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People Power (5/12/2015): The Greatest Stables In Pro Wrestling



Hi everyone. I'm Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar), your regular host for the People Power surveys here at Smark Henry. 

Last week, we took a look at wrestling's greatest losers as voted by our readers. This week, we asked our readers to tell us who they thought were the greatest stables in professional wrestling. 

Stables are an important part of the narrative of our sport. In the same way that we have movies like The Avengers to give us a broader understanding of people we already know as individuals by presenting how they function and interact as part of a larger social dynamic in ways we wouldn't see in a standalone Captain America or Thor, stables allow us to see virtue or greatness amplified by association—anyone remember when Randy Orton or Dave Batista were nobodies? 

Even Scott Norton looked cool with an nWo shirt on.

I'll be frank; some stables just outright sucked—I'm looking at you, Los Boricuas!—but others, like the New Day or the Natural Born Thrillaz, help create memorable, meaningful reframings of wrestlers that comprised them. Being part of a group like The Nexus helped elevate a pack of unknown rookies into instant main eventers, and how much less exciting would the Monday Night Wars have been without the nWo and DX dynamic to end each episode of RAW or Nitro with epic beatdowns? 

There have been a million great stables, but only a handful are truly legendary. Here's how the voting turned out. 
  
*****

#5 (tied)
The Shield (42%)



Active Period:
2012-2014

Members:
Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins

In Kurt Cobain's suicide note, the late Nirvana frontman famously lamented that in a world of rock stars, it's better to burn out than to fade away.

It seems that The Shield took his advice to heart. For a brief two-year period, you could argue that nobody in the WWE shone brighter than the self-proclaimed "Hounds of Justice"—from their spectacular debut at Survivor Series 2012 to help CM Punk retain his WWE Heavyweight Championship against John Cena and Ryback, to their ensuing path of carnage wiping out such superstars as The Rock, The Undertaker, and the Big Show with their trademark triple powerbomb.

And then, in a flash, it was gone, with Seth Rollins' infamous betrayal of his running mates dissolving the magnificent machine that was The Shield with a series of wicked chairshots.

Their time on top may not have been long, but it was certainly memorable. From their legendary wars against the Wyatt Family and Evolution, to their dominant runs in the 2013 Survivor Series and the 2014 Royal Rumble, you knew in the pit of your gut that The Shield was the future of professional wrestling.

And you can believe that.

*****

#5 (tied)
The Hart Foundation (42%)



Active Period:
1997

Members:
Bret "Hitman" Hart, Owen Hart, "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, "The Loose Cannon" Brian Pillman

Until the notorious Montreal Screwjob ran Bret Hart out of World Wrestling Entertainment for over a decade, the pro-Canadian Hart Foundation led by the Hitman was the single most dominant stable of 1997, waging multiple wars against the hottest stars of the Attitude Era—"Stone Cold" Steve Austin, "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, and "The World's Most Dangerous Man" Ken Shamrock, among others.

At one point in time, the Foundation held every piece of championship gold in the WWE, with the Hitman reigning as World Heavyweight Champion, Owen Hart securing the Intercontinental Championship, the British Bulldog bearing the European Championship, and the team of Owen and the Bulldog lording it over the entire tag team division as its champions.

Despite being booed out of arenas across the United States, the Hart Foundation were revered as national heroes in their Canadian home country, with their win over Team Austin at In Your House: Canadian Stampede creating an arguably top ten legendary pop.

Just know this: when a team has so tight a stranglehold on greatness that it takes the single largest controversy in the history of professional wrestling to tear them apart, that's a team that deserves eternal mention in the annals of our sport.

*****

#4
The nWo (54%)



Active Period:
1996-2002

Members:

  • Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, "Hollywood" Hogan, Ted DiBiase, Nick Patrick, The Giant, nWo Sting, Syxx, Vincent, Miss Elizabeth, Eric Bischoff, Buff Bagwell, Michael Wallstreet, Big Bubba Rogers, Scott Norton, Masahiro Chono, Randy Savage, Dennis Rodman, The Great Muta, Tenzan, Konnan, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Louie Spicolli, Dusty Rhodes, Brian Adams, The Disciple, Scott Steiner, Stevie Ray, Horace Hogan, Lex Luger, Disco Inferno, David Flair, Samantha, Rick Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, Ron Harris, Don Harris, Midajah

People speak today of CM Punk's "breaking the fourth wall" pipebomb promos in reverential tones, but back in 1996, the New World Order was shattering the neat, pre-packaged way we as viewers had been trained to view pro wrestling through their fiction-blurring, gritty approach to storytelling.

From the freshly-released-from-WWE Scott Hall making a surprising appearance on WCW Monday Nitro as an implied "outsider" from a competing federation to taking over entire episodes of Nitro and even their own pay-per-view and vandalizing the historic Big Gold Belt, the nWo was something massively fresh and new.

Never mind the fact that it seemed that one-third of the roster seemed like it must have been a member of the group at some point in time, or that it bloated off into so many sub-groups that it even required its own "B-team," the nWo reinvented and perfected so many tired wrestling tropes in ways that have become a template for today's reality-driven narrative style—large-scale beatdowns, anarchic gang imagery and call signs, pseudo-shoot promos, the "cool heel" persona.

The nWo may have lost steam in its latter years—and believe me, when you're packing such dead weight as Horace Hogan and Stevie Ray, "losing steam" is a kind way to put it—but in their prime they were iconic and revolutionary, and they ushered in a new era for how pro wrestling presented itself in a radical way that hadn't been seen since Vince McMahon introduced his "Rock 'n Wrestling" vision in 1986.

*****

#3
Evolution (58%)



Active Period:
2003-2005, 2014

Members:
Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista

When you consider the overall top-to-bottom dominance of the men behind a stable, you can't do any better than Evolution.

Here are some interesting facts that speak more powerfully than any exposition ever could:

  • The four members of Evolution have held a combined 47 World Championships throughout their careers. 
  • Every single one has been the top-level star of the company at some point in time. 
  • Each man has won a Royal Rumble—Ric Flair in 1992, Triple H in 2002, Randy Orton in 2009, and Batista in 2005 and 2014—and main-evented WrestleMania countless times.


With a pedigree of excellence like this, it's hard to argue against the top-three ranking of Evolution among the greatest stables of our sport—they weren't kidding about being the past, present, and the future of the industry.

You couldn't argue with their "Paid, Laid, and Made" slogan either, because with their limousine-ridin', Learjet-flyin', suit-wearin' swagger that comes along when "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair is part of the ride, you just knew that Evolution was just about better than anyone else on the roster. Just ask Randy Orton and Batista how many championship reigns they had before Evolution.




In a world where you had to adapt or perish, this band of current and future legends proved to be the pinnacle of progress every single damn time. 




*****

#1 (tied)
DX (83%)




Active Period:
1997-2000, 2006-2007, 2009-2010, 2012, 2015

Members:
Triple H, "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, The Road Dogg, "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn, X-Pac, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Chyna

Crotch chops.

"Suck it!"

Ring entrances mounted atop a military tank with its cannon jutting out from between their legs.

The boys of DX liked their penis references, and that's perfectly apt—they were big, they were cocky, they were the biggest dicks around. They were also winners, champions, main eventers. They invaded the pop cultural mainstream in ways only Austin 3:16 and Hulkamania had achieved at that point.

They're also the only wrestling stable in history to feature a former Playgirl centerfold AND a sex tape scandal star on their roster, and I've heard it said that One Night In Chyna is enough to make you swear off pornography forever.

They were rude, they were loud, they were irreverent. In a world of squeaky clean heroes and All-American poster boys, D-Generation X will always be unforgettable. And if you're not down with that, I've got two words for you...

(You know the rest.)

*****

#1 (tied)
The Four Horsemen (83%)



Active Period:
1985-1999

Members:
Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard, JJ Dillon, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Steve "Mongo" McMichael, Jeff Jarrett, Curt Hennig, Dean Malenko

The groups we've mentioned thus far served to advance the trope of stables as a storytelling device, but it was the legendary Four Horsemen that started it all.

You want to talk about the gang beatdowns that the nWo perfected as their trademark? Just ask Dusty Rhodes and Sting how it felt when the Horsemen whipped them down like dogs first.

You want to talk about championship dominance? Ask Ric Flair, whose then-record seven NWA World Championship reigns started and ended with the Horsemen as the gatekeepers for every match.

You want to talk about the perfect architecture of complementing parts? That was a Horseman invention as well, with a seamless blend of elite World Championship talent in Ric Flair, a strategic mastermind in JJ Dillon or Ole Anderson, a designated enforcer—most famously played by Arn Anderson, less famously played by Steve "Mongo" McMichael—and a young up-and-coming talent in the likes of a raw Sting or an emergent Sid Vicious.

The Horsemen had pedigree, they had polish, they had chemistry, they were an awesome force as a unit, and they were the prototype all other stables of note copied wholesale. They were WCW's last stand against the nWo invasion, and despite such controversial inclusions as Paul Roma and Mongo, remained to be the standard of excellence and exclusivity in the wrestling world they chose to occupy for a decade and a half.

*****

Do you agree with how the rankings played out? Got any violent reactions over why the Fabulous Freebirds didn't make it? Leave us a comment below, and let's have a good conversation on your thoughts.

I personally could have done without the Shield—for all their dominance, I don't feel they've proven to have the longevity and lasting impact the way the other stables did. In their place, I probably would have slotted in the Heenan Family, mainly because (1) It's Bobby Heenan as the mouthpiece, and (2) IT'S BOBBY FREAKING HEENAN AS THE MOUTHPIECE. Also, when you've got Rick Rude and Curt Hennig as your crown jewels, that's a tough act to ignore.

I probably would have slotted DX a couple of slots lower too. For all their pop culture impact, it felt at times like they were too caught up in being funny than in being a legitimate powerhouse entity. Case in point: You probably remember them best for their legendary skit parodying the Nation of Domination than for any particular run of in-ring success.

But then again, this is a column called "People Power," and if the people speak, then we roll with it. Leave a comment with a suggestion for next week's poll, and we'll make it happen.

*****

Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar) is an advertising professional and brand strategist by day, but dreams of being the Vince McMahon of the Philippines by night. He writes anything to do with numbers for Smark Henry: People Power, our weekly fan survey, and Best For Business, our regular financial report. With 18" arms and a 300-pound squat, he is also the official bouncer of the Smark Henry offices.

All photos were taken from WWE.com. Championship tallies and accomplishments are courtesy of the Internet Wrestling Database.

Comments

  1. Sad to see the Fabulous Freebirds and the Bullet Club didn't make it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and me both, buddy. You and me both.

      Delete
  2. The "Insurance Policy" Rick Rude was a member of DX just as much as Tori, Stephanie McMahon, Jason Sensation, Mike Tyson, or even Hornswoggle were. I wish he played a bigger role and stayed in DX/WWF longer because his ravishing attitude fit DX to a tee.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love that you picked the Horsemen photo with freaking SID VICIOUS in it. Worst Horseman ever. Worse than Paul Roma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DUDE. Sid Vicious was freaking awesome!!! I LOVED the incarnation with Windham and Sid as the double barreled enforcers!

      Delete

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