Ringside Shadows #171: The Logical Follow-Up
Wow, what a while it's been. Of course, for the casual reader it hasn't been long at all, as I've kept my knives sharp so to speak with a remastered, corrected, prettier "director's cut" version of my classic History of the Four Horsemen series over the past couple weeks. However, for me it's been over a month since my last new column. To say I enjoyed the break would be something of an understatement, and I've several new ideas I'm itching to get down on the proverbial paper over the next several weeks. So to those that read and enjoyed the revamped Horsemen series, I thank you. For those that didn't, because it looked familiar, welcome back to the stable.
So we've covered the history of the Four Horsemen in full. Every peak and every valley, from the Minnesota Wrecking Crew to Sid Vicious, Paul Roma to Chris Benoit. Now it's time to shift that gaze from the fruitful feuds of yesteryear to the open pastures of tomorrow. With the Horsemen in the middle of their longest hiatus to date, I figure it's about time they start pulling all the pieces together again and begin rebuilding that dynasty.
Let's face the facts; Ric Flair and Arn Anderson aren't getting any younger. If they want their legacy to carry over to the next generation, they're gonna have to start soon. With the WWF no longer out of bounds, the future is filled with possibilities. There's truly no better time than now. When the WCW of 1996 needed that big angle to get them out ahead of the WWF, they found what they needed in the nWo. Now that Vince McMahon's federation is facing an even more imposing threat in the face of extinction, they need a similarly massive angle to get fans interested again. As crowds are slowly losing interest in "Attitude" era, a return to tradition might be just what they need to get excited again.
Then again, a logical step forward must be taken to avoid dooming the WWF by making the same mistakes they made after the golden years of the late '80s. They have to learn from their errors, and while integrating the bits and pieces that made the Horsemen so successful, must also make a decided effort to bring the classic stable into the next millennium. Flair and Anderson must be involved, but they can't be active contributors. With the vast majority of complaints about the old WCW centering on the age of the main eventers, they can't risk carrying that image over to the new show. If the Horsemen are going to grab the ball and run with it, the first thing they need is a new lineup. So who makes the cut, and why?
He's technically sound. He knows how to turn a crowd on him in an instant. He's got the "let's get down to business" demeanor that Arn Anderson had his entire career. On top of all that, he's incredibly versatile. The only problem I can see with Storm's involvement is the relative step down he'd have to take from leading his own stable, Team Canada, to acting as a follower in the most historically significant crew in wrestling history. Storm would have to learn to take orders, and that fact almost kept him off my list altogether. While his possible problems with that might lead to an interesting storyline down the road, the team needs solidarity right out of the gates.
Still, Storm was a follower in ECW as the muscle of the Impact Players, and used similarly with the Horsemen things could work out excellently. He's already received Ric Flair's on-air blessing, during the last days of WCW's life on TNT, and that fact alone could be all the credentials he'd need to pull off this membership. In 2001, Storm would be a constant reminder that not every Horseman has a big mouth, and sometimes actions can speak much louder than words.
The perfect counterpoint to Storm's icy silence would be Sanders. His run right out of the gates with the Natural Born Thrillers proved he knows how to handle himself as part of the greater whole, and his work on the mic is deceptively good. Sanders is one of the rare gems of this industry, in that he can say his piece on the microphone and then back it up in the ring. He can do more than just talk the talk... he can walk the walk. A convincing heel, Sanders took what he was given by the bookers and breathed new life into even those lame storylines. The similarities to a pre-Y2J Chris Jericho aren't hard to note.
Like Storm, Sanders has also received Ric Flair's on-air approval, and built a strong image as the cool, collected young commissioner of the federation for many months. Not unlike a young Rocky Maivia in the infant years of "Attitude," Sanders was packaged as a straight-up blue chipper, only this time the fans were supposed to hate him for it. As a mixture of hot and cold, I think Sanders and Storm could create a dynamic tag team, which is one thing the Horsemen will be needing in the new millennium. Apart, Sanders could easily capture the Cruiserweight title while Storm busies himself in the middle of the card.
The Horsemen will also need an enforcer, a second-in-command, and to pull that off Booker T would need to alter his approach more than a little. He'd need to take a vicious turn, violently tearing himself away from the cookie cutter fan favorite role he's filling today and giving opponents something more to fear than a popular catchphrase. It might be a stretch, but I think the current WCW World Champion could do it. As far as credentials, you couldn't ask for much more. Multiple reigns as a TV champion, Tag champion, US champion and World champion. Victories over some of the top names in the sport. A phenomenal workrate. On top of all that, he's built like a wild animal. One look is enough to tell you this isn't a man you want after your blood, and as the enforcer for the Four Horsemen, he'd take that intimidation to an all new level.
While there might be some friction between Booker and the leader of the stable over a feud that's long since passed, I'd imagine that would be put on the backburner in lieu of the Harlem Heater's new, more violent, personality. Booker would be their dependable backbone, always there to flatten the opposition and reaping the benefits with a firm spot at the upper crust of the card. He'd be US champion without much contest, and when the time comes that someone does manage to give him a run for his money, it would mean all that much more.
Finally, the Horsemen are going to need a leader, a centerpiece, someone the fans recognize as a legitimate World Title contender anywhere on the planet. Flair was, bar none, perfect for this role. And now that Benoit's gained respect in the WWF and knows how to speak into the microphone, he's just about set to slide into the role Flair and Anderson were primping him for since day one. He'd be the wolverine leading a pack of his kin, the unquestionable leader through sheer intimidation. The other three would follow because if they didn't by their own will, he'd force them to anyway.
In addition to all that, the group is going to need someone to tie them to their origins. As a member of several Horsemen rosters, Benoit has received the necessary rub from the Nature Boy and Double A. His past is undeniably intertwined with that of the four, and without that legacy to tie them together, this group would fall apart before they could even get started.
The end result is a slightly different roster. One that maintains every aspect of the original lineup and a few new ones to remain on the cutting edge of the industry. Lance Storm brings the no-nonsense attitude of Arn Anderson, Mike Sanders the know how of Tully Blanchard. Booker T blends the ferocity of Ole Anderson's single-minded offense with the intimidation of Sid Vicious's bulk. And Chris Benoit merges the undeniable credibility of Ric Flair with an intensity and technical magnificence that is uniquely his.
Narrowing down the list was tougher than I'd previously imagined, and a lot harder than I remember it being when I dealt with the topic in a similar fashion, waaaaaayyy back in the archaic Ringside Shadows #2. There were a number of faces that could have and possibly should have fit into this picture that, for one reason or another, didn't. Names like Sean O'Haire, Elix Skipper, Bill Goldberg and Dean Malenko were on the tip of my tongue, but didn't make the final cut. Any combination of those names and the ones I selected would make an arguably stellar group, but I feel the four I went with would be not only the most interesting, but the most effective.
With the WWF on a huge roll and WCW apparently ready to follow suit, there stands a good chance that the Horsemen won't have their card played right away, if it's in the plan at all. However, the bottom line is WCW has a bonafide hit on their hands, and it's at their disposal whenever the time is deemed right.
until next time, i remain...