Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Best of the Gateway: Horsemen Origins

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

This story was originally published on Nov. 8, 2015. 

The fall of 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the origin of the Four Horsemen in wrestling. There is much discussion on exactly when the group got its name, but there is no longer any doubt of how it happened. Arn Anderson coined the phrase in the late fall of 1985 during one of the local promo tapings and it just sort of stuck. He said at that time something along on the lines of this:

"Not since the four horsemen of the apocalypse have so few wreaked so much havoc on so many." - Arn Anderson, Fall of 1985

Over the years, it has been speculated that Arn made that "Four Horsemen" reference on a regular televised interview segment, either on one of the two Crockett syndicated programs (Mid-Atlantic or World Wide Wrestling) or on World Championship Wrestling on WTBS. But no video of that has ever surfaced, either from anyone's private videotape collection or from the Crockett videotape library which is now owned by the WWE.


I have always thought it had to have happened in a local promo, one of the hundreds that were taped at the Briarbend Drive make-shift studio during each week and then inserted into one of the shows for the local markets. It was perhaps repeated in several promos in various forms before someone realized they were on to something.

Arn Anderson confirmed that in a recent conversation I had with him this past summer, and added further credit to an individual who had not been tied to the origin before that - Tony Schiavone.

"Yes, it was on a local promo," Arn told me (as outlined in my earlier article "Andersons Don't Wear Fedoras"). "And in fact, I just said it off the cuff, not really intending to be coming up with a name for us or anything like that. It was Tony Schiavone who actually validated the whole thing. He looked at me after the promo was over and said, 'I think you just named yourself.' And that led to us starting to refer to ourselves as the Four Horsemen."



The question still remains, however, as to exactly when that happened. There is no doubt that the idea of the four wrestlers by that name gelled in November of 1985. As best as I have been able to determine, Arn first classified them as the Four Horsemen on regular TV (as opposed to local promos) on the November 9, 1985 Saturday night episode of World Championship Wrestling. As United States heavyweight champion Tully Blanchard waited in the ring with Baby Doll for his scheduled TV match, Arn was doing an interview at the podium with Tony Schiavone and said:

"What you've got right here in the ring, you've got a champion. You've got Tully Blanchard. You've got Ole Anderson. You've got myself, and last but by no means least, you've got Ric Flair, the world's heavyweight champion. You're talking about the four horsemen of professional wrestling - - the people that make things happen." - Arn Anderson 11/09/85 WTBS

But the idea had been incubating in Arn's mind much earlier than that and actually goes back to the middle of October. During this time, Tully Blanchard started to become aligned with the family of Ric Flair and his cousins Ole and Arn Anderson. Flair and the Andersons had just injured Dusty Rhodes in the cage in the Omni in that huge angle that led to the main event at Starrcade '85. There was no angle that brought Tully into that story, I think it just made sense that the top heels were all hanging together.

On the October 12, 1985 episode of World Championship Wrestling, after review of all the Omni footage, Arn says:

“As you know, Tony Schiavone, David Crockett - - I run with the world heavyweight champion Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, and Ole Anderson. That’s an elite group in all the world.” - Arn Anderson 10/12/85 WTBS

Arn hadn't come up with the Horsemen name here yet, but the idea of the four of them as an elite group was clearly being conceptualized right there.


The whole marriage of Blanchard with Flair and the Andersons happened relatively quickly. But it hadn't looked that cozy to begin with. Just one month earlier than that 10/12 interview above, Blanchard and Flair would take shots at each other in interviews over silly things like their watches.

On the September 21, 1985 edition of World Championship Wrestling, Tully shows off a gold and diamond watch that Baby Doll had given him. Flair came out later and said:

"First of all we'll start the day off by telling you -- wooo! -- it is Rolex time, Tully Blanchard! So don't be bringing out one of those Mickey Mouse watches and trying to impress the world. You might be the U.S. heavyweight champion, Tully Blanchard, but you are still carrying around a silver belt -- wooo! - instead of the gold!" - Ric Flair 9/21/85 WTBS

This was during Flair's time as a "tweener" when he was feuding with Magnum T.A. and Dusty Rhodes on the babyface side and Buddy Landel and Nikita Koloff on the heel side - - all at the same time! Plus he was still a touring NWA world champion and would often times mention wrestlers in other territories such as Bob Armstrong in Southeastern Wrestling, Wahoo McDaniel in Florida, Harley Race in Kansas City, Kerry Von Erich in Texas, and others. He was was giving these great interviews every week where he would crack on the babyfaces and the heels all in the same promo!

Throughout that time, though, he was always aligned with his family, his cousins Ole and Arn Anderson. And less than one month later, Blanchard was aligned with them as well, as reflected by Arn's 10/12 interview above.


Another thing forgotten in all of this history is that James J. Dillon was not part of this original unofficial grouping of the Four Horsemen. In fact, one could argue Baby Doll, by her association with Tully as his "Perfect 10" at the time) was part of the original group before Dillon.

The Four Horsemen book goes on sale June 5, 2017
on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and Amazon.com.
J.J. Dillon was managing "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel during this time, and was involved in leading him in his chase of the National heavyweight championship that fall that culminated at Starrcade '85. He wasn't involved in any storyline with Blanchard or the Andersons, and only a peripheral story with Ric Flair. Landel and Flair had several "Battle of the Nature Boys" matches before Flair turned hardcore heel in the cage angle with Dusty. It wasn't until Landel was fired in mid-December that J.J. was put with Tully in a big angle at the Greensboro TV tapings right before the Crockett Promotions Christmas break. It was when those tapings aired right after the New Year holiday (the weekend of 1/4/86) that J.J. began to be associated with those who by then were loosely known as the Four Horsemen.

And even that wasn't in a managerial sense yet. J.J. had become the "executive director" of Tully Blanchard enterprises and was really just Tully's manager early on. He morphed into manager of the whole group through the late winter and spring of 1986.  By the time Ole Anderson had returned to action following a worked injury in June of 1986, Dillon was the official manager of the Four Horsemen.


In my book "Minnesota Wrecking Crew", a timeline history of the Anderson family in wrestling, I reference the the earliest mention of the "Four Horsemen" name by Arn as taking place in October. I firmly believe that earliest reference was during the promo tapings in one of the last two weeks of that month. In those days, I kept notes about the TV shows in a day planner. In the notes for the 10/26/85 World Wide Wrestling show I have written "the four horses" in quotes. This wound up being a loose reference by Arn to what would become "four horsemen" very soon in Arn's interviews. It is why I peg the month as October for the first mention of the name Four Horsemen, although none of us have ever found it yet.