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When Hulk Hogan ascended to the top of WCW in 1994, it wasn't just an effect felt on screen. Hogan became an important part in the big decisions made by WCW, and had the influence to exert force on plans going forward, effecting both himself but also the fate of others within the company. Eighties WWF alumnus like Honky Tonk Man, Jim Duggan and Brutus Beefcake arrived and were immediately given significant spots.
You'd think though, with Hogan having the power to call what matters most – i.e. his own opponents, he'd be intent on picking the guys he could make the most money with. Given his insane contract, it'd make sense to try and put yourself against the best WCW had to offer. Hogan was done with a very good feud with Ric Flair, so who was next? Vader? The debuting Randy Savage? Sting?
Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Hogan' next feud was with a group called “The Three Faces of Fear”. The faces (well, heels) consisted of The Butcher (Hogan's old friend Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake), Avalanche (WCW's knockoff of the “Earthquake” WWF gimmick – played by John Tenta himself) and Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan's addition into the group was of more storyline happenstance, as his onscreen brother Dave was aligned with Hogan in the latter days of the Flair feud. None of them were top guys in WCW before this feud, and none of them would be top guys in WCW after this feud really concluded (well, the Dungeon of Doom happened...).
The faction debuted at Halloween Havoc. For months WCW had been building a storyline involving a masked man – who was originally meant to be Mr Perfect. The masked man attacked Hogan at the Clash Of The Champions in August 1994, striking him on the back of the knee with a lead pipe early on in the show. Hogan left for the hospital, then faced a race against time to make it back in time for the main event against Flair – he did and the whole show was probably improved because of it.
As the feud rolled into October, Flair had already coaxed Hogan into putting his career on the line at Halloween Havoc (well, Hogan more offered it up in a limp storyline given that Flair was carrying around the title Hogan rightfully owned). Flair offered up his career a few weeks later, all for the sake of getting a tag match on WCW Saturday Night against Hogan. A stupid move you'd think, but Flair had a plan, and elected the masked man as his tag partner. The tag partner was played by Bunkhouse Buck (who was just a fill in, this was never referenced), before a second masked man ran out and attacked Hogan's weak knee.
The scene was set for the Havoc main event. Hogan retained despite a flurry of interference from people including Sensuous Sherri and the masked man. Hogan unmasked the man after the main event, revealing it to be Butcher (Beefcake). Butcher was soon flanked by Sullivan and Avalanche and the new stable was born. Imagine following a feud with Ric Flair with one against those three?
But WCW went further than imagining it – they did it. The trio were hell-bent on ending Hulkamania, a classic troupe of most Hogan storylines. They cut some very underwhelming promos, with Kevin Sullivan really the only guy to at least hold up his end on the talking side of things. Things were set for the Clash of the Champions in November, with the trio taking on Hogan, Dave Sullivan and Sting, who was returning to main event action after being so important to WCW he didn't even wrestle at the Havoc – he was a spectator instead. 1994 was not a year to remember for the Stinger.
The Clash main event was bad. Dave Sullivan was eliminated early, leaving Hogan and Sting to fight off the trio, not the worst idea, but the forgettable match would end with Mr T. striking Kevin with Jimmy Hart's megaphone, Hogan made the cover and the faces won. Kevin sprung straight back up, but the whole thing was very poor.
December bought about the arrival of Randy Savage, who in his first promo with the company trod a very fine line between face and heel, suggesting that he was going to confront Hogan at Starrcade but wasn't sure whether he was going to shake his hand or slap him in the face. Starrcade was billed as a “triple threat” of main events (although in reality it was more like four) with Jim Duggan facing Vader for the US Title, Avalanche facing Sting, Mr T. facing Kevin Sullivan and Hogan defending his WCW World Title against The Butcher. The matchups made sense, even if they were a total mismatch in star power and ability – but it's hard to argue that the card looked horrid going in.
The build-up in the weeks prior was very paint by numbers, a Fear match would end via DQ, their promos would be just as wooden as ever and, not surprisingly, Starrcade 1994 was a disappointment. Mr T. vs Sullivan was at least brief, Sting vs Avalanche was about as good as that match was ever going to be (still bad) and Hogan and Butcher had more intensity than expected, but was jarringly out of place in the main event of WCW's biggest show of the year. Savage would tease aligning with the Three Faces of Fear, but would ultimately team with Hogan running off the trio.
Clash of the Champions in January 1995 was much of the same. Sting faced Avalanche, again, and the match ending was disputed but clean enough, the story being whether special guest referee The Guardian Angel should've called for the bell or not while Avalanche was in the scorpion deathlock. Hogan and Savage faced Sullivan and Butcher in the main event, a decent match but one that ended with Savage recovering awfully quickly after being the babyface in peril to hit his top rope elbow drop and, fantastically, Savage dropping the elbow to Hogan from the top rope after Hogan had lost consciousness in a sleeper in an effort to revive him.
Thankfully this was the zenith for the group, who would gradually lose their grip on the top end of the roster as 1995 drew on. In the guise of “The Dungeon of Doom” they wouldn't be that far away from Hogan, mind. But this can be seen as a real low point for WCW around this time. They weren't brimming with marketable main event stars around this point, although a lot of that is down to an inability to advance anyone up the card, but picking these three in such a way defied logical belief. It was in Hogan's interest to make the most money, before protecting his friends, surely?