Ever since the quiet dissolution of the New Nexus in August of 2011, the WWE has been left with a hole at its core. Where is the group, the faction, that can cause chaos at every turn?
Where is the dominant group of competitors that constantly keeps the fans guessing what will happen next?
Granted the Four Horsemen truly began the “faction” when they initially formed in 1986, uniting Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Fellow performers and fans alike knew that if you messed with one member of the group, you’d find yourself in trouble with all four (sometimes five if you count manager J.J. Dillon). Throughout the years, the Horsemen underwent many line-up changes and incarnations, as well as fans also seeing other groupings based upon the Horsemen in WWE (Evolution) and TNA (Fortune) that while not technically called by name, were very similar.
With the Monday Night Wars came the nWo in late May 1996. Fans initially did not know what to make of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, two wrestlers that seemingly worked for the WWF, showing up on rival Monday Nitro. The angle was booked to seem as if “the Outsiders” were invading the company. Add to it the masterful heel turn of Hulk Hogan, and the nWo would change the course of wrestling history forever. Week to week, no one knew what to expect. Seemingly rock-steady WCW originals like Lex Luger, Scott Steiner, and Sting all joined the group at one time or another, keeping the WCW product fresh and exciting for years.
As a response to the nWo, the WWF began a dominant faction of its own, Degeneration-X.
While the purpose of the nWo was to create chaos in by means of “invasion,” the purpose of D-X was to be cutting edge and shocking. Accomplished by means of words more often than physicality, the members of the group (mainly Shawn Michaels and Triple H for each incarnation of the group, and others, including X-Pac, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn for the group's glory days) could back up what they were promising, yet weave a tapestry of word that made both fans and competitors pay attention. Week to week, the members of the faction used language that had never been used before, including cursing, which led to “bleeps” being used much more than they had ever been before. Sexual references became commonplace as the company’s Attitude Era went into full swing.
What the wrestling world got with D-X was a gang mentality. If a competitor had a match with one member of the faction, all of the members could be involved by the end of it. The constant wondering of “what will happen,” and “who is coming out next” was expected when the match began. Those feelings kept the audience on the edge of its seats and always left them wanting more.
On the heels of D-X came Vince McMahon’s Corporation and the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. Once the two factions united, and Vince was deposed as Corporation leader by his son Shane, the real power of the group grew. Different than Degeneration-X in that they played upon psychology as well as physicality, this group further pushed boundaries with angles involving kidnapping and crucifixion. More than guessing what they would do next, the audience was left wondering what the group would not do. There seemed to be no end to the cruelty and mind-games that this group inflicted on their victims.
This group was purely a terrifying one until the “higher power” that the group talked about was revealed to be Vince McMahon himself. The group did last for awhile after that, but seemingly there seemed to be something off about the dynamic at that point, now that the Undertaker’s power as leader had been usurped by McMahon.
When the Nexus came about in 2010, the wrestling world was confronted face to face by a large group of hungry and seemingly desperate young wrestlers, hellbent on making an impact.
On the night of their debut, they threw the wrestling world into upheaval by attacking both faces and heels alike at the end of the night, attacking John Cena, CM Punk, Luke Gallows, announcer Jerry Lawler, ring announcer Justin Roberts and other WWE personnel around the ring. The incident led to Daniel Bryan being legitimately fired for taking things too far in the attack.
The group continued its roll for months, constantly using their large numbers to turns the tides of matches and confrontations in their favor, a typical characteristic of a faction.
After some time, CM Punk was revealed as the new leader of the group, and after an initial run, the group slowly died off, eventually culminating in the quiet dissolution of it around August of 2011.
So what would it take for a faction to succeed in today’s wrestling world?
One of the main points that many people may bring up would be including CM Punk in the group. As we saw with the New Nexus, and even the Straight Edge Society, Punk is more than capable of being the charismatic leader of any group. He’s an incredibly talented worker that seems to love the business and will do anything in his power to help it succeed. It is for that reason that he should not be the leader of a new faction.
As the leader of these groups, we have seen Punk lead organized chaos against the other members of both the RAW and Smackdown rosters, with mixed results. So it stands to reason that watching him fight against these groups might be a more compelling option. Granted he may be in the middle of a heel turn right now, but who’s to say that this new faction needs to have bad intentions?
In this era, a grouping of wrestlers does not need to be face or heel. It just needs to stand together as one. Crucial components must be met in order to allow it to survive.
First of all, the group needs a charismatic and unquestioned leader. Ric Flair, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, and Triple H all have the mic skills and “it” factor that is mandatory in order to lead. Once that power is questioned or diminished, the group begins to fail, the Corporate Ministry begging the prime example of that. Even the nWo began to weaken once it split into two groups (Black and White and Wolfpac).
Next, the numbers game is always a huge key to success. A group needs at least four members in order to thrive, the Horsemen being the best example. The nWo was also a great idea for the simple reason that it had so many members. The fact that it seemed as if they were their own separate group, apart from WCW, and later WWE, made it seem as if they were always invading their rival promotion and gave the storyline excitement and surprises. Doing this keeps the idea fresh and the fans engaged.
The wrestling world is ready for another shock. It needs that jolt. Each week, the WWE puts on a show packed with action, but very few “Oh My God!” moments. Those moments are necessary today, just as they were decades ago. To have a captive audience, you need a group to hold them hostage.