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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Death Of Tag Team Wrestling
August 25, 2005 by Andy Caruso


Ever since I was a little boy, I was always a huge fan of tag team wrestling. I always had a passion for tag team wrestling, and despite the fact that I knew that most teams lacked the talent that some of the singles competitors had, I was always fascinated with the idea of two wrestlers coming together and joining forces for a long period of time.

The focal point of tag team wrestling was around the 93/94 era. Just as Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and I.R.S.) were starting to become a notorious tag team in the ranks of the WWF. DiBiase, who had a great singles career prior to his run with the Million Dollar Corporation, was one of the most helpful individuals to raising the image of the tag team title belts.

What the WWF was able to do better than anybody else was create great wrestlers and tag teams, and this is the era where tag team wrestling almost "ruled the world". Not only were Money Inc. a fantastic addition to an already exciting tag team division, but the Steiner Brothers, the Smoking Gunns, Men On A Mission, The Quebecers, The Headshrinkers, The Heavenly Bodies, The Bushwhackers, were all starting to either form or gain a certain amount of respect that they never had before. For the fan, it didn't matter that The Quebecers were great in ring workers. You could put The Headshrinkers in a match with Men On A Mission, and while the quality was not really there, the fact that they were so well known as tag teams made their matches believable. It might be because I was little, but I even looked forward to watching Earthquake and Typhoon battle The Nasty Boys. What was so great about it is that you could put Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon in a match against The Smoking Gunns, Billy and Bart would be the ones with the advantage, because they had the experience in the ring as a team. Tag teams were built to be stronger than two of the most bankable stars put together on a random pairing, and that's what I loved about it.

August 28th, 1994, is the moment that the tag team division changed. Fatu and Samu were coming into the event with a two month title reign, ready to defend their titles against Shawn Michaels and Diesel. Michaels was already starting to become a bankable superstar on the roster, winning the Intercontinental Title, which almost guaranteed a launch into World Title fame. The WWF realized that it was time to give the belts a different type of combination. While for the past two years, teams were being built up as unstoppable forces who never competed in singles action; it was time for a change. Shawn Michaels and Diesel provided it. They gave the belt credibility, because they were bankable stars and they actually cared about the belts. They weren't just handed the titles as a filler, or at least it seemed that way. The two went on to compete in singles action now as well as tag team action, making the belts less important than they were back when the Smoking Gunns would rarely be seen in singles competition. Then it seemed like it was back to the way it was. 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly won the titles, then dropped them to the Smoking Gunns, apparently making things back to the way they were, but what the WWF did here was very astute. They decided to combine the pairing of the two bankable stars, like HBK and Diesel, and the original tag teams of the company, like The Smoking Gunns. After holding the belts for almost three months, the Smoking Gunns finally lost them to the ultimate pairing of bankable stars, Owen Hart and Yokozuna. The good thing about it was, Owen and Yokozuna were built up to be an impossible team to beat. It would be literally impossible to beat the biggest athlete in the business and one of the most talented ones, and it seemed like when you did have them beat, Jim Cornette or Mr. Fuji were there to help them retain, and after a 5 month reign as the champs.. The titles were finally put back on the Smoking Gunns, making them as credible as possible as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, tag team at the time.

It's not 1997, and after a few meaningless changes of the tag team belts, it seemed like classic tag teams were still on top. There were a few things the fans had to take note of though, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin, as well as Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, had now held the tag team titles. Here we are, the ultimate tag team, The Road Warriors, make their way back into the WWF and grab the tag team titles for the second time in their careers. Just like Owen Hart and Yokozuna were used to build the credibility of the Smoking Gunns, the Road Warriors were used to build the credibility of another tag team, not quite as popular as the Smoking Gunns... Yet. After an intense feud, Jesse James and Rockabilly became one of the most popular tag teams known to date, The New Age Outlaws. Still without their D-Generation X trademarks, NAO came out stealing LOD's look, and also their belts. Tag team wrestling seemed like it was coming to an end. Yes, NAO presented a great promise for the future of the belts and the division, and their small feud with The Hardcore Legends (Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie) certainly helped build them as a dominant force in the business. However, the competition was slim, limited to The New Blackjacks (Barry Windham and Bradshaw), The Godwinns, and some other teams. Therefore, after a close to four month reign with the belts, NAO was already moving into a bigger direction with DX, and the belts were put on Kane and Mankind. The two worked fantastically well as a team, and were two of the most bankable stars on the WWF roster at the time. Kane's gimmick as The Undertaker's long lost brother was very over, and there were no other believable tag teams to hand the belts to at the time. It started to look like NAO were the only good tag team in the WWF. As Kane and Mankind tortured The Undertaker in a great feud, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way into the picture by helping The Undertaker and turning it into a tag team feud. Despite the fact that they fought for the tag team titles, the belts weren't the reason why they were fighting. The time where four wrestlers fought JUST to be known as the tag team champions was over, and NAO won the belts yet again, with no competition.

Five months later, Bradshaw and Faarooq, The Acolytes, won the belts. Despite the fact that they weren't so talented, they started giving the belts a little bit more of importance, as one month later, The Hardy Boyz were able to defeat them for their first of many reigns in tag team glory.The tag team division was starting to build up again, and now it revolved around those six or seven teams that became household names. Whenever you said a man's name, you thought of his partner, that's what makes you a believable tag team, and when I thought we would never see that again it came back, and yet again it was combined with the pairing of bankable stars who were randomly thrown together. Although, it was different this time around. Big Show and The Undertaker won the belts, and despite the fact that they were just two big names thrown together, they wrestled like they wanted to be there, in the tag team division. The Rock N' Sock Connection formed and the masses when wild. The moment they defeated Big Show and The Undertaker, a very powerful tag team, only a week after their win, they became a crowd favorite and had one of the biggest cults in wrestling history. It gave tag team wrestling a whole new era. The fantastic promos added to the already great wrestling that was offered back in the early 90s, and this was the only thing it needed to really kick off. After the titles were swapped from Rock N' Sock and NAO a few times, came what most wrestling fans believe to be the best period of tag team wrestling in the history of the industry.

While WCW was trying to start that '93 style tag team wrestling, with Kronik, The Harris Brothers, and The Mamalukes.. The WWF had already moved on to a new era. Now, there were bankable tag team names, much like the ones in '93 and The Rock N' Sock Connection, but this era didn't include just good classic tag teams, and charismatic workers, but also memorable matches put on by some of the most talented workers in the business. Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, who were already a huge name in ECW, won their first WWF tag team titles in 2000, stating one of the most famous tag team feuds of all time. The Dudleyz, The Hardyz, and Edge and Christian are three of the most notorious tag teams of all time and their success should be devoted to each other. The birth of the TLC match that made the tag team title belt the second most prestigious belt to hold behind the WWF Title. At this point, arenas were selling out just because the fans were dying to see Jeff Hardy give Edge and Bubba a Swanton Bomb through two tables from the top of a ladder. They gave the fans some ECW style matches with a WWE twist to them, and they loved it. Still, teams like T&A, combinations of RTC, The Radicalz, Too Cool, contributed to the new birth of tag team wrestling, even despite the fact that they didn't get many runs with the belts due to the rivalry built between The Hardyz, The Dudleyz and Edge and Christian.. And who can forget the comedy given by Kaientai, The Mean Street Posse or Head Cheese" Once again, tag team wrestling was on its way to the top.

But it all comes to an end just a year and a half later, during the Invasion angle that splits up Edge and Christian, and throws Too Cool and most other tag teams to the side, and left The Hardy Boyz in competition for both WCW and WWF tag team title belts on their own, with some competition from the Dudley Boyz. However, the WWF thought they had come up with a solution. The WCW tag team titles didn't play too much of a part once Invasion started, and after Kane and The Undertaker, Booker T and Test, and The Hardy Boyz held them, they were thrown out the door when the Dudley Boyz defeated the Hardy Boyz at survivor series in November to combine the belts. There was still something missing, the belts were losing importance. Mainly due to the fact that the WCW tag team belts were brought in, now the tag team titles were slowly losing image and the fans didn't care as much for them as they did in previous years, and in 2002, Spike Dudley and Tazz were given the belts. The belts that used to help wrestlers become legends, were actually holding Tazz back from his full potential. Never once had I thought that a wrestler was too good for the tag team titles, but here I found myself thinking just that. However, the WWF made a right move here, and handed the belts to Billy and Chuck. The gimmick was original at the time, and was getting over with the fans as one of the big tag team heels.

The WWF tried to give credibility back to the belts, as Billy and Chuck defended against The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz and The APA at Wrestlemania 18, in the match prior to the main event. What the company tried to do, was re-establish the tag teams that made this new era of the belts so popular as big time players in the contention for the belts, but then built Billy and Chuck as an unstoppable tag team who could defeat any tag team in the company, and that was wrong. I don't have any problems against homosexuals, but to make two gay men defeat The Hardyz, The Dudleyz, and The APA after their hard work to make the belts have so much importance was just wrong. If the plan was to keep Billy and Chuck as the champions for a while, I would've chosen different tag teams for them to go over at Wrestlemania. Then, came the end of the belts as we knew it.

It seemed as if all Vince McMahon cared about was building up a couple of good singles wrestlers, even though he was unable to do so. The 2002 Draft was the worst thing that could happen to the division. It split up Bradshaw and Faarooq, Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, and some other minor tag teams, for not very good reason. D-Von's gimmick flopped in just a few months, Bradshaw's run with Stone Cold in their feud against the NWO didn't last too long, Bubba was credible for the hardcore division, but had a much better career when he was just a part of The Dudley Boyz. So now what" What could the WWF do now" Billy and Chuck def. Al Snow and Maven, that's what the tag team division had gotten to by that point, and still Snow and Maven were the most credible contenders the champs had for their belts, which made me reflect for a bit, until finally the titles changed hands.

Unfortunately, it was done in one of the worst ways it could've been done in. Rikishi and his mystery partner Rico win the belts for less than a month; before Billy and Chuck could regain their titles with help from their "stylist" and continue on to have absolutely no contenders. McMahon had to figure something out fast, and he did... But I doubt anybody was pleased. On July 4th, Hulk Hogan and Edge win the tag team titles, giving Hogan his first ever tag team title reign. Despite the fact that the two were very good bankable superstars, I saw this as just a way to get Hogan a tag title reign before he retired, and there couldn't have been a dumber way to do it than to randomly team him with Edge on July 4th, just to get a cheap pop from the crowd. After a small reign from The Un-Americans, Kane and his mystery partner, The Hurricane, win the tag team titles, pretty much as just a way to give Kane something to do while he waited for a decent storyline. Now, with the tag titles exclusive to RAW, SmackDown! decides to create their own belts, and involving four of their biggest stars with them, having Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit capture the belts in a fantastic match against Edge and Rey Mysterio, which seems to have put the belts back up at the image they had a few years before. While the SmackDown! Tag belts were gaining popularity with each show that went by, the RAW tag teams didn't have quite as much talent as the SmackDown! ones, and were put in big gimmick matches to raise the quality of the bouts, like the TLC match Kane won on RAW without his partner Hurricane at his side. Chris Jericho and Christian won the belts for RAW, and even after they lost them to Booker T and Goldust, they continued to help the RAW tag team division as much as they could, but there wasn't much they could do now. SmackDown! was having a much greater success at building up new bonds, like Team Angle, Los Guerreros, The Bashams... While RAW was struggling to find a decent enough combination of superstars that could make a good enough tag team to hold the belts. On March 31st, 2003, Kane and Rob Van Dam won the belts and dominated the division for the next three months, as they were obviously two of the more bankable stars on the entire roster. Despite the fact that The Dudleyz were re-united a few months back at Survivor Series, they had lost all kind of credibility they had back in 2000, and it was up to Kane and Van Dam to carry the division. The WWE desperately tried to give the two credibility as a tag team, even letting them defeat The Road Warriors in a one night only appearance on RAW. Even as La Resistance was added to the roster, there weren't enough tag teams to compete, and SmackDown!'s division, which seemed to be doing well, was going down the drain as well. The Dudleyz are part of a trade that involves Booker T, and Triple H going back to RAW, helping SmackDown!'s division, but destroying RAW's. Now, Grenier and Conway were given a few runs as the champs with not much competition anywhere in sight, and only a few title changes wit some random pairings, such as the combo of Edge and Chris Benoit, who were the two losers of the voting for the Taboo Tuesday World Heavyweight Title #1 Contendership. Benoit went on to win the belts on his own, giving them somewhat of importance, but making them more of a way to start feuding Benoit with Edge... But while RAW was using the belts to build up a feud, SmackDown! was pretty much not using them at all, as Kenzo Suzuki and Rene Dupree were handed them as a filler for three months, before Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio grabbed onto them after a few insignificant reigns before them, but used them for the same reason as the Edge/Benoit reign, just to build up their feud.

And here we are today. As William Regal and Tajiri have just ended their title reign with Regal moving to SmackDown!, and The Hurricane and Rosey have taken over the reigns of the champions. Not one challenger in sight other than The Heart Throbs, and the tag team belts have now been demoted to close to Heat-only appearances on Sunday nights against the random jobbers. The SmackDown! Belts have suffered pretty much the same fate, with MNM being a great tag team stuck in a world dominated by singles competition. Animal and Heidenreich are fine challengers, but I would've never taken the belts off of MNM, because there clearly aren't any other tag teams good enough to beat them. With the death of tag team wrestling in the WWE, the only thing a fan of genuine tag team wrestling can do is download iMPACT! every Friday night. The Naturals, America's Most Wanted, Team Canada, and various other tag teams have put on fantastic performances in the past and are in my opinion the future of tag team wrestling all around the world. TNA is smart enough to capture its audience by using that old classic tag team kind of wrestling, with a new look to it. You can't say Chris Harris without thinking about James Storm, and you can't say Chase Stevens without thinking about Andy Douglas. If TNA can capitalize on their talent, they might be the company that saves tag team wrestling from hitting its lowest point, and possibly fading into thin air. As an old school wrestling fan, I just hope that this is not the end of tag team wrestling as we know it, but only a chance to shake it up and re-build the glory that it used to have during the 1990s.

by Andy Caruso ..


Simeon Hubbard wrote:
The WWE is definately tearing down Tag Team Wrestling ever since 2005, I mean look at what's happening, I mean they fire The Dudley Boyz, they break-up Evolution, with 2 on RAW and 2 on Friday Night SmackDown! now with carrying The World Heavyweight Championship, not to mention The Hardy Boyz in 2 different organizations Matt in the WWE and Jeff in TNA, and then they split up teams on 2 different shows, I mean they split up Edge and Christian, they split up The Bashem Brothers, they split up Le Resistance, they split up Haas and Benjamin (now Haas no longer in the WWE), they even spilt up The Brothers of Destruction, and not to mention they split up Los Guerreros with Eddie wrestling Rey Mysterio on SD! and Chavo in that stupid Kerwin White gimmick on RAW, I mean Edge, Chavo, Danny Bashem, Benjamin, Triple H and Ric Flair, Kane, and Rob Conway on RAW, and Christian, Batista, Doug Bashem, Matt Hardy, Sylvan, Benoit, and Undertaker on SmackDown!, and now with TNA on the rise for Tag Team let's just hope that TNA has great Tag Teams, I mean you got The Naturals, 3 Live Krew, Team Canada, and America's Most Wanted, and now you got The Dudley Boyz (now Team 3-D), and hopefully TNA decides to rehire Frankie Kazarian we can see Matt Bently and Kazarian back on the winning team as well, and also you even got a veteran of Tag Team Wrstling in TNA and that is Big Sexy Kevin Nash, who's held Tag Team Gold with Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, DDP, and even the man called STING, well I hope that the WWE comes up with better Tag Teams especially on the RAW side or else RAW can kiss it all good bye, and SD! will be doing a heck of a lot better than RAW, and TNA will be doing a heck of a lot better that the WWE.
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