In 2003, Evolution made its WWE debut. It was the greatest collection of talent we had ever seen assembled into one group. Ric Flair (The Past), Triple H (The Present), Batista and Randy Orton (The Future) would combine for a total of 49 total World Championship reigns throughout their careers.
But during that short-lived two-year span together, this group was the most dominant force in WWE. And in December that year, they all held the gold simultaneously: Triple H was World Champion, Orton was Intercontinental Champion with Flair and Batista as Tag Team Champions. It was a tremendous moment in history.
Factions have been a big staple in the fabric of wrestling. We remember the legacy created by The Four Horsemen. You recall the groups that followed such as the Nation of Domination, D-Generation X and the Hart Foundation. They featured established talents and rising stars, which made them dynamic with unique personalities. And of course, a group of four (or more) opened up a lot of possibilities for everyone involved.
It’s hard to see how WWE has failed with factions in recent years. They had some great trios but for the most part, but no four-person groups seemed to have any sustaining power. The Shield was a strong trio but having a fourth member would have made them so much more of a force. The collection of Rusev, Wade Barrett, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio for the League of Nations in 2015 was a sad six-month run that felt like an afterthought in story telling. We can look at The Wyatt Family and at one point in 2016, they had Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and Braun Strowman all together at once. It should have been a big moment for the group to dominate the scene but instead that group withered away.
There’s a different feel for a group when they have four members compared to three. A three-person group is very common in WWE and it has been used plenty of times. To the Divas Revolution trios to The New Day, WWE likes to push out three-member teams. But when was the last time we saw a dominant four-member group? Social Outcasts? The opportunity to really push a dominating group hasn’t been used in WWE recently.
But in NXT, things are different. The four-member group is an integral part of the brand’s storytelling. Looking back a couple years ago, we saw the rise of SAnitY as a new faction in WWE. They started as a trio but eventually moved to a four-team group with Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross. It was refreshing to see a faction in WWE, especially one that prominently featured a woman. The group won the NXT Tag Team titles and had a good run in NXT before being called up. The group never saw the same kind of opportunities on the main roster.
Right now, the NXT and NXT UK brand boast two of the most exciting factions in all of the company — with both groups holding spots in the main event scene. In NXT, the Undisputed Era (featuring Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) has a stronghold on the brand and are in pursuit of replicating Evolution’s glory and capturing all the gold. Over at NXT UK, Imperium just added their fourth member with Alexander Wolfe joining Marcel Barthel, Fabian Aichner and WALTER during a tremendous match against British Strong Style this week.
The expansion of these two factions from a trio to a four-man group all came as surprises as their fourth member (Strong for Undisputed Era, Wolfe for Imperium) debuted in shocking fashion. It’s a perfect way to shock the entire fan base. And in addition to that, what makes these two groups so strong right now is that their leaders (Cole and WALTER) are both champions of their respective brands.
NXT and NXT UK both have a style and feel that is completely different from that of WWE. With the product not being forced to come up with live programming content every week, there is a better structure in telling a story and producing great talents over time. More importantly, nothing feels rushed and the in-ring quality enhances the ability to tell the story. It’s a little old school but that’s what makes NXT and NXT UK the perfect place to restore the presence of factions. They understand their history but also have a clear vision of the future.
There’s a mystique and aura that comes from a four-man faction. The very idea of that group running the entire roster not only evokes memories of past factions, but also proposes that idea to a landscape that hasn’t embraced it in some time. What NXT and NXT UK is doing isn’t something new. What they’ve given us is a reminder of what we have missed.
For Imperium, they’ve now placed a challenge on British Strong Style’s plate. With Tyler Bate, Trent Seven and Pete Dunne looking to seek revenge on the faction, do they look to add one more to their group to even the odds? It would open up a tremendous opportunity to tell a story that could elevate all men in the story. And with NXT, the pursuit of all the gold by Undisputed Era provides numerous opportunities for other Superstars to share that spotlight — especially North American Champion Velveteen Dream and Tag Team Champions Street Profits.