Interview: Wrestling Historian Dick Bourne Discusses the Legacy of Wrestling's Four Horsemen and His New Book: Four Horsemen: A Timeline.
Dick Bourne, along with David Chappell are the curators of the highly-acclaimed Mid-Atlantic Gateway, a website celebrating Jim Crockett Promotions and the legacy of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Recently, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Bourne via email about an exciting new book on the Four Horsemen.
Part One of Two
Originally Presented at Canadian Bulldog's World
Mr. Bourne, good to be speaking with you again. Last time around, you generously shared your knowledge of tag team wrestling, particularly in Jim Crockett Promotions. Today, I'd like to pick your brain about arguably the greatest faction in wrestling; The Four Horsemen, and talk about your new book covering the Horsemen.
1. Wrestling has had some excellent factions involving groups of wrestlers whether it's Jimmy Hart's "First Family," "The Dangerous Alliance," Gene Anderson's Army, or the Bobby Heenan Family. What do you think makes for a good faction?
Hard to put your finger on it, but I think it's the chemistry and camaraderie of the group that translates to the fans. And obviously how they are booked is the key to the whole thing. It also helps if you just let the guys be themselves, but that isn't allowed anymore, at least in the WWE.
2. What is the importance of having a strong leader, be it a manager or wrestler in a faction?
Well, there is a difference in my opinion in a stable and in a faction. A manager has a stable of wrestlers - - Anderson's Army or the Heenan Family are examples. I don't consider those factions. A faction can exist without the manager, and is more of a group of allied wrestlers. But some of the best factions have had managers, like the Dangerous Alliance and of course the Horsemen. And in both of those cases, the managers were a key and integral part of that faction's identity.
3. Are championships necessary for a faction to be perceived as strong?
No, but it sure doesn't hurt. You think back to the third version of the Horsemen, the version with Barry Windham that was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame - - they held the top three championships. Flair was NWA World champion, Tully and Arn were world tag team champions, and Barry was the United States champion. They were dominating wrestling at the time, and you could argue they were four of the best in the business then. Titles and championships help build the legacy and historical perspective of a faction. Today titles aren't that important, or at least they aren't booked to be all that important.
4. What are the elements that make for an effective faction?
Charisma, chemistry, camaraderie, and of course strong on the mic and strong in the ring.
5. What are the elements that make for a faction ineffective?
The opposite. And the Horsemen had that baggage in the Monday Nitro era, no camaraderie, no common sense of purpose or objective. Almost everything that made the Horsemen special in the 1980s was missing in the mid-to-late 1990s. There were super talented guys, but nothing clicked, mostly because of how they were booked.
6. We talked about the Minnesota Wrecking Crew in our last interview. Would you consider them a faction?
No, not at all. They were brothers (and later a cousin) that formed various tag team combinations within that family. They were a force to be sure, and had longevity, but they weren't a faction in the sense of the Horsemen, or DX, or the NWO, etc.
7. We're going to get to the Four Horsemen soon, but excluding the Horsemen, what factions would you rank as outstanding?
I only put two others in the Horsemen's league - The Dangerous Alliance and Evolution. Serious about their business and serious about their championships.
8. Mr. Bourne, not too long ago, we discussed your book, Minnesota Wrecking Crew: A Brief History of the Anderson Family in Wrestling. I understand you have a new book coming out which focuses on the legendary faction, The Four Horsemen.
Yes, "Four Horsemen" which is a timeline history of the Horsemen over their 13 years of existence, all 12 versions, all four reformations, over three different and distinct eras.
9. A book covering the Four Horsemen seems like a natural follow-up to your book on the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. In fact, your book Minnesota Wrecking Crew: A Brief History of the Anderson Family in Wrestling includes the Horsemen in its timeline. What led to you writing this new book?
I only write about things that were significant to me as a fan, like the books on the belts I've written. There was never a group more significant to me, no group that I enjoyed watching more than the Four Horsemen. And there was so much to them over the years, so many people that played a role, so many times it fell apart and then went through a reformation. I wanted to capture all of that history in sort of a reference book if you will, a historical timeline. There is lots of supporting information as well.
10. Is your Horsemen book also formatted as a timeline?
Three chapters of it are, one chapter for each of the three major eras of the Horsemen. But there is much more included there about how they came together and how they fell apart at the end. There are lots of sidebars about some folks who fans often don't really consider members of the horsemen, but who definitely were, and some info on guys that were occasionally thought to be part of the group that were not. I define each separate incarnation of the Horsemen.
11. Your books are known for their meticulous research. What was it like researching this book? Did it bring back any particular memories?
Well, first, thank you for that recognition. I had some help from my good friend Brian Rogers who is amazing in his recall about stuff like that. He steered me through a lot of the meat of the research, especially the later stuff. The research for the early years, the Crockett era and the early WCW years, was a lot of fun and brought back great memories. A lot of the Crockett era is burned into my memory anyway. The later years, the Monday Nitro era, was painful to relive and wasn't nearly as much fun to research.
12. What are some of your favorite memories involving the Four Horsemen?
Gosh, so many, there are more than I can count. Everything from jumping Dusty Rhodes in the cage in Atlanta in 1985 to the final emotional reformation in Greenville, SC, in 1998 when Ric Flair made his return to the company, and so many memories in between. The majority of the great memories were from the Crockett years. My favorite Horsemen moment ever was when Ole Anderson made his surprise return in the spring of 1986 after five months out from an injury at the hands of Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors. His interview that night in Spartanburg, SC, is one of the great Horsemen interviews ever, and one of the greatest promos ever, period. I transcribed most of it in the book. It was also the first time all four of the originals had really been together as an active unit sense the Four Horsemen had taken hold with the fans organically. It was magic.
13. What are some angles or matches you'd care to forget?
Almost everything after 1992. The Paul Roma version in 1993 never had a chance to begin with, and the Horsemen in the Monday Nitro era from 1995 to 1999 became such a dysfunctional unit. There were some fun moments mixed in there, but by and large it was just painful to watch most of the time.
14. The Four Horsemen had some great babyface opponents to work against. How much of the Horsemen's success was due to the quality of their opponents?
There is no doubt that the Horsemen sort of came about because of their common desire to take out Dusty Rhodes and his crew beginning in 1985. Dusty was the perfect opponent for the Horsemen. And they had many amazing opponents during the Crockett era. But the magic of the Horsemen was really all about their chemistry and camaraderie in my opinion. I talk in the book about it really being a time when they caught lightening in a bottle, those early years.
15. Which of the Horsemen's opponents would you rank among their best foes?
Well, it's hard to argue against "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes as their number one opponent in the Crockett era. Sting for sure in the early WCW era, and they were their own worst enemy in the Monday Nitro era. There were lots of various opponents in those years, the NWO being the main one I guess.
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