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The Kliq (sometimes spelled as Clique) was a backstage group in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) during the mid-1990s, which some claim held substantial booking power, were shown favortism by owner Vince McMahon and were accused of refusing to be fair to anyone outside of the group.
The group was composed of Shawn Michaels, Kevin "Diesel" Nash, Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall, Sean "1-2-3 Kid" Waltman, and Paul "Triple H" Levesque. 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 which affected the WWF's subsequent storylines and development.
Formation and early history
The Kliq was formed from real-life friends Shawn Michaels (real name Michael Hickenbottom), 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. Aldo Montoya was also close friends with the group and is sometimes referred to as a member. 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.
In October 1995, The Kliq complained about a decision to let Shane Douglas (wrestling as Dean Douglas) win the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Michaels at In Your House 4: Great White North. Expanding upon a legit injury, Michaels was booked to forfeit the title to Douglas (sparing Michaels having to put Douglas over), but then Douglas had to lose it to fellow Kliq member Scott Hall (Razor Ramon). Douglas was so enraged by the events that he threatened to sue the company and went to work for the rival promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling.
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 was booked to win a match against then-WWF Champion Kevin Nash, as Montreal was Lafitte's hometown. Shortly before the match, however, Lafitte was involved in a backstage argument with Michaels as Lafitte did not want to make Nash look good by losing to him. The match between the two ended in a double-countout. In his book, Michaels said that "we buried him" as 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.
Bret Hart claims in his autobiography, Hitman, that he was actually asked if he wanted to be part of the group, as his relationship with Michaels was far 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." Hart declined the offer.
Curtain Call: The MSG Incident
One of the more 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. At a major WWF live event, Levesque (as the villainous Helmsley) wrestled the fan favorite Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon). Later that night, Michaels, then a fan favourite, wrestled Nash (as the heel Diesel) in a steel cage match. Immediately after the match, Scott Hall entered the ring and hugged Michaels, which is not seen as a problem as both were fan favorites at the time. However, Levesque joined the hug, despite working a match earlier in which he was a heel.
Their actions, also dubbed the "Curtain Call", scandalized WWF management, who at the time wanted to maintain the illusion that the antipathy between fan favorites and villains was real and that they were not friends outside the ring. 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 a fan 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 Michaels was the WWF Champion at the time and was one of the promotion's biggest drawing cards, he could not be punished. Hall and Nash were soon to leave for WCW, so they also escaped punishment. The punishment fell solely on Levesque, who was demoted from being a championship contender to wrestling inexperienced or lesser experienced wrestlers. 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 mainstream 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 thirteen time world champion, beginning with his WWF Championship victory over Mick Foley the night after SummerSlam in 1999.
The nWo and D-Generation X
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. 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 for himself to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from the then-undefeated Goldberg and the subsequent "Fingerpoke of Doom" as the most grievous of his "offenses". Nash, however, claims that he did not have booking power at the time of the incident.
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, however, 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 their non-match and pre-match appearances and speeches. They even went so far as to stage 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 Humvee, chanted "Let our people go!" through a megaphone during the incident. Sean Waltman also called out "we just wanted to say hey to our buddies Hall and Nash" during the WCW invasion segment. But any hope of Nash and Hall jumping ship to the WWF did not materialize until WCW eventually folded.
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 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. 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).
On more than one occasion since these events, Michaels and Triple H have reformed D-Generation X, they first returned together for a match at the Vengeance 2006 pay-per-view event in a 5-on-2 Handicap match, versus the Spirit Squad (Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky, and Mikey). In this match, Triple H and Michaels won the match after pinning Kenny and Mikey, respectively. Since that time the two captured the World Tag Team Championships the first Tag Team 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 & The Miz). Michaels would then focus heavily on ending the winning steak 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.
Whereas Hall, Nash and Waltman (now working for TNA Wrestling) would reform the nWo, in a stable called The Band, where Hall and Nash won the TNA World Tag Team Championship, but Scott Hall and Waltman were released shortly after.