The 15 most underrated stables of all time
There’s only so much you can write about The New World Order. They started off great, they got overcrowded with midlevel talent, their constant reinventions rendered them moot, yadda, yadda, yadda. But what about the nWo Wolfpac? No one talks about those guys anymore unless they’re referencing Disco Inferno’s misguided inclusion in the group.
Well, we loved The Wolfpac. Half of the guys in the WWE.com office still greet each other with their signature “too sweet” hand symbol — and that got us thinking. Who are some of the great stables that don’t get the attention they deserve? From The Stud Stable to The Jersey Triad, these factions aren’t WWE Hall of Fame-bound, but each was awesome in their own way.
Key members: Mankind, Big Show, Ken Shamrock, Test
At a time when the evil amalgamation of Shane McMahon’s Corporation and The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness had taken over WWE, a group of wayward heroes banded together to start an uprising.
On the May 5, 1999, edition of Raw, Mankind, Ken Shamrock, Big Show and Test — all men who had been insulted, assaulted or otherwise subjugated by The Corporate Ministry — stood together with 2x4s in their hands and dared to confront “the most omnipotent force” of The Deadman, Triple H and, uh, Pete Gas.
Identified by The Hardcore Legend as The Union of People You Oughta Respect, Son — thankfully shortened to The Union — the group briefly succeeded in shaking up the ranks of The Corporate Ministry before a serious knee injury put Mankind out of action. It was a fleeting alliance, but, man, did their theme song rule. — RYAN MURPHY
The York Foundation
Key members: Alexandra York, Michael Wallstreet, Terrence Taylor, Richard Morton, Thomas Rich, Mr. Hughes
Long before JBL told the WWE Universe how they could “have more money now,” stock market wizards were trying to infiltrate the wrestling world. Alexandra York was one of the first. The petite tycoon showed up in WCW in 1990, lending financial advice to Mike Rotundo, who soon turned into yuppie investor Michael Wallstreet.
Wallstreet ditched WCW for a sweet gig at the IRS, leaving York and her trusty laptop to figure out a formula that would bring The York Foundation to glory. The number crunching led her to the newly re-christened Terrence Taylor, Richard Morton and Thomas Rich. While there was no taming Morton’s legendary mullet, Taylor and Rich received makeovers that made them ready for both the trading floor and the ring.
The York Foundation was a formidable trio in action. The experienced team was the final triad to capture WCW’s Six Man Tag Team Championship. — BOBBY MELOK
Key members: Edge, Vickie Guerrero, Big Show, Bam Neely, Chavo Guerrero, Zack Ryder, Curt Hawkins
Few bonds are as strong as family ties. That was the case with La Familia. Brought together by the cunning Vickie Guerrero in order to keep the World Heavyweight Title around the waist of her then-husband Edge, the group enlisted Vickie’s nephew, Chavo Guerrero, Edge’s cronies, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, and the former border guard Bam Neely.
La Familia ran roughshod over SmackDown and ECW, where Vickie helped Chavo capture the ECW Championship, while Edge dominated Friday Nights. Hawkins and Ryder won the WWE Tag Team Titles, while The Ultimate Opportunist was engaged in epic rivalries with The Undertaker, John Cena and Jeff Hardy. — B.M.
The Natural Born Thrillers
Key members: Mike Sanders, Sean O’Haire, Mark Jindrak, Shawn Stasiak, Chuck Palumbo, Reno, Johnny the Bull
Often criticized for their continual reliance on aging stars like Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger, WCW introduced what appeared to be the next generation of main event talent in 2001. Billed, somewhat unfortunately, as The Natural Born Thrillers, this collective of twentysomething upstarts was handcrafted in WCW’s Power Plant training facility and raced headlong into rivalries with established stars like Diamond Dallas Page and Kevin Nash.
Fronted by the sharp tongue of “Above Average” Mike Sanders, The Thrillers boasted staggering athletes like Sean O’Haire and Mark Jindrak, who were built like serious heavyweights, but busted out the same aerial maneuvers as The Hardy Boyz. The group’s legacy has been marred by the fact that not one member of the stable ended up as a major sports-entertainment player. Still, in their 2000 prime, their promise was boundless. — R.M.
The Right to Censor
Key members: Steven Richards, Val Venis, The Goodfather, Bull Buchanan, Ivory
In late 2000, Stevie Richards became so fed up with the outrageousness of the “Attitude Era” that he began covering up scantily clad women and taking offense to extreme tactics such as The Dudley Boyz’ use of tables. Clad in black slacks, a white shirt and black tie, Richards — joined by Bull Buchanan and a converted Godfather, now known as The Goodfather — embarked on a crusade to stop anything deemed offensive.
Of course, the WWE Universe weren’t fans of such suppression, but The Right to Censor was a formidable force as Buchanan and The Goodfather captured the World Tag Team Titles and Val Venis and Ivory joined the puritanical pride. The group came very close to imposing their views of decency on WWE, but they began to splinter when they lost all of their respective matches at WrestleMania X-Seven. By the time Richards was hit with a Last Ride from The Undertaker and abandoned by his followers, The RTC was DOA. — KEVIN POWERS
The Stud Stable
Key members: Col. Robert Parker, Bunkhouse Buck, Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, Meng, Kurasawa
Col. Robert Parker, a blustery Southern tycoon, put together one of the most rugged factions ever to step through the ropes in his Stud Stable. Although some might have found a persona like farmhand Bunkhouse Buck a little cartoony, there was no doubt that Parker had acquired the most dangerous brawlers to do his bidding.
Joining Buck were surly fighters like “Dirty” Dick Slater and Terry Funk, the perfect teammates for the Stable’s rivalry against Dustin Rhodes. Parker, for the most part, stayed one step ahead of Rhodes, secretly recruiting Arn Anderson to pull off a brutal double-cross.
The crown jewel of The Stud Stable, perhaps, was “Stunning” Steve Austin, who captured the U.S. Title. Parker also spared no expense at bringing in the finest talent from around the world, like Kurasawa. For his own protection, he hired the most feared man in wrestling, Meng. Though they weren’t overly decorated, The Stud Stable left their opponents with plenty of aches and bruises to remind them they’d been in a fight. — B.M.
The Straight Edge Society
Key members: CM Punk, Luke Gallows, Serena, Joseph Mercury
CM Punk has always been proud of his Straight Edge lifestyle, but, at one time, he may have taken things a bit too far. Before becoming the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, he spent much of 2010 as the puppet master of The Straight Edge Society. Flanked by baldheaded converts like Serena and Luke Gallows, The Second City Savior preached to the WWE Universe like a demented cult leader with a crazed desire to purify every last soul.
The most memorable aspect of Punk’s Society was the way he would grab the microphone in the middle of a bout — including the 2011 Royal Rumble Match — and sermonize. The WWE Universe certainly did not take kindly to Punk’s overzealous pride. Unfortunately for Punk, Luke Gallows and Serena eventually gave into their vices, leaving The Straight Edge Society and WWE altogether. — K.P.
The Jersey Triad
Key members: Diamond Dallas Page, Bam Bam Bigelow, Kanyon
The unorthodox alliance between three of the Garden State’s most fearless brawlers began in WCW in spring 1999 when Point Pleasant’s Diamond Dallas Page and Asbury Park’s Bam Bam Bigelow began butting heads with two other northeast thugs, WCW Tag Team Champions Raven and Saturn. During a May, 31, 1999, match for the titles on Nitro, Kanyon — seemingly arriving to save Saturn after Raven had been sent to the hospital — betrayed his Flock compatriots to collude with DDP and Bam Bam.
These Jersey boys bore little resemblance to Frankie Valli. As champions, The Jersey Triad defended the tag titles under wrestling’s unique “Freebird Rule,” but in a twist, the slimeballs often switched members during a defense. Kanyon reunited with Page during WWE’s infamous Invasion period and defeated The APA to have one last reign as tag champs. — ZACH LINDER
King Booker's Court
Key members: King Booker, Finlay, William Regal, Sharmell
Following his King of the Ring Tournament and World Heavyweight Championship victories, Booker T underwent a shocking transformation from streetwise brawler to refined ruler. The self-anointed "King of the World" ruled "The SmackDown Kingdom" with an iron fist and formed a powerful Court that included King Booker's wife, Queen Sharmell, and two knights, Sir William Regal and Sir Finlay. He rose his pinky high in the air, because “pinkies up” is the opposite of “thumbs down,” of course. In the ultimate affectation, King Booker began speaking in a phony British accent, which immediately disappeared upon losing his temper.
Booker may have sat on the throne, but his two knights were just as skilled. Sirs Regal and Finlay built careers that established them as the ring’s finest technical grappler and brawler, respectively. Together, the colorful yet dangerous trio terrorized “peasants” every Friday night, but after the royal ruler was forced to battle his own knights, neither backed down and dissention caused the Court’s disbanding. With no backup, King Booker lost his title and ended his in-ring WWE Hall of Fame career shortly thereafter. — Z.L.
Key members: Raven, Kidman, Saturn, Hammer, Horace, Lodi, Reese, Riggs, Sick Boy
Raven’s knack for reinventing lower tier talents in his grunge God image had already been apparent in ECW where he gathered outsiders like Lupus and The Blue Meanie under his crooked wing in a coven he dubbed Raven’s Nest. He did it again in WCW in 1997, bringing back forgotten and overlooked midcarders like Van Hammer and Scotty Riggs as skid row soldiers in his loyal Flock.
Cloaked in tattered jeans and combat boots like their disaffected leader, these nouveau punks routinely occupied choice ringside seats at Nitro tapings and swarmed on Raven’s rivals like bowery rats on day old bread. Not all members of The Flock clicked. The 7-foot tall Reese looked awkward in his XXXL flannel and Horace — Hulk Hogan’s deer-in-the-headlights nephew — always seemed like he’d rather be somewhere else. But Raven’s psychological struggles with his Flock helped spawn career renaissances for hyper-talented troops like Saturn and Kanyon while turning Billy Kidman into one of WCW’s true breakout stars. — R.M.
Key members: Lance Storm, Christian, Test, William Regal
In 2002, Canadian Superstar Lance Storm felt that WWE has discriminated against people from his homeland for years, citing incidents such as the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Storm — who had led competitors like Elix Skipper and Mike Awesome in a faction known as Team Canada in WCW — enlisted fellow Canadians Christian and Test in a fervently xenophobic group known as The Un-Americans.
Carrying an upside down U.S. flag to the ring, Storm and Christian captured the World Tag Team Championships and drew the ire of The Undertaker, Booker T and Goldust. Inspired by their cause, British Superstar William Regal joined the faction, and brought more championships into the fold. Nevertheless, the group disbanded following a series of losses, but their united cause created a powerful alliance that nearly resulted in a full-fledged Canadian coup. — K.P.
Key members: Kevin Nash, Sting, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Konnan
The make-up of The nWo Wolfpac was a WCW fan’s dream in 1998. While the original incarnation of The New World Order got weighed down with too many mediocre members, this splinter group was strictly top shelf. Initially formed over a disagreement with Hogan, the group was started by Kevin Nash and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who ditched the black and white for the black and red. Soon, Lex Luger, Konnan and longtime nWo holdout Sting joined their ranks, establishing The Wolfpac as WCW’s most popular group.
Clad in their trademark red and black T-shirts with a legendary entrance theme guiding them to the ring, the group battled “Hollywood” Hogan and successfully upset the balance of power in The nWo. Like the original New World Order, The Wolfpac was eventually sullied by questionable members like Disco Inferno, but they’ll long be remembered as one of sports-entertainment’s elite factions. — K.P.
The Triple Threat
Key members: Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Francine
After repeatedly disparaging NWA icons like Ric Flair, Shane Douglas responded to The Nature Boy’s Four Horsemen with his own Triple Threat. The dominant ECW faction went through several incarnations that included technical experts and bruising tough guys, but the gang came into its own when Douglas joined forces with the immensely talented Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow, along with the distracting assets of Francine at ringside.
Just like Flair’s posse, The Triple Threat simultaneously held every championship in the organization and denied rising stars the opportunity to challenge for them. But, as with any coterie of best-in-class performers, jealousy eventually set in. Bigelow, insisting he was top dog, defeated The Franchise for the ECW Title in front of a rowdy crowd at New York City’s Elks Lodge. The triumvirate stayed afloat another year, but that collision at Queen Boulevard’s “Madhouse of Extreme” was The Triple Threat’s symbolic dissolution. — Z.L.
The Million Dollar Corporation
Key members: The Million Dollar Man, Nikolai Volkoff, Bam Bam Bigelow, Irwin R. Schyster, Tatanka, King Kong Bundy, Kama, Sid, The Ringmaster
They plagiarized The Undertaker, routinely humiliated a WWE Hall of Famer and helped launch the WWE career of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but whoever talks about how great The Million Dollar Corporation was? Bankrolled by The Million Dollar Man — who we have to imagine kept his riches in a roomful of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck — this band of subsidized pirates represented the best baddies money could buy in the mid-90s.
Back then, at a time that has been justly criticized as one of WWE’s weaker eras, Ted DiBiase and his hired goons — including Bam Bam Bigelow, Sid and “The Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama, who famously melted The Deadman’s urn and turned it into a gold chain — were regularly the most entertaining part of an otherwise staid show. Who can forget the night Tatanka shocked the world by selling out to The Million Dollar Man? Or DiBiase literally buying a destitute Nikolai Volkoff and then forcing him to wear a tuxedo T-shirt and trunks with cent signs on them?
The “Attitude Era” took hold not long after DiBiase’s group split and a trend of villainous factions obsessed with being cool began. But for The Million Dollar Corporation, greed was good enough. — R.M.
The Dangerous Alliance
Key members: Paul Heyman, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, Larry Zbyszko, Madusa
Paul Heyman had been obsessed with unleashing anarchy long before ECW ever hit the airwaves. After he was fired by WCW as an announcer, the man then known as Paul E. Dangerously brazenly declared, “This means war.”
With Madusa at his side, Dangerously dug out his manager’s license and began acquiring the most ruthless competitors in WCW to help him dismantle the company. His first signing, Rick Rude, almost immediately captured the U.S. Title. Larry Zbyszko earned the nickname “The Cruncher” for breaking Barry Windham’s arm in a car door. Arn Anderson’s proclivity for dishing out pain and punishment needs little description.
Dangerously rounded out his faction with ring general “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton and a young upstart named Steve Austin, who quickly found championships around his waist. The Dangerous Alliance’s brutal attacks left WCW’s heroes in a crumpled heap and brought the company to its knees — a twisted talent that would remain Heyman’s forte. — B.M.