As you may or may not know, “The Day the Music Died” for me was the day the WWE bought and killed WCW. I loved big time pro wrestling as a kid and got a great kick out of it in my 20s when it experienced a major rebirth in the mid-90s during the “Monday Night Wars.” Without the competition between the organizations, the product died shortly after the takeover and I haven’t watched since.
Recently, while flipping through the channels on a Monday night in a rare bought of insomnia – insomnia to me is any night where I can’t fall instantly asleep at 9pm – I stumbled upon WWE “Raw.” It was unwatchable as I figured, but what struck me, and this had been developing for 10 years, was the complete lack of respectable tag teams. Tag teams have been a huge part of wrestling during all of its glory days so I thought we’d look back at the greatest of all time.
What you’re looking for here is influence on and importance to the genre. Obviously, with the outcomes pre-determined, you can’t judge this on won/lost records or titles, so the ability to headline a show is also paramount. Pro wrestling is a business; can you put butts in the seats?
The teams that could work the main event, that could make the turnstiles move, that changed and advanced the nature of tag team wrestling in general are the ones who come out on top.
1. The Road Warriors – Hawk and Animal
This isn’t debatable. From the face paint, to the super-muscular physiques, to the entrance music and the spiked shoulder pads, the L.O.D. completely changed the “look” of wrestling throughout the 1980s and beyond. The Road Warriors won titles in every major U.S. promotion and overseas. They headlined house shows and Pay-Per-Views for the better part of 20 years and were easily the most popular team off all time, and popular in wrestling means dollars.
2. The Steiner Brothers – Rick and Scott
The Steiners were a wrestling supernova in the ‘90s. No team had more imagination in their tandem moves or was more visually dazzling in the ring. 15 major championships domestically and internationally and 10 years at the top of the profession secure their place in the top five, how they expanded the idea of what was possible from a duo setting the stage for the ultra-high risk teams of the late 1990s put them at #2.
3. The Minnesota Wrecking Crew - Ole & Gene Anderson
Ole and Gene are largely credited with establishing the “team” concepts and fundamentals of tag team wrestling – quick tags in and out, double-teams, combo moves. Before Ole and Gene, tag teams consisted of two singles wrestlers joining forces for the night, the Andersons established the idea of an exclusive “team.” The Crew spent the entire 1970s as the top duo in wrestling.
4. The Fabulous Freebirds – Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy
Before the Freebirds, wrestling was quiet. The Freebirds popularized entrance music, brought rock and roll into the industry and things were never the same. Probably the most hated tag team of all time their feud with the Von Erichs is one of wrestling’s most enduring. The Freebirds sold as many tickets in their promotion as any team ever.
5. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard
For 15 years, Tully and Arn won and held titles in the two major American promotions, working at the top of the card with the “Four Horsemen” and by themselves. Wrestling isn’t a solo show, you need a partner, and no tag team made their opponents look better or provided more consistent in ring excellence.
6. The British Bulldogs – Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid
What they lacked in longevity, they made up for in brilliance. The definitive WWF tag team of the ‘80s, that their relatively few years together are so memorable speaks to the impact they had. The Buddy Holly of tag teams.
7. Rock and Roll Express – Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson
Sloppy conditioning, hairy chests and bandanas tied around their legs can’t take away from their eight NWA titles, numerous regional belts and great feuds with the Midnight Express and Four Horsemen. Bankable and dependable for the better part of 10 years.
8. Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody
9. Terry Gordy and Steve Williams
Teams #8 and #9 are hard to distinguish because they followed such similar scripts: successful, burly, brawling, American stars team up to dominate Japan and become sensations with their wild and intimidating style. Both teams sold out countless arenas, tallied innumerable championships and drove Japanese fans insane, but their lack of longevity or success stateside limits how high I can rank them.
10. The Crusher and Dick The Bruiser
More known as singles performers, but like drinking buddies, their powers seemed to multiply when paired together. What they miss in ring artistry they more than make up for in fan excitement and tickets sold.
11. The Hardy Boys – Matt and Jeff
The last best hope for a revival of tag team wrestling in the late 90s, when they split up, the genre essentially became passé totally. They took high risk tandem maneuvers as far as they’ve ever gone.
12. The Von Erichs – Kerry and Kevin
Didn’t wrestle a lot together, but whenever they did, it was special and the arena was sold out.