My Top 10 Greatest Pro Wrestling Stables of All Time
Stables in professional wrestling are quite well known for one thing: take a group of wrestlers with a common cause or who are buddies with one another and have them plow down their opposition for championships, personal rivalries and/or attempt to take over whatever wrestling organization they happen to occupy.
I am finding the stables of today at the moment to be quite lackluster due either to said groups being too underwhelming (WWE’s Corre and Nexus) or too overwhelming (TNA’s Immortal) in dominance when booked.
Reflecting back on the days of yesteryear, these ten stables stood out enough for me with what they represented during their formation, the dominance they gained in the time they were around, their chemistry with one another and the legacy they left behind for future stables to follow.
I bring, you fellow Bleachers, my thoughts on the top 10 best wrestling stables of all time.
Honorable Mention: The Kliq (WWE)
Notable Members: Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), Diesel (Kevin Nash), Triple H, 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman).
They might not have officially been a stable in the WWE’s story lines. But their influence behind the scenes are infamous enough where this is worth a mention.
Take five real-life best friends who wanted to make a group where they called the shots behind the scenes over any matches and storylines they were involved in and you have the Kliq.
Throughout the mid-1990s, the Kliq held significant booking power over the direction of their characters and were personally favored by Vince McMahon.
They were infamous for a number of booking decisions that prevented the success of several wrestlers in the WWE during the time such as Shane Douglas and Carl Ouellet (wrestling at the time under a pirate gimmick as Jean-Pierre Lafitte).
The group split apart in May 1996 when Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left for WCW, but not without creating further controversy in the infamous MSG Incident where Shawn, Hunter, Hall and Nash broke kayfabe by hugging one another during the final minutes of a house show at Madison Square Garden.
All five would be responsible for their formations of and involvements with two notable wrestling stables which I will bring up later in this countdown.
10. Raven’s Nest (ECW)
Notable Members: Raven, Cactus Jack, Stevie Richards, Beulah McGillicutty, The Blue Meanie, Luna Vachon, The Pitbulls, The Vampire Warrior, Dudley Boyz, The Eliminators, Kimona Wanalaya, Brian Lee, Super Nova, Lori and Tyler Fullington, Chastity
If you were an ECW fan during the mid-1990s, you should be well familiar with the grunge-wearing, depressed, sociopath wrestler known as Raven.
During his ongoing rivalries with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, Raven always had his group of lackeys known as Raven’s Nest to aid on his behalf, allowing him to dominate the organization with two reigns as ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
The stable was also used to allow Raven to effectively make use of dark and cerebral promos that his fellow trainer Jake Roberts would be proud of.
He effectively used them in his rivalries with Dreamer and Sandman to make their feuds look more personal to ECW fans as Raven would bring in Sandman’s son and wife (Tyler and Lori) plus Dreamer’s childhood friend (Beulah) into his Nest.
The Nest would eventually fall apart when Raven had left for WCW in 1997 and, in storyline, lost a “Loser Leaves ECW” match against Tommy Dreamer.
While Raven would create several later stables in WCW and TNA such as The Flock and Serotonin, he could never replicate the same success that he had in ECW with his Nest.
9. Hart Foundation (WWE)
Notable Members: Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman
This entry has nothing to do with Bret and Jim’s earlier tag team from the 1980s or the lackluster revival from Owen and Jim in the early 1990s. Following Wrestlemania 13 in 1997, Bret Hart turned heel and recruited Owen, Bulldog, Neidhart and Pillman to create a stable revival of the Hart Foundation.
The group dominated the WWE throughout the year as they held onto every title that was within the company at the time and had an ongoing rivalry with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Having anti-American sentiments, the Hart Foundation was immensely booed in US arenas yet hugely over in other countries, especially in Bret’s home country of Canada.
The group would fall to shambles by the end of the year when Brian Pillman died from a heart condition plus Bret, Bulldog and Neidhart leaving for WCW following the infamous Montreal Screwjob incident at Survivor Series.
This left Owen as the only member of the Hart family working for the WWE until his accidental death at the Over the Edge PPV event in 1999.
8. The Cabinet (WWE)
Notable Members: John Bradshaw Layfield, Orlando Jordan, The Basham Brothers, Amy Weber, Jillian Hall
Shortly following his WWE Championship victory at The Great American Bash in 2004, John Bradshaw Layfield put together this stable to help him retain the title for over nine months, the longest title reign of the 2000s.
Because of his Cabinet’s help, JBL was able to retain his title against foes like The Undertaker, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero.
The WWE Title was not the only piece of gold that the Cabinet was able to gain as Orlando Jordan won the United States Championship and the Basham Brothers won the Tag Team Championships giving them all the championships on the Smackdown brand at the time.
The group slowly fell apart towards the middle of 2005 when Amy Weber was fired in storyline as JBL’s image consultant and the Basham Brothers were split apart, compliments of the WWE Draft.
While JBL attempted to keep the stable afloat with appointing publicist Jillian Hall, the group fell apart by the following year when Orlando Jordan left the WWE and Jillian was “fired” by JBL following a failed defense of the United States Championship that he had won from Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania 22.
7. The Corporation (WWE)
Notable Members: Vince McMahon, Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, Sgt. Slaughter, Shane McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Big Boss Man, Big Show, Chyna, Ken Shamrock, Mean Street Posse, The Rock, Test, Triple H, Kane
The Attitude Era brought about the “Mr. McMahon” character for WWE chairman Vince McMahon as he abused his corporate authority throughout 1998 to try taking the WWE Championship off “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Fed up with “the rebels” that went against his authority which also included D-Generation X and Mankind, Vince put together a stable of his corporate stooges and appointed heels later that year to form the group known as the Corporation.
The faction normally abused their greater numbers and the power of the authority figures involved with the group to give any wrestler in their faction a greater advantage for their matches.
The Corporation was also able to snag every title within the company at the time with the Rock being WWE Champion and a brief time where Big Boss Man and Ken Shamrock were dual-title holders holding the Tag Team, Intercontinental and Hardcore championships.
During 1999, the group went through a number of different members as Shane tossed Vince and some other members out of the Corporation with Vince’s concern over his daughter Stephanie’s safety during a rivalry with the Ministry of Darkness.
The Corporation and Ministry would later form into the Corporate Ministry during an April episode of Raw which held up until July of the same year.
This would not be the last time Vince McMahon would be involved with stables to abuse his authority within the WWE as he became involved with the McMahon-Helmsley Faction and Team McMahon.
6. Evolution (WWE)
Notable Members: Ric Flair, Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton
Evolution was one of the WWE’s dominant factions during the 2000s and helped launch the careers of Randy Orton and Batista to become future multi-time world champions.
First formed in 2003, the group was the WWE’s own take on a famous heel stable I will mention later in this countdown.
The group incorporated Ric Flair’s gimmick of dressing in formal suits when confronting foes and Triple H’s trademark ruthless heel tactics with Flair representing “the past,” Triple H representing the “present” and Orton and Batista representing “the future.”
At its peak in success, Evolution held onto every male-based championship on the Raw brand with Triple H as World Heavyweight Champ, Orton as Intercontinental Champ and Flair and Batista as Tag Team champs.
In storyline, Triple H’s self-centered focus on the World Heavyweight Championship would prove to be the death of this dominant stable as Orton was betrayed by the group when he became World Heavyweight Champ in 2004. Batista turned his back on Triple H after learning of Hunter’s attempts to have Batista leave for Smackdown to compete for John Bradshaw Layfield’s WWE Championship.
5. The Fabulous Freebirds (AWA/ NWA/ WWE/ UWF/ WCCW/ WCW)
Notable Members: Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts, Terry Gordy, Jimmy Garvin
The Fabulous Freebirds are one of pro wrestling’s famous tag teams in the fact they formed a three-man team in 1979 consisting of Hayes, Roberts and Gordy which was considered unusual at the time.
The team held multiple tag team title reigns in several wrestling organizations up to the mid 1990s and were most famous for two things: their rivalry with the Von Erichs and their creation of the “Freebird Rule.”
The Freebirds’ feud with the Von Erichs occurred during their time in the Texas based promotion World Class Championship Wrestling where the two teams confronted one another in a years-long heated rivalry with many intense and bloody matches.
The Fabulous Freebirds also made use of a gimmick called the “Freebird Rule” during their tag team championship reigns in the NWA where any of the two members of the team could defend their titles on any night.
The gimmick would be adopted for future factions that held tag team titles such as Demolition, the Jersey Triad and the Spirit Squad.
4. The Heenan Family (AWA/ GCW/ WWE)
Notable Members: Bobby Heenan, Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, Angelo Poffo, Bobby Duncum Sr., The Blackjacks, Ken Patera, Masked Superstar, “Killer” Karl Kox, Professor Toru Tanaka, “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Adrian Adonis, The Missing Link, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, Hercules Hernandez, The Barbarian, The Islanders, Mr. Perfect, The Red Rooster, The Brooklyn Brawler, The Brain Busters
Bobby Heenan is recognized as one of pro wrestling’s greatest managers and in three wrestling organizations for over two decades, he put together a “family” of heels he managed and led to multiple title reigns with future legends such as The Blackjacks, Curt Hennig and the Masked Superstar (later Ax of Demolition).
Heenan was perhaps most famous for his time in the WWE in the 1980s where he led his “family” in rivalries against fan favorites like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Demolition.
3. D-Generation X (WWE)
Notable Members: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chyna, Rick Rude, Mike Tyson, X-Pac, New Age Outlaws, Tori
Perhaps the most popular and well-known WWE stable in recent memory, D-Generation X was well-known for pushing the envelope with how they expressed themselves and defying authority figures in the WWE.
In both of the faction’s variations as heel and tweener, the group was well known for pressing the buttons of whomever they feuded with and even had skits that made for the funniest moments seen from any WWE faction.
From their State of the Union speech to their parody of the Nation of Domination to their “invasion” of a WCW Monday Nitro event, there were many unforgettable moments coming from the antics of the group.
The group also had its fair share of successes in acquiring championships and accolades such as multiple Tag Team title reigns from the New Age Outlaws, Shawn Michaels as WWE Champion and Triple H winning the Intercontinental title.
2. New World Order (WCW/ NJPW/ WWE)
Notable Members: “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Ted DiBiase, The Giant, nWo Sting, Syxx, Vincent, Miss Elizabeth, Eric Bischoff, Buff Bagwell, VK Wallstreet, Masahiro Chono, Big Bubba Rogers, Scott Norton, Randy Savage, Dennis Rodman, The Great Muta, Konnan, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Dusty Rhodes, Scott Steiner, Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, AKIRA, Tatsutoshi Goto, Brian Adams, Big Titan, The Disciple, Bret Hart, Horace Hogan, Stevie Ray, Curt Hennig, Lex Luger, Sting, Rick Steiner, David Flair, Torrie Wilson, Disco Inferno, Barry Windham, Jeff Jarrett, Harris Brothers, Booker T, Shawn Michaels
The New World Order was notable enough for many successes it garnered for the world of professional wrestling in the late 1990s. The biggest of those successes being that it was a major contributor to WCW Monday Nitro’s reign in ratings for 84 consecutive weeks from 1996 to 1998 that nearly drove the WWE into bankruptcy.
The arrival of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to WCW after recently leaving from the WWE created the fresh concept of the New World Order being invaders trying to take over the organization.
It also helped freshen up Hulk Hogan’s character as his babyface gimmick became stale at that point and his heel turn to join Hall and Nash came as a major shock to WCW fans.
The handling of the faction was different compared to conventional booking where the NWO was portrayed as a separate entity from WCW having their own “unofficial” programming blocks to promote matches with crooked referee Nick Patrick during airings of WCW Saturday Night and in promoting their own merchandise.
The NWO’s influence also became inter-promotional via WCW’s talent exchange relations with New Japan Pro Wrestling as a Japanese version of the stable formed with some members from the WCW faction wrestling between both organizations.
WCW’s success with the NWO started to turn sour in 1998 following a controversial match outcome between Hulk Hogan and Sting for the WCW World Title at Starrcade 1997. The presence of the NWO led fans to come to the perception that WCW developed a strong favoring for heels with how the faction kept always having its way in storylines.
The splitting of the group into two factions with a heel NWO Hollywood and tweener NWO Wolfpac made the faction fresh for a time. But following a controversial event involving Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan known as the Fingerpoke of Doom where Nash intentionally allowed Hogan to pin him for the WCW World Title, WCW’s ratings began to tank and the company never fully recovered from their losses.
The loss of popularity for the NWO combined with a number of injuries that plagued the major wrestlers of the group led the group to eventually dissolve. Later revivals of the stable in late-1999 in WCW and from the WWE in 2002 failed to give the NWO the same amount of success they had from the first formation in 1996.
1. Four Horsemen (NWA/ WCW)
Notable Members: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard, James J. Dillon, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Curt Hennig, Dean Malenko
The Four Horsemen are the group that helped brought about and popularized the concept of the heel stable to professional wrestling as without their formation, later stables like the New World Order, Evolution and the Corporation likely would not have come to be.
While consisting of multiple formations over 13 years between the NWA and WCW, all of the formations have been led by Ric Flair, with nearly all of them joined by Arn Anderson.
Many of the group’s formations featured Ric Flair’s trademark formal suits worn by its members during interviews and being accompanied in toll by beautiful women.
Unlike prominent pro wrestling stables today, the Four Horsemen were willing to lose matches at televised events which would keep viewers interested in seeing the Horsemen eventually get what was coming to them.
The Four Horsemen formation consisting of Flair, Arn, Windham and Tully in the NWA during the 1980s is widely considered the best formation of the Horsemen there was with all four men praised for their technical wrestling ability and holding all the major NWA titles of the time at once.
The Horsemen were also famous for their rivalries with wrestlers like Sting, the Steiner Brothers, Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes; as well as the infamous War Games match originally created as the specialty match for the stable.