Shawn Michaels is the stuff of wrestling folklore.
While Bret and Shawn have supposedly settled their differences these days, back in the mid-late ‘90s it was a completely different scenario. The Hitman got to the top of the mountain before The Heartbreak Kid, and Michaels did everything that he could to get on top and stay on top – and that often meant trying to get one over on Bret Hart at any given opportunity.
From suggesting Bret win the Intercontinental Title in order to take him out of Shawn’s main event picture, to taking shots at Hart in the way his fellow Hart Foundation brothers were treated, to, of course, Michaels and Triple H suggesting the Montreal Screwjob to Vince McMahon, so often over the years The Excellence of Execution was the target of The Kliq.
In fairness, Hart has often talked well of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman, but he’s had legendary problems with Shawn and Hunter over the decades as they tried desperately to show him up and take him down.