In 1993, Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and Sean Waltman (The 1-2-3 Kid, later known as Syxx or X-Pac) were working for the then-WWF. Hall and Michaels were acquaintances stemming all the way back to the mid 80's when they were in AWA together, and their similar personalities had them becoming travel mates and friends. Waltman was a young indie wrestler that Hall took a liking to after their famous program and served as his mentor on screen and off. Michaels was a rising star, and Hall and Waltman were solid midcard wrestlers. All three were notorious hellraisers known for drinking and abusing drugs, and they all had ego to spare. Michaels was looking for a way to get himself even more over with the crowd, having just made an infamous heel turn by kicking ex-partner Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window. He turned on WCW's show, WCW Saturday Night, one night, and found what he was looking for — Kevin Nash, who was playing a comedic character named "Vinnie Vegas".
Nash, who was unhappy over at WCW, asked to be let out of his contract. He signed with the WWF the next week and became Diesel, who served as Michaels' bodyguard (Nash and Michaels also became offscreen friends during this time). For two years, the group of Hall, Michaels, Nash, and Waltman slowly built their careers up; in 1995, the four men were some of the WWF's highest profile stars. Michaels and Nash traded the WWF Championship between them, and Hall had several runs with the Intercontinental Championship (including two revolutionary Ladder Matches with Michaels for that title). The last man to enter the picture was a young Paul Levesque, who — after his own failed stint with WCW — signed with the WWF and became Hunter Hearst Helmsley (later shortened to simply Triple H).
The five men would amass a staggering amount of backstage power as a group. All five were close to Vince McMahon and had input on booking decisions (including which wrestlers they believed deserved a push). Victims of The Kliq's influence include Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Davey Boy Smith and Carl Oullet; The Rock was also supposed to be one of The Kliq's victims, but managed to secure his own place in history even with their objections. Bret Hart, who would have his career and life changed by the Montreal Screwjob (which Michaels, Levesque, and McMahon were in on), was perhaps the biggest victim of The Kliq's backstage politicking.
Before the Montreal Screwjob, however, came the "Curtain Call".
On May 19, 1996, the WWF put on a house show at Madison Square Garden in New York; this show was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall's last show with the company before they jumped ship to WCW. Levesque and Nash were working as heels at the time, and Michaels and Hall were faces. At the end of Michaels and Nash's steel cage match, Hall and Levesque came out to hug them goodbye in the middle of the ring.
This was a serious problem.
The vast majority of the wrestling industry were calling for The Kliq's heads, since they'd broken kayfabe in front of the cameras (by showing that faces and heels were actually friends outside the ring, rather than mortal enemies). Vince McMahon had few options for punishment, however: Hall and Nash were leaving for WCW, Waltman wasn't in on it, and Michaels was (at the time) the WWF Champion and a big name headliner. The punishment ultimately fell on Levesque, who languished for well over a year in the midcard, jobbing to wrestlers such as The Ultimate Warrior. He was eventually allowed to shine as one of the founding members of D-Generation X (which happened due to Michaels' influence).
Levesque's punishment for the Curtain Call, ironically enough, was directly responsible for the meteoric rise in popularity of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Austin won the 1996 King of the Ring tournament — which Levesque was scheduled to win before the Curtain Call — and delivered his infamous "Austin 3:16" speech after the tournament winning match. Austin's incredible popularity following his victory eventually led to the Attitude Era a year later.
In WCW, Hall and Nash formed the nWo with Hulk Hogan, a move that for 84 weeks gave WCW control over the Monday Night Wars. The Hall/Hogan/Nash triumvirate wielded tremendous booking power (even moreso than in the WWF), and it was their decisions that either made or sank the careers of many a WCW performer. Waltman would join them a few months later, but he was fired in early 1998 and went back to WWE to become X-Pac, making him the second person, after Rick Rude, to have been a member of DX and the original nWo. Michaels and Levesque went on to become two of WWE's most successful and celebrated stars, and their behind-the-scenes clout has become both the wrestling business's worst kept secret and a point of contention for both fans and fellow performers when considering the merits of their careers.
To this date, all five members of The Kliq remain closer than close behind the scenes.
Tropes that apply to one or all of the members of the Kliq:
- Affably Evil: Even when heel (and in Real Life, if you believe certain things about them), they're funny and charismatic.
- The Alcoholic: Scott Hall, uber-example. Kid, nigh constantly. Shawn, before his Jesusification.
- Averted with Triple H, who was and still is teetotal.
- Appropriated Appellation: Lex Luger took to calling these guys "the clique", which conjured images of cool kids mocking everyone from the safety of the Cool Couch, but it stuck.
- Arch-Enemy: Bret Hart really disliked The Kliq, especially Shawn Michaels. Not that he doesn't have ample reason, though. Although he did seem to get along with X-Pac and, for the most part, Kevin Nash.
- There are also rumors that The Undertaker did a lot to try and keep them from using too much of their backstage power to make themselves look good at the expense of newer guys on the roster. This is unconfirmed, however.
- However, in Real Life and onscreen, Shawn and Bret seem to have buried the hatchet, and Undertaker has stated that after The Kliq broke kayfabe, he gained respect for Levesque when, after being Demoted to Extra, he took his punishment without complaining.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The legacy of the Kliq? Well, wrestlers have more control over their residuals and work rates than they did in the bad old days. The genius of HBK (Sensei Hogan's greatest pupil) and Nash was to, basically, unionize and put pressure on the likes of McMahon, Bischoff, and Carter to accept their terms or else. No-cut contracts, guaranteed appearances, creative control: These are the weapons of a modern athlete. Nash would later perfect Kliq politics with a sister group, the nWo.James Ferrarella: From 1996 on, the Monday Night War necessitated guaranteed money for a wrestlers loyalty. Nash was a businessman who helped make wrestling more of a business, a practice which still exists today...Nash changed that for the better, but in doing so politicized money within wrestling in a way it hadnt been. CM Punk and Brock Lesnar would continue his salary negotiations tactics to their advantages later down the line.
- Bash Brothers: Shawn and Hunter in DX. Kevin and Scott as the Outsiders in the nWo. Shawn and Kevin. Scott and Kid. It's pretty safe to say that they've all teamed with each other at one time or another.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: They're extremely well-known for doing this to others in both real life and kayfabe, but amongst themselves this only happens in kayfabe.
- The 1-2-3 Kid turned on Razor to join Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation immediately before Survivor Series 1995.
- Hall turned on Nash to side with Hogan's nWo Hollywood as opposed to Nash's red-and-black wearing nWo Wolfpac. This was an apparent move by Bischoff to split up Hall and Nash and keep them in line.
- DX set up Shawn to be beaten up by The Corporation on the January 4, 1999 Raw. This was in retaliation to Shawn turning on DX on his first night as Commissioner.
- Cool Old Guy: What they've all grown into.
- Drugs Are Bad: Let's put it this way, the only one of the five who was ever even rumored to be totally clean from alcohol, pills, and steroids was Triple H, and even he's debatable (considering he went from this◊ to this◊ in one year, though it could just be the angle and the lack of a tan). The other four, though? All addicted to alcohol (especially Scott), pills (only Shawn kicked the habit), and steroids (Shawn denies it, as does Kevin).
- As far as Triple H goes, if Scott Steiner is to be believed, let's remember that back when he was in WWE, he claimed that he was asked to take a steroid test, and said he'd only take one if Triple H took it with him... and WWE promptly dropped the subject altogether.
- Five Philosophy Ensemble:
- The Cynic - Triple H.
- The Optimist - Shawn Michaels (especially so in later years).
- The Realist - Kevin Nash.
- The Apathetic - Sean Waltman.
- The Conflicted - Scott Hall
- Five-Man Band:
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Shawn and Hunter. Scott and Kevin, at times. Scott and Kid, at others.
- The whole Kliq could be counted as this. The moment which made them infamous in wrestling history was a group hug.
- Insistent Terminology: Wanna know what the Kliq actually called the iconic hand signal? note The name they chose for it, the name Kid introduced it to them with? Here goes. They call it the Turkish Wolf, and it is the direct inspiration for Nash, Hall, and Syxx calling themselves the Wolfpac. Discussed here.
- Jerkass: Take your pick.
- While all still have some vices, all members have become steadily less assholes and more Cool Old Guy, although that took a while.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Shawn and Hunter referenced the Curtain Call in the first iteration of DX, during their feud with Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation.
- Memetic Hand Gesture: You know the one. Look at the page image.
- Mentor Archetype: Curt Hennig. Hennig was never a member of the Kliq, but had a lot of influence on their philosophy. He also mentored Hall and Michaels early in their careers. It especially influenced Hall, who routinely took younger wrestlers under his wing.
- Not So Different: From Hulk Hogan's clique of backstage allies (Hogan, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and Bob Orton), which Michaels uses as justification for some of their backstage clout:"If you're on top, you want to make sure you stay on top. The difference between us and Hogan's crew was that we actually liked each other... We didn't resent each other's success."
- Odd Friendship: Initially. Scott, Kid, Kevin and Shawn were all troublemaking, partying drug addicts, while Hunter was and still is known as being a pretty calm, collected, sober guy. Shawn mentions in his book that the main reason Hunter hung with them was social-climbing, but eventually became Shawn's caretaker and driver. Nowadays, Shawn's gotten sober and he seems like the odd one out.
- Only Sane Man: Even wrestlers who hated The Kliq generally agreed that Kevin Nash was the most reasonable member to deal with.
- Can also apply to Hunter. Jim Ross stated that if he ever had something to address with to the Kliq, he'd always go through Hunter and it would get done.
- Power Stable: A real life example.
- Putting the Band Back Together: A few times, after the mid 1990s. Kevin and Scott resurrected the nWo in 2002, and when Shawn came back from his back injury, he joined as well. Kevin, Shawn, and Hunter feuded mainly with each other throughout 2002-2003. In 2006, Shawn and Hunter reformed DeGeneration X. And in 2010, Kevin, Scott, and Kid formed a faction in TNA actually called "The Band".
- Spell My Name with an "S": "The Kliq" or "The Clique".
- Spiritual Successor: They were one to Hulk Hogan's crew, and they've got their own in Bullet Club. The Bullet Club even uses the "Too Sweet" hand gesture (as homage to the Kliq), which seems to have been legitimized by a little torch-passing moment of Triple H sharing a "Too Sweet" with Finn Bálor (Bullet Club's founder) at Survivor Series 2017.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: 1995 through 1997 marks the height of their success, and also the period when the company nearly went out of business. It's probably not hyperbole to say that, had Nash and Hall not migrated to WCW, the same fate would have awaited the WWF.
- It should be pointed out that the company almost going out of business was not the fault of the Kliq, but just a sign of the times. The early-to-mid '90s were an awful time for wrestling and both companies were losing tons of money, but while WCW could always rely on Ted Turner's seemingly bottomless pocketbook, the WWF relied on traditional wrestling earnings (merchandise, ticket sales, PPV buys and the like) and the numbers were dwindling fast* . Coincidentally, The Kliq - or, at least, its individual members - would actually help save both companies (albeit, more as on-screen characters rather than any backstage pull): Hall and Nash, of course, would help form the nWo (which eventually included the Kid), which is said to have helped generate enough money in those famous 83 weeks that it wiped out all of WCW's financial losses from the previous four years. Shawn and Hunter, meanwhile, would form the popular D-Generation X, which would only get more popular under Hunter's leadership (and would also eventually include the Kid) and Shawn would famously lose the WWF Championship to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, helping kick off the Attitude Era, possibly the most lucrative and popular period in wrestling history.
- The Teetotaler: According to all reports, Hunter only drinks at weddings.
- Post-conversion to Christianity, Shawn never drinks.
- True Companions: One of wrestling's best examples. Shawn, Hunter, Kevin, Scott, and Kid have been friends for almost eighteen years.
- Vitriolic Best Buds
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx
- We Can Rule Together: According to Bret Hart, Michaels approached him about joining the Kliq a few years before the screwjob.