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Wrestling / The Four Horsemen

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The Originals (l-r): Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Manager J.J. Dillon, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair
"Being a Horseman isn't something you put on in the morning and take off at night. It's a state of mind. It's excelling to the best of your ability. It's four individuals thinking singularly, acting collectively."

The Four Horsemen were a professional wrestling Power Stable in the National Wrestling Alliance and later World Championship Wrestling. The original group featured Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Flair and Arn Anderson have been constant members in each incarnation of the group.

The Four Horsemen formed in November 1985 with Flair and his storyline cousins Ole Anderson and Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard, with James J. Dillon as their manager. They feuded with Dusty Rhodes (breaking his ankle and hand), Magnum T.A., Barry Windham, The Rock 'n' Roll Express (breaking Ricky Morton's nose), Nikita Koloff (injuring his neck), and The Road Warriors. Animal, Hawk, Ronnie Garvin and many others fought Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship during that time period. They usually had most of the titles in the NWA, and they often bragged about their success (in the ring and with women) in their interviews.

The Four Horsemen moniker was not planned from the start. Due to time constraints at a television taping, production threw together an impromptu tag team interview of Flair, the Andersons, Tully Blanchard and Dillon; all were now united after Ole Anderson returned and, along with Flair and Arn, tried to break Dusty's leg during a wrestling event at the Omni in Atlanta during the fall of 1985. It was during this interview that Arn said something to the effect of "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 comparison and the name stuck. Nevertheless, Arn has said in an RF Video shoot interview that he, Flair and Blanchard were as close as anybody could be away from the ring while they were together. They lived the gimmick outside of the arena, as they took limos and jets to the cities in which they wrestled.

The Trope Codifier for the Power Stable.

"The most elite fighting tropes in the world today!":

  • Arch-Enemy: Several. The Horsemen's primary function was to keep the NWA/WCW title around Flair's waist. Secondarily, they aspired to win all of the promotion's gold. (Blanchard was the U.S. Champion while the Andersons were Tag Champs more often than not.) During that time the Horsemen feuded with Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Magnum TA, The Road Warriors, Lex Luger, The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) and the New World Order.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Frequently did whatever the hell they wanted because nobody could stop them. Dared anyone who didn't like them to try. A frequent line of Flair's was, "We have all the gold, so we make all the rules."
  • Bash Brothers: In the ring and out. These guys were close, fighting together, partying together, flying together. They used to fly out to Vegas after TV tapings and party all weekend, only to come back to Atlanta and do it all over again. Arn and Flair call each other "brothers", and years later many of the principal members remain close.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: After Ole left, Ric and Arn were the only constants and they ruled the Horsemen this way.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: At NWA/WCW Capital Combat in 1990, the Horsemen locked Sting in a cage, only for RoboCop to come down to make the save. No, not some wrestler in a costume. It was billed and sold as the actual, honest-to-goodness RoboCop (according to Jim Cornette, it actually was Peter Weller in the suit, part of a stunt to promote the theatrical release of RoboCop 2). He plodded down to the ring, "broke" the cage to free Sting, and while Sting celebrated, the Horsemen, rather than wonder why the heck is a fictional character from a movie doing there, backed down in fear as if they already assumed that RoboCop existed in real life.
  • Chick Magnet: Self-professed in many interviews, but a lot of the stories on the road bear them out in their younger days.
  • Continuity Nod: Arn would occasionally call Ole "Rock" in TV interviews, referencing Ole's pre-Anderson ring name Rock Rogowski.
  • Distaff Counterpart:
    • WWE NXT had the "Four Horsewomen" featuring Ric's daughter Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley. A downplayed example as the four of them have never actually been a Power Stable- they were given the name as they were the four best women in NXT at one time, credited with revolutionising women's wrestling within the WWE and they spend more time feuding with each other than teaming up. Still, the connection between them remains firmly lodged in the minds of fans, and they still recognise the connection between themselves, even exchanging the "Four Horsewomen" hand sign of four raised fingers even after leaving NXT.
    • Another group of "Four Horsewomen" taking their name from the original stable formed in MMA around 2014, consisting of Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. All four women were subsequently contracted by WWE, which led to speculations about a confrontation with NXT's Four Horsewomen.note 
  • Elite Four: Kinda the point of the whole thing. But these four guys were the best in the business, more often than not.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • When the nWo was finally established as a legitimate threat, Arn and Ric teamed up with old enemies Sting and Lex Luger to take them on in the 1996 War Games match.
    • Earlier than that, the Horsemen were willing to team up with the Dungeon of Doom (who hated each other) in order to take out Hulk Hogan.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Their feud with the nWo had them as the "Evil". While the Horsemen were hedonistic, prideful and rule-breaking pricks, they just wanted to do whatever the hell they wanted and saw themselves as already at the top of their game. The nWo on the other hand, were brutal and no-nonsense thugs who wanted to take over WCW through any means necessary and desired to destroy everything affiliated with "traditional WCW", which included the heelish Four Horsemen.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Arn Anderson's neck injury forced him to retire and give his spot to Curt Hennig in 1997.
  • Informed Ability: The War Games match was supposed to be the Horsemen's "specialty match". Career Record: 1-15. Then again, it is par for the course for "specialty matches" in wrestling that the wrestler or stable that specializes in them actually loses them more often than not.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Even professional wrestling stables were susceptible to the late-80s craze. During the time of the Flair/Blanchard/Arn Anderson/Barry Windham incarnation, the group suffered two huge blows: Not only did Anderson and Blanchard jump to the WWF, but their manager James J. Dillon did the same afterwards (albeit for an office job). NWA's solution? Bring in Hiro Matsuda (known for being a trainer of many, many wrestlers) as their new manager and rename them "The Yamazaki Corporation" after a fictional company represented by Matsuda that, in storyline, brought their contracts up, clearly as a send-up of Japanese companies buying U.S. interests around the same time. Other members included Barry's brother Kendall and, very briefly, Butch Reed and Michael Hayes. It wasn't a success and it didn't last long.
  • Large Ham:
    • Anytime you have Ric Flair this is a given, however, Ole and J.J. Dillon were just as guilty.
    • Sid during the infamous RoboCop segment.
    • Arn could be when he was riled up as well.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The group lasted over 20 years in an industry with a big turnover rate. Guys came and went with varying degrees of success:
    • When Ole Anderson left, Lex Luger came in to take on the (quite literal) Muscle role in the group. When he left, it came to Barry Windham.
    • For a time Sting replaced Tully Blanchard, but was excommunicated for accepting a world title match against Ric Flair.
    • Over the nearly 20 years of the stable's history various wrestlers rotated through the ranks, usually with Arn and Ric being the constants. Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Chris Benoit, Brian Pillman, Steve McMichael, Dean Malenko and Curt Hennig all tried to fill in with varying degrees of success.
  • Narrow Parody: Done by the nWo the week after Curt Hennig was inducted. While some parts were funny, many wrestlers and commentators have said since that the skit was harsh in its portrayal of Double-A as The Alcoholic. Arn has had legitimate struggles for years with this problem, and Flair has never been shy about defending Arn when the skit is mentioned. Apparently Arn got into a fight with someone over the skit, but Flair has been tight-lipped about whom, saying only, "Arn is a tough guy, and I'll leave it at that."
    Ric Flair: What hurt everyone's feeling was, his son is watching that at home, and they're depicting Arn as drinking beer all day long? His kid is watching that, and nobody wants to see that.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The Horsemen were master cheaters and rule breakers and used underhanded tactics to win many matches and titles.
  • Parody: Dramatic Dream Team is a parody of American pro wrestling as a whole and their Italian Four Horsemen are one of this group.
  • Power Stable: The Trope Codifier for stables in general and Trope Maker for a specific kind of stable. They established the roles and dynamics, laying the blueprint for others who followed.
    • The Centerpiece: Ric Flair
    • The Heir Apparent: Tully Blanchard
    • The Enforcer: Arn Anderson, the Trope Namer for this role
    • The Muscle: Ole Anderson, Lex Luger, Barry Windham
    • The Manager: J.J. Dillon
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Or fifth, considering the group is a four-member ensamble, but Curt Hennig came in to replace Arn Anderson ... only to turn on the group to the nWo and join them.
  • Spiritual Successor
  • Un-person: Done a lot by WWE after they acquired WCW's library and started making documentary DVDs about WCW's past. Not only is Chris Benoit's time with the group glossed over, if not omitted, but so is Ole Anderson, due to Anderson not being very well-liked by just about anyone (and, truth be told, the feeling was mutual). The WWE recognized the Flair/Arn/Blanchard/Windham version along with manager Dillon as the version inducted into the Hall of Fame and all five were on hand to accept. Arn would later reveal on his podcast The Arn Show that Ole Anderson has been invited to be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame as a single and as a member of the Horsemen, but refused both offers.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Ole and Arn Anderson, the latter brought in as the former's "nephew" to replace his "brother" Gene (the only actual Anderson of the whole line). Flair was originally introduced as a "distant cousin" of the Andersons, but this was dropped as time went on.