THE HORSEMEN: AMERICAN MALE HEEL TURNERS
Why the hell am I so fascinated by the Four Horsemen?
Am I the only one who asks myself that question?
They won't be back. I know. Tully's old and a preacher, right? Arn is old and supposedly giving input backstage here and there. Olie is old and... well, I dunno where. And The Man is thankfully back in the spotlight - although the spotlight is having a little bit of trouble following him around the way he bounces off the ropes like that. And he's old.
Am I just one of those crotchety fans, having an untimely mid-life crisis? "In my day they wrestled 20-minute matches, had beer-bellies, took 'roids, and we LIKED it!"
Nah. It's safe to say that none of us are crazy enough to want the Horsemen to exist with the same cast of characters - unless they're coming to the ring to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Field of Bad-Ass Stables. I can see Jimmy Hart now. "Unfortunately the Horsemen could not be here tonight. They're in New Zealand filming an ass-whipping for a Stacker 2 commercial. Here to accept in their place is the Dungeon of Doom!"
We just miss their qualities. We want their swagger. We want their ability. We want their charisma and their viciousness. The fact that we want them to be called Horsemen, with The Man "whoo-ing" and slipping around in his loafers at the front of the pack - yeah, begrudge us some nostalgia. But still, more than the men, we want the opportunity to enjoy those qualities they made famous.
To this day it amazes me that the performance this group of men put forth week in and week out has become such a standard for heelishness and story-telling. Triple H was the biggest heel in the business at the time of his injury. And he got over that way with little tributes to Arn Anderson and Ric Flair (right down to his own version of the Flair Flop) in his character. The group beatdown happens all the time in wrestling today. But we all know the bad guys are getting serious when the chair gets wrapped around somebody's ankle. Chills, right? And when you see Kurt Angle give a bad interview, and you re-do it in your head with what he should have said or done - it's Arn, right? When Maven taped his promo on Tough Enough, HE was doing Arn.
The Horsemen may not have invented all the heelish things that they did. But they put them all together with perfect execution. They had a string of "Putting It All Together" seasons that has been repeated only once since then (Sammy Sosa, 1998-2001). So as wrestling fans, we constantly look back to the Horsemen because the (please forgive me) "total package" of heelishness they represented doesn't come along often. Despite numerous and ill-advised - I repeat "ILL-ADVISED" - attempts. The NWO couldn't do it. With a "quality story-telling shelf life" of about six weeks, the NWO was the Sir Mixalot to the Horsemen's L.L. Cool J. Okay, for argument's sake, let's just pretend the song he did for "Deep Blue Sea" didn't exist (I neither now nor will I ever understand how his hat is like a shark's fin).
It's difficult to judge what the future of DX (version 1) may have been had Shawn Michael's back held up. But it's longevity that makes legends, and as fun as the ride was for six months, they'll be playing tapes of DX: Episode 1 in the "Fun While It Lasted" Room right next to a picture of Seattle Mariner Bret Boone.
So do the Horsemen hold such a revered place in our memories because we legitimately hated them? Hmmm. Yeah, but there's gotta be more. As a New York sports fan, I hate the Chicago Bulls, Bob Brenly, and everything Boston (and yes, this hate is "More Than a Feeling"! Err, sorry). In 20 years, will I be saying, "Man, I wish someone would bring back the 1990 Red Sox"? Probably not. (I WOULD, however, like someone to someday bring back the 2001 Red Sox. As soon as next year if possible. Has that city seen more social dysfunction under one roof since Syrus pissed off the "house" by bringing hoochies around on the Real World: Boston? On an unrelated note, Syrus has got to be the closest example of "doing a face turn" in real life. A total posing, preening jack-off in Real World: Boston, he was the MVP of his team on Real World/Road Rules Challenge. And I really need to get out more).
There are two factors that helped the Horsemen remain indelible in our memories. I could list a gillion of them. They had presence, they commanded attention, they were heels who could actually go, they got super-dramatic heat by crippling people, they had style. Sure, but I'm talking to a smart audience, so why not throw an original idea out there.
When each of us start pulling out our Horseman memories - I caught on a little late, so for me it was the infamous turn on Sting - you'll find that most of those mental clips come from that age. You know what age I'm talking about. When we actually start to understand what going on in those videotapes we found under our dad's side of the bed. When just the outline of a bra-strap through a cotton shirt could hypnotize us for a 45 minute school period. When we almost burned a hole in the videotape of Grease by rewinding Danny's dance scene with Cha Cha. When seeing girls' underwear was the goal and not the prelude. When we realized why we've always like Shirley better than Laverne. When we got really excited by that episode of Buck Rogers where the telekinetic midgets took Erin Grey's clothes off... man, I was a nerd.
Anyway, there's no scientific proof to back this up, but I'm still willing to assert this one non-empirical fact: Pubescent Boys Suddenly Start Liking the Bad Guys. There really isn't a debate that it happens - we've all experienced it (For any ladies reading this, just ask your honey-bunny). As for proving when it happens, think back to that afternoon in the schoolyard lo those many years ago. For years in those little games, you'd held down the role of prototypical hero Luke Skywalker - you clean-cut lil bastard. Then one day, your friend just had to be Luke. So you get stuck with Han Solo. STUCK with Han? It sounds ludicrous in retrospect, right? That first step in your little game, you could feel the swagger, couldn't you? You could say whatever the hell you wanted. You could be brash. You could piss off the Princess. Dammit, you could be BAD. And it felt... good.
Without the proper guidance, this newfound freedom can go very wrong. Remember when Bobby Brady had a fascination with Billy the Kid - that is until he had a bad dream where Billy wasted the whole Brady Clan by pointing a gun at them and saying "bang." Did that scene freak you guys out, too? It was like the episode of Gilligan's Island where the Generalissimo wanted to make Gilligan his puppet ruler. Thanks for the frickin' nightmares, Sherwood Shwartz!
Most of the times, however, us little guys follow a very neat progression from precocious Han Solos the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling sociopaths. God bless America! And in honor of the Pop Culture bad guys who have raised my generation of American Men, I dedicate the following list. They inspired each and every one of our heel turns.
The Legion of Doom
Stone Cold Steve Austin
And of course... The Four Horsemen
And some great things can't be recreated.