The Kliq (sometimes spelled as Clique) was a backstage group in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) during the mid-1990s, composed of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean Waltman. In 1996, The Kliq broke character at a house show at Madison Square Garden in an incident referred to as the "Curtain Call", an event that affected the WWF's subsequent storylines and development. The Kliq was also the primary catalyst for two of the most controversial stables in wrestling history: the New World Order (nWo) in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the WWF/E, and D-Generation X (DX) in the WWF/E. Of the Kliq, Michaels and Waltman would serve in both groups; Triple H was a member of DX while Nash and Hall performed with the nWo.
Formation and early history
The Kliq was formed from real-life best friends Michael Hickenbottom (known as Shawn Michaels), Kevin Nash (who wrestled as Diesel), Scott Hall (then known as Razor Ramon), Sean Waltman (who performed as The 1-2-3 Kid) and Paul Levesque (known then as Hunter Hearst Helmsley). By 1995, they had a heavy influence on the booking power—the power to schedule and decide who wins matches—in the WWF. Michaels claims that the name "The Kliq" was originally coined by Lex Luger, due to the closeness of the five friends backstage. At the suggestion of Vince Russo, Michaels began referring to his fans as his "Kliq". Michaels disliked the idea, and claimed that it "was not a huge hit" with the fans.
Another incident occurred shortly after at a live event in Montreal, Quebec, Canada involving Carl Ouellet, who was working under the name Jean-Pierre Lafitte. Lafitte states he was booked to win a match against then WWF Champion Kevin Nash, in a house show in his hometown of Montreal. Shortly before the match however, the ending was changed by Michaels to have Lafitte lose to Nash, which in turn created a backstage argument with Lafitte and Michaels. The match between the two ended in a double-countout because Lafitte refused to be pinned by Nash. In his book, Michaels said that "we (The Kliq) buried him (Ouellet)" because he did not want to put Nash over. Lafitte was released soon after. Contrary to rumors, Michaels also stated that WWF Chairman Vince McMahon did not fire Lafitte. Shane Douglas claims he was in the locker room when the incident happened. He states that Nash was originally for the idea of putting Lafitte over so that they could come back to Montreal and have a lucrative rematch. Douglas states that Shawn Michaels convinced Nash to change the ending of the match.
Bret Hart claims in his autobiography Hitman, that he was asked if he wanted to be part of the group, as his relationship with Michaels was less adversarial back then: "The thing I remember most about that tour was Shawn, Razor, and Nash talking to me in Hamburg about the idea of forming a clique of top guys who strictly took care of their own." However, Hart declined the offer.
Curtain Call: The MSG Incident
One of the most talked-about actions involving The Kliq took place on May 19, 1996 at Madison Square Garden. At the time, Hall and Nash were about to leave the WWF for rival WCW, and this was their last contractual obligation for the WWF. At a major WWF live event, Paul Levesque (as the villainous Hunter Hearst Helmsley) wrestled the fan favorite Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon). Later that night, Shawn Michaels, then a fan favorite, wrestled Kevin Nash (as the villainous Diesel) in a steel cage match. Immediately after the match, Ramon entered the ring and hugged Michaels, which was not seen as a problem as both were fan favorites at the time. However, Helmsley then entered the ring and hugged Ramon, and Diesel stood up and joined Michaels, Helmsley and Ramon in a prolonged group hug and then the four wrestlers stood facing the crowd with their arms raised together.
Their actions, also dubbed the "Curtain Call", scandalized WWF management, who at the time wanted to maintain the traditional illusion that the antipathy between fan favorites and villains was real and that they were not friends outside the ring. The rule was in place as a means of maintaining storylines and feuds between wrestlers, which sometimes lasted for years, and could unravel in seconds if the two feuding wrestlers were associating as friends in public. WWF Chairman Vince McMahon was reported to be initially okay with the incident but did not expect them to take it so far. McMahon also did not expect two fans in the audience to sneak a camcorder into the event and capture the entire incident on tape, which was later procured by the WWF and aired on the October 6, 1997 episode of Raw is War by Michaels and Levesque who, in storyline, used the footage to irritate McMahon.
Because Hall and Nash had already confirmed their departure for WCW, they escaped punishment. Michaels, who was the WWF Champion at the time and one of the promotion's biggest drawing cards, also could not be punished. The punishment fell solely on Levesque, who was demoted from being a championship contender to wrestling inexperienced or lesser experienced wrestlers. He did, however, win the WWF Intercontinental Championship five months later. The Undertaker stated in HHH: The Game DVD that when Levesque first arrived in the WWF, he saw him as an arrogant person who only looked out for himself, but when Levesque took his punishment and did not complain, he earned his respect. This punishment turned out to have a major impact on the WWF's future. Before the "MSG Incident", Levesque had been booked into the finals of the 1996 King of the Ring tournament during the following summer, but his place—and the push that usually went with it—would instead go to Steve Austin, igniting his rise toward superstardom and helped the WWF defeat WCW in the Monday Night Wars. Levesque's punishment only delayed his rise to prominence in the business, as he would go on to win the following year's King of the Ring tournament and later went on to become a 13 time world champion, beginning with his WWF Championship victory over Mick Foley the night after SummerSlam in 1999.
The nWo and D-Generation X
It has been claimed that because WWF officials disliked the Kliq and their influence in booking matches, Hall and Nash's contracts were allowed to expire to break up the group. In WWE media, however, it has been asserted that Nash and Hall were welcome in the WWF and were considered among its top superstars, but opted to leave the company for lucrative contracts in WCW. When Hall and Nash went to WCW, they formed the New World Order (nWo) stable, along with Hulk Hogan. When Waltman later jumped to WCW, he also joined the nWo. Many fans criticized Kevin Nash for his booking tenure in WCW since it displayed the same self-promoting behavior associated with The Kliq on an even larger scale. Fans often pointed to Nash, booking himself to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from the then-undefeated Goldberg and the subsequent match with Hogan as the most grievous of his "offenses". Nash, however, claims that he did not have booking power at the time of the incident. Nash's innocence claim is disputed in several shoot interviews by various WCW wrestlers from the time who claimed that he, Hogan and several others often refused to put other wrestlers over in order to keep themselves as the main stars.
Meanwhile, Levesque and Michaels began to persuade WWF management to let them pair up on screen, but management was hesitant and wanted to keep The Kliq separated on-screen. They eventually aligned together in the faction D-Generation X (DX), alongside Chyna. DX eventually became as influential to the Monday Night Wars as the nWo. DX's antics also went on to help spark The Attitude Era in the WWF. After Sean Waltman was fired from WCW, he was hired by WWF and joined DX, replacing the injured Michaels. The nWo's hand sign, often referred to as the "Wolf Head", was originally used by the Kliq members in the WWF. In the nWo, Hall and Nash brought the hand sign with them, and it became widely used by the nWo members and fans worldwide.
During a brief period in 1998, after Waltman's return to the WWF as X-Pac, D-Generation X made numerous references to their friends in the WCW (though mostly not referencing WCW itself by name) in various appearances and speeches. DX (HHH, Waltman, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Chyna) even staged a protest/paramilitary take-over of the Norfolk Scope, where an episode of WCW Monday Nitro was taking place (on that same night, Monday Night Raw was emanating from nearby Hampton, Virginia). Triple H, riding in a M38, chanted "Let our people go!" through a megaphone during the incident. Sean Waltman also called out "we just wanted to say what's up to our boys Kevin Nash and Scott Hall" during the WCW invasion segment. DX also led a chant of "WCW sucks" by fans outside the arena who had tickets to the show (some of whom had been given free tickets to Nitro in order for WCW to boost crowd numbers).
In 2002, after WCW had gone out of business, the nWo was reformed in the WWF with Hall, Nash and Hogan, the group's initial members. Hogan soon left the group after being attacked by Nash and Hall as a result of his turning into a fan favorite at WrestleMania X8. Other former members, including The Big Show and Waltman, joined the group. Later, Shawn Michaels—after years away from the ring—was introduced by Kevin Nash as the newest member of the nWo, and Michaels promised the rest of the group that he would soon deliver Triple H. After weeks of lobbying for Triple H's services, a backstage promo of the nWo wishing Triple H luck before the match aired. This included 4 members of the Kliq (Shawn, Kevin, Pac and Triple H), as Big Show appeared wishing Triple H good luck as well. The nWo told Triple H to "throw up the hand signal" if he needed any help out there. Shortly thereafter, Nash suffered a torn quadriceps (after returning the same night after time off due to a biceps injury) during a ten-man tag-team match, and the following week Vince McMahon disbanded the nWo. Eric Bischoff (acting as the Raw brand General Manager) later tried to make Michaels Triple H's manager. This led to a short-lived reformation of DX, as Triple H turned on him the same night, setting off a long and heated feud that took approximately two years to resolve. The year after, Nash returned from injury as a fan favorite and sided with Michaels against Evolution (Triple H, Ric Flair, Batista and Randy Orton).
Michaels and Triple H have reformed D-Generation X, first returning together for a six-month stint on the June 12, 2006 edition of Monday Night Raw. They would feud against the Spirit Squad (Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky, and Mikey), the Big Show and Vince McMahon, and later the team of Rated-RKO (Edge and Randy Orton), until Triple H's legitimate knee injury in the beginning of 2007. They would reform again on August 2009 during Shawn Michaels' last year in the WWE. During this year, D-Generation X would capture the Unified WWE Tag Team Championships at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (2009) against Jericho and the Big Show, which would become the start of the first and only title reign for Triple H and Shawn Michaels as a tag team. D-Generation X would later go on to disband in March 2010 (after losing the Tag Team Titles to The Big Show and The Miz). Michaels would then focus heavily on ending the winning streak of The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, having failed to do so at WrestleMania XXV, he would put his career on the line for their second Wrestlemania encounter at WrestleMania XXVI which he would go on to lose and therefore end his career.
Hall, Nash and Waltman (then working for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) would reform the nWo in a stable called The Band, where Hall and Nash won the TNA World Tag Team Championship, but Hall and Waltman were released shortly after (and Nash's contract would expire later on in the year).
On April 2, 2011, The Kliq, consisting of Nash, Waltman, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, made a special appearance as Shawn Michaels was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame 2011. Scott Hall decided not to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony or other WrestleMania XXVII festivities due to concerns of remaining sober. Hall has battled many drug and alcohol problems and suffered from various health problems in the past year and credits his friends in The Kliq for helping him through his battles. At the conclusion Scott Hall's Hall of Fame induction in 2014, the members of The Kliq joined him onstage.
Although the core group of The Kliq has long been known there have always been rumours, suggestions and unofficial members either within the group or on the fringes looking in. The most consistently mentioned name is that of Peter Polaco who at the time of The Kliq's formation was working for WWF as Aldo Montoya and would later go on to gain fame as Justin Credible in ECW. He apparently became friends with Scott Hall who offered to mentor him and from there he ended up travelling with the rest of the group until he negotiated his WWF release in 1997. Polaco's association with the group is also lent weight by the fact that upon his return to WWF after the closure of ECW in 2001 he instantly aligned himself on TV with X-Pac with the two going on to form a short lived stable under the name of X-Factor along with Albert as the group's enforcer.
Another name that has had a long association with The Kliq is that of Louie Spicolli, who was wrestling for the WWF in the early 90's under the name of Rad Radford. Spicolli's friendship with the group, much like Polaco's, descends from Scott Hall taking the youngster under his wing and having him travel with the rest of them on the road. Spicolli left the WWF after only a few months when he was released to deal with issues that he was having with substance abuse at the time. During this time, Spicolli worked for ECW for a number of months, during which time he could be seen using the now infamous "Wolf Head" signal during tapings and matches. In a later interview he denied the association, and asserted that the "Wolf Head" symbol was originally Bret Hart's gesture and The Wolfpac stole it. He said he used the symbol in ECW in order to "take it back." In late 1997, Spicolli returned to the spotlight by signing with WCW and was soon placed on screen as the lackey of Scott Hall, with the two engaging in a feud with Larry Zbyszko. However, the feud was never able to finish due to Spicolli's untimely death from a drug overdose at the age of 27. His death was never publicly acknowledged by any member of the group at the time, with only Zbyszko mentioning it on screen.
Chyna has association to the group, not only as an original member of D-Generation X, but also through her relationship with Triple H, along with another long-term relationship with Sean Waltman. Her current link to The Kliq is unclear, with the details of her split from Triple H in 2000 never made public. Her relationship to Waltman was notorious for the release of a sextape in 2004 and Chyna being arrested for domestic assault in 2005 after a drug-fueled fight. It is thought the pair are no longer on speaking terms after going their separate ways to deal with a number of personal issues, including drug and alcohol addictions, as well as issues with depression.
Other people in the business have often had their names dropped into the hat but have never said either way whether they consider themselves to be a part of the group. The highest profile of these is probably Sid Eudy, better known as Sycho Sid or Sid Vicious. Another high profile name is Rick Rude, who was both a member of the original D-Generation X and the nWo. Rude was involved in an incident in which he appeared on both WCW Monday Nitro and WWF Monday Night Raw in the same night, protesting on Nitro about the treatment of Bret Hart during the Montreal Screwjob. How this affected his standing in the group is unclear, however it has gone on record that prior to his death Rude was one of the most respected people in the business by members of The Kliq.
Konnan is said to have enjoyed a very close friendship with both Nash and Hall during his run in WCW and was a member of both the nWo and the Wolfpac. Konnan was also influential in bringing in Sean Waltman to AAA for his run with the company throughout 2007 and 2008, with the two aligning on screen for a while as a part of La Legión Extranjera. Curt Hennig, who was once a tag team partner of Hall during their days in the AWA, is also said to have had a long-running friendship with the group, and spent large amounts of his career working either with or against members of the group in various promotions. Savio Vega was paired up with Hall as a travel partner when he first arrived in the WWF, while Albert, Test and William Regal were all close friends with either X-Pac or Triple H during their time with WWE.
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