Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Fall of the Horsemen

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Fall of the Horsemen – WCW, 1997

History

The Four Horsemen. Throughout wrestling history, there are no groups that have the prestige of this group of the NWA’s elite. Ole and Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair, and JJ Dillon created a legend that day in 1986.

Over the years, the Horsemen had highs and lows. By 1991, the Horsemen were all but dead. Ole Anderson was long gone and Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson had also gone to the WWF as Bobby Heenan’s Brainbusters. Barry Windham (Lex Luger’s replacement as Luger had replaced Ole) and Sid Vicious (Blanchard’s replacement) were also in the WWF. Just as Arn Anderson had returned, Flair left.

By 1995, the Horsemen had been dormant for nearly five years (not counting the short run in 1993 which saw Paul Roma being inducted as the third Horseman and the fourth slot remaining vacant). At Halloween Havoc of that year Flair and Arn inducted Brian Pillman into the group and the Horsemen rode again. Chris Benoit was soon added as well.

The next year Pillman left for the WWF and was replaced by Mongo McMichael. The roster further changed in January of 1997 as Arn Anderson (after suffering a neck injury) had begun competing less and less and Jeff Jarrett was added. By July, Flair had evicted Jarrett from the group.

However, by this point a new player had entered the game. Curt Hennig had entered WCW as a free agent. On the July 7 Nitro, Flair came out and welcomed Hennig to the Horsemen, only for Hennig to state that he was a free agent.

At Bash at the Beach, Hennig joined forces with Diamond Dallas Page to face off against NWO representatives Scott Hall and Randy Savage. The match ended when Hennig attacked Page, rolling him inside the ring for the loss.

The next night on Nitro, Hennig was explaining his actions to Gene Okerlund by verbally bashing Page. Ric Flair came out to try and recruit Hennig again. Again, Hennig did not give an answer but did look thoughtful.

A week later, Flair had promised to introduce the newest Horseman. As he started to do so, Syxx came out and talked about how the Horsemen were history. Flair finally started to walk off, then whirled around and attacked Syxx. By the time Syxx had gotten back to his feet, Chris Benoit was there as well. Syxx commented that they wouldn’t treat him like that if Hall and Nash were there, and Benoit basically told him to bring it on.

Nitro saw Hennig and Flair join forces to defeat NWO-ers Scott Norton and Buff Bagwell. The match ended as Syxx came out and pulled Flair off the ring apron. As they fought, Flair still got Norton out of the ring so Hennig could pin Bagwell.

Later, Gene Okerlund again asked Flair if Hennig was a Horseman. Flair eagerly said he was. That brought Hennig out, who again insisted he was still a free agent. As Benoit and McMichael walked past to go to the ring for their match, they had disgusted looks on their faces.

A week later Flair was facing Page when Hennig hit the ring with a foreign object in his hand. Page took it away from him, gave it to the referee, and fought them both off as the referee awarded him the match by DQ.

That brought us to Road Wild, where Hennig faced Page. With a little help from the distraction that was Ric Flair, Hennig got the win.

The next night on Nitro, Curt Hennig accepted an offer to be Ric Flair’s partner in a match at the upcoming Clash of the Champions. The only catch was that Hennig said he was only agreeing to be Flair’s partner, not a Horseman.

A week later, Flair was facing off against Syxx. When the NWO rushed the ring, Hennig came out and helped Flair fight them off.

Clash of the Champions saw Flair and Hennig defeat Syxx and Konnan. Afterward, Okerlund again tried to get word of Hennig’s status with no success.

The next night, the Horsemen and Hennig came out. As Flair asked Hennig again for his answer, Hennig refused to give a straight yes or no. Arn Anderson got the microphone and explained that he had to retire from the ring due to recent neck surgery. Anderson then stepped in front of Hennig and offered him not only a spot in the Horsemen, but his spot. Hennig immediately accepted and said what a privilege it would be.

A week later Nitro was dedicated to the career of Arn Anderson. Suddenly the NWO came out with Syxx dressed as Flair, Buff as Hennig, Nash as Arn, and Konnan as Mongo. They mocked Anderson’s retirement speech as Schiavone covered for them by saying that security was keeping the Horsemen backstage.

The next episode of Nitro opened with Tony Schiavone saying that you would never see the footage of the NWO’s “tribute” again. That brought Eric Bischoff out who demanded that it be played again immediately. The footage suddenly cut off and we saw the Horsemen in the announcer’s booth. As they demanded the NWO, security came out and ushered them to the back.

Later in the night, Bagwell and Konnan accepted the Horsemen’s challenge, which occurred in the semi-main event. Hennig wound up pinning Konnan. After the match the rest of the Horsemen came out to congratulate Flair and Hennig.

That brought us to Fall Brawl where the Horsemen and the NWO faced off in a War Games match. Earlier in the show the NWO representatives ran past Okerlund. A little investigation showed Hennig laid out in the dressing room.

The Horsemen came out for the match with no Hennig, claiming that they would use their three men against the New World Order’s four. Benoit and Bagwell started the match. Konnan was the next entrant, followed by Mongo. Syxx was the fifth man in with Flair following him. The final NWO entrant was Kevin Nash. Finally Hennig came running out and handcuffed Mongo and Benoit to the top of the cage before joining the NWO assault on Flair. As Nash taunted Mongo and Benoit, they still refused to quit. Finally Hennig stuck Flair’s head in the cage door and threatened to slam it shut if Mongo didn’t surrender. Mongo told them to stop, which caused the referee to award the match to the NWO. Hennig then slammed the door on Flair’s head anyway.

The next night on Nitro Hennig made his appearance during a Hogan/Bischoff interview to Flair’s music while wearing one of Flair’s robes. Hennig then took off the robe and gave it to Hogan, who pronounced it a “perfect” day.

The day stayed perfect for Hollywood as the main event saw Hennig defeat Mongo to win the US title.

It was September 29th before we heard from Flair again. Flair called in to Nitro vowing to get his robe back from Hogan, and then he told Mongo and Benoit to go their own ways. The Horsemen were disbanded.

That was the last that the world would hear from the Horsemen for a year.

Analysis

This just shows how totally and completely WCW’s focus was on the NWO during this time period. Although the Horsemen were still loved by the fans (just look at their reunion a year later), WCW was unwilling to run with them.

Let’s face it. At this point in time, the New World Order was running rampant. WCW could have used a strong face group to stand united and lead the charge against the NWO. Instead, the NWO continued their domination as WCW fragmented. There was no united front.

A Horsemen-New World Order feud could have been great. Look at how well-done the battle between Hogan and Sting at the 1997 Starrcade was built up. Instead, the NWO suffered from the same problem the Horsemen themselves had encountered in the early 1990’s as almost anyone was allowed to join, thereby costing the group their “elite” status. And the Horsemen were never the same again as the group would wither and die by mid 1999.

Where are they now?

Ric Flair would remain with WCW until the company’s buyout. He would then join the WWF shortly after the Invasion angle concluded in 2001. Flair remains with the WWF today on the Raw brand.

Arn Anderson mostly vanished from WCW television after this, although he was known to interject himself into angles with David Flair. Arn was picked up by the WWF in the buyout and made his debut on WWF television as he did commentary with Scott Hudson on the first WCW part of Raw. When the WCW/WWF split Raw idea fizzled, Arn returned to his backstage job as a road agent, where he remains today.

Chris Benoit left WCW in January of 2000 after Kevin Sullivan gained control of the booking. He, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero almost immediately debuted on Raw as the Radicalz. Benoit remains with the WWE today where he is on the Smackdown brand. Benoit is also the current United States champion.

Mongo McMichael left WCW in early 1999. Today he hosts a pre-game show for the Bears with Chet Coppock and also coaches the Chicago Slaughter of the Continental Indoor Football League.

After joining the NWO, Curt Hennig would spend months with questionable membership with the group before being kicked out of the Wolfpac in 1998, an action which also saw Hennig removed from WCW television due to a knee injury. He returned at Starrcade to aid Eric Bischoff and soon joined the NWO Black and White. In early 1999, Hennig was kicked out of that group as well, although he soon formed his own group – the fondly-remembered West Texas Rednecks (with Bobby Duncum Jr., and Kendall and Barry Windham). Later still, Hennig feuded with Shawn Stasiak (who had dubbed himself PerfectShawn). Hennig left WCW in mid-2000.

In January of 2002, (after a stay in Jimmy Hart’s XWF) Hennig returned to the WWE as Mr. Perfect at the Royal Rumble. In May he was released after an incident on an airplane. Hennig would go on to make appearances for TNA. Hennig passed away on February 10, 2003 and was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in March of 2007.

Tags: