Elite: The Legacy Of The Four Horsemen

Four Horsemen Ole Anderson

The Four Horsemen faction originated in Jim Crockett Promotions in late 1985. The first incarnation of the group consisted of Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard, with JJ Dillion serving as the stable’s manager.

The group popularised the concept of a heel faction and dominated JCP and WCW over the next decade and a half. The Horsemen would split and reform many times, before the final incarnation of the group permanently disbanded in 1999.

Without the Horsemen, there would have been no New World Order or D-Generation X.


Ric Flair versus Lex Luger

In late 1985, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Ole Anderson began to assist each other during their matches and feuds.

In January 1986, after a devastating attack on Dusty Rhodes, whom Flair was feuding with at the time, ‘The Enforcer’ famously stated: “The only time this much havoc had been wreaked by this few a number of people, you need to go all the way back to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!” The name stuck and The Four Horsemen were official. The group then set about dominating JCP.

Over the course of the decade, Flair would retain a tight grip on the World Title and Blanchard would hold United States and Television Title gold. Arn Anderson would also enjoy singles title success and he and Ole would hold the NWA National Tag Team Title as well. Later, Arn and Blanchard would capture the NWA/WCW Tag Team Title on multiple occasions.

Not only were the group draped in championship gold, but they looked, dressed and travelled like champions. Riding in limousines and private jets and partying hard, The Horsemen were the envy of the wrestling world.

The foursome engaged in memorable feuds with the likes of Rhodes, Sting, Magnum TA, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, The Road Warriors and many more. They were JCP’s and later WCW’s hottest act. Supremely over with the masses, fans paid their hard earned cash to see the hated group lose and were incensed when they didn’t.

The group were an evil force no doubt. One particularly gruesome event saw the stable attack the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express in a vicious and bloody locker room brawl. The sight of Ricky Morton’s blood smeared all over the floor still retains it’s power over three decades on.

Line-up Changes

The Four Horsemen Sid and Windham

The first of many line-up changes occurred in March 1987. Ole Anderson, who had been culpable for the loss of his and Arn’s NWA Tag Team Title bout with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express began to be seen as a weak link. Lex Luger who had been associated with the group for months became a fully signed up member, when Ole was kicked out.

Luger’s Horsemen membership ended the following year, after disagreements with his buddies, in particular JJ Dillion, led to him being kicked out of the group. He teamed up with long-time Horsemen enemy, Barry Windham to feud with The Horsemen in early 1988. However, in April that year, in a huge shocker, Windham turned heel on ‘The Total Package’ and took his spot in the group.

This incarnation of the faction is widely regarded as it’s greatest, due to the technical prowess of all four members. It was also it’s most successful. During this period, Flair reigned as NWA World Champion, Windham held United States gold and Anderson and Blanchard were the reigning Tag Team Champions.

In September 1988, Anderson and Blanchard jumped ship to the WWF where they were known as The Brain Busters and would capture the WWF Tag Team Title. That was essentially the end of the group as a four-man unit for some time.

Windham and Dillon would also depart for the Federation in 1989, whilst Anderson and Blanchard planned to return to WCW, who bought out JCP in November 1988, to reform The Horsemen with Flair. However, Blanchard failed a drug test prior to the 1989 Survivor Series and WCW subsequently withdrew it’s contract offer.

Anderson did re-join Flair in WCW in December 1989 however, and the pair reformed The Horsemen with former member, Ole Anderson and long-time Horsemen rival, Sting. However, in what was now becoming a theme with new members to the group, ‘The Stinger’ was kicked out of the stable, when he earned a shot at Flair’s NWA World Title. So heinous was The Horsemen’s assault, that Sting was side-lined for around six months. Windham returned to WCW from the WWF and took his place. When Ole Anderson retired from in-ring competition in May of 1990, he became the group’s manager. Former Skyscraper, Sid Vicious rounded out the new look version of the group.

This incarnation was brought to an end when Flair left WCW in acrimonious circumstances in May 1991 and joined the WWF. The Horsemen would cease to exist for two years.

The Horsemen Reform

The Four Horsemen Anderson and Flair

At Slamboree 1993, WCW wanted to reunite the original incarnation of The Four Horsemen. However, WCW could not come to terms with Tully Blanchard and the plan did not come to fruition.

Although, The Horsemen did reunite as planned on the show with yet another line-up change. Opening match act, Paul Roma was presented as Blanchard’s replacement to a less than rapturous reception. Ole Anderson soon left the group as well, leaving the faction as a threesome of Flair, Arn Anderson and Roma.

This iteration of the group would not see out the year, as Anderson was side-lined after sustaining a large number of serious stab wounds following a regrettable and horrific incident with Sid Vicious during WCW’s October UK tour and Roma left the group to form the tag team Pretty Wonderful with veteran, Paul Orndorff.

The Horsemen were revived in 1995, after ‘The Nature Boy’ returned to the ring after his phoney retirement the previous year. The new look group consisted once more of Flair and Anderson. Rounding out the faction were ‘The Crippler’ Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman. This incarnation of The Four Horsemen was memorable for introducing Pillman’s ground-breaking ‘Loose Cannon’ persona, which would become famous for his unpredictable, wild behaviour, which The Horsemen tried and failed to keep in check.

The group formed a short-lived association with The Dungeon of Doom to create ‘The Alliance to End Hulkamania’ which ended in humiliation when ‘The Hulkster’ and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage bested both groups in a 2 versus 8-man Doomsday Cage Match at March’s Uncensored 1996 which was one of the most ill conceived pay-per-view main events in history.

A few weeks earlier, Pillman had been ‘fired’ from WCW when he broke kayfabe at the SuperBrawl pay-per-view and told his opponent, The Dungeon of Doom’s, Kevin Sullivan: “I respect you booker man.” This alluded to Sullivan’s real life backstage position as booker. To further sell the angle, Pillman convinced WCW Executive Vice President, Eric Bischoff to release him from his WCW contract to make the world believe the firing was genuine. He did so, and ‘The Loose Cannon’ subsequently cut a deal with the WWF.

The loss of Pillman and the stature damaging defeats to Hogan and company, hurt The Horsemen’s credibility. They were soon to be further overshadowed when Hogan joined forces with new WCW signings, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form the edgy and revolutionary heel group, The New World Order. This essentially turned The Horsemen babyface, but when compared to the cutting edge, violent and cool, nWo, the once pioneering group suddenly appeared old hat. The 47-year old Flair, was slipping down the card and the stable now had a mid-card feel to it.

During this period, former NFL star, Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael would eventually take Pillman’s spot. The Horsemen would repeatedly fall in high profile matches to the nWo and when newest member, Curt Hennig turned on the faction during the WarGames main event of Fall Brawl on September 14, 1997 and joined the nWo instead, The Horsemen were officially succeeded by the nWo as the premier stable in professional wrestling. To underline this point, Flair disbanded the group two weeks later on Nitro.

Final Run

In September 1997, it appeared as if The Horsemen were permanently finished. Flair was now 48-years-old and Anderson was retired. WCW was dominated by the nWo storyline and was blooding younger talent such as: Chris Jericho, Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg.

When Flair was suspended from WCW for alleged breaches of contract, he and The Horsemen seemed destined to remain in the promotion’s rear view mirror.

However, both Flair and The Horsemen made a famous, triumphant return on the September 14, 1998 Nitro. With the retired Anderson, now acting as manager, the group was rounded out with former Horsemen, McMichael and Benoit and new recruit, Dean Malenko to form the final incarnation of The Four Horsemen.

However, despite the electric segment in which the group reformed, which was highlighted by a Flair tirade against WCW and nWo boss, Eric Bischoff, the group’s effectiveness quickly faded. Flair was responsible for banishing Bischoff from WCW, which made him the de facto President of the promotion. This led to ‘The Nature Boy’ and by association The Horsemen turning heel one last time. Flair even employed Charles Robinson as his own personal and crooked referee, in a less effective re-run of the nWo’s heel referee angle with Nick Patrick.

In May 1999, Benoit and Malenko, who were aghast at Flair’s increasingly heelish (and asinine) rulings, abandoned the Horsemen and allied themselves with Shane Douglas and Perry Saturn to form The Revolution instead. McMichael had left wrestling entirely in February that year. With the Horsemen abandoning Flair, the group was no more.

Unlike the nWo, the faction never reformed in the WWF, despite the Federation employing many of it’s former members.

Instead, WWE in 2003, honoured the influential group by creating it’s own version of the stable, Evolution. Counting Flair himself, Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton as members, the faction, as the Horsemen had previously, dominated WWE television for the next two years. In some ways, Evolution was more successful, as the group firmly established rookies, Orton and Batista as permanent main eventers and multiple time World Champions.

The success of Evolution, proved that the archetypal model of the Horsemen, even two decades after it’s creation, was still effective in the booking of a major promotion and star creation.


In 2012, The Four Horsemen were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The incarnation counting Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham and JJ Dillion as members, was enshrined into the hallowed Hall. For Flair, it was his second induction after receiving a first Hall of Fame ring in 2008 for his solo career.

The Horsemen’s induction was well earned. The group deserve their own wing.

Almost four decades after their inception and a decade after their Hall of Fame induction, the legacy of the group is still keenly felt in the wrestling industry. In the 1990s, the nWo and D-Generation X both originated as elite, heel groups and were clearly inspired by the Horsemen template. WWE’s Evolution stable in 2003-05 was a direct tribute to The Horsemen, with an exclusive four man group that held all of the gold in the promotion, as the Horsemen had in JCP in the 1980s.

Even in the 2020s, The Horsemen’s influence remains. Groups such as The Inner Circle and The Elite are modern-day equivalents of The Horsemen blueprint.

The Four Horsemen are undoubtedly one of, if not the most influential wrestling stable of all time. Every elite group will forever be compared to the most innovative, long running and effective faction of them all.

You can watch The Four Horsemen’s greatest moments exclusively on the WWE Network.