Monday, September 29, 2014

The Real Best Factions Ever

You want a real countdown of top factions ever?  I'm gonna give it to you.  I'm not going to carry it out to ten groups, because I don't think there are ten that truly stand out above all the rest.  To me, the standout factions are the ones that best met and surpassed the qualifications I laid out in my previous post (longevity, title winning, and influence), and there just aren't ten of those.  I got some honorable mentions, and then a top three.  Honorable mentions for me are the Heenan Family (they had a six year run with several great members and one of the greatest heel managers ever) ,Evolution (the best Four Horsemen imitator of the bunch), and the Dangerous Alliance (best manager led faction of the early 90s headed by the best heel manager of the 90s).  No one else is worth talking about.  Now here's my list:


  • The Fabulous Freebirds - The Freebirds remain the template for wrestling trios almost three decades after their original lineup stopped working together in 1987.  Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts started teaming together in 1979, so that makes eight years together as a unit.  They held a few titles but were most valuable as hell raising, rabble rousers who feuded with some team or collection of faces in whatever territory they worked for.  From Georgia to World Class Championship Wrestling to the AWA to the UWF with some other stops in between, they had some epic battles with the Von Erichs, the Road Warriors, and the entire UWF roster.  Their swan song in their original lineup was a series of great six man tag team matches with the Four Horsemen during the 1987 Great American Bash.  If you want to see how they affected the business just take a look at the three man units that came during and after their run from the Russians (Ivan and Nikita Koloff and Krusher Kreschev) all the way through the Shield.    And there's the Freebird Rules that became a staple of three man teams that won tag team titles in the company they worked for.  Freebird Rules allowed any two members of the group to team together in a tag team title match, and were used as recently as 2012.  The Freebirds were also one of the first acts to use popular music for their ring entrance (Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird").  They also were storyline innovators in that they played the rebellious employees squaring off against their boss in the UWF in 1986, 11 years before Stone Cold Steve Austin chugged a beer in the ring after stunning Vince McMahon.  No list of factions, teams, etc is worth anything if you do not include these men.
  • The NWO - The NWO is mainly responsible for three big things - Bringing invasion angles stateside (the NWO story was literally lifted from a similar angle that took place in Japan previously), revitalizing Hulk Hogan's career through his shocking heel turn, and reigniting interest in the business in 1996 after a half decade-plus of slow erosion.  Yes they got too big and yes they went on too long, but that doesn't take away from what they did at their best.  When Hulk Hogan joined up with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the group, which would go on to add half the WCW roster before too long, everything changed.  People like me, who'd gone on a break from watching in the early 90s, were drawn back in and new fans came aboard because what was once something you didn't admit to watching was now the hottest thing going.  And no one has really succeeded in copying their success since.  The WWE tried its own hand at an NWO style story twice with the poorly executed Invasion in 2001 and the Nexus almost a decade later.  The NWO worked because you had people who were big names for one company changing employers and showing up unannounced on the competition's live broadcast shortly after.  Within a few years the internet would stamp out nearly all true surprises, making it virtually impossible to pull this kind of thing off again.  But the one time it worked, it worked in spades.
  • The Four Horsemen - Number one, no competition, no questions asked.  Often imitated, never (and I do mean never) duplicated.  Arguably the greatest in-ring worker ever in Ric Flair, one of the best tag teams ever in Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (Anderson is in the conversation for best tag team wrestler ever), and a revolving fourth slot that was held both by one of the best tag team wrestlers of the early 80s (Ole Anderson), one of biggest stars of the 90s (Lex Luger) and one of the best workers of the late 80s (Barry Windham).  They took on all comers and had great matches with all kinds of wrestlers from performers like Dusty Rhodes to musclemen like the Road Warriors to aerial tag team specialists like the Rock n Roll Express.  When Luger, a guy with technical limitations, was part of the group, the other three were able to work him in and protect him so he didn't look bad.  Each member was able to shine on their own or as part of a team, and they always came through.  Blanchard transitioned from an excellent B level solo heel to one half of a stellar tag team without losing any of his luster and Anderson was able to set aside his tag team work to put on a killer singles match whenever the need arose.  For the almost three years they were on top they made everyone they faced look like a million bucks.  When it was time to put someone over, they did it and they had no issue making other guys look like winners.  Their legacy can also be found in the many attempts to duplicate their success from future iterations of the group with Flair, Anderson, and two other guys to future ensembles like Evolution and the Hart Foundation.  No one did it like these guys, and no one ever will.

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