Once upon a time, there were different divisions and weight classes in professional wrestling. Separate from the heavyweight singles division was the tag team division, with teams designed to be attractions on their own, not as a launching pad for singles runs or a template for an eventual break-up and feud. Tag team champions proudly defended their belts, and teams stayed together for years.
TODAY’S ISSUE: State of the Tag Team Division Address
Sadly, it seems the true tag team is almost extinct today. With a few notable exceptions I’ll cover below, tag teams in the current pro wrestling landscape have all but disappeared. There are very few true tag teams like the ones we used to see.
Today, tag teams are mostly comprised of singles wrestlers who are placed together. They don’t wear matching ring gear or perform specialty tag team maneuvers. They don’t have catchy names like the Killer B’s, the Fantastics, Strike Force, or the Samoan Swat Team/Headshrinkers.
Do you remember Pretty Wonderful, Stars and Stripes, and the Midnight Express? How about, Badd Company, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, the Moondogs, and the Wild Samoans? There once were the Smoking Gunns, the Body Donnas, the Hardy Boys, the Dudley Boys, and the Brood. There was Public Enemy, the Pit Bulls, and the FBI. Gone now are Doom and the Hollywood Blondes, the Orient Express and the Heavenly Bodies. Two men (twin brothers Ron and Don Harris) have been known as the Bruise Brothers, the Grimm Brothers, the Blu Brothers, DoA, Creative Control, and DoD in the past.
These were all true tag teams that functioned as a unit. They were either running buddies or close relatives. They trained together, traveled together, and of course, fought together. They always had their eyes on the prize: the world tag team title belts. They defended each other from attackers, and ached to get the “hot tag” when their partner was being pummeled. They were teams in every sense of the word.
Let’s take a look at the gaping maw that is the tag team division in the current television products of the two biggest US companies, WWE and TNA.
WWE – RAW tag team champions Hurricane and Rosey: Hurricane is a favorite cruiserweight of mine, and Rosey is the last surviving half of the 3-Minute Warning experiment. Hurricane suddenly made Rosey his Super Hero In Training (S.H.I.T., get it?) sidekick, with little storyline explanation that I can recall. They didn’t start as a true tag team, but WWE has melded these two nicely, although with a silly gimmick. Either way, they’re a true team now. TRUE TEAM
WWE – The Heart Throbs: I can’t seem to tell Romeo and Antonio apart, because I simply don’t care. Debuting on RAW the same week MNM did on SmackDown, these two “ladies’ men” look and act alike and utilize a combo finishing move, so they’re a true team, but I still dislike them. They are so over-the-top silly, I can’t imagine ever taking them seriously. Also, jobbing to the thrown-together team of the Big Vs on RAW doesn’t bode well for Team Chippendale’s. TRUE TEAM
WWE – The Big Vs: I don’t watch Sunday Night Heat, but whatever storyline explained Val Venis and Big Vis hooking up as a team was not adequately explained on RAW when they debuted last week. They’re so new at this point, we’ll have to see if they blend together well, but for now they’re just two mid-carders marking time in the tag division. NOT A TRUE TEAM
WWE – Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch: Who the Hell is this Murdoch character? Was Lance “Garrison” Cade a southerner in any of his previous incarnations? I don’t remember that, but he is now. A couple of vignettes stressing that Murdoch is a psycho, and here they are on RAW. Whatever. NOT A TRUE TEAM
RAW totals: Four teams, only two of them are true tag teams.
WWE – SmackDown tag team champions LOD v2.5: I don’t know if Animal has the right to create a replacement for his deceased former partner. This whole thing feels very odd to me. Heidenreich was once an evil, poetry-spewing, Cole-raping nut job, and now he’s the second coming of Road Warrior Hawk? Even if it means a super-crappy feud between Hawkenreich and Animal, I want this team to go away. NOT A TRUE TEAM
WWE – MNM: Matching wardrobe, matching attitudes, a manager who compliments them, and a combo finisher with an appropriate name to boot. MNM is the epitome of a true tag team, and the sooner they reclaim the gold, the better. The best new addition to WWE’s major league roster in a long time, MNM is the finest example of a tag team to come around in ages. TRUE TEAM
WWE – The Mexicools: Perhaps “stable” is a better description. However, Juvy, Super Crazy, and Psicosis are like-minded, dress similarly, and act alike. Still, I haven’t seen them competing in many tag team matches, and they certainly don’t seem interested in the SmackDown tag team titles. NOT A TRUE TEAM
SmackDown totals: Three teams, only one is a true tag team.
TNA – TNA tag team champions the Naturals: Andy Douglas and Chase Stevens wear matching gear and sport a similar look. Like MNM, they have a tandem finisher with an appropriate name for the team (the Natural Disaster). The Naturals always have each other’s backs. TRUE TEAM
TNA – America’s Most Wanted: I could practically cut-and-paste the above paragraph about the Naturals right here. “Wildcat” Chris Harris and “Cowboy” James Storm are, like the Naturals and MNM, a true, old school tag team. Their tandem finisher the “Death Sentence” is reminiscent of the Doomsday Device and the Hart Attack, in that one member of the team holds the opponent in place while the other member attacks. TRUE TEAM
TNA – Team Canada: Like WWE’s Mexicools, Team Canada is more stable than tag team. However, they do compete in the tag division quite often, in any number of combinations. They always perform like a well-oiled machine in tag team situations, and they’re unified in the same goals and objectives. Those members not in action at a given time accompany their teammates at ringside, and cheat to help each other win matches when they can get away with it. TRUE TEAM
TNA – 3LK: I don’t really care for the 3 Live Kru. BG James and Konnan are tired as characters, and their gimmicks are done to death, and I don’t buy either of them as the bad-ass street thugs they try to be. Ron “The Truth” Killings is a little more exciting in the ring than his two partners, but when will he learn that hitting dance moves in the middle of match is ill advised, at best? Despite my personal taste, 3LK meet all my criteria for being a real tag team, so… TRUE TEAM
TNA totals: Four teams, all of which are true tag teams.
What a surprise, another thing TNA does better than WWE. In addition to a superior tag team scene, TNA promotes cruiserweights or “X Division” wrestlers 1,000 times better than WWE, and their heavyweight programs are simpler and more satisfying to me as a fan. October 1st can’t get here soon enough!
The Fabulous Freebirds, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, the Hart Foundation, the Rockers, the British Bulldogs, and the Road Warriors (and many of LOD’s pretenders to the throne like Demolition and the Powers of Pain) are all favorites of mine from the past. I particularly enjoy pairings like the Hart Foundation because of the one-two punch of a technical master, Bret “the Hitman” Hart, and a powerhouse, Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart. Teams like that are more adaptable to different opponents than two carbon copies of each other in the same ring gear.
What about your favorite old tag teams? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll gladly mention you here next week if you submit some interesting thoughts about the tag team glory days of yesteryear.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – I’m sure you’ve heard the term “legally drunk”. If it’s legal, then what’s the problem?