Outside of a few notable exceptions stables in the WWE are all but dead. Sure you have Evolution on RAW, Bradshaw’s Cabinet and Angle’s two friends??? On Smackdown! Ring of Honor has made excellent use of the stable in its short but storied history. There are a few reasons that stables in an indy fed are more viable, but RoH has taken it to a new level. Stables certainly make it easier when a roster has an inconsistent talent base, when wrestler A is feuding with wrestle B, if wrestler B is in a stable and can’t make a show wrestler A can simply face a stable mate and the feud stays hot. But, like I said before, RoH goes well beyond this. Stables have been a cornerstone since the very beginning and continue to be prominent up to the most recent set of shows.
The Prophecy was truly the first stable to really come to prominence in RoH. Chris Daniels was the first, and on some of the earliest shows the only “true heel” on the roster. Sure, he still got as many cheers as the top babyfaces, but he did his best to portray the ultimate villain in this federation based on honor. He extended the stable to include Simply Luscious and in a big coup helped Xavier win the world title in the same show that he and Donovan Morgan won the tag titles. The Prophecy seemed unstoppable and it appeared that the entire roster was against them. The feud took on a more specific face when Steve Corino formed his “Group.” Sadly, despite all of the good intentions Corino’s Japanese schedule prevented this feud from truly taking on the shape it most likely intended. The Prophecy still proved to be a dominant stable and the prime example of stables working at their best. At almost every show it there was tension as to what the Prophecy was going to do next. Would they add a new member? Would they win a title? Who would next incur their wrath? Not since a stable like Degeneration X or the Ministry or the Corporation was the audience so attentive to the actions of a group. There have been other far more successful stables over the years the Four Horseman, the Heenan Family, the Hart Foundation, the nWo(in its first incarnation) and others, but the previous examples are the best in the all too short recent memory of professional wrestling.
There have been other stables and other stables wars in the annals of Ring of Honor history. Special K, one of my favorite stables, has been a prominent part of RoH since the early days. For those not in the know, Special K is made up of a bunch of “rich kid ravers, spending their parents’ money on drugs, who, if they only could get their act together could really be good wrestlers.” They have had more members than it is possible to keep track of. The core had been Izzy, Dixie, Deranged, Angeldust, and Hydro. Other members of this stable have included Joey Matthews, Mikey Whipwreck, Jody Fleisch, Slim J and several more, too many to be named. Hydro became Jay Lethal and went on his own. Dixie and Angeldust (now Azreal) have gone their own way taking the straight and narrow path while Izzy, Deranged and others have continued the party life. While they were still all on the same page they provided some of the most entertaining antics in the history of RoH. From the crazy spotfests, to the rave that closed out the Wrestlerave show, to the largest membership at “At Our Best” they have entertained to say the least. And even today with the dispute over the split they have continued to be one of the more intriguing aspects of RoH.
I have yet to mention two of the best examples of stables in Ring of Honor, and coincidentally they are two of the more recent examples. The first is The Embassy: Prince Nana’s cavalcade of stars paid for by the good people of Ghana West Africa. The Embassy first tried to get off the ground with former RoH champion Xavier as its centerpiece. Injuries prevented this from truly getting off the ground yet the Outcast Killers stayed loyal as the stable seemed to be floundering. In one of my favorite moments from RoH last year, and also one of the funniest, Jimmy Rave, reviled by the message boards and met with underwhelming mediocrity at shows was revealed as the new cornerstone of Nana’s stable. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and Jimmy Rave then went on to win fans with every appearance and put together an impressive winning streak, mostly due to the interference of Nana and the Outcast Killers. Rave even beat AJ Styles and CM Punk in consecutive nights in RoH’s most recent double shot. The Embassy is the perfect example of a manager led stable. Nana is clearly the brains and the money behind the group, and constantly uses this power to expand its numbers to include Ring of Honor pure champion, and recent sacrificial lamb to Chris Masters (BOOOOOO!!!!) John Walters and TWA standout “Fast” Eddie Vegas. Nana has been able to play the wealthy business man/royalty character to a tee, and clearly shows his financial interest in all of his investments. He has made claims and backed them up by buying his way out of them. At Final Battle he guaranteed that the Pure Champion would join the Embassy, Rave failed to win the belt, but Nana bought Walters in the process. It is simply brilliant use of the stable dynamic. Walters and Rave have proven to be the perfect compliment as the dual cornerstone of Nana’s empire.
The other stable, and my personal favorite, that I failed to mention is Generation Next. Gen Next was, without a doubt, the top new gimmick in RoH last year. The stable consisted of four of the top talents in the wrestling world each filling their role to the best. The original members were Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, and Jack Evans. In the tradition of four-man stables like the Four Horsemen, Generation Next sought to eliminate all of their competition. Alex Shelley was the leader and quarterback; he was the primary talker and, for lack of a better term, played the Ric Flair role in the stable. Austin Aries, if you can compare to a Horsemen, was Tully Blanchard, the consummate professional, and perhaps the best worker of the illustrious bunch (Aries in Generation Next, not Tully in the Horsemen.) Roderick Strong was the enforcer, and where Arn Anderson used the Spine Buster, Strong uses the Back Breaker. Jack Evans is however, the new aspect of the stable. Ole Anderson certainly couldn’t flip and twist the way Gumb…I mean Jack can. This group truly functioned as a four person team seeking to take every spot in RoH. They made their debut at the show of the same name in May of last year. I was at this event live and, initially quite upset that many of the matches were ruined by this new stable. Luckily I was repaid in full by the impromptu eight man match that followed featuring the Gen Nexters against the Briscoes and pre-Embassy John Walters and Jimmy Rave. They worked as a tag team in almost every possible permutation all with high levels of success. At Final Battle, Generation Next’s run in many ways came to a close. Not only was the foursome reduced to a triad when Alex Shelley was ousted from the group with Austin Aries taking the top spot in Gen Next, but Aries won the RoH world title thus effectively taking the top spot. As a result of this, I think Gen Next has lost some of their luster as a stable, but they were still one of the best ever during their complete run.
There is one last stable that I haven’t talked about, and that is the Second City Saints led by CM Punk with Colt Cabana and Ace Steel backing him up. While I think all three of them are great workers and extremely entertaining, I don’t think they are a truly great stable. I think to some extent Punk and Cabana are a great tag team, but as a stable they don’t have the continuity that other stables in RoH and elsewhere possess. Punk is the leader, but he is not followed with blind faith by his stable-mates, one of the marks of a great stable. They do not always have matching gear, not necessary but helpful, nor do they always have common goals. They have been a part of many great stable feuds. In fact they have feuded with almost every other top stable in RoH. They certainly had a legendary feud with the prophecy, which ended up being as much about the tag belts as the issues between the feuding stables. It was also hurt by Daniels being removed from RoH and could very well have been an even more incredible feud, but that is a topic for another column. They are currently in the downward trend of a feud with Generation Next which was really more typified in the feud between Aries and Colt over the World title. A feud seems to be brewing between the Saints and the Embassy as well. With Ace Steel’s irregular schedule, it makes true stable feuds involving the Saints hard to come by, but they are still used as the measuring stick by which all heel stables are judged. While I still don’t think they are a great stable, the Saints fill a necessary void of united babyfaces united for more of a reason than they all fight on the side of good, but I guess they are not truly great for the simple reason that the best stables are made up of heels.
I guess that does it for this week’s column. Questions, comments, concerns and complaints can always be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-I’ll see you next time (Complete with Lavarr Burton hand gesture.)
-Big Andy Mac