Jim Ross rides with The Four Horsemen

The best incarnation of The Four Horsemen was undoubtedly the unit comprised of Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, along with talented manager JJ Dillon, which will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In no way am I demeaning the other Horsemen entities that included Ole Anderson, Lex Luger and many others.

I recognize that Ole was a founding member of The Four Horsemen and was an important aspect of the faction’s initial success. Ole was tough-minded, an established star, great on the mic and physical in the ring.

Luger was the new ‘It’ performer with an amazing physique whose career was enhanced by being associated with, arguably, the most renowned group in wrestling history.

However, at the time that Flair, Windham, Double A, and Tully were together, along with the vastly underrated JJ Dillon, they were particularly extraordinary for many reasons. ( PHOTOS)

Firstly, “Naitch” in that era was generally considered the greatest in-ring performer in the business. From bell to bell and on the mic, no one approached Ric’s prowess.

At the same time, Barry Windham’s in-ring work was virtually on a par with Flair’s. Windham, the son of WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan, was a graceful, 6-foot-6 250-pound prodigy who had a succession of jaw dropping, main event performances throughout the NWA against a variety of opponents.

To say, during said timeframe, that Arn and Blanchard weren’t one of the top two or three tag teams in the entire world would be a misstatement as well. Their tag team work was textbook genius.

JJ Dillon had a brilliant mind, was a seasoned, territory educated veteran who not only took care of his group on TV, but he made sure that the four strong personalities were where they needed to be and ready to rock the house.

These are not theories that I have simply researched. I was lucky enough to see these men perform during this era while sitting at ringside and calling the action.

This version of The Horsemen had the amazing ability to make average talents look good and good talents look great. When any formation of this Horsemen group got in the ring with great talents, the results made memories that would last a lifetime. Flair vs. Rhodes? Magic. ( WATCH) Flair vs. Steamboat? Magic. ( WATCH) Flair vs. Terry Funk? Magic. ( WATCH)

I challenge you to name one main event bout that Barry Windham had during his Horsemen years that didn’t deliver. I sure can’t. ( WATCH)

Double A and Tully’s battles with the great attraction-oriented tag teams such as The Road Warriors did as much to build the legacy of LOD as anything Hawk or Animal did against all their opponents combined. Arn and Tully’s tag bouts with great, pure wrestling teams such as The Midnight Express were tag team gold and the match quality more than holds up today. ( WATCH)

The Horsemen lived The Horsemen lifestyle 24/7 perhaps to the chagrin of family, friends and their doctors. The grind that they engaged in was nonstop, including the raucous times that they had away from the squared circle.

Again, I didn’t have to Google this info — I lived it for a time with them after Jim Crockett Promotions bought the UWF from Bill Watts. I’ve been told, jokingly, that I likely lost a year or two off my life from attempting to follow The Horsemen and their lifestyle. However, at the time I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone in the world — as best I recall. 

I’ve ridden hundreds of miles in Horsemen-provided limos and private airplanes and spent many sleepless nights in establishments around the world just trying to keep up with the socializing lifestyle of one of the most dynamic factions that ever existed in sports-entertainment. Luckily for me, I was single at the time, because whenever I would leave The Horsemen’s company, I needed a few days of sleep to recover. 

I’ve been present when “Naitch” and the boys walked into a hotel bar and ordered trays of drinks for everyone present — usually kamikazes as Ric never was one for dark beverages — and proceeded to take over an entire establishment. People who might not have known The Four Horsemen before the party certainly did when the party was over, which was usually around sun up.

The Horsemen once counted how many people were in a hotel bar — the number was 137 by the way — and proceeded to order 137 kamikazes for everyone, whether the patrons were imbibing that evening or not. Don’t ask me how I can remember the number 137, but for some reason it’s stuck with me all these years.

The amazing aspect of this group is that after a long night of recreation, they would rise early, hit the gym and hit it hard to get ready to start all over again. Then, that night, no matter where it was or who it was against, The Horsemen would go out and steal the show while putting on a clinic.

It has been my experience that the greatest performers in the genre of sports-entertainment are usually natural extensions of their own, true personality. What fans saw on TV from The Horsemen was exactly who they were.

When The Horsemen went on TV to speak their mind, they did not work off a teleprompter or a script nor did any of us interviewing them have any idea of what the group would say or how long they would hold court. For a broadcaster, that’s one of the most exhilarating rides one can have — completely spontaneous and extemporaneous oratory from dynamic personalities who were passionate about their craft. Ric, Barry, Arn and Tully did not play the role of Horsemen. They were The Horsemen.

No faction in sports-entertainment ever meant more to their company than The Four Horsemen. They carried the NWA/WCW banner proudly for thousands of miles and countless classic matches with unmatched charisma that longtime fans still fondly remember to this very day.

I look back upon those days in the Crockett/Turner era of The Four Horsemen and often wonder how I made it out alive. Perhaps my contract had some fine print on it that said, “Associating with The Four Horsemen can be hazardous to one’s health.”

Sports-entertainment has provided me with many blessings, but nothing was ever more unpredictable and fun than hanging with Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, who, in my opinion, are the greatest incarnation of The Four Horsemen and the most important faction to ever step into the ring.

Someday other outstanding factions will likely be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but none will be in the same league as the incomparable Horsemen. ( MORE ABOUT THE HORSEMEN)

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