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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Top 100 Tag Teams of the WrestleMania Era (#31-#40)
By The Doc
Jun 2, 2017 - 12:48:26 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: Do you think modern tag team titans like The New Day and Team Hell No rate comparably to the great tag teams of unquestionably better eras in division lore?

40. The Russians
39. Edge and Rey Mysterio
38. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit
37. America’s Most Wanted
36. The Smoking Gunns
35. Paul London and Brian Kendrick
34. John Morrison and The Miz
33. The Dream Team
32. Team Hell No
31. MNM

40. Ivan and Nikita Koloff

Unlike my blinded friend here, I give credit only when credit Is due to NWA tag teams. The Koloffs were absolute beasts. When I think of rough and tough tag teams, they are one of the first that come to mind. They had amazing feuds with The Rock n’ Rock Express and especially the Road Warriors. Although Kruscher Kruschev tagged with them under Freebird Rules quite a bit, the best matches that they had were as a traditional tag team. I always got a kick out of the fact that Nikita Koloff was a regular dude posing as a Russian. They had three tag team title runs totaling 233 days. The Russian Bear and Russian Nightmare were involved in some of the best and most brutal tag team matches of the 1980s. Unlike some of the trash that came before them on this countdown, they not only participated in the golden age of tag team wrestling, they excelled during it.

And Ivan was just a Canadian guy posing as a Russian...God I love the simplicity of '80s wrestling. Anyhow, I see 20/20 thank you very much, but there is no denying that, of the 1980s NWA tag teams discussed thus far, The Russians were unquestionably the superior duo (or trio). Nikita and Ivan were so good and so inseparable in my memory that I combined their resumes to include them as a unit in my book...and they ranked rather highly among the Top 90 wrestlers of the WrestleMania Era. The Russian Nightmare was, of course, a play off of the Dusty Rhodes moniker, The American Dream, and among the classic feuds involving The Russians stable, their scraps with Rhodes and friends were also highly memorable. Their matches with The Rock 'n Roll Express, though, were the stuff of tag team legend, textbook examples of tag team wrestling psychology and how a heel used to work over a babyface before 50-50 matches became the standard.

39. Edge and Rey Mysterio

Edge and Rey Mysterio struggle to compare to a team like Uncle Ivan and Nikita; their tag team resumes are in no way comparable in terms of headlining statistics or championships (The Koloffs dominate both). However, if we are to take in-ring performance into account, then Edge and Rey Mysterio, along with the next team on our list, eclipse the vast majority of the field because of the level of athleticism that they brought to the tag team ranks and the near unparalleled quality that they produced, most notably in what I would call the greatest tag team match of all-time at No Mercy 2002. The Smackdown Six has earned its place among the best tag team eras in modern wrestling lore on account of the consistency with which they wrestled excellent matches and, while such an achievement is more challenging to quantify against more traditional data, I personally did not think it could be historically ignored.

Once again, I couldn’t agree more with Chad. While their tag team statistics may not stack up with other teams on the countdown and there were better long term periods of tag team wrestling, Edge & Rey Mysterio land such a lofty place on our countdown because they were an integral part in the single best short term stretch in tag team wrestling history. Simply put, every single match involving the “Smackdown Six” was utterly amazing. They tore the house down night after night. Just when you think they couldn’t top what they had previously done, they managed to find a way. Sometimes, you need to throw the stats out the window in lieu of absolutely epic in-ring work on a night after night basis.

38. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit

I could copy and paste the above blurb on Edge and Mysterio for Benoit and Kurt Angle. For all of the reasons already mentioned, they absolutely deserve their spot on our countdown. Benoit and Angle were arguably the two best technical wrestlers on the planet during this time period. With their suplex-heavy style, they brought something unique that wasn’t previously present in tag team wrestling. They earned the nod over Mysterio and Edge because they had a better storyline backing their team. They were reluctant partners, two guys that didn’t like or trust each other but couldn’t deny the success and magic that occurred when they stepped into the ring as a unit. This eventually led into one of the more underrated feuds of all time littered with classic matches. Their legacy as part of the Smackdown Six will live on forever.

Like Edge and Mysterio, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle were part of the incredible Smackdown Six-led tag team era for but a few short months, helping to build the foundation for the new titles exclusive at that time to the blue brand. Yet, the caliber of wrestling that they put on display during that brief period was nearly unparalleled in the WrestleMania Era. Again, I go back to the No Mercy 2002 match, what I would consider the greatest tag team match of all-time; who does it feature? Not the Steiners, Dudleys, Hardys, Koloffs, Harts, or Road Warriors, but Angle, Benoit, Edge, and Mysterio. So who cares that they only held the Tag Team Championships for two weeks? They were the winners of the first match that I think of when someone asks me about pure tag team wrestling. That is more than enough to warrant a high ranking inside the Top 50 tag teams ever.

37. America’s Most Wanted

When ranking a fish from a smaller pond against its contemporaries from the largest ponds, as would be the case when judging TNA tag teams against those from WWE or NWA/WCW, a lot of things have to stand out. In the case of “Wildcat” Chris Harris and “Cowboy” James Storm, known as America's Most Wanted, many boxes get checked that are necessary for moving them this high up the rankings. I think about their impact, no pun intended, on the fledgling promotion in its early years and I think of them in a similar manner to how I think of The Revival in NXT, making their feud with Triple X that featured the awesome, Match of the Year-contending Cage Match the equivalent of Dash and Dawson vs. DIY last year. AMW held the NWA World Tag Team Championships in TNA for a combined 517 days across six reigns as well. Of all the non-WWE/WCW teams, they might have the most complete resume.

Chad is almost correct here. America’s Most Wanted is the most decorated non WWE/WCW tag team on the countdown…except for….you know….that other James Storm tag team that we haven’t yet talked about. My daily ribbing of Chad aside, I once again find myself agreeing with him. Their title statistics are staggering and they were involved in some classic matches with the likes of Triple X and others. The cage match that Chad refers to is every bit as good as he describes it to be. In the end, the only thing keeping them from ascending higher on our countdown is the fact that their entire run took place in TNA. Nonetheless, I have extremely fond memories of Chris Harris and James Storm. Their spot on the countdown is well deserved.

36. The Smoking Gunns

Alas, enough of this agreeing nonsense. I am certain that Chad and I will stand on opposite sides of the argument when it comes to the Smoking Gunns. While Chad will loathe the tag team time period in which they wrestled in, I thought they were simply spectacular. Three tag title runs totaling 331 days are nothing to sneeze at. Furthermore, they were wildly popular at the time. Their Cowboy gimmick worked for them. They were good workers and had great tag team chemistry. Chad will surely tell you that they lacked memorable matches and feuds, but I will argue that they WERE the attraction. They were popular amongst little kids and adults alike, and their mere presence popped the crowd, regardless of who they were matched up with. I fully expect Chad to have strong opposition to everything that I have said here. Take it away my friend.

I thought the Smoking Gunns were OK to be honest, but their association with the downtrend of the tag team division in the mid-1990s cannot be ignored. They're title statistics boost their profile ahead of their New Generation contemporaries such as Men on a Mission or the Headshrinkers, but they were no more memorable to me than those also-rans. Again, that's not to say that they were terrible or anything and the division at that time was certainly more viable than its counterpart from ten years later that Dave likes to champion as about five times better than it actually was, but Billy and Bart are about 150 days less as titleholders away from having been left off this list entirely. Seeing as there was never any classic Smoking Gunns match any more than there was a classic Headshrinkers match, I truly struggle to see why we should celebrate the cowboys for anything more than gaudy stats; they're the Monta Ellis of tag team wrestling history.

35. London and Kendrick

Speaking of that craptastic tag team era from the mid-2000s, London and Kendrick were the face of the division on Smackdown when the blue brand seemed far more than a few years removed from the days of the Six. That said, that was my reasoning for being so staunch with Dave about keeping London and Kendrick outside of the Top 25; I think London and Kendrick, in hindsight, made the most of a lousy division and had a lot of solidly unspectacular matches during a monster Tag Team Championship reign that held the Smackdown Title lineage record for length at 331 days (the current Raw titles carry the lineage of the original Smackdown titles). The one classic match on their resume was a randomly booked Ladder Match at Armageddon 2006, though you would be forgiven for not remembering that they were involved. So, I would say that the legacy of London and Kendrick is that of a pair of good “hands” who may never have raised the profile of tag team wrestling, but who unquestionably did more with less as compared to a lot of their peers from that period.

And here we are. I never thought that I would have something in common with CM Punk, but it appears that I am required here to be the voice of the voiceless. Chad has taken a completely indefensible position here. Paul London and Brian Kendrick were a modern day version of The Rockers. Young good looking likes with long hair that flew around the ring, had innovative double-team moves, and clicked with the audience as underdog babyfaces. The fact that they competed in an era devoid of tag teams yet were still wildly popular and put on great matches should be a pro, not a con. Simply put, you can’t like The Rockers and then poo poo the team of London and Kendrick. On top of all that, they had a remarkable run as tag team champions for almost a year. Chad himself stated that lone runs of length should be given more weight than multiple runs that accumulate the same daily total. It is an absolute travesty that London and Kendrick are not in our top 25. Rant over.

34. The Miz and John Morrison

The team of John Morrison and The Miz were a very difficult run to rate. Their stats certainly support a lofty position on the countdown. They held the tag team titles twice for a total of 363 days. I really liked how they complimented each other as a tag team. John Morrison had a million dollar look, was a raw but phenomenal athlete, but couldn’t work the mic at all. The Miz at this stage in his career had neither of Morrison’s plus traits but was absolute gold on the microphone. Their “Dirt Sheet Duo” schtick on YouTube was spectacular. On the other hand, the majority of their tag run took place on the WWE’s doomed ECW brand. They lacked great matches and great opponents to work with, and the run wasn’t particularly memorable. Nonetheless, stats are stats and I enjoyed them as a tag team. Chad can pass final judgment upon them.

Comparing The Rockers and LonKen is like saying a buzzer beater in the NBA Finals is comparable to a buzzer beater in the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament; technically, they're similar, but they're definitely not the same, accounting for the all important element of context. I think I'd have an easier time buying Miz and Morrison as a modern day Rockers because of the impact that their teaming had on their respective careers. Miz had his charisma awakened by teaming with Morrison in an early instance of WWE using online platforms to their advantage. Morrison was given an outlet to be more than just an amazing athlete. Their success rightfully outranks London and Kendrick and the rest of the also-rans from a less than inspiring tag team era, perhaps not because of the quality of their matches, but because of the strength of their personas. CM Punk was right; the microphone has power; without it, you're not very powerful. Miz and Morrison were a powerhouse tandem, in a sense, during a time when tag team wrestling was anything but a powerful part of WWE programming.

33. Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake

The Dream Team, Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine, reigned for 226 days as World Tag Team Champions in the early part of the WrestleMania Era. Their ranking on this countdown is largely shaped by both the length of their single run as titleholders and of their prime spot on the card at WrestleMania 2. So much of our discussion throughout this project has centered on the relevance of tag team wrestling compared to singles wrestling; rare has it been that the Tag Team Titles were featured in top-level positions on major WWE cards of the early WrestleMania Era. That The Dream Team's defense against The British Bulldogs at 'Mania 2 was the main-event of the Chicago portion of the three-citied extravaganza - and that the match was such a rousing success that I think it watches back as a Top 20 all-time-caliber (for WWE tag team matches) – says everything I need to say about Valentine and Beefcake as a unit, historically.

I will largely echo Chad’s sentiments regarding The Dream Team here. Their place on the list is based on the strength of a singular title run during the mid-1980s. I’d argue that their run is remarkably similar to London and Kendrick’s run, but I think that’s a dead horse that I’d better stop beating into the ground. Without question, their biggest moment occurred at Wrestlemania 2 against The Bulldogs. I too believe that it ranks in the top 20 tag matches of all time. I can count on one hand how many times the tag titles have been featured that prominently at Wrestlemania, and that says something. The Dream Team hold a special place in my heart, as they also had a very underrated tag team match against The Rougeaus on my personal favorite card of all time, Wrestlemania 3.

32. Team Hell No

How Team Hell No only rates in at 32nd on our countdown is completely beyond me. They had it all. Literally, they check off every box you could hope to be checked for a tag team. They were great in the ring together. Kane is one of the best big man workers of all time and Daniel Bryan was simply spectacular. Their backstage segments were phenomenal and often the highlight of Monday Night Raw at the time. They had a singular title reign of 245 days. They were over at a main event level, a rarity for tag teams. Make no mistake about it, without teaming with Kane, Daniel Bryan NEVER catches fire the way that he did, never develops the “No” gimmick which never turns into the “Yes” gimmick, and never headlines Wrestlemania 30. Without question, Team Hell No had tremendous historical impact. I’m going to stop here and allow Chad to explain this one away.

It's because Team Hell No does not check all of the boxes. They may have been a great combination in the ring on paper, but their lack of memorable tag team matches to compliment their golden trophy case and their surprise hit status as the most over duo in years, pre-New Day, knock them down a peg and prevent them from being the complete package. Their lack of memorable matches stems in part from the recurring theme of post-2003 division lore of WWE deemphasizing their creative focus on tag teams, leaving even a team that becomes very popular like Team Hell No from having much in the way of competition. When Bryan and Kane took the belts in 2012, the team whose spot they stole was The Prime Time Players, not exactly divisional icons. So, I'd counter actually that this is the perfect spot for Team Hell No, who deserve a good spot but not an all-time great spot.

31. MNM

If it were not for the erroneous ways of WWE tag team wrestling, post-Smackdown Six Era, John Morrison would be regarded more often as a tag team legend. In 2005, Morrison was known as Johnny Nitro and combined with Joey Mercury and Melina to form MNM. The brand split was part of the problem for them, as they could have – like a lot of teams we've discussed from that period – done well in a better tag team division. Unlike Team Hell No, MNM's series of bouts with the Hardys in late 2006/early 2007 gave them a memorable series to pad their gaudy statistics from a weak era; when Jeff and Matt started teaming again, it gave the cornerstones for WWE tag team wrestling in the mid-2000s someone with whom they could work standout matches. All in all, they had a good gimmick for the day, a manager whose presentation was eye-popping, and skills that set them apart from their peers.

Chad is right. MNM is probably a better comparison as a modern day Rockers than London and Kendrick. Truth be told, I needed to go back and do some research regarding MNM. The reason for this is that whenever I think of them as a tag team, only two things come to mind. First, Melina in her heyday doing splits on the ring apron during her entrance and showing off her spectacular tushy. Second, Joey Mercury’s nose being exploded like a piñata during a ladder match against the Hardy Boys. Infamous moments aside, there was a lot to like here. I disagree with Chad in that I believe that they had plenty of quality opponents to work with. He already mentioned the Hardy Boys, but they also feuded with the likes of Mysterio and Guerrero, Mysterio and Batista, The Mexicools, and even *gasp*, London and Kendrick. Unquestionably, MNM is one of the best tag teams of the post-attitude era.

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