Dick Bourne has done it again with his latest book on pro wrestling’s greatest stable.
Bourne, who runs the popular Mid-Atlantic Gateway site with David Chappell, has put together an authoritative volume on the history of The Four Horsemen. The 152-page book traces the origin of the group, its various incarnations and how every member became a part of the fabled faction.
Known as much for their flamboyant lifestyles outside the ring as they were for their wrestling skill, the Horsemen were unique in that members of the group could back up their boastful interviews with their mastery inside the squared circle.
Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Ole Anderson comprised the original version of the Horsemen that came together in 1985. The mercurial James J. Dillon completed the package as their mastermind manager. At that time, there were few better talkers in the business, much less versatile workers in the ring. And when Barry Windham turned on Lex Luger in 1988 and joined the Horsemen, the group became even more of a force to be reckoned with.
With the flashy and charismatic Flair as the leader of the legendary stable, the cocky, ruthless group blazed a trail that fans still talk about today. It was the very foundation upon which every other great faction that followed was built.
That drive to be the best extended beyond the confines of the wrestling ring. They lived the gimmick 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Being a Horseman isn't something you put on in the morning and take off at night,” Arn Anderson once said of the group. “It’s a state of mind. It’s excelling to the best of your ability. It’s four individuals thinking singularly, acting collectively.”
All good things must come to an end, though, and so it was with The Four Horsemen. It was lightning in a bottle, a magical time during the peak of the Jim Crockett era, but also a certain chemistry and camaraderie that could never quite be recreated.
“It’s like anything else in wrestling,” laments Bourne. “When something works, the promoter will try to squeeze every bit of life he can out of it. The Horsemen were such a big deal for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s, and had finally run their course as the members had gone their separate ways. But WCW kept trying to put them back together again, and when they couldn’t do it with all the original guys, they would just keep throwing new guys in there, and the chemistry was just never going to be the same.”
Still, the Horsemen persevered over the years, with Flair and Anderson keeping the faction alive.
“You can’t recreate the originals in anything, and they never really came close with the Horsemen after the Crockett years,” says Bourne. “But like the Phoenix, they kept rising from the ashes. And as long as Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were a part of it, it always at least had a chance of working again for a short period of time. They had their moments, but by and large, it just never was close to being the same.”
The earlier versions of the group, notes Bourne, were more effective because of their unity.
“What made the early versions work was the camaraderie, and even as heels, you sensed that they were there for each other. It was the all for one and one for all type thing. In the 1990s, there was more dysfunction than unity, especially in the Monday Nitro era where they just constantly bickered and seemingly never could pull it together. That was a frustrating time as a fan having watched the glory years, and then seeing them in such an ongoing state of dysfunction.”
Bourne, who has written several other Mid-Atlantic books including “Big Gold” and “Ten Pounds of Gold,” was a natural to pen a history of The Four Horsemen.
“The Four Horsemen clicked with me from the beginning because I was such a fan of Ole Anderson and Ric Flair going back to the mid-1970s,” says Bourne. “They were cousins in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling mythology, and so it was a family thing, and with Arn Anderson coming into the fold in the mid-1980s when the Horsemen came together, I just loved that family aspect of it. It reminded me of the wrestling I loved as a young teenager.”
The book covers the gamut of Horsemen history, from the glory days of Jim Crockett Promotions to the early WCW period to the Monday Nitro era. Included are every break-up and every reformation, all the championships, all the triumphs and all the betrayals. Categorized month-by-month, year-by-year, with clear timeline confirmations of key dates and events, the book is the ultimate reference guide to wrestling’s most infamous group.
Bourne, however, points out that the volume is more of a historical record of The Four Horsemen than any sort of behind-the-scenes tell-all.
“Someone else needs to write that,” he says. “I just wanted to put together a complete record of each version of the Horsemen over their 13 years of existence as a faction, and take a look at every wrestler and every support person, manager, valet that was part of the group. It is a linear timeline, month by month, year by year. I also provide context, a sense of what else was going on around them at the time. There is also a lot of misinformation on the internet about who was or wasn’t technically a Horsemen at various times, and I try to clear that up as well.”
Bourne does a masterful job in doing just that, and for his efforts earns a Horsemen four-finger symbol of excellence.
The softcover book contains more than 40 photographs, some rare, a few never published before. It will be available June 5 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway site (midatlanticgateway.com) and at Amazon.com. It also can be ordered early through a promotion on the “What Happened When” podcast with Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson on May 22. Retail price is $14.95.
Old School show
Former WWE stars David Hart Smith and Gangrel will headline an Old School Championship Wrestling show Sunday at the Hanahan Rec Center.
Smith, son of the late Davey Boy Smith (The British Bulldog), will lock horns with the returning Vordell Walker.
Lady grapplers also will be featured as Stomie Lee takes on Samantha Starr.
The lineup also includes former WCW star Lodi, The Beautiful Bald Besties, Team Fearless, Scotty Matthews, The Washington Bullets, Brandon Paradise, Brady Pierce, E.N.D., Logan Creed, Drew Adler, Dustin Bozworth, Francisco Ciatso, JR Reynolds, Reginald Vanderhoff, Ms. Harden, Bob Keller and more.
Action gets under way at 5 p.m.
Adult admission is $10 (cash only at the door); kids under 12 $5.
For more information, visit www.oscwonline.com or call 843-743-4800.