The Four Horsemen are the greatest faction in professional wrestling history.
From their formation in 1986 until their final demise in 1999, the Horsemen wreaked havoc on NWA and WCW programming, targeting the most popular stars of the time in an attempt to dominate the pro wrestling landscape.
They held the major championships of the time and featured some of the greatest wrestlers of the generation.
Ric Flair was the centerpiece of Jim Crockett Promotions, the NWA and WCW during his Hall of Fame career. Arn Anderson, dubbed "the Enforcer," was the corner piece of the group. He was glue that held it together more times than not. The heartbeat, if you will.
While the group was always considered to be one of the cooler, hipper factions in wrestling, it needed that one guy to really ground it and remind fans that the Horsemen were supposed to be villains. That one guy was the vastly underrated Tully Blanchard. Blanchard was the sneaky, cowardly, despicable villain that fans loved to boo. He was great at his job and his importance to the group never quite gets the recognition it deserves.
The fourth member of the faction in its original incarnation was Ole Anderson, a grizzled veteran wrestler who could be relentless when necessary and was incredibly cerebral. Over time, he would be replaced by the likes of Lex Luger and Barry Windham, the latter of whom would complete the greatest version of the group.
Manager JJ Dillon was the spokesman for a group of guys that did not need one. That alone should indicate just how good the veteran of the wrestling business truly was and how integral he managed to be. In many ways, he was as much a manager off-screen as he was on.
Like Blanchard, Dillon ensured that everyone remembered that the Horsemen may have been very cool, but they were also the most vile bad guys in the sport.
The Horsemen were a collection of guys who cared only about advancing their own careers in front of the camera and a group of performers absolutely dedicated to the product and the wrestling business as a whole off-screen.
They worked hard, partied harder and won over fans as a result. Through two decades, they made a major impact on the sport of professional wrestling.
In 2012, the Four Horsemen (Flair, Anderson, Blanchard and Windham) were immortalized forever when they were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Without further ado, here is a look at some of the greatest moments from the legendary Four Horsemen.
As cool as the Horsemen may have been, they also exhibited a violent and sadistic side that saw them brutalize and beat down some of the most popular stars in NWA history.
In 1986, following a substantial beatdown by Dusty Rhodes to Tully Blanchard, it was determined that the Horsemen needed to get a measure of revenge for one of their own. They followed Rhodes to Jim Crockett Promotions offices and jumped him in the parking lot.
Arn and Ole Anderson assaulted him with a baseball bat while a visibly injured Blanchard watched. JJ Dillon, who orchestrated the attack, even got in on the action, as he used the bat to choke Rhodes and prevent him from fighting back as the Andersons subdued him and tied him to a truck.
They then proceeded to use the bat on Rhodes' exposed arm and hand, eliciting a scream of agony from the American Dream.
Dusty's "make it good" hurt the very real nature of it just a bit, but it was still an epic beatdown that proved that, though the Horsemen may be some of the best wrestlers in the world, they were not above taking it to the streets when necessary.
They once again proved their disregard for their enemies when they turned their attention to the Rock and Roll Express' Ricky Morton.
Morton had stunned Ric Flair with a small package for a major upset victory in a six-man tag team elimination match, and the Horsemen were not going to allow the popular heartthrob the opportunity to celebrate.
Following the match, the Horsemen attacked Morton and partner Robert Gibson in the locker room. Arn and Tully kept Gibson down while Flair raked Morton's face over the unforgiving floor, busting him open and leaving blood smeared on the tile.
It was the first time in his career that Flair had entered an opponent's locker room to attack him, really putting over how badly Morton's win had affected the Nature Boy.
The sight of the blood on the dressing room floor was a haunting visual that, coupled with the attack on Rhodes, proved the extent to which the vile Horsemen were willing to go.
It was not uncommon for NWA World Heavyweight champion Ric Flair to be joined by Arn and Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard for promos throughout the '80s. Most of the time, those promos would put over the elite nature of all of the wrestlers themselves, as well as the importance of the championships they carried or were fighting for.
They were largely simple promos that everyone had heard before, but to the fans listening at home, it heightened their appreciation for the titles and really put over the greatness of the men on the screen. Tell a fan that so-and-so is an elite performer in the industry enough times and proceed to book them in a manner that backs it up, and those fans will completely buy into the words.
In the promo above, the Horsemen do just that, then find themselves confronted by Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA and the Road Warriors in a showdown between the top stars of the NWA at the time.
Barry Windham heel turn
Any elite athlete facing adversity can choose one of two options: They can either take the easy road and give in, cheating their way past that adversity, or they can endure the fight, never turning their back on the fans or their friends when things get hardest.
Barry Windham was well on his way to becoming one of the top stars in all of professional wrestling. He was a natural athlete who has the size and look of a major star and who easily could have carried the sport into the next decade.
Then it happened.
In 1988, he gave into JJ Dillon and joined the Horsemen, turning on partner Lex Luger, the fans and everything he stood for as a young man who was brought up in the industry by his father, Blackjack Mulligan, and Dusty Rhodes.
Windham chose the bright lights and big promises that Dillon made him and would go on to complete the greatest incarnation of the Four Horsemen.
Sting is stupid. And gullible. But mostly stupid.
If there was any one star who should have known that he could not trust Ric Flair and the Horsemen, it was Sting. He himself even said so on a number of occasions.
Yet no matter how many times he found himself on the receiving end of a three- or four-on-one beatdown, he continually fell into the same trap throughout his career.
In 1989, he accepted membership into the group. Then, when he had the guts enough to challenge Flair for the NWA title, he was kicked out of the group and viciously assaulted by the Nature Boy and the Andersons.
Sting would ultimately get one over on the Horsemen by defeating Flair for the title at the 1990 Great American Bash.
Six years later, he trusted Flair again and, again, found himself beaten and bruised by Flair, Anderson and Brian Pillman.
A new breed of Horsemen
Speaking of Pillman, the Loose Cannon was the first piece in the rebirth of the Horsemen in 1995.
Joined by Flair and Anderson, Pillman promised a fourth member would be revealed in the weeks to come.
Enter Chris Benoit.
Benoit was a phenomenal wrestler whose vocal skills lagged behind his in-ring work. Significantly. A tough, take-no-prisoners worker who would have fit in the original Horsemen group way back in 1986, he was a logical choice.
Unfortunately, the departure of Pillman in 1996 really hurt the group, and while Steve McMichael filled his spot later that same year, the group took a significant hit.
Especially when the New World Order began dominating the wrestling world in July.
The return of the Nature Boy
In 1998, Ric Flair and WCW president Eric Bischoff were engaged in a very heated, very real legal case stemming from Flair missing a taping for the company's Thursday night program Thunder, as well as comments made by Bischoff about Flair in a locker room full of wrestlers.
Eventually, however, the wrestling bug bit Flair, and the Nature Boy returned to work on the September 14 episode of Nitro from Charlotte, a town that had been very good to him.
With new Horsemen Dean Malenko joining Benoit and McMichael, as well as JJ Dillon and Arn Anderson, Flair walked the aisle as only he could. The fans in Charlotte treated him with every bit of respect he deserved, the respect that Bischoff refused to give him, and tears understandably ran down the Nature Boy's face.
He proceeded to cut one of the most emotional promos in the history of wrestling, thanking the fans and taking his frustrations out on Bischoff.
It was a glorious return for Flair and, unfortunately, the last great moment for the Horsemen.
No matter how hot the group was coming off of that segment, WCW management failed to capitalize, and it crumbled and fell apart soon afterwards.
The Hall of Fame
In 2012, the legendary faction was enshrined in WWE's Hall of Fame, forever giving the Horsemen the storybook ending they deserved—the one that their home promotion never gave them.
It was the second induction for Flair and the first for Anderson, Windham and Blanchard.
If there is any justice, it will not be the last for any of those three outstanding performers.
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