Michaels, Hall, Nash, Waltman, and Levesque. These are five men who made up the now infamous backstage group called The Kliq. They came together and ultimately dominated the WWF locker room. According to many within the business, they did so with back-stabbing and politicking. In this edition of Pro Wrestling Stories, we delve into who The Kliq were and their checkered past.
Bret Hart on The Kliq:
“They were literally a cancer in the dressing room, all of them. I don’t doubt that Shawn Michaels is sorry for a lot of that kind of behavior. Kevin Nash was a great wrestler and a good guy, but I don’t think he could be that proud of that association. It was a cancerous environment in the dressing room with those guys and they certainly did more negative than positive to the business.
Scott Hall, all you have to do is just look at him. He is a train-wreck with his own life and he was a malcontent or a guy that when you were close to him long enough you start to feel the same way he did; you just felt so self-destructive and unhappy with your life and your job and everything. He was a guy that was infectious with his bad, bad sort of moods and unhappiness in his own life that would spread to all the other wrestlers. And you know, I’m glad I’m not remembered for that kind of stuff. I’m remembered – I think if you talk to different wrestlers from that era, the Savio Vegas and those kinds of wrestlers that were on my cards – they’re all pretty proud of how I conducted myself, how I related to them and how I may have been the top guy but I didn’t act like a superstar; not to my friends and not to my peers.”
PAUL ‘TRIPLE H’ LEVESQUE COO of The Kliq
We’ll begin with Triple H. The Kliq didn’t truly become complete until the man formerly known as Jean-Paul Levesque came over from World Championship Wrestling.
The first impression of the future Kliq COO, according to X-Pac:
“Obviously, we didn’t predict exactly what would [happen], but immediately it was like, ‘Let’s gobble him up.’
He was riding with Killer Kowalski every night, who was his teacher. He was trying to be cool to Walter [Kowalski]. We were like, ‘You gotta drop Walter. You’re coming with us.’ We needed a designated driver anyway.”
From there, X-Pac continued, explaining the qualities that The Kliq saw in Triple H:
“Level-headed focused. His determination, drive. His learning curve, his aptitude. When he first got there, he was still the student, but the way he soaked up all the knowledge and got better, it was really light years ahead of how most people do it.”
With that, The Kliq became complete. This began the period of time where they wielded the most backstage power. Triple H’s in-ring debut for WWF was on April 30th, 1995, for an episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge. By that point, all the big stars from yesteryear were over in WCW.
The WWF was lead by ‘The New Generation,’ and at the head of that, there was Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Unfortunately for Bret (and the rest of the locker room), Diesel (Kevin Nash), Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), and 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman) were not too far behind. There is always strength in numbers, and in 1995, The Kliq made up for four of the top roster spots, along with Triple H, who was a very promising under/mid-carder.
The four members with influence did what they wanted, when they wanted, as you’ll see from the following stories.
THE KLIQ AND CHRIS CANDIDO
This one has already been covered here on Pro Wrestling Stories. The story is heartbreaking. Chris loved Sunny, but by pretty much all accounts, Sunny was a trainwreck.
SUNNY (Tammy Sytch):
“In WWE I was called the ‘Kliq chick’ -and not just because I got along with the Kliq, but because I was sleeping with one of them…” (laughs)
“The thing with Shawn [Michaels] is, he was 24 hours a day the ‘Heartbreak Kid’ – he wasn’t just a guy who played a character, he really did think it.
At first, it didn’t bother me.
It’s common sense that shit’s going to be said. You couldn’t get around it. Because she was the only girl and Shawn was the top guy…”
BAM BAM BIGELOW:
“Supposedly Shawn was, you know, hitting on Tammy…and Chris was just so much in love with this woman, it was driving him crazy.
We actually found…I won’t say a ‘suicide’ note, but you know, we found a note in Chris’ bag that was pretty heavy…and you know, Chris was depressed, man. And the depression was because of the Kliq – and they were loving it, they were thriving on it. They were like, ‘Ok, let’s see if we can make this kid kill himself’, you know? it was just terrible.
I thought Chris was very vulnerable, man. I thought he was going to hurt himself, or hurt – KILL – one of those assholes.
I tried to stop it…”
“I don’t remember being hard on him…probably because his girlfriend was sleeping with everyone in the territory and he was acting like he didn’t know what was going on…walking around like a dumb stooge…”
Click on the title above to read more of the sad story that is Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch’s relationship. There is enough there to begin to illustrate The Kliq’s impact. Here’s one more quote I’ll pull from that piece:
DENNIS KNIGHT (Phineas Godwinn):
“She did a lot of lying. She could be a very evil person.
I came up with [Candido] and you know, I love the guy. I was with him less than 24 hours before he died. And that fucking Sunny…you know, Shawn and those guys would have people watch [for Chris] in the locker room while they were banging her…”
BRYAN CLARK’S FIERY TAKE ON THE KLIQ
Bryan Clark has never been one to shy away from his hatred of The Kliq. In a 2008 interview with WrestlingEpicenter.com, Clark unleashed his thoughts on them upon being asked about ribbing:
“There’s a little ribbing that goes on, but that’s just…”
“What are some of the ribs that others guys did to you?”
“Oh, just little bullshit. Nothing major. Put my shoes under water. Lock up my bag, or some little bullshit.”
“No. I don’t know. Probably the 1-2-3 Kid. Um, I think, as a matter of fact, one night, I remember Scott Hall – this is when Kid was carrying their bags around, and kissing their ass – he locked up my bag one night in Albany, New York and I just wasn’t really in the mood for it. I was ready to kick both their fuckin’ asses, man. I had enough. I already snapped. It had been a long tour. I told them both, I said, ‘I’ll beat your fuckin’ ass right now, both of you.’ Cause I fuckin’ hated both of ’em. They’re both pieces of shit, and I’ll tell ’em to this day.”
Not long after that, Bryan Clark started in on Shawn Michaels.
“Shawn, fuck, couldn’t stand him. Still don’t like him. He’s another guy that’s a fuckin’ joke. I know all the cruiserweights around the world, that’s their big hero, man, but if they knew the real Shawn Michaels…”
“What is the real Shawn Michaels?”
“Oh man, just a piece of shit. Now he’s a Christian and he’s turned his life around and all that stuff, but man, he was just an asshole. You know, just a bad person. And of course, I’m sure Vince and Pat probably liked seeing him in the shower and him pose for Playgirl, or whatever he did, so that was great for them, you know? They probably kept him around for other reasons besides his work. But yeah, just not, not good.
The biggest rib’s on him because he ended up marrying one of the Nitro girls, which was too fuckin’ funny, because she made her rounds ’round the company, and then she ends up going up there and marrying him. And now they got a kid together, so that’s even better.”
BAM BAM BIGELOW’S TAKE ON THE KLIQ
BAM BAM BIGELOW:
“Everything is strength in numbers…and [The Kliq] had the numbers.
You know, you had Diesel, you had Michaels and Helmsley – or Triple H, whatever the hell his [name is now], Scott Hall…this group of guys that were actually telling Vince McMahon what to do.
A terrible, terrible time. It hurt a lot of people.
To the, it became a joke because they had control, so it was like, ‘Okay, let’s fuck with this guy now…okay, well we got him out, now let’s go to this guy and let’s ruin his life and get HIM fired. Okay – now let’s go to this guy…’
And that’s what they did – just toyed with people’s emotions and livelihoods…”
One needs to look no further than Vader for the perfect example of what Bam Bam was talking about…
Kliq Member SHAWN MICHAELS, The “Heartbreak Kid”
JIM CORNETTE ON HBK’S ROLE IN SABOTAGING VADER’S WWF CAREER
During his YouShoot, a write-in question asked Cornette why he thought Vader was such a flop in the WWF:
“I don’t think he was a flop. I just don’t think he did nearly as well as he should’ve. I think part of the problem was Shawn Michaels. Leon was a very – he’s a big, rough, mean, you know, former pro-football player, and he was a stiff, hard hittin’ guy, and he was tough, but he was a little – a little – he was a big teddy bear also, personally. And you could hurt his feelings just like (snaps his finger).
And Shawn Michaels is used to everybody, or was used to everybody catering to him, and also, was used to people workin’ with him a lot lighter. And I remember one time, it was in fuckin’ Tulsa. It was at a house show in Tulsa. Leon’s got him by the hair, and he’s fuckin’ pepperin’ him with rights, boom, boom, boom, and all of a sudden, I see Shawn gets out of it and grabs some kind of hold, and there’s a conversation, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck?’ And then they go on, and they go to the finish, a couple minutes later.
Leon rolls – of course, Leon lost. That’s another thing. Big monster – you know, Frankenstein kicked a few villagers asses first to get over. Um, Leon rolls out, and he’s cryin’.
Said, ‘Shawn Michaels told me if I yanked his hair that way, that that’d be my job, and he’s gonna get me fired.’ And then at SummerSlam ’96, go back and watch the fuckin’ tape.
Some way or another, Shawn’s gonna come off the top with a fuckin’ elbow, and Leon’s supposed to move, but Leon didn’t move. And Shawn changes gear in mid-air, and fuckin’ lands right next to him and screams, ‘move,’ kicks him, ‘move, asshole’, or ‘dumb shit,’ or whatever. Shawn Michaels, he was just unprofessional, he was always on fuckin’ pills, or whatever – and by the way, Shawn, fuck you, too!
Cornette to Michaels: “If you found God, that’s generally because, I’ve noticed, people in this business that find God do so when everybody else hates them.”
The way you fuckin’ talk to me, the way you talk to Jose Lathario, who got you in the business. For the way you fuckin’ got with your little Kliq and exposed the business in Madison Square Garden, and everybody had to cow-tow to ya, and your whining, and you lost your smile, and you didn’t wanna do jobs, and wherever you were pilled up, doing whatever the fuck you were doing.
You were a fuckin’ asshole and a prick. And if you found God, that’s generally because I’ve noticed, people in this business that find God do so when everybody else hates them so bad they won’t speak to ’em.”
SHANE DOUGLAS’S BEEF WITH MICHAELS
To continue our look into the sleazy past of The Kliq and Shawn Michaels, especially (don’t worry, we’ll get into stories about the other four in a moment), I’m going to turn to The Franchise, Shane Douglas, a man considered to be one of the better talkers in the business. No conversation about The Kliq’s backstage maneuvering can be complete without mentioning the former college dean. Douglas has had beef with HBK for years. It stems from when Shawn was beaten up by a bunch of Marines outside a bar in Syracuse, New York.
Before that happened, HBK was supposed to drop the title to Douglas, launching a back and forth feud. Instead, due to his injuries, Shawn walked out on TV and forfeited the title, handing it to Douglas. It wasn’t exactly gripping television. Within moments, the title was around the waist of Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon).
“Vince would always say, ‘We believe the fans should always go home happy.’ I’d say, ‘Well, Vince, with all due respect, that’s where you and I disagree. Because I believe in sending the fans home ticked off once in a while so they want to come back and pay to see you get your butt kicked.’ So, he told me that Shawn was forfeiting the title — and it’d take too long to get into the whole thing, but he was fine. He hadn’t been beaten up like they said he was beaten up. He was fine, the make-up girls beat him up like that.
He had run his mouth when I was in Germany in the dressing room three weeks prior saying he was going to embarrass me on national television. I said to Davey Boy Smith, rest his soul — one of my best friends in the business who was a great ribber and loved to stir the pot — that if he tries to embarrass me on national TV, that I’ll stretch his rear end. And I didn’t say rear end. Almost within hours, I get the call that the finish has been changed and that Shawn has had a relapse of his concussion and can’t perform. …That’s Shawn.
He’s afraid of his own shadow. Not that I’m the toughest guy in the world, but I’ve always been very passionate about it. If you have a problem with me, we can just as easily go outside to settle it or we can settle it like professionals. It really doesn’t matter to me. But if you go out and make a statement in front of the dressing room, saying you’re going to embarrass me, then you can expect there to be a response to that.
So, when he forfeited the belt to me, I told Vince that this is the worst thing you can do. We always go out and say, ‘I’ll kill for this belt. I’ll spill my blood for this belt.’ Unless I get a knock on the head, then I’ll just hand it to you. I said, ‘Wait for him to be healthy and come back. The whole idea was to replay the Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude angle. I would beat him for the Intercontinental belt and the next year, he would beat me with Chin Music. Let’s face it: Shawn is probably the greatest in-ring performer this business has ever seen and as a heel, I could certainly uphold my end of the bargain. I think if he had been on the page, he and I could have done some magical things.
He didn’t want to because he and the Kliq felt that that belt was theirs and they had the right to decide, ‘We don’t like you, so you don’t get it. This guy, we like. We’re going to keep it with him.'”
Kliq Member KEVIN NASH
CARL OULLET ON HOW KEVIN NASH ‘RUINED’ HIS WWF CAREER
While it may seem this way thus far, Shawn Michaels wasn’t the only one in The Kliq rustling feathers in the locker room. Carl Oullet, known as Jean-Pierre Lafitte in the WWF, was a promising star making his way up the ranks up the roster until Kevin Nash, as he claims, ruined his career back in 1995. Here is his take on what happened all those years ago:
“I had a long undefeated streak. A month before the Montreal show, Kevin walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, buddy … it’s me and you in Montreal … big boot, jackknife and 1-2-3.’ That was a month before. I’ve never heard of a finish being called a month before the show. It really got to me. When I walked into the Forum, (agent) Tony Garea came up to me and said: ‘I want a good 15-minute match … it’s going to be a big boot and a jackknife.’ I said: ‘I’m not doing it.’
I never got along good with Kevin or The Kliq. (When I told them I wouldn’t lose) Kevin says to me, ‘You don’t want to lose against me tonight, do you?’ I said: ‘I’m not losing against you or anybody tonight. If it’s going to be a job, I’m packing my bags and going home.’
“I’ve been a bouncer in some pretty rough places. I grew up in the south side of Detroit. When I was eight, my dad died. So I’ve been taking care of myself since I was a kid. And I’m a bit of a hothead on top of that. I’m a natural heel. (Outside the ring) I’m not Mr. Sunshine. I’m naturally sarcastic. I look at life very skewed and I don’t trust anyone. I grew up in an area where you expect the worst of people, not the best.
I was the WWF champion, [Oullet] was told to do something, something to further the prestige of my Diesel character. He refused to do it.
The next night (in Quebec City), he did a leg drop (off the top rope) and his entire rear end landed on the side of my head. I figured it was on, so I field-goal-kicked him between the legs.”
Several stiff shots followed and the two were later separated backstage. Nash continues:
“Vince used to enjoy stirring the guys up. It made for better tension and better shows. I think the agents knew they made a mistake. They should have insisted that he do what he was told to do, or they should have pulled the match.”
It seems Oullet made his own bed and laid in it on this one.
Kliq Member Triple H
THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS WITH SOME HARSH WORDS AGAINST TRIPLE H
D-Generation X members Road Dogg and Billy Gunn weren’t always on the best of terms with supposed friend Triple H. After being released from the WWE in 2004, they both had some strong words to say against him in a shoot interview recorded soon after their release.
“How’d you guys get along with Shawn, Triple H, and X-Pac?”
“Let me start on that. I used to ride with Hunter and Chyna, and they kinda snubbed their nose at me, because I did drugs and stuff, you know. Kids, don’t do drugs. It’s bad. As you can tell, I’m all messed up right now. But, they kinda snubbed their nose at me, you know, and now you see Chyna on that show just blasted out of her mind, you know, and it’s just like, ‘How dare you!’ But, Hunter was always a dick. Can I say that?”
“Oh yeah. If you don’t, I will.”
“And what’s up with that freaky mustache?” (no doubt referencing Triple H’s sick Motorhead stache)
“He’s a fucking idiot.”
“I second that. I almost broke his nose one time.”
“You know, it’s kind of, for me personally, I had to get along with them because of Hunter, mostly. Because I, you know, whippin’ his ass would get me fired. That woulda got me fired. You beat him up, you get fired, you know? I wasn’t about to sacrifice the career that I had, and takin’ care of my kids, and my family at the time, for whippin’ his ass. So, you know, we just whatever, whatever. Just let it blow off. Just let it blow, but I promise you, I promise you, I promise, if he were to come up to me and say something, I’d beat his fucking brains in.”
During a later shoot interview, Gunn apologized for his share of the comments.
“Has my position changed with him? Yeah. It has. Do I want to pick up the phone every day and call him to apologize? Yeah. Because it was something I did out of selfishness and the selfish person that I was back then. Not that I blame it on anything, but I had a bunch of things going on in my life that was really not that good. I took it out on him and, like I said, I wasn’t taking responsibility for my own actions. That’s what I did. I lashed out at him and everybody I could and I had somebody who was willing to listen and let me go on a live shoot tape to say whatever I wanted. Why would I not? It was all about making me look better and making someone else look bad. I know now that people were going, ‘Yeah, well it’s really just you. It’s not anyone else.’ So yeah. I regret what I did then and for sure now because I’m sure something like that is keeping me from being back there training people. I wish I could change it, but I can’t change it. So I just have to live with the things I’ve done and the actions that I do from here on forward.”
That last quote was recorded in July of 2011. In April of that year, the D-O double G made his first appearance back in the WWE so that he could induct his father into the WWE Hall of Fame. It wasn’t long before Billy Gunn was back under that WWE umbrella, as well. By the end of 2012, they were making appearances as The New Age Outlaws. In 2013, they won the WWE Tag Team Championships. They both remained employed with the company until Billy Gunn was let go in November of 2015. Road Dogg is still employed (as of this writing) as head writer of SmackDown Live.
SCOTT STEINER ON TRIPLE H AND WHY HIS WWE RUN DIDN’T GO SO WELL
While this last story isn’t about The Kliq, it shows how Triple H’s power rose from being a very promising under/mid-carder riding with Killer Kowalski to one of the top men in the business. Scott Steiner didn’t hold back when sharing his thoughts on why his WWE run was less than memorable.
“Well, if you look back, everyone from WCW got treated like [garbage], from Goldberg to Kevin Nash, to Scott Hall. You have to remember – you were there – we beat WWE for 82 weeks straight, and Vince [McMahon] obviously took that personally, so he wanted to bring everyone in that was on top in WCW and bury them. Kevin Nash is supposed to be the best friend of Triple H, but he got the same thing. He won the first title match [against Triple H] by DQ and then lost the second one. I can’t really take it that personally because [Triple H] treated supposedly his best friend the same way. I’ll tell you right now: People up there are miserable. Both times that I went up there, it was the most screwed-up place I’ve ever been.”
“Worse than WCW was screwed up?”
“Oh, my God, it’s not even close. You got Triple H, who’s [sleeping with] the boss’ daughter. She thinks she’s the greatest and he’s the greatest. He’s in the production meetings and the booking meetings. You mark my words: He will break Ric Flair’s record for world championships because they’re both cut from the same mold – they’re both marks for the belt. It will happen. And it’s bull. I think [The Wrestling Observer’s Dave] Meltzer wrote that every time [Triple H] is the champion, ratings go down, pay-per-view buys go down – it’s a fact. But that’s what happens when you’re [sleeping with] the boss’ daughter. That’s the one thing that was worse going up there the second time – she was involved. And the only reason she’s involved is because she was part of the lucky sperm club. That’s her only qualification.”
THE KLIQ AND THEIR LASTING IMPACT IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING AND THE LOCKER ROOM
There is no denying the impact and contributions each member of The Kliq have made to professional wrestling. They are made up of men who could be argued to the be amongst the best of all time. Though one thing is for certain, they were five guys whose bad side you did not want to be on.
These stories only just scratch the surface of how they impacted the locker room. There are plenty more recounts out there, many you can find here on Pro Wrestling Stories. Just search ‘X-Pac’, for instance, to read stories on how he played ‘dirty’ with his ribs in the locker room and ‘Scott Hall’ to read how he would deliver rough justice when necessary!