The professional wrestling industry has a long history of featuring stables, groups of wrestlers who unite under a common goal, in programs, on television shows and at the tops of cards. Those factions have helped create some of the more memorable storylines in the business, and they, in turn, made boatloads of money for the wrestling organizations that featured them. Singles acts such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair helped revolutionize the business with the feuds that they had, but there is a solid argument to be made that both were at their best when they were involved with stables.
The National Wrestling Alliance, World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment all introduced stables that have lived long in the memories of wrestling fans long after they were last seen on television or inside of a ring. Fans are able to re-live those battles via websites such as YouTube and also via the WWE Network, and those matches serve as a reminder that the business certainly has changed over the past several decades and not entirely for the better. It is not a coincidence, after all, that WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling have tried to recreate former great stables numerous times over the years.
What are widely recognized as the greatest stables in pro wrestling history all helped mold the business. That includes a group that was able to exist as it did because of when it was put together. You can be sure that the antics that stable used to pull off would not make it on television today. Last but certainly not least is the faction that showcased four of the top performers of their time. That group lived the gimmick on television, at shows and even when out on the town, and it is the stable that so many after it has been modeled after decades after its original incarnation was broken up.
20. The Shield
How history and pro wrestling fans will remember The Shield likely will not be determined for years to come. The once dominant faction has broken up, and the three are still in the early days of their singles careers while in the WWE. Seth Rollins is being booked as a cowardly World Heavyweight Champion, which is not doing the character many favors, while Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are both babyfaces who have only gotten so over among fans. All signs point to the three being atop WWE cards for years to come, but that has yet to occur.
19. The Dudley Family
While the Dudley Brothers/Boyz found fortune and fame working for national promotions such as the WWF and TNA Wrestling, it was in Extreme Championship Wrestling where they got their start. They did not go at it alone, however, as the group also included the likes of Spike Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley, Big Dick Dudley and a personal favorite; Dances With Dudley. With Joel Gertner cutting scathing and at times downright offensive promos leading up to the Dudleys feuding with babyfaces, the Dudleys were legitimately hated by crowds during their heel run in ECW.
18. Camp Cornette
Jim Cornette has seen it all and done it all in the pro wrestling industry. Cornette is widely viewed as one of the more respected minds in the business, and he was also a five-star heel manager for multiple wrestling organizations. Some of the biggest names in the history of the business were, at one point or another, associated with Cornette during his managerial career. This includes Big Van Vader, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, Yokozuna, Dan Severn, The Midnight Express, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and The Heavenly Bodies. The wrestling industry could use another Cornette as an on-air character in 2015.
17. Legion of Doom
The original Road Warriors made for one of the greatest tag teams in the history of professional wrestling, one that made money and sold out shows around the world and one that was able to successfully work as a babyface or heel group. They were part of the Legion of Doom that also included Jake “The Snake” Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson, the Iron Sheik, the original Sheik, Matt Borne, The Spoiler and Paul Ellering as manager. The trio of Hawk, Animal and Ellering was not long for the pro wrestling world, and thus the L.O.D. name followed the Road Warriors and Ellering wherever they went.
16. Triple Threat
Extreme Championship Wrestling got plenty wrong during the company’s run in the 1990s, but the Triple Threat was not one of them. While Shane Douglas was more often than not the mainstay of the stable, the group also featured Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Bam Bam Bigelow and Chris Candido. The trio of Douglas, Bigelow and Candido may have been when the Triple Threat was at its best, with the faction’s purpose to help Douglas retain his ECW Championship during matches. While Douglas did attempt to recreate the group in other organizations, it was in ECW when the Triple Threat had its greatest successes.
15. McMahon-Helmsley Era
Triple H was already a major player in the WWF when the company took portions of The Corporation and D-Generation-X and created the McMahon-Helmsley stable, one that made Triple H more than just a champion heel. While “The Game” had what some say to be his best run en route to becoming the No. 1 heel in the WWF, Stephanie McMahon went from being a character rarely seen on television to one that competed for and won the WWF Women’s Championship. Triple H and Stephanie are back at it as “The Authority,” but they have not yet found that magic that they had during the McMahon-Helmsley run.
14. The Kliq
One could easily argue that The Kliq is actually the greatest stable in all of pro wrestling history because of the influence that it had on the WWF product. The Kliq – Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Triple H and Sean Waltman – allegedly had booking power behind the scenes in the 1990s, and the members of that real-life group would break off to form the popular D-Generation X and new World order stables. The main reason why The Kliq does not receive a higher spot on this list is because that it never actually worked together inside of the ring during the 90s.
13. Hart Foundation
It is the version of the Hart Foundation that was featured on WWF television during the 1990s that makes this list. The stable was different than anything else before it in that the Harts were hated heels when feuding with the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the United States, but yet members of the group were seen as heroes when working in Canada or overseas. The “Montreal Screwjob” resulted in the real-life breakup of the Hart Foundation after Bret Hart made the switch to WCW, and the group never again truly reunited following the death of Owen Hart in 1999.
12. The Ministry of Darkness
The WWF, in an attempt to defeat WCW during the Monday Night Wars, pushed the limits of what could and could not air on the USA Network, and the Ministry of Darkness was front and center in many of those examples. There were kidnappings, makeshift crucifixions on what were made to look like satanic symbols, and even a hanging during a Hell in a Cell match. Many parts of the Attitude Era remain unmatched in today’s world of pro wrestling, and the Ministry is just one aspect of that part of WWF history. That stable did draw ratings and interest, though, which was the intention at the time.
11. The Million Dollar Corporation
They don’t make evil wrestling characters like “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase anymore, nor do stables such as the Million Dollar Corporation just pop up in organizations. A babyface was turned heel in the eyes of some fans at even the hint that he may have been “bought” by DiBiase, and that simple storyline was successful replayed time and time again by the WWF. Pro wrestling is often at its best when things are kept simple, and that was the case with the Million Dollar Corporation. They were bad guys and it was clear why they were bad guys, and thus fans rooted for them to be taken out by babyfaces. Easy.
10. The Corporation
Just how successful was the WWF when The Corporation was the top heel stable in the company? The WWE is STILL trying to recreate those memorable feuds nearly two decades after the fact, this time with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon serving as “The Authority.” Vince McMahon played the evil Mr. McMahon character as well as anybody could have possibly imagined, and both The Rock and Triple H evolved into main event wrestlers and massive draws while working with and feuding against Vince and The Corporation. And to think that this group may have never existed had “The Montreal Screwjob” ended differently and McMahon was never seen as a real-life heel.
9. The Dangerous Alliance
The Dangerous Alliance, the storyline brainchild of Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman), existed in multiple wrestling organizations. While it originated in the American Wrestling Association, the group was probably at its most famous when Heyman was heading it in WCW. That group included “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, “Stunning” Steve Austin, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko and Madusa. That is quite the assortment of all-time great talent that, truth be told, was not booked all that well by those running WCW at the time.
8. The Fabulous Freebirds
The legacy of the Fabulous Freebirds continues to live on in pro wrestling organizations long after the demise of the original stable. What became known as the “Freebird Rule” which allowed any two members of the group to compete for and defend the tag team championships was a unique concept of its time, and it is one that pro wrestling organizations have dabbled with now and again over the years. The WWE is currently quietly recreating the gimmick with the New Day faction, as different incarnations of that team are currently defending the tag team titles on editions of Raw and SmackDown.
7. The Heenan Family
There are two types of wrestling fans: Those who recognize Bobby Heenan as the greatest manager in the history of the business, and those who are incorrect on the matter. Heenan performed in several organizations in the United States, most notably in the WWF and then WCW, and his stable of heel wrestlers extended from main event players who held world championship titles to midcard guys who were often buried by top babyfaces. His ability to make even a casual wrestler seem important cannot be overlooked, and that made Heenan more than just your average heel manager. He was a true gem for years.
6. Nation of Domination
The Nation of Domination stable as a whole does not, on paper, match up with the top-five groups mentioned in this piece, but it is worthy of such respect because of what it helped birth. Rocky Maivia was a babyface going nowhere until he joined The Nation, and it was with that stable when his character made a 180-turn and he became The Rock. The Rock would go on to become the top heel and then the top babyface in the WWE, and he remains one of the biggest draws in the history of North American professional wrestling. He has also had much success starring in major motion pictures.
5. The First Family
The days of The First Family, which included heel manager Jimmy Hart bringing in all kinds of talent to feud with babyface champion Jerry Lawler, were pro wrestling at its finest. Hart’s heels would get over on Lawler from time to time, the ultimate good guy would eventually come out on top, Hart would find another wrestler to attempt to get the job done, and then the process would start all over again. You may remember this group for when actor Andy Kaufman linked up with Hart to have encounters with Lawler. Kaufman versus Lawler would have, at the time, been a main event anywhere in the country.
Evolution, a mystery, according to the famous song that was associated with the stable, achieved everything that the group set out to accomplish in storyline. The group kept Triple H as the top heel in the WWE. It protected both Ric Flair when he was in the twilight of his career as well as a very raw and green Batistsa. The stable allowed Randy Orton to work his way up cards until he was ready to break off from the group and work as a main event. One has to appreciate the irony that the closest that the WWE has come to recreating the Four Horsemen included one of the original members of that legendary stable.
3. new World order
Would WCW still be around to this day had the company not gone with the new World order storyline? It is possible, but there is also the real possibility that WCW would not have survived throughout the Monday Night Wars as long as it did without the stable. The heel turn of Hulk Hogan could not have been more perfectly played out, and the birth of the nWo that also featured Kevin Nash and Scott Hall continues to be replayed on WWE television and on the WWE Network to this day. Neither the WWE nor TNA Wrestling have come close to booking as good of an invasion storyline.
D-Generation-X has gone through quite the transformations over the past two decades. The group has had members come and go, and it has performed as a heel faction and as a babyface stable. While the original DX was so successful largely because it was allowed to push the boundaries during the WWF Attitude Era, the rebirth of the stable that featured only Triple H and Shawn Michaels brought with it some campy fun (they shipped the Spirit Squad back to Ohio Valley Wrestling. Hilarious). Remember that Triple H may not be where he is today had DX never gotten off of the ground in the 1990s.
1. The Four Horsemen
No stable in pro wrestling history was quite like the original Four Horsemen. Ric Flair, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard formed a group of wrestlers who walked the walk and then talked the talk inside of the ring. The promos that the Horsemen would cut during television segments are some of the best that the industry has ever seen, and they should be required viewing for anybody who is even considering breaking into the pro wrestling business. Organizations need to stop attempting to remake the Horsemen with four different workers. It is never going to happen. Just leave the memories alone.
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