The Wrestling Stable – Top Trumps Edition
I bloody love stables me. I love it when a group comes together and dominates. I love the disparate personalities, the arrogance, the inevitable fall-out and break-up. It’s often the best story-telling in the business. In a way, it’s one of the things that’s been missing from the WWE. Maybe that’s why we’re all so excited by The Shield. Here, at last, is a potentially dominant, and legitimate, stable who will cause a threat to the top-tier stars. That’s why Impact are giving so much air-time to the Aces & Eights, because it’s a dangerous stable – well, until radiator engineer himself, Hulk Hogan, decides he wants a final run with the title anyway.
Stables have been around for decades but perhaps reached a peak with the New World Order simply because of the heel turn at ‘The Bash at the Beach’. What often happens with these stables though is excitement from the company gets in the way or disappointment it’s not worked out quicker (as is often the case in WWE which is why we’re all hoping the writers don’t rush The Shield storyline and dynamic). Either way, the stable is a brilliant part of wrestling and I wish there were more in the current product.
Anyway, thanks to Top Trumps (seriously, thanks!) I’m going to revisit the idea I started with ‘The Part Time Players’ column primarily because I enjoy it but also because it’s a good way of seeing various facts. Now, I’ll tell you how I’ve done it and then everyone can get angry with me in their own time (I’ll be busy quoting a poem or something at the back if you need me).
I’ve included ‘Total Members’ because, generally, there aren’t many, just more than a tag-team. When you hit the NWO though, it’s a huge amount. Also there were various incarnations in different companies. It’s complicated but, in the case of NWO, I’ve kept with WCW/WWE version (so TNA’s ‘The Band’ doesn’t count). I’ve obviously included a leader and my choice of MVP. I’ve included how many titles that group got in their run(s) and how many titles per member. I’ve included main titles from WCW/WWE but no defunct ones (Hardcore Championship, Torrie Wilson’s Golden Thong award, etc.). Also, because I’m a geek, I’ve included how many titles the individuals have received in their careers and titles per member again. This is because some stables are a starting point for some individuals (hello Nicky from The Spirit Squad) whereas some were formed due to the ego (storyline or otherwise) of the leader.
Bored yet? I am. Let’s just get on with it. Firstly we have the juggernaut. The stable that gives us everything good, and bad, about these factions. Ladies and gentlemen...The New World Order.
When the stable began coming together, it was amazing television. There’s no point in me going into the much-documented tale, many better columnists have written about it before me and there are numerous DVD’s you can watch. It was the build however. What a build. When Hogan was presented as the leader after the heel turn, it was incredible. The problem was, it didn’t stop building. It couldn’t stop. Here was a stable that added revenue and viewing figures but we can have too much of a good thing. The NWO kept growing, and changing. Referees were in there. Celebrities. Legends. Dominant newcomers. It became ridiculous. In their time they acquired 27 titles and this shows how this ‘clique’ dominated the product and, eventually, they started losing viewers and potential stars like Chris Jericho. That’s 1.407 titles per member in the run. Think about that. Dennis Rodman was part of a stable that had that average of titles. Scary. Also, I’ve also included the version of the NWO with Booker T and Shawn Michaels. Without them, so just the WCW versions, that’s 4.47 titles per member during their careers.
The thing about the NWO was ego. Nash dropping to the canvas to give Hogan the title because they could. The ego of many of the senior members can be seen in the 190 total titles won with Hogan, Nash and Hall leading from the front. This is why Hogan’s current involvement in the Aces and Eights storyline sickens me a bit. He has a history of ego, proven here, and he might well derail another stable, just from the outside this time. On a final note, my MVP pick will obviously be argued about but I think The Giant (The Big Show) has gone on to have a cracking career and has won every major title in the biggest companies. I’m happy with my choice because he got out while he could and blossomed (I never thought I’d use the word ‘blossomed’ when talking about The Big Show – please don’t tell him!).
Evolution. Even though they dominated the product too, I miss this stable. I actually miss this era because this was the RAW stable while Smackdown had its own at the same time (see the next card). If I talk about ego in the NWO though, it’s hard to ignore it in Evolution. Yes, we can talk about Triple H’s backstage politicking. We can talk about him marrying Stephanie. At the end of the day though, Evolution was all about ego. That was the point. 2.25 titles per member during the run and 14.75 titles per member during their careers (so far). That’s not only a huge amount, and shows how much individuals like Flair and HHH dominated the product but, look at the name of the stable. It also shows that their ‘draft picks’ in Orton and big Dave were justified. Orton took Brock Lesnar’s record of the youngest world champion and Batista, arguably for a period, was the biggest thing in wrestling. Whereas NWO didn’t really know what it was as it meandered on, Evolution was always about dominance and the future. Interestingly, due to ego, when the younger members became bigger than the leader, Triple H panicked and started lashing out, first at Orton and then at Batista thus showing, again, ego was the driving force.
This was one of my favourite stables. It ran alongside the last half of Evolution on the blue brand and it was one of my personal favourites. Again, notice something here, it was all run on JBL’s ego. Here was the self-made Texan millionaire showing he was better than us and more intelligent than us because he was using political ideas to push us down. Everything from patrolling the Mexican border for immigrants to hiring a ‘Chief of Staff’. The only member who did anything before or after was JBL but for those eighteen months, all of the members clicked and worked well. All you have to do is look at the similarity between the two stats for the titles per member to see how this group worked during their time. It didn’t matter though. JBL nailed it. I was a fan of The Bashams ‘switch-eroo’ tactics. I thought Orlando Jordan worked bloody hard in his role before TNA landed him with an offensive gimmick because of his sexuality. There were odd moments (Jillian Hall’s, er, ‘blemish’) but any group that has Amy Weber in it, even for a short amount of time, gets my vote due to her, er, good organisational skills. Sorry. Er, moving on...
The Spirit Squad. Sigh. Now, when I was deciding which stables to include, I thought long and hard. There are so many classic ones that I might revisit this again one day. The Corporate Ministry, The Radicalz, The Four Horsemen, The Brood and ‘The Fabulous Freebirds. The last two of my picks here though highlight the problems with stables in the current product. Rushed and then thrown away. Here was a group of male cheerleaders who, from day one, were going to annoy the audiences. I’ve put Vince down as their leader simply because he told them what to do for most of their run and, due to the Freebird Rule, all five members were pretty equal. Even with a good 216 day title run though, and talented individuals like Dolph and Kenny Dykstra, The Spirit Squad were only there to be destroyed by the big egos – DX with Triple H and Michaels, and later Ric Flair. There was no real build to dominance because, at the end of the day, they were a laughing stock. Hell, DX even covered them in, er, ‘crap’ (metaphorically too?!). Even the last time we saw them was a very public burial of any talents they may have had as DX put them in a crate that had OVW stamped on it. To this end, I’m really worried about Curtis Axel’s future! If anything, though, The Spirit Squad gave us Dolph Ziggler and for that we must be happy.
Finally, what should, for me, have become was of the strongest stables in years. The Nexus. That debut is amongst my favourite moments on any wrestling promotion ever. In fact, it’s so good, here it is again –
I talked about Kane’s debut last week and how effective it was because you knew who he was and what he wanted by the time he left. Same here. I remember being pretty shocked at the end of it. Not bad for a ‘scripted’ show. I’d never seen anything like it. You can also see how The Shield have been influenced by this group with their ‘pack mentality’. However, it soon became clear that there were two problems with the Nexus. Firstly, they were up against the poster boy, John Cena, and the odds of defeating him, even if there’s eight of you, are pretty slim. Secondly, it was almost cursed. After that attack, we said goodbye to Daniel Bryan. Darren Young was ejected because Cena ‘beat him so bad’. Skip Sheffield got injured. Tarver got injured. It just didn’t work. Of course, for all of that, it was also a stable that was there, not to show how dominant it was, but how dominant Cena was. He defeated them at Summerslam in the elimination match with Team WWE. He became a member of them and it changed nothing. He was even fired and still appeared on television every week. In a way, there was nothing Nexus could do because the storyline dictated that Cena couldn’t be beaten or, indeed, even look weak. To this end, the title stats are all over the place because of Cena joining and Punk’s later involvement. Minus those two, it’s still a pretty impressive 1.75 titles per member since their debut to now.
The final problem with the Nexus, though, was the NWO-virus. New members were added (hello Husky Harris, Michael McGillicutty and, er, has anyone seen Mason?), a new leader was presented in CM Punk and even an off-shoot stable was made in The Corre. The stable just didn’t work. It was such a shame because it went from amazing debut to fizzling out within fourteen months. It did, however, give us Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett and Ryback. Even Darren Young is continuing in one of my favourite tag-teams at the moment. The whole point of NXT was to give us the next generation. It sort of did. The problem was the Nexus was supposed to be something big. Something dominant. It didn’t happen.
Some Final Thoughts
So, before I wrap up, here is the running order for titles per member for all titles won –
Evolution – 14.75
NWO (plus) WWE NWO – 5
NWO WCW – 4.47
Nexus (with Cena) – 3.66
Nexus (plus) New Nexus – 3.2
The Cabinet (minus Weber) – 1.8
The Spirit Squad - 1.8
The Cabinet - 1.5
Nexus (minus Cena) – 1.75
The Shield - 1
I know the above is a bit meaningless in terms of, it’s what the stable did in their own time that counts but my main point in this column is that it’s often ego that dictates it all. NWO was always about Hogan, Nash and Hall. It didn’t matter that Curt Hennig or Buff Bagwell were members, they weren’t part of the clique. Same with Evolution, it was there to fuel Triple H and his idea of the future – with him still on top. So stables aren’t just about the ‘there and now’ it’s also about how the members got there and where they went afterwards. For every Hogan or HHH there’s a Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan who used the stable as a launching pad.
What makes me sad is that the two ‘newcomer’ stables, Nexus and The Spirit Squad, are so low down in the pecking order. Yes, it’s because they were debuts, I know that, but it’s also because the stable wasn’t allowed to dominate. I’ve included The Shield just because, for a young stable, not too shabby as long as they’re not rushed and actually allowed to be dominant and not just fed to a ‘Legend’. This is what worries me about Aces and Eights. Last week, Bully was saying how he didn’t understand why no members were up for the Bound for Glory series. Yes. This is worrying. Any stable should be going for different titles. Tag team, secondary ones. All of them. Aces and Eights haven’t done that. They’re all big men who are, basically, security for the champ. Look at Evolution and The Cabinet. They went after all the titles. The dominated their respective brands. Isn’t that the point of a stable? To dominate. Only then do we cheer when they’re finally defeated.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.