The Four Horsemen were the elite wrestling entity in the ’80s and ’90s. Their legacy has spawned many years with various members, but today we take a close look at the founding four. In their own words, each original member reveals the story of their creation, demise, and madness experienced on the road together.
"We were like The Beatles, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones all wrapped into one!”
– Ric Flair
The Four Horsemen: In Their Own Words
“When the Four Horsemen were formed, I actually was only managing Tully Blanchard at the time.
He was a Champion, Ric Flair was the World Champion, the Andersons were Tag Champions, and we were doing TV every week for World Championship Wrestling on the TBS Network. We had two hours [to shoot TV] every week, and there was a time slot there that wasn’t filled, so they said, ‘Why don’t you guys just all go out there?’
They said, ‘You got the bragging rights – talk about where you’re going to be this coming week.’
In the course of that interview, it was actually Arn Anderson that looked at the camera and said, ‘Never in the history of wrestling have so few wreaked so much havoc over everyone else – that you’d have to go back in history books to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’ And he held up 4 fingers.”
“At that time, we had been dropping people left and right, and that passage in the Bible came up about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was really by chance, but the interview just stuck. Tony Schiavone said afterward, ‘You’re on to something there. You just named you guys. You’re the Four Horsemen.’
From that day forward, we just were.”
"We were like The Beatles, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones all wrapped into one. Wrestling was on fire; it was just unbelievable.”
“And the young kids in the audience just picked up on it, and every time one of us went out there, they started yelling out ‘Four Horsemen’ and holding the 4 fingers up. It became an interactive thing and just grew from that. So I ended up becoming the leader of the whole bunch, and it just grew and grew. I always like to say that the stars and the moons and the planets were all in perfect alignment, and it was just one of those magical moments that just happened.”
“You know you have something special when you have the whole second row at the Greensboro Coliseum with a fraternity dressed up in coats, ties, and sunglasses, and holding up flashcards that say ‘Four Horsemen.’
The thing that a lot of people talk about is when we attacked Dusty in the parking lot.
That was a great angle, and once we were over and we had all the championships, you could actually schedule guys against us without an angle, and it made money. Especially if it was with someone that the people liked, like Robert and Ricky [the Rock n Roll Express] or The Road Warriors. We never did a big angle with The Road Warriors; we just scheduled them for the belts. And when the belts mean something, the matches mean something, and those things are very profitable.”
Watch The Four Horsemen Break the Arm of Dusty Rhodes:
“Our goal was not to take over or anything negative like that. We wanted to be champions and represent our company to the highest standard. We set out to outdo each other and give the fans the best match of the night. Ole and I would go out there and try to outdo Tully, and then he would go out and try to outdo Flair. It made for a better product.
We pushed each other to quality performances, and that was the concept of the Four Horsemen."
“Some of the more memorable things were some of the bigger houses – like the time we did the WarGames at the Orange Bowl. That was great. When we did a simulcast for Starrcade in 1985 at The Omni and in the Greensboro Coliseum alternating matches, that was before we had done a pay-per-view, and we still had 33,000 people buy tickets on Thanksgiving night to go see that.”
“Like The Beatles, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones, all wrapped into one!”
“There was something about the chemistry of us as a group, and we built off of that. We were all traveling together and spending more time together than we were with our families because we’d always be on the road.
We’d go on air and talk about where the hot spots in each town were, and after the matches, we’d get there, and there would be fans waiting. We partied as hard as we worked, I guess.
We actually legitimately enjoyed each other’s company. When we had a few days off or a day home, we would still get together because we really genuinely enjoyed each other. There wasn’t a clash of egos.
If we did an interview and one guy got on a roll and everybody didn’t get to speak, there were no ruffled feathers, no bruised egos. We were all just basking in the success, and I think everybody carried their own weight.”
“JJ is definitely one of the finest managers, in my opinion – if not THE best manager that the wrestling business has ever had, and I have known some good ones. But many of the very good ones were fighting for center stage with talent many times, and JJ never did that.
He complimented everything that was done and not taking away from what the guys in the ring were doing. That made it very, very simple to go out and perform – just like you’re out there by yourself or in a tag team match, and JJ could put the gas to the fire when you needed it.”
“I’ve had it pointed out to me that we weren’t the first faction in the business, [that] there were others ahead of us like the ‘House of Humperdink,’ and Gary Hart had ‘Hart’s Army’ in Florida.
But we were the first ones to really do it on a truly national basis on a scale as it had never been done before and to do so with success for such a long period of time.”
“We were in a different town every night, flying all over the country. In 1984 we quit driving, and in 1985 we started flying and buying airplanes, and in ’86, ’87, ’88, we would be in LA one night, San Francisco the next night, Las Vegas the next night, Denver the next night, and so on.
It was just monstrous the towns we would go to, and that was during the big surge in cable television in the mid to late 1980s that just overwhelmed everybody. We were in 128 markets, I believe, at our height in 1986 or 1987, and that’s syndicated markets.
Then you had the superstation with two hours on Saturday night and one hour on Sunday night. That’s a lot of coverage.”
“Back then, the chicks were everywhere.
One night I got on television and said, ‘The Four Horsemen are renting a suite on top of the Baltimore Marriott.’
I said, ‘Any girl between the ages of 18 and 28 is invited – no husbands, no boyfriends.’
You should’ve seen it, man.
The lobby was unbelievable. You had to fight your way through it.
We had at least 300 women in the room. You couldn’t walk. Then I started doing it everywhere. We used to do it in Vegas during the summertime when all the college girls were in town. We had a lot of fun.
We had our own private jet. We were on the Great American Bash tour in 1985. We worked in Frisco, Seattle, Portland, L.A, Albuquerque, and Vegas. We stayed at the Tropicana for a five-day run. I got drunk and spent $40,000 on two fur coats.
I still got one at home. Never worn it.
We flew back to the hotel at midnight and partied until 8:00 am, worked out, and then laid in the sun all day. We did not go to bed for five days. It was phenomenal."
“It was just bullshit.
We were picking up a little bit of money in the Four Horsemen, but to me, that was the worst damn thing I ever did because that was really show-business. It was still dependent on us to draw money, but we were hampered in so many ways.
After all, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do because I wasn’t the boss. But unfortunately, a lot of people, when they think about the Anderson’s – Ole Anderson and Gene Anderson – the only thing they can come up with is the Four Horsemen, and that’s unfortunate because that to me was just a piece of crap. It was garbage.”
“Ole was the one guy who didn’t fit the ‘Ric Flair’ image of the ‘limousine driving, jet flying, kiss stealing, son of a gun.’
It was late in his career, he was grumpy, and it was a legitimate situation with his son wrestling in his senior year, and he wanted days off to go watch his son.”
“Ole never bothered me with that gruff exterior because I could see past it. And that’s who he really is, and that’s the guy that I know. Ole’s just a cantankerous, mean, tough SOB. And that’s all you can say about Ole.”
“I’ve known Ole Anderson since we broke into the business when I was in the Carolinas he had been there before me. I worked with him a lot, traveled with him, and really got to know him. He’s still the same guy today as he was back then, and he rubbed many people the wrong way because he always said what he thought and was very outspoken. But I understood him again because I was a little older too.”
“The nucleus of the Four Horsemen was always Ric, Arn, and myself – the other person we could’ve floated.
We were successful with Luger, we were successful with Ole, and we were very successful with Barry, and all three of those guys were great and went from one end of the spectrum to the other on talent, on interviews, on performance, on abilities to perform and adapt to the opponents. So the fourth person was very flexible, in my opinion.”
“Either the [line-up] with Luger or the one with Windham were the most compatible. Ole was a great guy to have in it, but Ole was just doing something different in life at that time.”
“Anyone with a brain knows who the first Four Horsemen were. It was me and Arn and Ric and Tully Blanchard, and J.J. Dillon was the manager. So if they don’t know that, they don’t know anything about wrestling anyway.”
“In the first two groups, Ric was the World Champion, I was the World Television Champion or the U.S. Champion wrestling in singles, and Arn and Ole were the tag team of the group.
I forget why they ran Ole off, but he got fired.
Then Luger came in. He wasn’t strong enough to be the other single at the time, but he wasn’t strong enough to be in the tag team, so we ended up having a fragmented group. When I say Luger wasn’t strong enough, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way,. The chemistry was just not there.
He was much better as a babyface than he ever was being part of the Horsemen. It was our job to get beat up. It was not entertaining watching a 6’5″, 270-pound guy getting beat up. It was much better for him to be [doing the] beating up.
When Barry Windham became the fourth Horsemen and took Luger’s place, the performers’ dynamics changed. Barry was a very strong singles wrestler, so it was easy for me to slide over and do the tag team thing [with Arn] because I could do that. And I’ve said this on a million interviews that was the strongest group of us.”
"There’s nothing like the first group. Obviously, that’s special.
It was a special time. I called it the ‘golden years’ of the business. Both the WWF and NWA were thriving. Just to be pretty prominently figured into that group of guys is something you can tell your great grandkids about.”
“No matter how good something is and how successful it is, everything comes to its end.
Not to say there was internal friction – because there wasn’t – but there is politics in the business, always was and always will be.
Tully and Arn had a chance to go to WWE. It’s where everybody wanted to be at that time and to have an opportunity to go there as a team and be managed by Bobby Heenan – I fully understood what their logic was in going.”
“[NWA] weren’t treating us properly. I was offended. They were giving a lot of people money and not giving Arn and me any money. Pat Patterson was there in Milwaukee one night, and he sent word to us, so we called [WWF].
We listened to what Vince had to say, and bingo, we went.”
“If there were any questions about when the aura of the Horsemen was going to end, that ended it. [Arn] came back later [to WCW], and it was reformed to some degree, but it was never the same. The way I look at it when they left in 1988, that was really the end of the story as I think of it.”
"I haven’t been in a ring in a wrestling capacity since around 1998, and still there isn’t a day where I don’t see a guy at a red light or coming out of the YMCA or wherever put up the four fingers.
That tells me that our body of work must have had some worth. It makes my day every time."
“I feel that probably Arn Anderson was the one guy that never got the due credit for how important he was in the unit.
He was the workhorse, out there every night, giving it everything he had. He had a neck injury, and you could see the nerve damage affecting his hand because his hand on the one side started to quiver a little bit. Rather than take time off and get medical attention or rest, we enjoyed such great success that Arn just stayed out there, and unfortunately, I think it shortened his career.
Eventually, he had damage that couldn’t be reversed.
So with us getting recognition with the WWE Hall of Fame, I am happy for everybody – but I am really happy for Arn Anderson.”
“That was by far the best time of my life. It was awesome, and it was something that I always wanted to do, and when we got together, it was a bunch of great guys with tremendous camaraderie. We had so many great times in and out of the ring; we just rock ‘n’ rolled.
Nothing will ever touch that original Four Horsemen. You can imitate, but you can’t duplicate!”
These stories may also interest you:
- Arn Anderson on the nWo Spoof That Hurt His Family
- Tully Blanchard Origins: His Memorable Football Career Before Wrestling
- Ric Flair | 13 Stories Showing Who the Real Nature Boy Was
Sources used in this article: paulyard20, Post and Courier, The Trentonian, worldwrestlinginsanity.com, WWE Magazine, Inside The Ropes, Busted Open, wrestling101, Mike Mooneyham
Quotes originally compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.