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There's always great ideas in wrestling that never came to be. Some are cut off for political reasons, others just aren't realistic and most never stand a chance of happening. One that made a fleeting appearance in the Wrestling Observer newsletter in March of 1995 was that of a new Four Horsemen that could've featured a mouth-watering combination of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Vader and Steve Austin. The group, you'll be surprised to know, never came to fruition for a number of reasons that we'll cover later - but what might have been?
Despite what people think about Steve Austin's run in WCW, and despite what revisionist history might want you to believe, Austin (in my view) was seen as a guy of note in WCW. I covered that in a lot more detail here, but Austin's career trajectory relative to everyone else on the roster was about right, unless the company were on a serious binge for creating new stars. Which at the start of 1994 they may have been, but by the end of the year they certainly were not.
Austin was the victim of a number of circumstances that fell into place - not least a string of injuries that saw his exit from the company. But don't mistake history for the idea that Austin wasn't seen as somebody in WCW; time may have shown that the makeup and priorities of the company found him banging on a glass ceiling had he have stayed around in 1995. But motions to put him with Sherri Martel and Harley Race were both derailed.
Vader is another interesting case. In many ways Vader doesn't feel like a great fit for a group like the Horsemen. As much as he might look great in a suit, as he proved at theClash Of The Champions 30 in January 1995, Vader's character was always one of immense self believe and destruction. Being part of a group, and being a heavy for Flair seems like a misuse of a guy who had spent the last 18 months proving he was excellent on his own.
So why was Vader even in the discussing for inclusion? It's a simple as Vader and Flair were tied together in storyline at the time. Flair was on the path to eventually getting back into the ring (after "retiring" at Halloween Havoc) and aligning with Vader was a logical way of getting him back into a relevant program without getting him in the main event.
A more likely name for an inclusion (instead of Vader) was Dustin Rhodes. Dustin was a guy with a fair amount of potential, but probably struggled in the shadow of his dad's name trying to be a good guy babyface. A heel turn would've released him to work with a number of new opponents like Hogan, Sting and Savage - we're assuming here that a heel turn would be part of a mega-push given Dusty's status at the top of the company.
So what happened? In short: Dustin got fired after WCW Uncensored, Flair soon relinquished control of the WCW booking and Austin never re-appeared after suffering a new injury that would ultimately see him get fired by the company. Vader would be fired later in the year, but long after the idea ever got a chance to come to fruition.
Everything in hindsight where Steve Austin is concerned is difficult. Of course, when he goes on to become the biggest star in the industry the inclination is for people to believe that the company missed the boat with him (and they did). But it seems like the company had intentions to grow Austin in the latter part of 1994 headed into 1995, but it just never happened. What made the company so great, claimed victims along its path – and Austin, like Foley, was one of those guys.
The prospect of a Flair, Anderson, Austin and Vader combination would have been an amazing prospect, and one that could've been a great foil for the stacked babyface side that included Hogan, Savage and Sting. Like many things though, we'll never know.