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Too Sweet: From the Kliq to the Elite (1994-2019)

posted Aug 1, 2019, 6:56 PM by Wrestling Scout
Social cliques are not unusual in pro-wrestling.  Buddy Rogers had a group of friends like Billy Darnell, Johnny Barend, Ray Stevens and many others that were regularly connected with him as partners or opponents.  He was able to use his influence to manipulate promoters in way that is an often overlooked part of his legacy.

In the mid-1990s, the WWF was at one of their low points and a group of talent seized the opportunity to exercise their influence to dominate the company.  "The Clique," for better or worse, changed the game and were central both companies (WWF and WCW) during the Monday Night Wars.  Their reality transformed into angles that have impacted most pro-wrestling companies in modern times.  Curiously, one of the Clique's underlings, Paul Levesque, is now one of the major figures in the WWE while the up-and-coming rival AEW is a strange derivative of the Clique.

The Clique (or The Kliq) (1994-1996)Image result for The Kliq
When Kevin Nash was brought in the company to serve as Shawn Michaels' bodyguard an unlikely friendship was created.  They added other members to their crew and soon became real power brokers in the WWF.  While most of them left in 1996 (after the infamous "Curtain Call" at Madison Square Garden), their real life friendship continued to impact the pro-wrestling world for years.

Aldo Montoya (Justin Credible)

New World Order (nWo) (1996-1998)
Related imageScott Hall and Kevin Nash had been major players in the WWF and negotiated major money contracts with WCW.  They came in as part of an invasion angle, influenced by the New Japan/UWFi rivalry, and ushered in the hottest era of WCW's short history.  Their anti-WCW faction spun out of control eventually with a bloated roster and tired booking limited by creative control by the nWo's lead members.

nWo Sting
Miss Elizabeth
Buff Bagwell
Louie Spicolli
The Disciple
Nick Patrick

nWo Hollywood (1998-1999)
hollybish.jpgThe split in the nWo led to the formation of two factions.  Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff headed up the heel nWo Hollywood.  Many of the nWo underlings followed along with them.

nWo Sting
Buff Bagwell
Dennis Rodman
Miss Elizabeth
Stevie Ray
Horace Hogan

nWo Wolfpac (1998-1999)Image result for nWo Wolfpac
The nWo split led to the creation of a "red and black" group that took the name Wolfpac.  Originally, the Wolfpac was the original Kliq members within the nWo - Nash, Hall and Waltman.  However, that branding was turned into a Nash-led babyface faction in WCW.  It allowed long-time opposition to the nWo like Sting and Lex Luger an opportunity to join the group without turning heel.

Disco Inferno

nWo Elite (1999) 
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The "Finger Poke of Doom" on a 1999 Monday Nitro led to a reconciliation of the two nWo factions.  The top stars became members of the "Elite" and the rest were the "B-Team."  In time, the booking, the injuries and the changes in power led to the collapse of the group.
Buff Bagwell
Disco Inferno
David Flair
Miss Elizabeth

nWo Black & White (1999)
Those not included in the nWo Elite group continued to sport the Black & White. They were disparagingly called the "B-Team."  While they included some quality talent, they were simply not going to get out of their secondary status while members of the group.

Stevie Ray

nWo 2000 (1999-2000)
Image result for nWo 2000This sixth version of the nWo, the "Black & Silver," was not long lived, but included an impressive collection of talent.  Their five month run ended and members largely joined the New Blood or the Millionaire's Clubs.  This would be the last version of the nWo in WCW.

Jeff Jarrett
Kevin Nash
Scott Hall
Harris Brothers (Ron & Don)

nWo Japan (1996-2000)
Image result for nWo Black & White stevie ray
In 1996, Masahiro Chono dramatically altered his look and approach.  He went from a clean-cut babyface to a heel (using yakuza motifs) and spearheaded the nWo movement in New Japan.  WCW and New Japan's ties made this work nicely and it became one of the catalysts for a hugely successful period for New Japan.  The eventual power struggle between Chono and the Great Muta led to a split in the faction, not unlike splits that happened with group in the US.

Tatsutoshi Goto
Michiyoshi Ohara
Big Titan

Team 2000 (1999-2002)
Image result for Team 2000 chonoMasahiro Chono returned from an injury and the changes in the nWo Japan group led to a split.  Out of his battles with Keiji Muto, he formed a new heel faction - Team 2000.  The ideological successor to the nWo in Japan, this group included many of the same members and warred with the New Japan Army.  Eventually, these two sides aligned to battle the Makai Club for a time.  Chono went heel again though, creatingBlack New Japan, but his veteran status prevented him from being the hated villain he once was and he spent his remaining years as a babyface legend in black.

Super J (nWo Sting)
Hiro Saito
Tatsutoshi Goto
Michiyoshi Ohara
Giant Silva
Mike Barton
Jim Steele
Black Tiger III (Silver King)
GOKU-Do (Pat Tanaka)

DX (Degeneration-X) (1997-2000)Related image
Based off the success of the nWo, the rise of anti-hero stars and cool heels and the WWE's use of feuding stables, Shawn Michaels and Triple H joined forces and created DX.  The group allowed an injured Michaels to stay a top character and helped Triple H transition to a top heel and eventually take over the group.  The incarnation without Michaels was less innovative, but enjoyed a longer run.  After that initial breakup in 2000, Shawn Michaels and Triple H have had several "DX Reunion" runs in the WWE.  In 2006 and in 2009, they had a multi-month runs that played off nostalgia of the group's once edgy presentation.

New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn)

X-Factor (2001)
Related imageWith DX dead, Sean Waltman was given a chance to head up his own faction.  The group was essentially Triple H's buddies (minus William Regal), but it never took off.  They're best remembered for their theme song.

Justin Credible

New World Order in the WWF/WWE (2002)
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When the WWE bought WCW, they chose not to buy the top contracts.  Instead, top WCW stars like Goldberg, Scott Steiner and Ric Flair came in after the initial Invasion angle.  In 2002, the company was split with Vince McMahon sharing ownership with Ric Flair.  He brought in the nWo to poison the company.  Although propelled into top programs, this version of the nWo never quite clicked.  They tried and switched around players to little avail.

D-Generation MEX (2008-2009)
Image result for D-Generation MEX
When Konnan returned to AAA, he began bringing in a large number of foreign wrestlers.  The invading outsiders gimmick had always worked an Mexico and while they would take it to ridiculous levels in the coming years with La Legión Extranjera, this group worked well at first.

Alex Koslov
Rocky Romero

The Band (2010)Image result for the band tna
Not surprisingly, a version of the nWo was created when TNA was taken over by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff.  They did not own the rights to anything past their real names and none of them were the performers they had been fifteen years ago.  The faction did not last and probably few remember it even existed.

The Bullet Club (2013-current)
Image result for The Bullet Club devitt aj stylesNew Japan was on the rebound when they had a split between Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) and Ryusuke Taguchi bring about the formation of a new heel stable.  The Bullet Club was not a direct descendent of the Kliq, but they cleverly used images and gestures in a similar way.  The catchy name, the cool logo, the "Too Sweet" hand gesture were all part of helping the heel faction catch fire.  The all-gaijin stable had a series of leaders - Prince Devitt, AJ Styles, Kenny Omega and now Jay White.  The group began fracturing and creating new alliances not unlike the original WCW version.

Kenny Omega
Jay White
Karl Anderson
Doc Gallows
Bad Luck Fale
Tama Tonga
Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)
Yujiro Takahashi
Adam Cole
Hangman Page
Marty Scurll
El Terrible
Chase Owens
Taiji Ishimori
Cody Hall
Tanga Loa
El Phantasmo
Robbie Eagles
Frankie Kazarian
Bone Soldier

The Club / O.C. (2016-current)
Image result for aj styles club

Upon coming to the WWE, AJ Styles reunited with his former Bullet Club buddies Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.  Simply called "The Club," the threesome helped establish Styles as a top star in the WWE.  Then Gallows and Anderson slipped away into obscurity.  The company has used "Balor Club" to identify the fans of Finn Balor (Prince Devitt) and they have alluded to the past, but are yet to go all the way with it.  Styles was drafted to Raw and turned heel and rejoined his Club partners in what they are calling "The O.C." (Original Club)
Gallows & Anderson

The Elite (2016-current)Related image
Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks formed a sub-faction within the Bullet Club, not unlike the Wolfpac (Nash, Hall and Waltman) called
"The Elite."  The trio were gearing up to leave New Japan and do their own thing, so emphasizing on their own branded faction was logical.  They are now a crucial backbone of the AEW promotion.  

Kenny Omega
Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)
Hangman Page
Marty Scurll