Doctor's Orders: The Top 100 Tag Teams of the WrestleMania Era (#91-#100)
By The Doc
Apr 22, 2017 - 1:59:47 PM
”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.
Following the response to our collaboration last summer regarding the greatest superstars of the post-Attitude Era, Dave Fenichel and I have teamed up again for another Top 100 list. Between now and June, we will take an in-depth look at tag team history throughout the WrestleMania Era, even including teams that fall beyond the footprint of WWE and NWA/WCW, with rankings shaped by championship pedigree, classic matches, personal memories, the historical scope of the promotion(s) that hosted the duo, the roster positional heights that the team was able to reach (i.e. escaping the mid-card for main-event status), and impact left on tag team lore. Enjoy the journey and feel free to share your thoughts on the teams and their rankings.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: In what could prove to be our most controversial decision, we decided against including NXT tag teams because the division at the strength we know it today is merely 18 or so months old. So, since we included TNA, do you think that we should have also included NXT in this countdown?
100. Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon
99. The Shining Stars
98. Deuce ‘n Domino
97. Hardcore and Crash Holly
96. The Bodydonnas
95. The Powers of Pain
94. The Natural Born Thrillers
93. AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels
92. Triple X
91. The Enforcers
Dave: Most of you probably don’t remember Furnas and Lafon. Those of you that do probably remember them only for an unremarkable WWE run during 1997. They feuded with The Bulldog and Owen Hart as well as the Legion of Doom, but did not accomplish anything noteworthy as a result. In reality, they occupy the final slot on our countdown due to two separate short but decent runs in ECW. During the first run, they had a fantastic series of tag matches with RVD and Sabu. I strongly recommend giving those a watch if you can find them. In their second run, they won the ECW tag titles from The FBI. Their tag title reign lasted a whopping 24 hours, but a title win is a title win. Congratulations Furnas and Lafon….YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!
Doc: Their run in WWE might not have been particularly noteworthy, but they made an impression, debuting at the '96 Survivor Series opposite the Tag Team Champions at the time, Bulldog and Owen, and putting on display the considerable skills that had made them stars in Japan in the early '90s en route to defeating the champs and being the sole survivors of a traditional Elimination match. The victory over Owen and Bulldog segued to a Tag Team Title shot at In Your House: Final Four the following February and, though they did not win the championships, Furnas and Lafon once again showcased their abilities between the ropes. “Underrated” would be an appropriate term to describe them, particularly for their wrestling acumen, and I encourage you to utilize the WWE Network to form an opinion on them if you do not have one currently.
Primo and Epico have been a tag team in WWE since 2011, but have not left much of an impression, ranking ahead of Furnas and Lafon on account of a 109 day Tag Team Championship reign during one of the many weak stretches for tag team wrestling in WWE over the last fifteen years. That version of the duo was managed by Rosa Mendes; they were later repackaged as Los Matadores and managed (?) by El Torito, who to be fair had more memorable matches with Hornswoggle in 6 weeks than they have had with anyone in 6 years. Today, you know them as The Shining Stars and they should be thanking their lucky stars that they held the titles for nearly four months, as they otherwise would not be on this list. Solid wrestlers they are indeed, but about as unforgettable as a random party night in college.
I wanted to disagree with Chad on all 100 teams on the countdown, but I can’t here. Epico and Primo as a tag team have never done anything for me. Even with that, I can’t find a single match of theirs that stands out. To be honest, the most memorable series of matches they were involved in were the El Torito v Hornswoggle comedy classics. It’s never a good sign for your status as a tag team if the best match you were “involved in” was a match in which you watched your midget manager do work. Alas, they had a 106 day run with the tag titles, and that can’t be ignored. As you will see with many of the teams at the bottom of the list, there haven’t been nearly as many “great” tag teams in wrestling history as one would think. Tag title runs thus hold weight.
Deuce n’ Domino were the perfect name for these two, as I thought they were a couple of turds. Their gimmick was pretty good but they didn’t do anything with it. I feel like it could have had some serious legs if you had wrestlers that could do ANYTHING required to be successful in wrestling involved with it. I used to get a kick out D&D’s hometown being “the other side of the tracks”. Their manager “Cherry” was pretty hot and had some impressive moves on roller skates. I’m pretty sure that she did cartwheels, a feat far more impressive than anything D&D could accomplish inside the squared circle or on the microphone. They make our list as a result of a 133 day title reign. They are the definition of yawnstipating. Let’s move on.
A pattern is going to emerge throughout this series that will make clear my feelings about certain eras of tag team wrestling in WWE being so borderline to outright irrelevant that I am surprised a rumor did not pop up at various points throughout said eras regarding Vince McMahon thinking about scrapping the division altogether. Deuce 'n Domino were case-in-point. When they held the titles, the championships no longer mattered because they did not matter. I am not typically so inclined to be harsh, but being so connected to the product as I was during the mid-2000s was at times like reliving the worst parts of the New Generation from the mid-1990s. A 50s gimmick? Seriously? Deuce 'n Domino (one of them was Jimmy Snuka's son) never got over, yet they held the Tag Team Championships for over four months. Not a good era for tag teams...
Speaking of eras, there have been two golden eras of tag team wrestling in WWE to date; one of them occurred during the famed Attitude Era. Though best remembered for TLC, the tag team division from late '99 through at least 2001 was chock full of relevant talents, the Holly cousins among them. Hardcore Holly, as Dave and I discussed in our post-Attitude Era series last summer, was a steady hand who more often than not was involved in something semi-important throughout his career. His tag team with Crash Holly was not overly memorable, but their eventual 15 day reign as World Tag Champions did result from defeating the Rock 'n Sock Connection. Though undoubtedly more of a faction (Molly Holly eventually joined them) known for its hardcore antics, they deserve recognition as one of the Top 100 tag teams ever.
This team worked for me. Although not together for that long and with only a two week title run on their resume, The Hollys make our list because they entertained. Hardcore Holly was a surly guy in real life. His natural personality worked perfectly as the “straight man” alongside Crash Holly’s shenanigans. I really enjoyed the banter and dysfunction between the two. They never took themselves too seriously as a tag team, and I appreciated that. Their matches and segments were always fun, even if lacking any real substance. Crash and his quirkiness reminded me of the little brother that would follow you around biting your ankles and asking so many questions that you’d want to hit him in the face with a 2 x 4. I was always surprised that Hardcore Holly never launched him like a lawn dart. A boy can only dream…
I wanted to rank the Bodydonnas many spots ahead of this, but Chad shot that down like an airplane hovering over Russian airspace. I found the Bodydonnas and their workout guru schtick to be extremely entertaining. For newer fans not familiar, think a much better version of Simon Dean. If you’re so young that you don’t know who Simon Dean is, I can’t help you; go play in the sandbox somewhere. I thought the Bodydonnas had excellent feuds with both The Legion of Doom and the Godwinns. Most important of all, they introduced the WWE universe to one of the most beautiful and talented Divas of all time, Sunny. She was the total package and added a must-see element to everything that they did. I think the hate for the Bodydonnas stems from the perceived wasting of Chris Candido more than any legitimate gripe about their accomplishments or entertainment value.
I honest to goodness do not remember the Bodydonnas ever feuding with the Legion of Doom. Even if I did, I am unsure that it would matter. I have nothing against the talents of Chris Candido and Tom Prichard, but I think this might be a case of Dave remembering them more fondly by association (to Sunny). Perhaps the best way to contextualize their run would be to recognize that they rose to prominence during an exceptionally weak period in WWE tag team lore and, like a lot of duos that emerged as the champions during such a period, they did not prove particularly capable of elevating the scene. The division was not in a great place when they arrived and it was no better or worse off when they departed. Sunny's legacy endured while theirs was largely forgotten. This was the appropriate spot for them.
The Powers of Pain never won the Tag Team Championships, neither in the NWA nor the WWE. They were, however, prominent challengers during one of the strongest runs in WWE Tag Team Championship history. Demolition was reigning supreme when The Warlord and The Barbarian debuted. During a Survivor Series Elimination Match in 1988, the two pairs executed a rare double-turn, with Mr. Fuji renouncing his managerial duties for Ax and Smash and siding with “his” Powers of Pain (can you not hear Fuji saying, “My Powers of Pain” in your mind?). They went onto clash in one of the top-billed matches of WrestleMania V. Those were the glory days when the Tag Titles were consistently featured on the Mania marquee. Combine their '88/'89 WWE glory years with their rivalry with The Road Warriors in NWA and it mattered little that the P.O.P. did not win the championships; they belong here.
The Warlord and the Barbarian, aka The Powers of Pain are another team that I would have ranked much better if given the option. Throwing face paint on huge dudes was a time-tested formula for tag team wrestling during the 1980s and early 1990s. It worked for the Road Warriors, it worked for Demolition and it worked for The Powers of Pain. I have found memories of the double turn they pulled off with Demolition during Survivor Series 1988’s 10 team tag match. They went from beloved good guys to hated bad guys in one night. Their feud with Demolition was highly anticipated and led to one of the featured matches at WrestleMania 5. Their run as a tag team was relatively short but extremely effective. They will always have a soft spot in the heart of The Eternal Optimist.
If I offered each of our readers $100 if they could tell me which two wrestlers comprised this tag team without looking it up, I would expect 90% of them to not be able to do it. The Natural Born Thrillers were Chuck Palumbo and Mark Jindrak. Plainly put, they weren’t any good. We needed to include them on our list because they had a title reign over 200 days long. Every other team with a reign of this length on their resume ended up much higher on our list. The thing is, they were terrible. The only reason their reign was as long as it was is because there was a multi-month gap between the close of WCW and their reappearance on WWE programming. Mark Jindrak and Chuck Palumbo, you receive zero points, and may god have mercy on your soul.
I wrote about the topic of Jindrak and Palumbo in my book spin-off, The Greatest Champions Of The WrestleMania Era. All title reigns require contextualization to fully gauge their impact, be they long or short. The Natural Born Thrillers are facetiously ranked among the few teams in history to have single reigns longer than 200 days because three months of their reign was spent on the sidelines as WWE prepped for what they were going to do with the WCW Tag Team Champions. The up-side for them is that they were the last Tag Team titleholders in WCW history and the team that brought the second most prestigious (some argue the most) tag team gold ever to WWE. Not all accomplishments are created equal, of course, but that one certainly looks good enough on the resume to warrant inclusion here.
For the first time ever, TNA will be included in one my historical retrospective column series; and the reason stems from tag team wrestling's inability to consistently maintain a level of importance in WWE great enough to usurp the accomplishments of very good to great teams from other promotions. TNA, in my opinion, was only particularly relevant during its earlier years (through 2007) when it rose from the ashes of WCW to become America's #2 wrestling company. During that time, five acts stood out from the pack, two of which were AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels; their matches against each other were amazing, so it was unsurprising that their chemistry translated seamlessly to a partnership – think Angle and Benoit joining forces as historically great rivals to become an underrated, all-time-level pairing. TNA will not get a ton of love during this countdown, but Styles/Daniels are among the chosen few who will.
Ugh, I hate agreeing with Chad, but he’s right about TNA. Like all TNA tag teams, you have to balance their accomplishments against the fact that they occurred in a second rate promotion. Styles and Daniels are phenomenal workers and had two title reigns of almost 100 days combined. They had some very stellar tag bouts against America’s Most Wanted and especially against The Latin American Xchange (LAX). The fact that they were part of the first ever Ultimate X tag team match was compelling in my eyes. Nonetheless, the fact that their accomplishments were all in TNA outweighed their positive contributions. Had a WWE team had their resume, that team probably would have ended up 12-15 spots higher on our countdown. Alas, TNA is and has almost always been a dumpster fire, so they are guilty by association.
Triple X has almost an identical title resume and career path as the aforementioned AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels pairing. For those of you who aren’t aware, Triple X comprised of Christopher Daniels, Low-Ki and Elix Skipper. Triple X gets the nod over Styles/Daniels for two reasons. First, they used the Freebird Rules Gimmick. I have always been a sucker for said gimmick, so that bumped them up a notch in my eyes. Second, they had what I consider to be the best tag feud in the history of TNA against America’s Most Wanted. I firmly believe that the first ever cage match in TNA pitting these two teams against each other is one of the best matches in the history of the company. All in all, Triple X was an extremely underrated tag team.
If you have never watched the Cage Match between AMW and Triple X, then you should absolutely add it to your playlist. I remember seeing it for the first time during the height of my TNA fandom in around 2004 right before I was supposed to go to a party with some friends; I was so impressed with the match that I told them to leave without me so that I could watch it again immediately and meet up with them later. Beyond that, I really do not remember much about them, but occasionally throughout this countdown you will see teams ranked due to the impression that they left with just a single match or moment. Triple X, over three reigns, racked up just shy of 100 days as NWA World Tag Team Champions (in the days when TNA carried on the NWA lineage); but I will always remember them for that Cage Match.
The Enforcers were Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko, WCW Tag Team Champions for two-and-a-half months in 1991. Truth be told, they were not a team for very long, often being confused historically as the prominent duo utilized by Paul Heyman in the vastly underrated faction, The Dangerous Alliance. Though they were both members, Anderson and Zbyszko had the majority of their success together pre-Alliance and actually lost the Tag Titles on the night that the Alliance was formed. It was on that night, during one of the greatest editions of Clash of the Champions that WCW ever produced, that The Enforcers dropped the championships to Dustin Rhodes and Ricky Steamboat in a great match that should also find its way onto your tag team playlist; combined with their 75 day title reign, it was that “good memory”-creating Clash match that encouraged their Top 100 status.
I will largely piggyback on what Chad said regarding the Enforcers. The Enforcers were only a tag team for two months, but they made the most of it. Both Arn Anderson and Larry Z were members of the Four Horsemen in 1991, and formed a team for the purpose of competing in the tag team title tournament to crown new champions. Both were great workers, but it was their tactics that made them such a great tag team. They squared off against Rick Steiner and Bill Kazmeier in the finals of the tournament. The Enforcers injured Kazmaier’s ribs by dropping weights on them during his powerlifting exhibition at the beginning of the show, allowing them to easily win the titles later in the night. They went on to feud with Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes. They injured Windham’s hand and took him out. I was a sucker for heels being heels and generating heat. The Enforcers’ two month run was pure excellence.