Stables. They were once an integral part of wrestling. But as many have noted, and many more probably will, it's an art that has fallen into disrepair.
Gone are the days of the NWO, the Four Horsemen, Evolution, the Deadly Alliance. Now we have Encore. Now we have the fond memory of what the Nexus could have been, but wasn't allowed to be. Now we have the sour taste of the Corre in our mouths.
Following on the heels of the rather solid reaction to my last gimmick article, I've decided to take a crack at what stables could rise up in the modern day of wrestling, and who should be in them. Let me know how you feel in the comments about my choices.
And on with the show.
Throughout wrestling history, the “Rich Guy” has been a standard Heel gimmick. Someone powerful and privileged and wealthy is a magnet for heat, given that the vast majority of people are none of those things, but are well aware of those that are and how those powers are abused.
The idea of the One Percent, the most absurdly wealthy and influential in America, has been prominent in recent politics. I think it’s something that wrestling should seize upon.
The One Percenter is more than just a rich guy like Alberto del Rio or the Million Dollar Man. For one thing, the One Percenter doesn’t blatantly say that he’s better than everyone. That’s a cheap, shallow ploy, and it’s been done to death. For the One Percenter to work, he needs to be subtle. He needs to be backhanded, with a smiling face and a cheerful attitude.
He’s one part Ted DiBiase, one part Damien Sandow, and one part typical babyface. As far as he’s concerned, he’s a good guy, he’s helping people, and he deserves everything he’s got. He deserves to be rich, deserves to be on top, and he deserves to be in charge.
More than that, though, the One Percenter needs to game the system. He doesn’t just gloat and flaunt his wealth. He uses it. He might pay off referees to be more lenient for him in the ring. Charles Robinson will suddenly tweet about a new house he bought. Josh Matthews will sing the One Percenter’s praises, and Michael Cole will point out he drove in this week in a new car. He’ll pay off anybody to get an edge.
He even pays off jobbers to take the fall for him. Perhaps he’ll hold a Scouting Challenge, saying he’s tired of the guys he’s beaten in WWE. So he brings in local talent, paid to take a beating and make him look good. And I mean explicitly, not just in the usual jobber sense.
And on top of that, he needs a stable. He needs to be like the Million Dollar Corporation, JBL’s Cabinet. He has David Otunga as his legal advisor, he brings Laurinaitis back in as his manager. Eve can go to his side in her inevitable heel turn. He can pay off guys like the Damien Sandow, or bring in an assassin like Big E Langston from NXT, or the Prime Time Players as bodyguards.
He needs to be surrounded by bodies, as untouchable as Triple H at the height of Evolution, as treacherous as Ric Flair surrounded by the Four Horsemen, and as two-faced and arrogant as every slimy politician you’ve ever hated.
Sadly, for this gimmick to work, it would need to be applied to someone new. Someone we can buy into as unspeakably wealthy. The temptation is to suggest Del Rio, but he’s so damaged that giving him as ambitious a gimmick as this would be a waste. It needs to go onto a heel for the next generation, one who comes in as loaded with cash and never looks back.
Of course, if you’re talking recent political movements and the One Percent, the Occupy movement is far behind. Now, this one is a little more outdated and thus might not work as well, but it would still make a solid wrestling gimmick. At it’s core, this is a gimmick of feeling overlooked, pushed aside, and exploited, which exactly fits some of the nasty backstage politics of the wrestling industry.
You bring out two, three, even more midcarders. They’re tired of being pushed aside. They’re tired of not getting opportunities. So they’re just not going to take it anymore. It takes the sadly aborted Walk Out episode from months ago and expands on it, makes it into a defining moment.
They’re ready to do sit-ins, to stop people from coming to the ring for their matches, to stop people from even getting into the building. They’ll picket the arenas, they’ll try to lock the doors closed, they’ll hound the GMs, anything that they can do.
This would work especially well with two wrestlers in particular: Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. The two already have established charisma from their Major Brothers/Edgehead days, and both of them have problems to air. Zack Ryder got a small push as the US Champion, but Laurinaitis fed him to Kane and to Jack Swagger unfairly and he’s never gotten a chance since, he could say.
Meanwhile, Curt Hawkins was abused by William Regal on NXT, abused by Teddy Long on Smackdown, and has had to deal with partners who were released and having to do a crappy Magic Mike gimmick [though I thought that had a bit of entertainment potential.]
Combine it with them both being young, athletic workers who are underrated on the mic, and Hawkins’ already counter-cultural and somewhat scruffy look, and they’ve got it made. JTG is another perfect fit if you expand it to a proper stable, another man known for stepping up in real life recently, and he’s definitely improved in the ring.
You could even try turning Santino into a more serious character this way, if that’s possible at this point: he’s tired of management telling him to be a joke, a cartoon, and he’s going to become the brutal MMA fighter he could have been as Boris Alexiev. Look it up.
Over time, there have been a lot of different styles developed in the wrestling ring. There’s the classic power style, there’s the flashy Sports Entertainment style, there’s the high-flying Lucha style, and there’s the other way to do things.
There’s the backyard, hardcore, ECW style of wrestling, that’s less about wrestling moves and technical skill, and much more about inflicting pain and ridiculous, “did that just happen?” spots.
Now, this one probably wouldn’t work that well in the modern WWE unless they wanted to make a concerted change of pace for the entire company. But. If anything, it would work better because of the state of the company and the weight of PG hanging over everything.
Essentially, a gang, however many in the gang is up for WWE to decide, decide to lay siege to WWE. They’re tired of the sanitized product, they’re bored of standard wrestling, and they want to bring a little big of carnage to the proceedings.
At first, they wouldn’t even wrestle. They’d simply start running in from the crowd, dressed in jeans and baggy track pants and wifebeaters and everything that screams “low budget indie wrestlers,” both because of the gimmick, and to make them stand out. Think Aces and Eights over in TNA, but minus the skull masks and hoodies.
They’d hit the ring in the middle of, say, a Heath Slater and Zack Ryder match, beating one down with chairs, throwing the other through a table, or a pane of glass. They’d smash Brodus Clay with light tubes, whip Alex Riley with belts, whatever.
When they did get involved in matches, most of them would end in disqualification. The Backyard Invasion could win matches, that would need to be made clear, but instead of getting a pinfall in a normal wrestling match they just want to hurt people in increasingly violent and creative ways.
Running this all the way to TLC or Extreme Rules would be best, as the other wrestlers could finally fight them on even terms.
Casting this one would be difficult, and probably best done by actually bringing in Indie wrestlers from promotions like CZW. They’d need to seem like outsiders, and look like they kind of guys who’d be in a “garbage wrestling” promotion.
Back in the day, the Ministry of Darkness was one of many hot acts that made the Attitude Era what it was. It brought the Undertaker to new heights, brought us the greatness of the Acolytes and Edge and Christian, and was just all kinds of entertaining, especially when pit against Stone Cold. Darkness and the trappings of the paranormal made it what it was.
Those can still be cool. Those can still be effective tools. The Enigma, a name chosen solely because it sounds mysterious and cool, admittedly, is that kind of group. They know that there’s no point in morality, in living by the rules that society says they should.
They walk in the darkness, they accept the violence and nastiness and cruelty that humanity can bring, and they even revel in it. They’re not vampires or monsters or devil-worshipping cultists, necessarily, but they are gothic, nasty, and vicious.
The Ascension down in NXT are a natural fit, since they already have a dark and animalistic gimmick. Bringing them in to serve as enforcers and attack dogs would be perfect. Drew McIntyre’s Sinister Scotsman theme would also work well, as would the gothic Paige, who has been getting a real following. But they need a rallying point. Someone to stand as the front runner, the leader of the pack.
Cody Rhodes seems the most likely choice. He’s not as high on the card as I might like, due to WWE dropping the ball with him earlier this year, but he can work dark, he can work menacing, and he can work over the top but still believable.
He’s a great character actor and he can really bring this gimmick to life, and with a dark stable around him, it might give him the push he finally needs towards the top.
It’s possible to add in a mentor figure, one to add a little more history or gravitas to the group. It’s tempting to say Undertaker, but he works best as an especially special attraction and it would bring too many comparisons to the Ministry. Paul Bearer could work, and it would have a built in feud of him seeking revenge on Randy Orton and Kane for their Wrestlemania-time shenanigans.
Another distant possibility could be Mark Henry, who has the violent attitude, the top heel status, and the background with teams and stables to quite possibly do well in the role.
If there’s one thing that sometimes confuses me about WWE, and there’s far more than one, it’s why none of the faces seem to have any friends. I mean, look at them. They might team up for a random eight man tag match, but nobody does much to help anyone else.
There’s no sense of lasting alliance between any two superstars. It’s not like years ago, where Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman and Farooq would help one another, or Bradshaw and TAKA Michinoku, or whatever else.
Of course, a loose alliance isn’t quite enough. This is wrestling. There needs to be some kind of flair. A stable, of sorts, of justice-minded individuals. Men and even Divas who won’t stand for any kind of wrongs or misdeeds. That will. Avenge these wrongs, one could say. You might call them a team, or even a league.
If you didn’t get the idea I was vaguely hinting at, I mean superheroes.
I mean, superheroes are in. Look at all the giant summer blockbusters coming out on the themes. And really, wrestlers are already about as close to superheroes and supervillains as most people will get. The costumes, the tights, the explosions, the larger than life stories. Even masks.
You can’t say it wouldn’t work as a gimmick, either, as you just have to look at Gregory “Hurricane” Helms for proof. He wrestled the main event of Raw against The Rock and didn’t look like a joke, even as a cruiserweight-sized guy in a mask.
The cast of players in the team is rather easy. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, already masked and already in a tag team, would make an excellent edition. You don’t have to promote them as superheroes, they basically already are.
Kofi Kingston needs something to do and he’s been one of the most consistent, and athletically impressive, faces in the company for years. Round it out with someone big and physically dominating, like Brodus Clay, Ryback, or even Sheamus, and you have a solid team.
And since so many faces are already booked as superhuman to begin with, well, it’s not like it’d change that much for the worst in that respect.