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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Top 100 Tag Teams of the WrestleMania Era (#61-#70)
By The Doc
May 12, 2017 - 12:07:42 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: What is your preference for the role of tag team wrestling in WWE – a spot with higher octane matches fit for enhancing the mid-card, a place for more engrossing storytelling akin to the main-event, or something else?

70. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit
69. Two Dudes With Attitudes
68. The Rock ‘n Sock Connection
67. The Spirit Squad
66. Rated-RKO
65. The Soul Patrol
64. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch
63. Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik
62. Too Cool
61. The Bushwhackers

70. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit

The team of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho was an interesting one to rank. They weren’t a real tag team and didn’t spend any real length of time together. In fact, they only competed in two matches. So why are they even on our countdown? They are on our countdown because those two matches were simply spectacular. The first of the two matches was on Monday Night Raw in a tag title winning effort against the team of Steve Austin and Triple H. This match is famous for Triple H blowing out his quad, but this is one of the best tag matches of all time. The second match was an equally spectacular four-way TLC match against the Dudleys, Hardys and Edge and Christian. So how do you rank a two-hit wonder when those two hits were amazing? Ahead of uninspiring teams but behind the real players in the tag team division.

I fought long and hard for Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit to be ranked higher in spite of their paltry 29 days as champions, and this is where they ultimately settled on account of Dave acting like the voice of reason to my unbridled appreciation for the matches that he mentioned. Last year, on the LOP Radio special ranking the ten best tag team matches in WWE lore co-hosted by myself and the gentlemen from The Right Side of the Pond, the general consensus among us was that Benoit and Y2J vs. The Two-Man Power Trip was the greatest tag match ever, though I wouldn't have put it any higher than #5, personally. It was frenetic, it was full of big moments, and it was cathartic because Benoit and Jericho were elevated by it to the next level in their careers. And then of course there was their role in what is regarded by the principle players as “The Forgotten TLC.” Their two pinnacle efforts as a unit were better than the one thing that most other teams are best known for.

69. Shawn Michaels and Diesel

Two Dudes With Attitudes, Shawn Michaels and Diesel, were kind of the opposite of Jericho and Benoit. HBK and Big Daddy Cool were partners in crime that became bitter enemies; Y2J and Benoit were bitter enemies that became partners. Their rankings were similarly determined, though. Michaels and Diesel had one of the best tag team matches of the 1990s, clashing on an often-forgotten program called The Action Zone with fellow Kliq members Razor Ramon and 1-2-3 Kid in October 1994 with the Tag Team Championships on the line. In fact, you will not find a finer 20-minutes of tag team action in any decade. It was full of experimentation with the standard tag match format and innovation from the four participants in regards to their move-sets. Just a phenomenal piece of work. The Two Dudes reigned as champs for nearly three months to boot.

I’m having a real writer’s block when it comes to 2 Dudes with Attitudes, also known as Shawn Michaels and Diesel. When you have to refer to a match that the majority of the audience hasn’t seen as the highlight of their tenure, you aren’t speaking much to their accomplishments. Simply put, such a lofty ranking was strictly a concession that I had to make to Chad in exchange for some other considerations much later in our countdown. The only memorable match that they partook in was the Main Event of In Your House 3 against Owen Hart and Yokozuna. Even that was far from a blockbuster showcase. The bulk if not all of the major happenings during the time period in which they were a team occurred for them as singles wrestlers. Individual success doth not make a worthwhile tag team Chadwick.

68. The Rock ‘n Sock Connection

I’ve jokingly referred to other tag teams on the countdown that had a small amount of popularity as being over on a main event level. In actuality, there have been very few teams that have actually been over as a main event act. Without question, The Rock N’ Sock Connection were one of those teams. Both the Rock and Mankind were red hot at the time, and their team was comedic magic. They had a short run as tag champions and didn’t have any matches of any significance. It doesn’t matter. They were involved in the biggest and most successful segment in the history of Monday Night Raw, “This Is Your Life”. In my mind, this alone trumps meaningless tag title runs of other teams. I will always have a fond place in my heart for this modern day version of Arnold and Danny Devito in Twins. Take it away Chad.

Jokingly, huh? By the way, I have no memory of this concession regarding HBK and Diesel that Dave writes of (and he clearly isn't reading my entries if he thinks the most memorable match that they had was anything but the one I spent most of my allotted “Two Dudes” time writing about...I see how it is). That said, I have very strong memories of The Rock 'n Sock Connection, who in addition to their ratings-grabbing segments in 1999 also re-formed in 2004 to take on three of the four members of the faction of last decade, Evolution – probably the only particularly memorable match that Rock and Sock had together as a tag team. The only other match of theirs that comes to mind was against The New Age Outlaws at Armageddon '99, but they were not a team that needed to reign as champions for several months or to have classic in-ring performances to garner the reputation necessary for inclusion on a list like ours. Rock 'n Sock was about chemistry and entertainment.

67. The Spirit Squad

I should just let Dave do the entire write-up for his favorite faction of all-time featuring one of his favorite wrestlers of all-time. The Spirit Squad, featuring a young Dolph Ziggler, reigned as Tag Team Champions on Raw for 216 days, were a fixture in the Raw main-event scene as perhaps the most hilarious set of hit-men in pro wrestling lore, and even managed to headline a PPV against the reunited Degeneration-X. Love them or hate them, and most people hated them, the conglomeration of male cheerleaders were unique, naturally antagonistic, and highly successful for their roughly one year together on television. God Bless those guys, they made the most of a really lousy situation and have now earned reasonably prominent spots on each of my last three major column series. (Hyperbole was utilized here to counter-balance the hate speech you're about to read from Dave, but I honestly do hold the Spirit Squad in decent regard)

Whoa whoa whoa Miss Lippy. First off, I always read your nonsense. You were the one who called the 2 Dudes w/ Attitude v Razor/123 Kid match as “often forgotten”. I merely agreed with you. Second, you make me cringe by bringing up that terrible handicap match from Wrestlemania 20. I was there. Trust me. It was a flaming bag of doodoo. Speaking of flaming bags of doodoo, funny story. When we first squared away our top 100, I was ecstatic that I wouldn’t have to talk about Dolph Douchnugget. When I remembered that he was part of the Spirit Squad, I was devastated. Anyhow, The Spirit Squad were excellent. I hated them at the time, but that was the point. They had a nice run and main evented a Pay Per View. That’s good enough for me. They were a team of four incredibly talented wrestlers.

66. Rated-RKO

Rated RKO doesn’t have the numbers to warrant inclusion higher on our countdown, but I was thoroughly entertained by their pairing from beginning to end. They had a great feud with DX when they reformed. The tag matches they had were spectacular. I thought it was a testament to what the WWE thought of Randy Orton and Edge that they allowed them to be the first team to beat DX post-reformation. Additionally, they played an essential role in the HBK/Cena feud leading up to Wrestlemania 23. I recently wrote a column series ranking the Wrestlemania Main Events. The Cena/HBK storyline was one of the most underrated in Wrestlemania history, and it simply could not have happened without the help of Rated RKO. With how many different times Edge shows up on our countdown, it bears the question: is he the greatest tag team wrestler of all time?

Dave secretly enjoys covering his face with glue. Anyhow, Edge very well could be the greatest tag team wrestler of all-time. Let's make it a point to more definitively draw or rule out that conclusion before all is said and done. Considering it featured my two favorite wrestlers of that generation, I was sold on Rated-RKO on the first night that their collaboration began. Edge in the ring with Triple H and Shawn Michaels highlighted two dream feuds for me that really never happened to the fullest extent that I had hoped, but when I re-watch the Rated R Superstar teaming with Orton for those classic tag matches with DX, it softens the blow. Seriously, those pair of PPV bouts they had were outstanding. The first, at Cyber Sunday '06, was a reminder of what tag team wrestling could be if WWE put some creative attention toward it. The second, at New Year's Revolution '07, saw Triple H tear his quad for the second time, so even though its potential wasn't realized, it was very memorable.

65. The Soul Patrol

Milestones are key for historical contextualization and for all-time rankings. Great matches or WrestleMania moments or lengthy championship reigns are a few examples already cited thus far. Now, it is time for a more culturally-relevant milestone: The Soul Patrol, featuring Hall of Famers Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, were the first black Tag Team Champions in WWE history and, seeing as there were no black World Champions or Intercontinental Champions before then either, they were the first black champions in WWE period. They were also the team that held the championships as the WrestleMania Era, as I've defined it (Starrcade '83's prelude to the original Mania), began. For 154 days, Johnson and Atlas held the straps and, though they were otherwise not especially memorable to me given how young I was when they were peaking, their milestones have stood the test of time.

I don’t have anything to add regarding The Soul Patrol other than what Chad has already laid out. This is the socially conscious portion of our countdown. Black performers have been criminally underused throughout the course of wrestling history. I’ve never understood it. A large portion of the WWE fan base is African American. There is untapped potential for an African American World Champion. Some people think it should be Big E. Some people think it should be Apollo Crews. My choice is Titus O’Neill. Titus has everything it takes to be a huge superstar. He has tremendous size. He has a great look. He’s extremely well spoken. He has natural charisma. There is no reason that the WWE can’t give him the ball and let him run with it. Anyhow, The Soul Patrol broke down a barrier and had a nice title reign. For that, we salute you.

64. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch

Cade and Murdoch were underrated. They were two guys with “low ceilings”. Neither had what it took to be great on their own. They were an old school style tag team. Nonetheless, between their two separate runs as a team, they were very successful. Three separate title reigns totaling 230 days is nothing to sneeze at. They weren’t a sexy team and their runs took place during a down time in WWE, but we should not mistake that for their run being uneventful and boring. They had enjoyable matches and feuds with several teams that you will see later on this countdown – Paul London and Brian Kendrick, Cody Rhodes and Bob Holly, and The Hardy Boys. They also have the distinction of ending the tag title reign of Chad’s beloved Hurricane and S.H.I.T. You could say that Cade and Murdoch were the glue that held the tag team division together during its darker days.

Aside from their matches with the Hardys in the spring of 2007, I do not readily recall much of Cade (RIP) and Murdoch's work in the ring, but I do remember thinking that their combination brought something to the table as personalities that the vast majority of the tag teams, even those more successful than them as champions, were capable of offering. Trevor Murdoch was just highly unique, period. WWE's talent recruitment strategy back then seemed to be, “Let's find as many jacked up dudes from the gym as we can and see if we can turn them into bankable stars.” We all know how that turned out. In walks Murdoch around that same time and he, comparatively, looked like they found him on the side of some mid-western road where Triple H and Stephanie's multi-million-dollar tour bus broke down. Take them from 2007 and transfer them to present day NXT and they might have thrived.

63. Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik

Having already covered the team from whom they took the Tag Team Championships at the inaugural WrestleMania, it is important to note that the ranking of Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik ahead of the U.S. Express can be boiled down to dual reasoning: A) Sheik and Volkoff were the winners in the first title change to take place on the grandest stage and B) that achievement carried such historical weight with WWE officials that it, in part, influenced the induction of both Sheik and Volkoff into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2005. Such was enough to off-set Windham and Rotunda's double number of title reigns and double amount of total days as champions that they maintain over Sheik and Volkoff. Also of note, and perhaps Dave can touch on this a bit, was that Sheik and Volkoff were nuclear heat magnets...probably one of the most over heel teams on our entire countdown.

Chad is right. To the winners go the spoils. He’s also right about them being, as he referred to them, “nuclear heat magnets”. Being Russian and Iranian during the cold war era of the 1980s didn’t hurt, but both men did their job to enhance the negative reactions. The Iron Sheik was basically the same legend that he currently is on Twitter. Seriously, go follow him if you aren’t already. He says the most ridiculous things and I can’t get enough of it. Volkoff on the other hand, sent the fans into a heated frenzy unlike very few others every time he sung the Russian National Anthem prior to his matches. Together, Sheik and Volkoff were a recipe for heel success. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are both “Iron Sheik Class”.

62. Too Cool

Too Cool were glorified jobbers and that’s ok. “Grandmaster Sexay” only had a job because he was Jerry Lawler’s kid. He was completely useless. Nonetheless, they were extremely entertaining as a tag team. The white boy dancing schtick worked for them, especially Scotty 2 Hotty. I would argue that Scotty 2 Hotty’s “worm” was second only to The People’s Elbow in popping the crowd. They had a cup of coffee as tag champions, but always had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Additionally, they flat out made Rikishi’s career. Rikishi was an unmemorable lower card act until putting on a diaper and dancing with 2 Cool. He doesn’t become a beloved Hall of Famer unless he teams with 2 Cool. I also thought that the Royal Rumble interaction where they danced mid-match only for Rikishi to throw both Scotty and Sexay out was one of the most underrated Rumble sequences ever. No matter what they did, 2 Cool was able to connect with the audience in a way few others could.

Agreed with everything Dave wrote. Why, you might have asked along this journey so far, do I insist on blasting the tag team scene in WWE for the vast majority of the time between 2004 and present day? Because of teams like Too Cool excelling in different eras, that's partially why. The main reason that Scotty, Sexay, and Big 'Kish were able to get so over is that WWE gave them a platform and did not stifle them. That trio got every last drop out of their surprisingly popular act. What is the biggest difference between a team like Hurricane and Rosey and Too Cool? Opportunity. Remember Too Cool's moment in the Rumble or their match against The Radicalz at WrestleMania 2000? Few such spotlights have been afforded the tag team division over the past thirteen years whereas, beforehand, the 10th best tag team in the division reached Hall of Fame-caliber levels.

61. The Bushwhackers

Too Cool, you could say, were The Bushwhackers of the Attitude Era. Luke and Butch had a schtick that got over huge, however ridiculous it may reflect in hindsight. Though they never held the Tag Team Championships, they achieved Hall of Fame status because of the level of popularity that they achieved during a golden era in tag team lore. I recall a lot of people having negative things to say about their inductions into WWE's HOF a few years back and I think that perhaps those folks might forget that, in addition to their over-the-top characters that eventually yielded them mainstream-credibility, they were also a violent duo in the NWA called The Sheepherders that hold the distinction as being two of the rare pro wrestlers to earn one of Dave Meltzer's 5-star ratings for a match that didn't take place in Japan.

Chad actually makes a great comparison between Too Cool and the Bushwackers. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it fits. The Bushwackers were a troublesome team to try to rank. They have absolutely no stats to support inclusion on our countdown. Nonetheless, as Chad has already stated, they were one of the most popular tag teams ever. They licked people’s faces. Luke said “WHOA”, Butch said “YEAH!” and everyone ate it up. Everyone and their mothers did the Bushwacker dance as children…..and some of us as an adult, although I can neither confirm nor deny that I was one of those people. They ate sardines. They were disgusting. They were also awesome. Without a doubt, The Bushwackers were one of the most entertaining teams of all time.

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