A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on my blog about who the worst Horseman was-Paul Roma or Steve McMichael-and although some disagreed with me, the article overall got a lot of good feedback and positive reviews. In that same article, I pointed out the debate between the fans on which was the best Horsemen formation, the original, or the sequel that saw Barry Windham replace Ole Anderson.
It’s a debate that’s been going on for a long time, and although I have my opinion, I’ve never really laid it out in writing before. So, having some free time and wanting to write this column for a while, I decided I’d compare Windham and Ole and determine who really made the group better. I’ll be using the same format I did for the worst Horseman column, comparing each side-by-side in several categories. Since the other members of the group were the same in both versions, I will focus solely on Ole and Windham’s merits in the comparisons.
So, without further Apu, here we go.
1. PRE-HORSEMAN EXPERIENCE
OLE: Prior to joining the Horsemen in 1986 as a charter member of the group, Ole had been wrestling since 1967, wrestling in the mid-card for the AWA (back when it still meant something), eventually teaming with his “brothers”, the original Andersons, Lars and Gene, better known as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. He was also the head booker for both GCW and Jim Crockett Promotions at the same time, and helped create Championship Wrestling From Georgia.
WINDHAM: Barry Windham started young, at just 19, spending his early days in NWA Championship Wrestling From Florida. There, he teamed with brother-in-law Mike Rotunda, where they stayed a team after signing with the WWF, becoming known as the U.S. Express. After leaving WWF in 1985, Windham rejoined the NWA in Florida, eventually moving up to JCP, the crown jewel of the NWA at the time, where he feuded with pretty much every major star at the time, including future Horseman cohort Ric Flair. He also spent some time in the UWF before it went under.
ADVANTAGE: Although Ole got to team with the original Andersons and be head booker for two different companies, Barry gets the nod here. He was pretty much shot straight to the top from his debut, and by the time he finally hit his stride in NWA, he was already more or less a main eventer.
[adinserter block=”2″]2. MARKETABILITY
OLE: Ole was pudgy and pretty rough-looking, definitely a throwback to the older days of wrestling when looks weren’t nearly as important as they would soon become. He did have some great promos early in his career, though.
WINDHAM: Although maybe not considered as much of a tough guy as Ole, Windham was still very tough, and had teen idol good looks early in his career. When you add in a tall, muscular frame and decent promo skills of his own, Windham was, for a time, a promoter’s dream in the marketability department.
ADVANTAGE: Barry Windham.
3. IN-RING SKILLS
OLE: Anderson was a decent wrestler, but known more for his brawling style. His matches were far from pretty, but his style got the job done when needed.
WINDHAM: Windham had in-ring skills that had nearly no equal, combining excellent technical wrestling with hard strikes and even some occasional high-flying work. Everything Windham did in the ring was crisp and fluid, and he rarely made mistakes.
ADVANTAGE: While some people prefer brawlers, I’ve always been more partial to technical wrestlers, especially ones who can fight as well as they can wrestler. Once again, Windham gets the nod.
4. MIC SKILLS
OLE: As I stated earlier, Ole was a good mic man, cutting gruff, angry promos that were often short and to the point. He kept them simple, basically telling you he was just going to beat you up before he went out and did it.
WINDHAM: Windham was the more boisterous of the two, adding a lot of flair and charisma to his promos, qualities Ole just didn’t seem to possess.
ADVANTAGE: It’s really a toss-up here. Both promo styles had their good points, and it really depends on your preferred style. This one is tough for me to decide, so I’m calling it a tie.
5. FAN APPEAL
OLE: Ole was never the most fan-friendly wrestler on Earth, rightfully spending most of his career as a heel. He dabbled in the face territory a little bit, especially during the Horseman reunion in the early 90s, but it never really fit well. He was a born heel, through and through.
WINDHAM: Windham could play both sides of the fence with ease. Although he was probably better as a face, he still played a heel to the hilt anytime the situation called for it. When he was a face, the fans loved him. When he was a heel, the fans loved to hate him.
ADVANTAGE: Windham had more overall fan appeal with his looks and wrestling style, and continues to demand respect from the fans. Meanwhile, Ole became one of the most hated promoters in the history of JCP/NWA/WCW, and has developed into one of the bitterest people in the history of the business post-career.
6. CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
OLE: Ole held a ton of championships in his very long career, most notably winning 8 NWA World Tag Team titles, the NWA Florida Television Championship and the AWA Midwest Heavyweight Championship. He held numerous other tag team titles in various companies, won the “Tag Team of the Year” Award in 1982 from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (with partner Stan Hansen), and was also inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame in 1994.
WINDHAM: As impressive as Ole’s championship resume’ was, Windham’s was even more impressive. He held five NWA/WCW World Tag Team titles, the NWA US title, the WCW World Television title, the NWA North American title, 2 WWF World Tag Team titles, and the pinnacle of championships, the NWA World Heavyweight title, something Ole never even came close to winning. Windham was also voted “Most Improved Wrestler of the Year” in 1982 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, “Rookie of the Year 1980” & “Match of the Year 1986” (w/Ric Flair) by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and earlier this year, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with fellow Horsemen Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon.
ADVANTAGE: While Ole Anderson’s 46 separate championship reigns are indeed impressive, Barry Windham’s 38 is even more impressive when you consider the caliber of championships he was able to net. Most of Ole’s were regional tag team titles, whereas most of Windham’s were national or World titles. And while Windham had only one World title reign, the NWA World title was still considered the top belt in the world by many fans at the time, and at 147 days as champion, it was still a very respectable reign.
7. ATHLETIC BACKGROUND PRIOR TO WRESTLING
Honestly, I couldn’t find much information on either guy’s athletic career prior to wrestling, despite several searches. Windham didn’t have a chance to have an athletic career before wrestling, as he pretty much went straight into wrestling after high school. Ole also started young, beginning his career at the age of 25. Unfortunately, I’m going to have go to a tie on this one as well.
8. POST-HORSEMAN CAREER
OLE: Ole retired from wrestling for the first time in 1987, then again in 1989, taking a managerial role in the Horsemen, which by then included Windham. In 1990, Ole took over as head booker for NWA/WCW, becoming a referee a year later before returning to booking until 1993, when he was fired by Eric Bischoff. While being head booker might sound good, Ole sucked at his job, booking some of the dumbest angles in wrestling history and generally making life miserable for most WCW employees behind the scenes. He stayed away from wrestling after that and wrote an autobiography titled Inside Out.
WINDHAM: After Windham’s initial run with the Horsemen, he briefly returned to the WWF as “The Widowmaker” in 1989. He rejoined the Horsemen the next year and stayed there until 1991, before turning face and forming a successful team with Dustin Rhodes. From there, he bounced back and forth between playing heel and face, as well as working for the WWF and WCW. His last main run in wrestling was in the dying days of WCW, where he formed the West-Texas Rednecks with Bobby Duncum, Jr., Curly Bill, Curt Hennig and younger brother Kendall Windham, snagging two more tag team titles in the process.
ADVANTAGE: Ole’s career pretty much went straight down the toilet, while Windham continued to be one of the most respected wrestlers in the business, still putting in excellent performances, regardless of whatever stupid gimmick he was saddled with. Windham had a health scare late last year, but has since made a full recovery, and continues to garner respect all over the world.
[adinserter block=”1″]As I said at the beginning, I’m sure I’m going to piss off a lot of people with this-and hey, more power to you for standing up for what you believe in, but in my opinion, Barry Windham’s inclusion in the Horsemen was one of those rare occasions when the sequel surpassed the original. Overall, Barry Windham was a better wrestler, a more colorful personality and a superior all-around performer. While Ole Anderson certainly had his merits and deserves the respect he has received over his life, Windham was just a vastly superior wrestler and performer, and continues to get praise and respect for his work while Ole Anderson has become increasingly bitter and angry, pretty much alienating himself from every wrestler he ever got close to in the process. While Ole played his part in the group very, very well, on a whole, when Barry Windham joined the group, he helped take a good thing and make it better. In being a better performer, he complimented his fellow Horsemen better than Ole could and with Tully, Arn and Flair flanking him, he helped create the most technically-sound and well-rounded version of the Horsemen in history, and maybe the most technically-sound wrestling faction of all time.
WINNER: Arn, Barry, Tully and Ric.
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