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In 1993, Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and Sean Waltman (The 1-2-3 Kid, later known as Syxx or X-Pac) were working for the then-WWF. Michaels was a rising star, and Hall and Waltman were solid mid-card workers. All three were notorious hellraisers known for drinking and abusing drugs, and they all had ego to spare. Michaels was looking for a way to get himself even more over with the crowd, having just made an infamous heel turn by kicking ex-partner Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window. He turned on WCW's show, WCW Saturday Night, one night, and found what he was looking for -- Kevin Nash, who was playing a comedic character called "Vinnie Vegas".
Nash, who was unhappy over at WCW, asked to be let out of his contract. He signed with the WWF the next week and became Diesel, who served as Michaels' bodyguard (Nash Michaels also became offscreen friends during this time). For two years, the group of Hall, Michaels, Nash, and Waltman slowly built their careers up; in 1995, the four men were some of the WWF's highest-profile stars. Michaels and Nash traded the WWF Championship between them, and Hall had several runs with the Intercontinental Championship (including two revolutionary Ladder Matches with Michaels for that title). The last man to enter the picture was a young Paul Levesque, who -- after his own failed stint with WCW -- signed with the WWF and became Hunter Hearst Helmsley (later shortened to simply Triple H).
The five men would amass a staggering amount of backstage power as a group. All five were close to Vince McMahon and had input on booking decisions (including which wrestlers they believed deserved a push). Victims of The Kliq's influence include Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, and Carl Oullet; The Rock was also supposed to be one of The Kliq's victims, but managed to secure his own place in history even with their objections. Bret Hart, who would have his career and life changed by the Montreal Screwjob (which Michaels, Levesque, and McMahon were in on), was perhaps the biggest victim of The Kliq's backstage politicking.
Before the Montreal Screwjob, however, came the "Curtain Call".
On May 19th 1996, the WWF put on a house show at Madison Square Garden in New York; this show was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall's last show with the company before they jumped ship to WCW. Levesque and Nash were working as heels at the time, and Michaels and Hall were faces. At the end of Michaels and Nash's steel cage match, Hall and Levesque came out to hug them goodbye in the middle of the ring.
This was a serious problem.
The vast majority of the wrestling industry were calling for The Kliq's heads, since they'd broken Kayfabe in front of the cameras (by showing that faces and heels were actually friends outside the ring, rather than mortal enemies). Vince McMahon had few options for punishment, however: Hall and Nash were leaving for WCW, Waltman wasn't in on it, and Michaels was (at the time) the WWF Champion and a big-name headliner. The punishment ultimately fell on Paul Levesque, who languished for well over a year in the midcard, jobbing to wrestlers such as the Ultimate Warrior. He was eventually allowed to shine as one of the founding members of D Generation X (which happened due to Michaels' influence).
Levesque's punishment for the Curtain Call, ironically enough, was directly responsible for the meteoric rise in popularity of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin won the 1996 King of the Ring tournament -- which Levesque was scheduled to win before the Curtain Call -- and delivered his infamous "Austin 3:16" speech after the tournament-winning match. Austin's incredible popularity following his victory launched the Attitude Era, which was arguably the most prosperous period in professional wrestling (and WWE) history.
In WCW, Hall and Nash formed the nWo with Hulk Hogan, a move that kickstarted the Monday Night Wars. The Hall/Hogan/Nash triumvirate wielded tremendous booking power (even moreso than in the WWF), and it was their decisions that either made or sank the careers of many a WCW performer. Waltman would join them a few months later, but he eventually jumped ship back to the WWF to join DX (making him the only person to be a part of both DX and the original nWo). Michaels and Levesque went on to become two of WWE's most successful and celebrated stars, and their behind-the-scenes clout has become both the wrestling business's worst-kept secret and a point of contention for both fans and fellow performers when considering the merits of their careers.
To this date, all five members of The Kliq remain closer than close behind the scenes.
Tropes that apply to one or all of the members of the Kliq:
- Affably Evil: Even when heel (and in Real Life, if you believe certain things about them), they're funny and charismatic.
- The Alcoholic: Scott Hall, uber-example. Kid, nigh constantly. Shawn, before his Jesusification.
- Arch Enemy: Bret Hart really dislikes all of them. Not that he doesn't have ample reason, though.
- There are also rumors that The Undertaker did a lot to try and keep them from using too much of their backstage power to make themselves look good at the expense of newer guys on the roster. This is unconfirmed, however.
- However, in Real Life and onscreen, Shawn and Bret seem to have buried the hatchet, and Undertaker has stated that after The Kliq broke Kayfabe, he gained respect for Levesque when, after being Demoted to Extra, he took his punishment without complaining.
- Badass Long Hair
- Bash Brothers: Shawn and Hunter. Kevin and Scott. Shawn and Kevin. Scott and Kid. It's pretty safe to say that they've all teamed with each other at one time or another.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: They're extremely well-known for doing this to others (in both Real Life and Kayfabe), but never amongst themselves.
- Cool Old Guy: What they've all grown into, though YMMV in regards to Hall and Waltman.
- Drugs Are Bad: Let's put it this way, the only one of the five who was ever even rumored to be totally clean from alcohol, pills, and steroids was Triple H, and even he's debatable (considering he went from this to this in one year, though it could just be the angle and the lack of a tan). The other four, though? All addicted to alcohol (especially Scott), pills (only Shawn kicked the habit), and steroids (Shawn denies it, as does Kevin).
- As far as Triple H goes, let's remember that back when Scott Steiner was in WWE, he was asked to take a steroid test, and said he'd only take one if Triple H took it with him... and WWE promptly dropped the subject altogether.
- Five-Man Band/Five-Bad Band:
- Five Philosophy Ensemble:
- The Cynic - Triple H
- The Optimist - Shawn Michaels (especially so in later years)
- The Realist - Kevin Nash
- The Apathetic - Sean Waltman
- The Conflicted - Scott Hall
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Shawn and Hunter. Scott and Kevin, at times. Scott and Kid, at others.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Shawn and Hunter referenced the Curtain Call in the first iteration of DX, during their feud with Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation.
- Memetic Hand Gesture: You know the one. Look at the page image.
- Not So Different: From Hulk Hogan's clique of friends (Hogan, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and Bob Orton), which Michaels uses as justification for some of their backstage clout:
"If you're on top, you want to make sure you stay on top. The difference between us and Hogan's crew was that we actually liked each other . . . We didn't resent each other's success."
- Odd Friendship: Initially. Scott, Kid, Kevin and Shawn were all trouble-making, partying drug addicts, while Hunter was and still is known as being a pretty calm, collected, sober guy. Shawn mentions in his book that the main reason Hunter hung with them was social-climbing, but eventually became Shawn's caretaker and driver. Nowadays, Shawn's gotten sober and he seems like the odd one out.
- Power Stable: A Real Life example.
- Putting the Band Back Together: A few times, after the mid-90's. Kevin and Scott resurrected the nWo in 2002, and when Shawn came back from his back injury, he joined as well. Kevin, Shawn, and Hunter feuded mainly with each other throughout 2002-2003. In 2006, Shawn and Hunter reformed D Generation X. And in 2010, Kevin, Scott, and Kid formed a faction in TNA actually called "The Band".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: D-Generation X's crotch chops and the NWO's "Wolfpac" handsigns were originally used by the members in real life.
- Supposedly, the "Wolfpac" handsign was started by Curt Hennig and his best friend according to Hennig's WWE DVD.
- Their real-life friendship and public acknowledgment of that friendship with the Curtain Call led to the first real break in Kayfabe, the de-pushing of Triple H and rise of Austin and the Attitude Era, and the establishment of the New World Order.
- Spell My Name with an "S": "The Kliq" or "The Clique".
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Both in the ring and in Real Life.
- The Teetotaler: According to all reports, Hunter only drinks at weddings.
- Post-conversion to Christianity, Shawn only drinks at never.
- True Companions: One of wrestling's best examples. Shawn, Hunter, Kevin, Scott, and Kid have been friends for almost eighteen years.
- Vitriolic Best Buds
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx
- Wag the Director: Because of their successes, The Kliq (especially Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Triple H) had a lot of input on their characters/gimmicks, as well as significant influence on their bookings.