WWE – Wrestling’s Greatest Factions (Cert 15)
3 Disc DVD/ 2 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 425 minutes approx
They say there is strength in numbers. Long since the domain of singles superstars and tag teams, the idea of a group of men in wrestling could mean box office gold as well as a fertile breeding ground for many future legends wasn’t always apparent until the formation of the Four Horsemen in the NWA changed everything. This latest release from the WWE looks at the many groups who have made a mark on the wrestling industry – good and bad – with current WWE stars advocating their favourites.
Early successes of factions, groups, gangs, stables whatever you want to call them, in wrestling include Jimmy Hart’s First Family who terrorised the CWA in Memphis in the late 1970’s while Kevin Sullivan and his Army Of Darkness ran wild in Florida. Indeed the earliest featured group in this latest WWE release is the legendary trio who rocked every territory known to man as early as 1980, The Fabulous Freebirds.
However it wasn’t until the elite of Jim Crockett’s Promotions were put together in one group in January 1986 creating the Four Horsemen that the concept hit its apogee. Initially comprised of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Ole Anderson, lead by J.J Dillon, Ole would later be replaced by Lex Luger and Barry Windham but even then this was still the golden age of the Horsemen and the period which defined them as the greatest group of them all. Sadly they became diluted over the years with various ill-fated revivals with idiotic choices for members but those first two and a half years were simply magical.
While the Horsemen were causing havoc and dominating the NWA, the WWF had their own stables albeit less dangerous ones, with the likes of the Heenan Family, which was basically any wrestler that either required a mouthpiece or someone they wanted to turn heel and needed to guarantee heat. Despite Jimmy Hart and Mr. Fuji being around it was siding with Bobby “The Brian” Heenan who would ignite that flame to maximum temperatures. The proof is in the pudding when perennial fan favourite Andre The Giant joined forces with Heenan in 1987 to challenge Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Title. The rest as they say…
Alongside the big names, like DX, nWo, Evolution, Hart Foundation, Freebirds, etc, are a number of groups, largely from the 1990’s some of whom may be long forgotten (Oddities for example). Some, like The Corporation weren’t around long enough to have a significant impact although it is presumably included as a political one since it was based around Vince McMahon and we know how the McMahons enjoys a bit of self-promotion. The group itself had no real stars to speak of and members came and went with regularity before fizzling out after a merger with the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness (who are not featured here).
Among the list of groups who are likely to be no more than a forgotten memory are The Brood, Straight Edge Society, the Oddities, Right To Censor (one of Vince’s dummy spitting revenge acts), Legacy, Nexus and Million Dollar Corporation. In the Blu-ray extras are the insipid Spirit Squad who I am sure most of us would WANT to forget! For the more learned, hardcore wrestling fans two ECW groups are features in the infamous nWo parody the bWo and the Triple Threat, while old school WCW fans get a fond reminder of the greatness that was the Dangerous Alliance, who literally lifted a moribund WCW from the brink of tedium to an exciting prospect again in late 1991/92.
The truth is however that wrestling factions are always a gamble and it depends on who is chosen and the chemistry they can create that determines if they are a success or not. It may take a while for the right combination to be found but when it’s right then there is no stopping them. Conversely, just sticking a bunch of people together to give them something to do is often a recipe for disaster as some of the choices (or rather the omissions) will attest.
D-Generation X, who open this collection, went through a couple of line-ups before the famous five of Triple H, Chyna, X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws caught on, a similar journey undertaken by the Nation of Domination, whose original form spawned two other groups – again not included in this set – DOA and Los Boriquas. But the worst example of bundling a group of guys together has to be the Dungeon Of Doom. Kevin Sullivan’s risible collective created to destroy Hulkamania in WCW in 1995 may have purposely been a bunch of misfits and outlandish creations but they had zero chemistry together and came across as an advert for Halloween costumes.
Another interesting factor is the choice of matches to illustrate each group in action, some of which are baffling. For DX they chose a Corporate Rumble from January 1999 while the Heenan Family, a dud 6 man tag from the Big Event in 1986. Of all the classic Freebirds matches we have a chaotic elimination match from1983 which while fun is a frenzied mess; the Oddities match comes from the long forgotten Shotgun Saturday night TV show and frankly, as great as the tag match here is, there are better Dangerous Alliance matches available.
But what of the FBI, The Filthy Animals, The Corporate Ministry, The Mexicools, The New Blood, The Varsity Club, DOA, Los Borqiuas, the original Legion Of Doom, Mean Street Posse, Kaientei, Raven’s Flock, Studd’s Stable, Truth Commission, UnAmericans, The original ECW Dudleys, The Corre? Maybe not all great but some are no better or worse than those featured here.
As a potted history of some of the most notable and successful groups in wrestling, this release covers a lot of ground, providing another great trip down memory lane for older fans while educating new fans on the past. Perhaps a stronger choice of matches is required but a worthy offering overall.
The Wyatt Family
TLC PPV- 15th December 2013 – The Wyatt Family vs. Daniel Bryan
The Spirit Squad
Monday Night RAW – 3rd April 2006 – WWE Tag Title Match – Spirit Squad (c) vs. Kane & Big Show
TLC PPV- 16th December 2012 – 6 man TLC Match- The Shield vs. Ryback & Team Hell No (TLC – 16th December 2012)
Rating – ****
Man In Black