The Kliq (sometimes spelled as Clique) was a backstage group in the World Wrestling Federation of the mid-1990s, which some claim held virtually all booking power (the power to make matches and determine storylines), and were accused of refusing to put over (elevate, usually by losing a match) anyone outside the group. The group was made up of the following members:
- Michael Hickenbottom (Shawn Michaels)
- Kevin Nash (Diesel)
- Scott Hall (Razor Ramon)
- Paul Levesque (Triple H)
- Sean Waltman (1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac/Syxx)
The five were best friends in real life; most of them remain close friends today. Other wrestlers were on the fringes of the Kliq from time to time—most notably Aldo Montoya, now better known as Justin Credible,— but the core group remained the same. After Nash and Hall left WWF for WCW, Michaels and Triple H formed the nucleus of D-Generation X with Chyna and Rick Rude, while Nash and Hall would form the nWo with Hulk Hogan.
Some fans use the terms Clique and Kliq interchangeably. "Kliq" was originally used by the WWF to describe Shawn Michaels' fanbase at one period in 1996. It is widely believed that "Kliq" was a nod to smarks who knew of the existence of the Kliq. On the independent circuit, Scott Hall would have the word "KLIQ" on the back of his trunks.
Curtain Call: The MSG Incident
One of the more talked-about actions involving the Kliq was the Madison Square Garden Incident (MSG), which took place on May 19, 1996 and involved all of the Clique except for Waltman (who was home nursing an injury at the time). At the time of the incident, Hall and Nash were about to leave the WWF for WCW. At a major WWF house show in Madison Square Garden, Michaels and Levesque (as Helmsley) worked separate singles matches with Hall and Nash. Earlier in the card, Levesque worked a match, as a heel, with Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon) in which the departing Hall would job to Levesque to put him over. Later, in the main event, Michaels, as a face, worked a steel cage match with Nash (as Diesel), as a heel, in which the departing Nash would job to Michaels to put him over. Immediately after the match, Hall walked towards the ring, came in, and hugged Michaels. This was not seen as a problem, since both Hall and Michaels were faces in the storylines. But after Hall and Michaels hugged, Levesque walked towards the ring, got in, and also hugged Hall, despite working a match earlier in which Hall was a face and Levesque was a heel. Then, Nash stood up after being pinned by Michaels and all four shared a prolonged group hug.
Their actions in the "Curtain Call" scandalized WWF management, who at the time wanted to maintain the illusion that the supposed antipathy between faces and heels was real and that they were not friends outside the ring. It is reported in Michaels book, Heartbreak and Triumph, that Vince Mcmahon was initially ok with the incident, but did not expect them to take it so far. It is alleged (according to Kevin Kelly's commentary on the October 20th 1997 edition of Monday Night RAW) that the incident created a furor behind the scenes in the locker room, and that several superstars (said to have included The British Bulldog) had to be restrained from engaging in physical interaction with the Kliq superstars.
Because Michaels was the WWF Champion at the time and was one of the promotion's biggest drawing cards, the WWF feared that punishing him would hurt its business. Hall and Nash were soon to leave for WCW (Hall arrived just over one week later, Nash three weeks later), so they escaped punishment. The punishment fell solely on Levesque; he was demoted from championship contender to jobber to the stars, although he did win the WWF Intercontinental Championship five months later.
This punishment turned out to have a major impact on the WWF's future. Before the MSG Incident, Levesque had been booked to win the King of the Ring tournament late that spring, but instead was booked to job to Jake "The Snake" Roberts (a finalist in the King of the Ring that year). The winner of this title traditionally received a large push toward stardom. However, the incident led the WWF to change the booking for the tournament. The King of the Ring title would instead go to Stone Cold Steve Austin; his win (and subsequent "Austin 3:16" speech) started his rise toward mainstream superstardom and helped the WWF defeat WCW in their business 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 and later went on to hold the World Heavyweight Championship multiple times for extended periods, beginning with his WWE Championship victory over Mick Foley the night after Summerslam 1999.
The Kliq, the nWo, and D-Generation X
When Hall and Nash went to WCW, they formed the New World Order stable, or nWo; when Waltman later jumped to WCW, he also joined the nWo. Many fans often 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 title from Goldberg and the subsequent Fingerpoke of Doom as the most grievous of his "offenses."
Meanwhile, Levesque and Michaels went on to align together in the faction D-Generation X alongside Chyna and Rick Rude. DX would eventually become almost (if not just) as influential to the WWF-WCW business wars as the nWo. Although DX did not have the gimmick of invaders and were not notorious for having or abusing political power while within this stable, they were rebels and degenerates who would perform vulgar taunts and disrespect authority, which happened to be the common idea between the two factions. DX's antics also went on to help spark the WWF Attitude Era.
The nWo's hand sign, often referred to as the "Wolf Head", was originally used by the Kliq members in the WWF. Shawn Michaels was often seen flashing the sign, most notably at Royal Rumble 1995, where he had "TK" written on his taped hands (Standing for "The Kliq"). At In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies, Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash both flashed the hand sign before the match, signifying their friendship. In the nWo, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash brought the hand sign with them and it became widely used by the nWo members and fans worldwide. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean Waltman would often give "shout-outs" to their friends - Shawn Michaels & Triple-H - using the hand gesture on live television.
At Royal Rumble 1998, Michaels would suffer a back injury which caused his four-year retirement from wrestling, but Triple H would not let DX die, so he and Chyna aligned along X-Pac (Waltman) - who had left WCW and returned to WWF in 1998 - and the New Age Outlaws, in a second version of DX. While Hunter went on to switch back and forth from DX to Vince McMahon's Corporation until the two units fused via the McMahon-Helmsley Faction, Michaels did come back in limited non-wrestling roles that saw him with and/or against Triple H and/or DX.
During a brief period in 1998, after Waltan's return to the WWF as X-Pac, Degeneration-X made numerous references to their friends in the WCW (though not 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 WCW offies in Atlanta. Triple H, riding in a Humvee, chanted "Let our people go!" through a megaphone during the incident. 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 Hollywood Hogan, the group's initial members. Hogan soon left the group after being attacked by Nash and Hall as a result of his turning face at WrestleMania X8. Other former members, including The Big Show and Waltman, joined as did Booker T against his will. When the brand extension took place, the nWo became affiliated with RAW.
The biggest nWo-related shock came when Shawn Michaels, after years away from the ring, was introduced by Kevin Nash as the newest member of the nWo. He literally kicked Booker T out of the group (using his "Sweet Chin Music" superkick on him) soon afterward, and 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 GM) later on tried to make Shawn Michaels Triple H's manager. This led to a reformation of D-X but that was short lived as Triple H turned on him the same night, setting off a long and heated feud that had taken about a year to resolve. The year after, Nash returned from injury as a face, and sided with Michaels against Hunter, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton, better known as Evolution.
Currently, only Triple H is active in the WWE, as Shawn Michaels retired in 2010 and Kevin Nash is signed to a legends deal with the WWE. Sean Waltman is currently wrestling on the independent circuit, and was under contract with Wrestling Society X which ended on November 16, 2006; he appeared on RAW 1000 however with D-Generation X. However, plans by MTV to air the promotion forbids Waltman from signing with any other company at this time. Scott Hall has been mostly inactive from wrestling since his TNA run ended in 2005, but is also wrestling on the independent circuit with Waltman as The Wolfpac. During his TNA run and at the beginning of his second WWF run in 2002, Hall actually wore wrestling tights that had KLIQ stamped on the back of them. Scott Hall has recently signed a WWE Legends deal and is reportedly dropping weight to return to wrestling.