In 1985, NWA World Champion Ric Flair joined three of his cohorts to make a huge splash in professional wrestling. The formation of The Four Horsemen may have seemed small at first, but it changed the way factions would be portrayed forever.
Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, and Arn and Ole Anderson came together in the original incarnation of the unit. Even though the lineup would change over the years, the motto always rang true: "Diamonds are forever... And so are the Horsemen."
At the time, Jim Crockett Promotions was a stronghold of the National Wrestling Alliance. With stars like Dusty Rhodes and the aforementioned Horsemen leading the way, they were broadcast nationally on WTBS. During this time, it was the clear-cut number two promotion behind WWE.
With the power of that media juggernaut behind them, the Four Horsemen became a symbol of excellence and so much more. Here are five ways that The Four Horsemen changed professional wrestling forever.
#5 - Styling and profiling
While there had been groups of wrestlers assembled in the past, one thing that Ric Flair and Horsemen were known for was their sense of style. That started with The Nature Boy, who insisted that they look and act the part of wrestling royalty. That's how the whole package came together.
From Rolexes to Ray-Bans, the faction never stepped out on the town or in front of a mic without looking "as only they could look". It was an impressive sight, seeing four titans of the industry dressed to the nines.
The group's fashion-forward trend influenced fans to come to shows dressed like the Horsemen in homage to the group's cool exterior.
#4 - The dirty business of replacing former faction members
Many of the concepts on this list aren't new; they were just perfected by Ric Flair and his boys. Kicking members out of a wrestling faction had happened before, but when the Horsemen jumped someone in or out of their gang, it was done in innovative and often violent fashion.
Perhaps the most memorable example of this is the infamous betrayal of Lex Luger by Barry Windham in 1988. In an incredible swerve, Windham turned on the Total Package in the middle of their NWA World Tag Team title match against Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. The Big Texan left Luger behind for the Horsemen to pick his bones and reclaim the titles.
It wasn't the fact that the group brought in or took out members; that was, as mentioned, nothing new. It was the way they did it, with precision and brutality. That's why Horsemen betrayals still rank up there with some of the greatest surprises in history.
#3 - A 'Symbol of Excellence'
The everlasting image of the group is them huddled around manager JJ Dillon, all flashing four fingers in the air.
To this day, members of the group say that fans still stop them in public and just hold up their digits as a salute. For fans of the faction, it's the ultimate show of respect.
This was later copied by the nWo, whose '2 Sweet' hand gesture was reminiscent of the same type of fraternal acceptance. Since then, factions all over professional wrestling have developed elaborate handshakes or gang-style symbols for their groups.
#2 - Holding all the titles
This had been done across several territories in the past, but one group had never held so many high-profile championships at once.
At one time in 1988, Ric Flair was the World Champion, Barry Windham held the United States title, and Blanchard and Anderson were the World Tag Team Champions.
Four members, four champions. Much like the Beatles, they were ruling every spot at the top of the charts.
Groups like Evolution (ironically also involving Ric Flair) copied this concept later, as did the New World Order to some extent in WCW. But the iconic image of all four men with gold over their shoulders is still burned into our memories to this day.
#1 - Protecting Ric Flair and the NWA World Championship at all costs
Once again, it's not a new concept, but it was the manner in which it was executed. Blanchard and Anderson found new and creative ways to save Flair's hide anytime it looked like he was about to lose The Ten Pounds of Gold.
Those nefarious actions and the level of frustration they raised with the fans helped take the group to meteoric heights of heeldom. Just when you thought your favorite was going to finally give Space Mountain his just due and take the title, something always went south.
What set Ric Flair and his group apart was that they basically played this same act for years, and fans still clamored to see more. They had a feeling that if they just bought one more ticket, it would be the night they got to see Ric Flair lose the World Championship.
More times than not, however, the Four Horsemen would escape town with a victory, riding off into the sunset and laughing at what they had just gotten away with.
In 2012, the group received a much-deserved WWE Hall of Fame induction. It made Flair the first two-time honoree, as he had previously entered as a singles performer.