For all its faults, for those in that shouldn’t be and those not that should, the WWE Hall of Fame has provided some exceptional moments over the years. A catch hits my throat every time I hear the clip of a voice-ravaged Bobby Heenan wishing Monsoon had been there for his HOF induction.  I got that old twinge of nostalgia when Flair and Steamboat hugged, then locked up like they were about to put on another 60 minute classic at Steamboat’s induction.  When it came time to put in wrestling’s most famous and infamous stable, The Four Horsemen, the WWE got it right again, having the group’s original rival, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, induct the Horsemen.

    On top of being one of the top faces of the 80s, Dusty Rhodes was one of the best, if not the best, booker of his day.  Like the Freebirds and von Erich rivalry of the 80s, the Rhodes versus Horsemen feud lasted years, held together with continuity and brutality. 

    The Four Horsemen in fact, were born as a group to rival Dusty. Ric Flair and Dusty (along with Harley Race) traded the NWA belt back and forth in the early 80s.  Flair was in the middle of a face turn in a fairly complicated angle that led to the Horsemen. In 1985, Flair, then face, beat then heel Nikita Koloff, part of the stable known (creatively) as “the Russians.” After beating Koloff, Flair was attacked by the rest of the Russians. Dusty came in to save Flair. However, Flair was irate with the assist from Rhodes, saying Rhodes didn’t need to be in his business. Flair’s kayfabe cousins, the Andersons (Arn and Ole) came in to help Flair pummel Dusty and injure his ankle. Good friend Tully Blanchard and manager JJ Dillon joined the stable in the coming weeks and the original Horsemen line-up was solidified.

    The Horsemen continued to taunt and attack Rhodes, “injuring” his leg at the Omni in Atlanta that Fall. It was after this attack that Arn got on the mic and noted that so much carnage from such a small group of men hadn’t been rained down since the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse came.  The name stuck.

    Remember the NWO violence that revolutionized the mid-90s in pro-wrestling? When wrestlers jumped other wrestlers in parking lots and locker rooms with baseball bats? Then Sting grabbed his own baseball bat to dish it back? It was all Horsemen-Rhodes rivalry rip off. 

    In a television angle, the Horsemen followed Dusty to a parking lot while JJ Dillon filmed on a home video camera. The Horsemen beat Dusty down with a baseball bat. It was brutal stuff, made grittier by the home video effect, especially brutal for the mid-eighties, and has been copied over and over again with the NWO and other faction warfare within wrestling. When Rhodes got revenge, he did so wildly wielding a baseball bat.

    It was ahead of the ’85 Starrcade that year that Rhodes cut his legendary Hard Times promo (see my previous TWM article on the legacy of the Rhodes), the most famous promo perhaps in wrestling history.  By the ’86 Starrcade, Rhodes was feuding with Tully over the TV title in bloody, bloody matchups. The War Games match-up was devised by Dusty in 1987 to give a grand culmination to the now years long rivalry. In that match-up, Dusty enlisted the Road Warriors (another group he rightly inducted into the WWE HOF in 2011) and their manager, Paul Ellering, to take on the Horsemen and Dillon. Along with Magnum T.A. and Nikita Koloff (who turned face in the meantime), the Road Warriors would be Rhodes’ most consistent ally in this time. 

    Consistency was key. This was a rivalry that lasted years yet kept its continuity. Unlike WWE now, where two years ago is hardly ever mentioned, and storylines crop up and disappear in a matter of weeks, the Rhodes-Horsemen rivalry lasted throughout the mid to late 80s without getting stale, referencing previous battles and injuries throughout. This, to me, is when wrestling is at its greatest, when it says that what you watched and saw previously matters, when it doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence by asking it to forget obvious plot lines in favor of the most recent ones.