The Authority has been plastered all over programming in recent months, with the power-mad Triple H and Stephanie McMahon forcing their agenda on the WWE Universe and generally reeking mayhem wherever they go.
Clearly Vince McMahon and company are trying to get the new corporate faction over as the industry’s top heel stable and newest star attraction.
But just how do Triple H, Stephanie and friends measure up to past—and present—heel groups in wrestling?
Well, examining what these groups meant in terms of business and entertainment value, let’s have a look.
Nexus' powerful debut in June 2010—in which the group hit the ring and, with no explanation, proceeded to destroy everyone and everything in sight—is still one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history.
Wade Barrett thrived in his role as group leader and spokesperson. (Thanks to his current career slump and low profile, it's easy for people to forget how phenomenal a talker the English star really was in the beginning.)
Of course, Nexus' success couldn't last.
Bad booking (John Cena was frequently booked to dismantle the group on television) and bad luck (Daniel Bryan's firing and Skip Sheffield's ankle injury set the squad back immensely) took its toll on the group. By the end of 2010, the group was a shell of its former self.
This explains why The Nexus is so low on this list. Unfortunately, Barrett and pals really weren't given a chance to fulfill their full potential.
Evolution marked WWE’s attempt to do its own version of The Four Horsemen. It even had Ric Flair as a member!
Sadly, Evolution couldn’t quite match the earlier greatness of The Four Horsemen. Triple H was a little too fond of cutting meandering 20-minute promos and boring the fans to death, for one thing. Flair being reduced to playing cheerleader for Triple H seemed a bit of a waste of his talents too.
But the stable nonetheless provided breakthrough roles for newcomers Dave Batista and Randy Orton, both of whom went on to be major main eventers in the company. It's worth a mention here, even if it could have been done better.
Following Bret Hart's shocking heel turn at WrestleMania 13, the wrestler formed The Hart Foundation—basically a revamped version of the late '80s/early '90s stable.
With Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman joining the ranks, the group presented themselves as anti-American and staunchly pro-Canada. A bitter Bret—furious that the fans had chosen the boorish, beer-swilling Austin over him—frequently ranted about what he perceived as what was wrong with American society.
This lead to some truly raucous crowd reactions, with the Hart Foundation being hugely cheered in shows taking place in Canada and vociferously booed any time they wrestled in the U.S.
Granted Bret and his buddies didn't exactly turn around WWE's faltering business in 1997—hence why I can't list them too high—but it's hard to argue with the amount of sheer entertainment value the stable provided.
While The Shield—consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns—didn’t have quite the impact on the business that Four Horsemen or The NWO did, it’s hard to argue with their superb in-ring contributions.
Indeed, when it comes to the wrestling aspect of things, The Shield is easily the best heel group ever.
Over the past year, the trio has been involved with numerous great and classic matches, with everyone from CM Punk to Goldust. They’ve seemingly never put in a bad performance.
Can you imagine how mediocre and tiresome these three-hour Raws would be without these guys wrestling up a storm every week? That alone warrants a high ranking.
The precursor to The Authority, The Corporation were easily one of the most dominant heel stables of the Attitude Era. Vince McMahon, at his peak as the evil heel, sought to make unruly employee Steve Austin's life a misery—and recruited everyone from The Rock to Ken Shamrock to help him do so.
The Corporation were great bad guys: Fans loathed the controlling and money-obsessed Vince and his sycophantic buddies, and loved seeing Austin knock them down a peg or two.
And who can forget the infamous Raw segment in which Austin rode to the ring in a massive beer truck and sprayed Vince, The Rock and Shane McMahon with beer, frequently referred to as one of the best wrestling moments ever?
(Note to WWE, that is how you book a babyface. You don't constantly berate them on TV and never give them their revenge.)
Partly thanks to The Corporation, WWF were able to shoot past the shambolic WCW product in 1998 and establish itself as the No. 1 wrestling promotion in the world. A title it holds to this day.
If The Authority can manage to accomplish at least half of what The Corporation did, I will be very surprised.
The Four Horsemen get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012
The Four Horsemen were wrestling’s original heel stable—it’s doubtful we would have had any of the other groups on this list without these guys. Indeed, these four are such an integral part of history, it’s difficult to imagine the business without them.
Formed in 1986 in NWA, the group consisted of Arn and Ole Anderson, Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard, with J.J. Dillon serving as manager. These men had it all—beautiful women, Championship gold, tons of money—and weren’t shy about saying so.
Of course, The Four Horsemen went through various incarnations over the next 15 years and even turned face a few times. But it’s difficult to argue that the original ‘80s lineup wasn't the very best.
The NWO drastically changed the wrestling landscape when it emerged in July 1996. Consisting of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and a newly turned “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, these guys vowed to take over and wreck WCW by any means necessary.
Thanks to this gripping, well-executed storyline, WCW was able to soundly defeat the-then struggling WWF in the mid ‘90s, both in the ratings and pay-per-view business. Nitro was now must-see television.
Of course, it couldn’t last.
Hall, Nash and Hogan were all over the show, to the point hardly anyone else could get over. With the exception of Bill Goldberg in 1998, they didn't help any new stars flourish.
The booking was a mess too.
WCW seemingly started the angle and didn't know how to finish it. The babyfaces, like Sting, were booked so ineptly, fans struggled to get behind them. Members came and went with an alarming regularity, and it was difficult to keep track of who was even in the group any more.
And let's not even get started on WWE's laughably bad revamp of the group in 2002.
But, still, this doesn’t change the fact that, in its early stages at least, the NWO group provided some of the best wrestling programming ever and kick-started the lucrative '90s boom period. These guys changed the industry.