Top Fifteen Stables in Wrestling: Number Twelve
Continuing our countdown of top stables, we come to one that made a major splash to enter the World Wrestling Federation– and almost as quickly fade away as a stable. The stable included four up-and-coming wrestlers who originally met in Extreme Championship Wrestling and were among the young, sometimes heavily ignored, talent in World Championship Wrestling. The Radicalz came into the WWF united to enter and make a name for themselves, but jealousy among the stars would be there downfall before real-life tragedy would hit members of this stable.
Prior to joining forces as the Radicalz in WWF, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko were all wrestling in different promotions in countries like Mexico, Canada, and Japan. While the smaller, high-flying “lucha libre” style of wrestling had to gain any real traction in the United States (where the power reigned supreme), this style was extremely popular in Mexico, Canada, Japan, and throughout Europe. Their style and entertaining matches with each other caught the eye of ECW booker Paul Heyman. Heyman knew that this exciting style of wrestling would bring a ton of excitement to the U.S. ranks of wrestling and signed all three to ECW contracts. It was in ECW that Guerrero, Benoit, and Malenko would meet Perry Saturn– who had a more traditional brawler style.
All four would form a friendship that would lead them to signing with WCW as the Monday Night Wars were about to begin. While the creation of the New World Order gets most of the credit for WCW’s early dominance in the ratings war, it was the creation of the Cruiserweight division that was the biggest difference between the rosters in WCW and WWF. Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero quickly made their names known in this division– as face and heel, respectively. Benoit would spend some time in the Cruiserweight ranks, but would make his biggest push against the big boys, eventually winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Saturn would remain at mid-card status throughout his time with WCW, and would be a key member of Raven’s Flock stable with fellow ECW alum, Raven.
By 1999, the lower and mid-card level stars of WCW were unhappy because of a lack of a push in their careers, which was the beginning of WCW’s downfall. Benoit, Malenko, and Saturn had joined forces with leader Shane Douglas (another ECW alum) to form The Revolution stable. During his time with the Revolution, Benoit would win the WCW world title. Because giving him the title wasn’t enough to keep Benoit from leaving, WCW– and only WCW– would decide not to recognize Benoit as ever being the World Heavyweight Champion.
In 2000, the Radicalz would make their entrance into the WWF as audience members and backstage guests of Mick Foley. They sat ringside during the tag team match between the New Age Outlaws versus Al Snow and Steve Blackman. During the match, Road Dogg Jesse James would take a shot at Benoit. This would lead the Radicalz to jump over the barrier and attack the New Age Outlaws. The attack ended with Guerrero landing his famous Frog Splash on Bad Ass Billy Gunn and Benoit hitting Road Dogg with his Flying Headbutt.
All four were offered an opportunity to “win” WWF contracts in a series of three matches against members of D-Generation X. Malenko lost to X-Pac after an illegal groin shot. Saturn and Guerrero would team against the New Age Outlaws. Guerrero would hit Billy Gunn with a Frog Splash and had the cover before Road Dogg broke it up by illegally pulling the referee out of the ring. The Outlaws would come out on top. In their final chance, Chris Benoit would lose to Triple H, but not before forcing Triple H to tap out to the Crippler Crossface while the referee was unconscious. Soon afterwards, the Radicalz would be given contracts by Triple H, in exchange for turning on Mick Foley. After “earning” their WWF contracts, they would enjoy some level of success.
As closely knit as they seemed when they entered the WWF, they would soon go their separate with each member seeking singles success on their own. Before all of that happened, Guerrero would injure his arm and serve as the manager for the team of Malenko and Saturn. Benoit would focus more on his singles success and only work with the stable when he required backup. Malenko quickly won the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, annoying Benoit. After had varying levels of success early on they quietly went their separate ways. However, Saturn would atack Guerrero, starting a feud over the WWF European Championship.
They would go their separate ways in the summer of 2000, but reformed in November as the hired guns of Triple H during his feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. In early 2001, Benoit had turned face during a rivalry with Kurt Angle, while the rest of the stable were heels. They would force Benoit out of the group, with Guerrero taking over as the leader.
Guerrero would also turn face later in the year, teaming up with Team Xtreme, before he was forced to take time off to enter rehabilitation for alcohol abuse. After completing the three month program, Guerrero began working house before being released following a driving while intoxicated arrest. During this time, Terri Runnels had joined the stable as their valet and manager. Runnels, Malenko, and Saturn would remain together as the Radicalz in 2001 until shortly before the Invasion storyline– when Dean Malenko decided to retire from wrestling.
In 2002, Guerrero was re-signed by the newly re-named World Wrestling Entertainment. They would quickly team him up with Benoit (though not as the Radicalz). They would stay a team until jumping to the Smackdown brand. They would still interact with each other, as both opponents and friends. The most notable instance came at Wrestlemania XX, where Guerrero and Benoit would embrace with each other after Guerrero retained the WWE Championship and Benoit would successfully win the World Heavyweight Championship. They would celebrate together one final time on ECW One Night Stand, after wrestling a final time against each other.
Sadly, Eddie Guerrero would pass away on November 13, 2005 from acute heart failure due to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. To add to the tragedy, on June 24, 2007, Chris Benoit would miss a pay-per-view event where he was scheduled to wrestle. He would be found dead, having committed suicide after he murdered his wife and son. Both men were still under contract with WWE at the time of their deaths. Perry Saturn would be released by WWE in 2002, and remains active in the independent circuit. Terri Runnels would leave WWE in 2004, after eight years with the company, and has never returned to the wrestling business. Dean Malenko is the only member of the Radicalz still with WWE. Soon after his retirement, he remained with the company as a road agent– a job he still holds to this day.