Like managers and tag team wrestling, stables seem to be a lost art in today’s professional wrestling scene, specifically in the WWE. The formation of The Nexus last year, however, proved that stables could still play a huge role in the success of the overall product.
While the WWE’s Attitude Era may have featured some off-the-wall storylines and sub-par wrestling at times, most wrestling fans look back at it fondly. The main reason for this is that the Attitude Era was undoubtedly entertaining. One of the things that made it so was a focus on feuds between stables.
DX, The Corporation, The Ministry of Darkness, The Hart Foundation and The Nation of Domination were just a few of the many successful stables that ran roughshod over the WWE in the late-1990s. These “gang war” type feuds between factions practically wrote themselves and produced endless possibilities.
WWE’s main rival during that period, WCW, may have been the company which made stables en vogue, though. The formation of the New World Order in 1996 rocketed WCW to new heights and, for the first time, posed a very real threat to WWE. The nWo is yet another example of how, when done right, stables can resonate with the fans.
Here are the top 10 stables in the history of WWE/WCW.
The Corporation, led by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, controlled the WWE for most of the latter part of 1998 and early 1999. McMahon created the group in an effort to quell the advancement of his main rivals, namely “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, D-Generation X and Mankind.
The stable was formed the night after Survivor Series ’98 at which McMahon and his crew helped The Rock defeat Mankind for the WWE Championship.
At its height, The Corporation contained Vince and Shane McMahon, The Rock, The Big Boss Man, Ken Shamrock and Test. Also, McMahon’s stooges Sgt. Slaughter, Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson were auxiliary members.
The faction held every major championship in the company at one point or another with The Rock holding the WWE Championship and Shamrock the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships, the latter of which he co-held with The Big Boss Man.
Once Shane took control of The Corporation in 1999 and Vince, Shamrock, Test and others left the group for various reasons, its stroke began to dwindle. The Corporation officially ended when it merged with The Ministry of Darkness to form the Corporate Ministry.
This occurred, of course, when Vince revealed himself as the “higher power” behind the Ministry’s dastardly deeds. While The Corporation didn’t have a particularly long shelf life, it left an indelible mark on the WWE.
Author of one of the most shocking wrestling angles in recent memory, The Nexus burst onto the scene on the June 7, 2010, edition of Monday Night RAW.
The group, comprised of the contestants from the inaugural season of NXT, made a huge splash by severely beating John Cena, CM Punk, Luke Gallows, Jerry Lawler, Matt Striker, Justin Roberts and other ringside personnel following a match between Cena and Punk.
The brunt of The Nexus’ focus seemed to be on Cena, however, as they attempted to make a statement. The original version of The Nexus was led by Wade Barrett and also consisted of David Otunga, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield.
Despite the fact that The Nexus would remain a fairly dominant stable for months, it was dealt a huge blow right away as Daniel Bryan was fired for his actions in the initial melee. Bryan choked Roberts with his tie and spat in Cena’s face. This was deemed by the WWE to be too extreme in accordance with its PG rating.
The Nexus proceeded to take out many WWE superstars and legends in the coming weeks, including Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, Edge, Chris Jericho and even Vince McMahon.
The group began to grow thinner still; however, as Young was excommunicated from the faction and both Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield suffered injuries. This made The Nexus seem weakened.
The deathblow for the stable occurred when John Cena was forced to join The Nexus per a match stipulation. Cena essentially destroyed the group from the inside and eventually gained his freedom.
The original Nexus disbanded when CM Punk took control of the group and kicked out Barrett. This left The Nexus as Punk, Otunga and NXT Season Two rookies Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris.
The New Nexus has failed to make the same impact its predecessor did and seems to be a lame duck with Punk’s contract set to expire next month. Regardless, The Nexus was undoubtedly the dominant force in WWE throughout the summer of 2010.
The Nation of Domination was founded by Faarooq in 1996 as a militant group of sorts that consisted of minority wrestlers, and more specifically, African-American wrestlers.
Faarooq’s main accessories when the stable first formed were Savio Vega, Crush and D’Lo Brown. Faarooq eventually kicked Vega and Crush out of the group leaving just him and Brown.
Kama Mustafa and Ahmed Johnson joined the group in subsequent weeks, although Johnson soon left due to injury. The Rock, Mark Henry and Owen Hart all joined the Nation in the following months as well.
The Nation went on to feud with other factions, namely Los Boricuas and The Disciples of Apocalypse, which were Vega’s and Crush’s answers to the Nation, respectively.
The Rock eventually won the Intercontinental Championship and gained control of the stable, excommunicating Faarooq in the process. This led to a massive feud between the Nation and DX, with The Rock and Triple H battling it out for the Intercontinental Championship.
The Nation began to disintegrate, however, when The Rock became a fan favorite. This caused both Henry and Brown to assault the Rock, thus bringing the Nation to an official end in 1998.
Other than The Rock, The Nation of Domination didn’t feature a lot of individual success, but it was certainly the most hated stable of its time in the WWE.
Although The Hart Foundation refers, in part, to the tag team of Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart managed by Jimmy Hart, this entry will focus on the reincarnation of The Hart Foundation which was formed in the WWE in 1997.
The Attitude Era version of The Hart Foundation consisted of Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart, The British Bulldog and Brian Pillman.
The Foundation was a heel faction which was anti-American and pro-Canadian. This resulted in many epic feuds including one against The Union, which was a group of American wrestlers working as faces.
Despite the fact that The Hart Foundation was universally hated in America, its members were revered as heroes when WWE events took place in Canada.
The group was also incredibly successful as it held every major title at one time or another. The Hart Foundation disbanded in late 1997, partly due to the fact that Brian Pillman died due to a heart condition. Bret Hart, Neidhart and the Bulldog all made their final WWE appearances (for the time being) at Survivor Series ’97.
Hart was involved in the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” in which Vince McMahon ordered the match to end when Shawn Michaels put Hart in the sharpshooter. This was due to the fact that McMahon was afraid that Hart would take the WWE Championship with him to WCW since his contract was up.
Neidhart and the Bulldog were so disgusted by the act that they left for WCW as well, officially ending The Hart Foundation in the process.
The Heenan Family was a heel stable of wrestlers managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. The stable was originally formed in the AWA in 1969 and continued in the WWE when Heenan made the jump in 1984, lasting until 1991.
Heenan managed a wide array of stars during his time in the WWE including, but not limited to, Andre the Giant, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Big John Studd and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
Heenan-managed wrestlers held every major title the WWE had to offer over the course of Heenan’s managerial career.
His crowning moment as a WWE manager was likely when Andre the Giant won the WWE Championship from Hulk Hogan. This was short-lived, though, as Andre then sold the title to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
The transaction was ruled illegal by President Jack Tunney and the title was vacated. Also, while not technically a part of the Heenan Family, Ric Flair won the WWE Championship twice under the tutelage of Heenan.
The Heenan Family was unlike what we would consider a stable today in that its members didn’t really work as a unit.
Their only real connection was the fact that they were all managed by Heenan. Many of them did have common goals, however, such as the destruction of Hulkamania.
While The Heenan Family can’t compete with most other stables in terms of what it accomplished as a group, it featured a collection of individual talent that perhaps no faction ever has.
The Ministry of Darkness was implied to be a satanic-type cult formed by The Undertaker in early 1999.
After losing a Buried Alive match to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at In Your House: Rock Bottom, The Undertaker disappeared for several weeks.
Upon his return, along with Paul Bearer, he began recruiting several wrestlers to join his stable, including The Acolytes (Faarooq and Bradshaw), Mideon, Viscera and The Brood (Gangrel, Edge and Christian).
The Ministry’s main goal was to take over the WWE and destroy Vince McMahon in the process.
Over the course of its existence, The Ministry performed a number of satanic rituals, including crucifying Austin and abducting both Stephanie McMahon and Ken Shamrock’s sister, Ryan.
Vince’s perceived helplessness over the course of the feud made the power of The Ministry all the more believable.
Things started to go downhill a bit, however, when The Brood willingly left the group due to The Undertaker trying to force Gangrel and Edge to sacrifice Christian after Christian gave up information to Shamrock.
Over the course of The Undertaker’s reign of terror, he insisted that a “higher power” was directing him.
As it turned out, that “higher power” was revealed as Vince McMahon in one of the most anti-climactic and senseless storylines in WWE history.
This spelled the end of The Ministry of Darkness as it had already merged with The Corporation to form the Corporate Ministry. It was revealed that everything the Ministry did was orchestrated by McMahon as a way to destroy Austin.
Once this announcement was made, The Corporate Ministry’s days were essentially numbered as the stable had grown too big and had little left to fight for.
The Corporate Ministry may not have accomplished much, but The Ministry of Darkness was certainly one of the most feared stables in WWE history.
Evolution was a heel stable that was founded in 2003 and consisted of Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista. The stable’s gimmick was that it contained the best wrestlers of the past (Flair), present (Triple H) and future (Orton and Batista). The group took the WWE by storm as it held every major title by late 2003.
Over the entire course of Evolution, Triple H always either held or was in hot pursuit of the World Heavyweight Championship thanks in large part to his Evolution companions interfering on his behalf.
Things began to go sour for Evolution following Triple H losing the title to Chris Benoit at WrestleMania XX, though. Triple H made Eugene an honorary member of Evolution in order to help him regain the title; he ended up costing Triple H in his rematch with Benoit.
Orton eventually became the No. 1 contender for the World Title and beat Benoit at SummerSlam. Rather than congratulate Orton, he was kicked out of the group due to Triple H’s jealousy.
Triple H would regain the title, but after Batista won the Royal Rumble, he turned on Evolution and decided to go after Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXI.
This left just Triple H and Flair as members of the faction. At long last, Triple H turned on Flair, officially ending Evolution in October 2005. Very few stables in the history of wrestling can match Evolution’s longevity and championship success.
As possibly the most well-known and longest-running stable in wrestling history, The Four Horsemen nab the third spot on this list. The Horsemen first formed in 1986 in the NWA and lasted until the late stages of WCW in 1999.
Although many of the group’s finest accomplishments came in the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions, Horsemen members held all of WCW’s main titles during the faction’s existence.
The Horsemen were involved in a number of high-profile feuds in WCW, many of which involved Hulk Hogan. As heels, the Horsemen were one of many factions who aimed to end Hulkamania.
Once Hogan turned heel and helped form the nWo, however, the Horsemen became faces and joined other members in WCW in trying to loosen the nWo’s stranglehold over the company.
Due to the incredible length of time the Horsemen existed, it is inevitable that there was quite a bit of turnover over the group’s history. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were the constants of the stable essentially over the entire course of its existence.
Other members of the group when it was in WCW included Chris Benoit, Brian Pillman, Steve McMichael, Curt Hennig and Dean Malenko.
Each member earned at least some measure of success in WCW, especially Flair as he won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship eight times.
While the group was ultimately decimated in its attempt to take down the now, that had much, if not everything, to do with the stroke of Kevin Nash and Hogan backstage.
The Horsemen may have been often buried in WCW’s later years, but that doesn’t change the fact that The Four Horsemen is one of the most successful stables of all time.
Along with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, D-Generation X was responsible for helping WWE eventually win the ratings war over WCW, which had become the premier wrestling company in 1996 and 1997.
Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chyna and, to a lesser extent, Rick Rude were the founding members of DX.
Although it was technically a heel stable, the fans loved DX due to its crude humor and constant humiliation of Vince McMahon and Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter.
DX’s crowing and most infamous moment came when Michaels beat Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series in 1997 as part of the “Montreal Screwjob.”
This made DX a bit more villainous, although they were still universally loved outside of Hart’s home country of Canada.
The first incarnation of DX effectively came to an end when Michaels lost the WWE Championship to Austin at WrestleMania XIV. This was due, in part, to the fact that Michaels had a severe back injury and had to temporarily retire from wrestling.
This made Triple H the de facto leader of DX, and as leader he added X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and The Road Dogg) to the stable. Due to the group’s overwhelming popularity, they eventually became faces officially.
DX’s popularity reached new heights when they were sent on a “war against WCW” in which they legitimately went to WCW headquarters and shouted insults.
Over the course of 1999, the group slowly began to dissolve. It was reformed late in the year, however, as a heel group with the main focus being on Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
Although this wasn’t considered to be the best or most entertaining version of the group, it did result in two WWE Championship reigns for Triple H.
DX came to be once again on two later occasions, but as only a tag team featuring Triple H and Michaels. D-Generation X is undoubtedly considered one of the most entertaining and all-around best stables in wrestling history.
It’s fair to say that no stable has ever formed in such a shocking manner and no stable has ever been as dominant as the New World Order.
When WCW poached Scott Hall and Kevin Nash from the WWE in 1996, a storyline began that suggested Hall and Nash were intruders from the WWE who were looking to take over WCW.
The most surprising aspect of the stable, of course, came when Hulk Hogan joined Hall and Nash at Bash at the Beach and turned heel for the first time since his early days in the WWE.
Hogan then rechristened himself as “Hollywood” Hogan. The nWo would begin its assault on WCW when Hogan won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Hog Wild from The Giant.
The nWo would soon add new members, including Vincent, Syxx, The Giant, Curt Hennig, Randy Savage and Buff Bagwell, among others.
The nWo’s biggest feud was with Sting, which lasted throughout 1997. Sting often appeared in the rafters during nWo matches, but didn’t wrestle a match or say a word throughout the year. The blow off to the feud came when Sting beat Hogan at Starrcade.
This was the beginning of the end in terms of the nWo’s credibility in the minds of many, however. Hogan originally scored a clean victory over Sting in the match, but Bret Hart came out ordered the match to restart with Sting eventually winning. This hurt Sting severely as he looked weak in victory.
This probably should have been the end of the nWo, but it continued for a long period of time after Starrcade. The group eventually split into two factions: nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac.
A countless amount of wrestlers, from main eventers to glorified jobbers, joined the nWo in the following years until its disbandment in 2000.
The nWo reformed in the WWE, but only for a fairly short and uneventful run as the stable had already run its course. There is no doubt, that because of Nash and Hogan’s booking powers, the nWo was the most successful stable in wrestling history.
Things got overly complicated, though, when seemingly anyone and everyone was allowed into the group. Had the nWo stayed as a relatively small group of main event caliber wrestlers, it could have been even better.
Stables simply have a shelf life, but Hogan, Nash, Eric Bischoff, et all were either unable or unwilling to realize it. The numerous reincarnations of the group damaged its reputation a bit, but all wrestling fans certainly have fond memories of the original nWo.