Whatever the reason, only select few tag teams have been popular enough to reach main event status in WWE, or any other major promotion for that matter. Because most wrestlers enter the sport with dreams of headlining, the true legends of the industry generally get their by themselves. This doesn’t mean they were never part of a tag team, though, and in fact, virtually every wrestler in the business had a partner at one point or another in their careers.
The strange thing is, depending on how famous or successful a former tag team wrestler becomes as a solo, whatever team they were part of at the beginning of their career can easily get blinked out of existence. Especially if the tag team only exists on the independent scene, away from WWE cameras, it can be a shockingly simple process to make fans forget certain main eventers couldn’t get by without a little help from their friends when they were getting started.
While it makes sense why certain wrestler’s solo careers have received far more attention than their early tag teams, it’s still unfair to their partners to act like the team never existed. Not every tag team is equal, and having a famous partner is occasionally the only way these wrestlers will be remembered at all. To honor the legacies of the lesser halves in this world, keep reading to learn about 15 forgotten early tag teams of future wrestling legends.
16 John Cena Teamed With Rico Constantino
As the franchise player of World Wrestling Entertainment for the better part of a decade, it stands to reason John Cena has significantly more fans than his former tag team partner Rico Constantino. The two tagged together when Cena called himself The Prototype, learning the ropes in OVW and winning the Southern Tag Team Championships. Prototype also won the OVW Heavyweight Championship, predicting dozens of reigns as WWE Champion amongst countless other accolades. Cena and Constantino made the leap to WWE at roughly the same time, but Rico decided to stick with the tag team division as the manager of two time Tag Team Championship winners Billy and Chuck. He would also win tag belts twice himself, once each with Rikishi and Charlie Haas. Rico retired not long after the team with Haas faded away, while Cena’s career continued to skyrocket into the stratosphere.
15 Kevin Nash Teamed With Al Green
It only takes one look at Kevin Nash and Al Green to understand why WCW thought the two could be a success as The Master Blasters. The two were big, bad, and most of all seriously inexperienced, tossed together as a unit immediately after signing WCW contracts. In a little known fact, Green was actually the third Master Blaster, replacing Cory Pendarvis, who only wrestled one match as “Iron” before disappearing. Calling themselves Steel and Blade respectively, Nash and Green were temporarily undefeated, but soon were squashed out of existence by The Steiner Brothers. Despite his next gimmick (Oz) being even worse, Nash gradually recovered and became a major star in both WCW and WWE, while Green wasn’t quite so lucky. He stuck around in WCW as half of The Wrecking Crew, but never achieved any significant success. Green later rematerialized in WCW as The Dog, literally drinking out of a toilet and making it obvious why Nash didn’t bring up his old partner when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
14 A.J. Styles Teamed With Air Paris
Looking anything but Phenomenal wearing a matching gimmicky G-suit, A.J. Styles made his mainstream wrestling debut on an episode of WCW Thunder as half of Air Raid, alongside the with the unimaginatively named Air Paris. The two knew each other well, having feuded for years in NWA Wildside. Not making their WCW debuts until early 2001, Air Raid didn’t exactly have time to shine, and the team almost instantly faded away once the promotion went out of business. Styles soon became the breakout star of TNA, while Paris remained a minor star on the independent scene. Though Paris never achieved any success of particular note, he did continue working with otherwise noteworthy names, including The Steiner Brothers, Kevin Nash, and of course his former partner. In fact, Air Paris’s highest profile match was likely against A.J., when the latter reigned as TNA Champion. These days, A.J. reigns as WWE Champion, while Paris has gradually faded away from the business.
13 Kane Teamed With Al Snow
For all the bizarre things Kane’s character has been through over the years, at least he never became best friends with a mannequin’s Head. He did, however, form a moderately successful tag team with someone who did, creating The Dynamic Duo with Al Snow in Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Predictably, Snow was the charismatic loudmouth of the team and Kane was the muscle, going by the menacing moniker Unabomb. The Duo won the SMW Tag Team Championships and fast caught the attention of WWE, both earning contracts and thrust into strange gimmicks to varying success. Eventually, they’d both find characters that worked, with Al losing his mind and Kane becoming the Devil’s Favorite Demon. As one of the most decorated and longest tenures WWE superstars in history, Kane is probably the winner of this tag team. Even so, Al probably deserves more credit than he gets, having won the WWE European, Hardcore, and Tag Team Championships and temporarily becoming a star during the Attitude Era.
12 Randy Savage Teamed With Lanny Poffo
Now that both of their careers are long over and the more famous of the two is in the WWE Hall of Fame, most wrestling fans are aware “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Leaping” Lanny Poffo were brothers in real life. While the two never interacted during their long shared tenures with WWE or WCW, like many wrestling siblings, Savage and Poffo started their careers in pro wrestling by forming a tag team. The two won the NWA Gulf Coast Tag Team Championships in 1976, and later became the top stars of their father’s International Championship Wrestling. Outside of the family company, the Poffos also feuded teams like the Rock n Roll Express in Memphis. Their team gradually split up as Savage became wildly more popular than his brother, but Randy always ensured Lanny’s employment wherever he went. For whatever reason, WCW paid Lanny for years without using him, while WWE made him famous as a manager named The Genius.
11 Edge Teamed With Joe E. Legend
While the WWE Universe will always fondly remember the antics of Edge’s more popular partnership with his kayfabe brother Christian, his earlier tag team with Joe E. Legend failed to catch mainstream attention. At the time, Edge called himself Sexton Hardcastle, lending to their tag team earning the moniker Sex and Violence. The two were amongst the top stars on the Canadian independent scene, dominating various minor promotions with the help of a larger stable of wrestlers called THUG Life, also including Christian. E&C soon formed a team of their own and signed contracts with WWE, and although Joe soon followed, he never reached the level of his former teammates. Joe did achieve a small amount of success in TNA by winning the NWA Tag Team Championships, but it hardly compares the 11 reigns as World Champion that brought Edge to the WWE Hall of Fame.
10 Seth Rollins Teamed With Richie Steamboat
There’s a pretty significant chance it looked like Richie Steamboat was the one doing Seth Rollins a favor during the time they teamed up. The future Architect of WWE was a rising independent star at the time, but that isn’t quite the same as the legacy Richie inherited from his legendary father Ricky. Simply due to his name, many fans assumed Steamboat would be a great wrestler from the day he made his debut. Predestined for glory or not, it wasn’t until Steamboat teamed up with Rollins that he earned his first gold in America, when the pair won the FCW Tag Team Championships. Both Seth and Richie looked to excel after their partnership ended, until Steamboat suffered an unfortunate back injury that ended his career. Rollins, on the other hand, continues to enjoy a sterling career as former WWE Champion, though coincidentally he would lose that title due to injury. Unlike Steamboat, however, Rollins eventually recovered.
9 Bob Backlund Teamed With Steve Keirn
In a manner of speaking, both Bob Backlund and Steve Keirn would achieve considerable success well after their short-lived tag team parted ways. That said, it would be hard to compare Keirn’s modest accomplishments and steady employment with Backlund’s legendary four year reign as WWE Champion, followed by another two decades as a main event star in America and Japan. The two formed their alliance in Championship Wrestling From Florida, winning the NWA Florida Tag Team Championships together for several months in 1976. Backlund soon branched off to the solo division while Keirn stayed in the tag team ranks, making partnerships with names like Jimmy Garvin, Brian Blair, Mike Graham, and most famously Stan Lane, collectively known as The Fabulous Ones. For better or worse, Keirn might be even better known as the alligator hunting Skinner. Rumor has it that despite his other teams arguably being more successful, Keirn considered Bob the most talented partner he ever had, and Mr. Backlund’s later accomplishments more than explain why.
7 Brock Lesnar Teamed With Shelton Benjamin
Not only did Brock Lesnar start his career as the less experienced partner of Shelton Benjamin, but the two were also college roommates. On top of that, Benjamin was one of Lesnar’s coaches, assisting him towards dominance over the NCAA. The two also dominated the OVW tag ranks, calling themselves the Minnesota Stretching Crew and winning the Southern Tag Team Championships three times. Lesnar and Benjamin would continue to interact during their first few months in WWE, albeit as enemies, when Benjamin became an underling of Lesnar’s rival Kurt Angle. Shelton eventually branched away from Team Angle and became a considerable success on his own, earning three reigns as Intercontinental Champion and one as United States Champion. Of course, it in no way matched the unrivaled destruction of The Beast Incarnate, the only athlete in history to win both the WWE and UFC Championships.
6 Captain Lou Albano Teamed With Tony Altomare
Having managed some 15 duos to the WWE Tag Team Championships, it goes without saying Captain Lou Albano understands the ins and outs of tag team wrestling. That said, considering Captain Lou spent the vast majority of his career as a manager, it could easily be forgotten that he once competed as a wrestler himself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Captain’s only noteworthy success as a grappler came in the tag division, where he competed with Tony Altomare as the Mafioso inspired Sicilians. Partially on the TV show The Untouchables, Albano and Altomare were allegedly so convincing in their role as made men that actually members of the Chicago mafia approached the pair and convinced them to relax the gimmick. The Sicilians nonetheless remained popular enough to win the WWE United States Tag Team Championships and several other regional titles together. Shortly after they broke up, Lou moved into managing, and the rest was history.
5 Ric Flair Teamed With Greg Valentine
Long before he was the 16-time World Heavyweight Champion, or even The Nature Boy, Ric Flair was a scrappy up-and-comer who nearly had his career ended in a horrific plane crash. His fast track to fame slightly slowed down, Flair regrouped his career with the help of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, forming a dominant duo that twice won the NWA World Tag Team Championships. It didn’t take much time until both Flair and Valentine showed serious star potential, branching off to achieve incredible success wherever they went. With any other partner, Valentine’s time as a top name throughout the 1980s would make him the standout of the team, but not even The Hammer could come anywhere near The Nature Boy. Valentine nonetheless kept himself steadily employed in the NWA, WWE or WCW for over 20 years. He surprisingly beat Flair to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, though Ric would still come out on top by becoming the first wrestler inducted twice.
4 Bret Hart Teamed With Keith Hart
As was the case with Randy Savage, most wrestling fans are aware Bret Hart isn’t the only wrestler in his family. Bret actually has far more brothers than Randy, and he’s teamed with most of them in one way or another. Keith makes our list for the dual reason that he was actually Bret’s very first tag team partner, coupled with the fact he’s otherwise arguably the least noteworthy member of the Hart family. Keith and Bret won the Stampede Wrestling Tag Team Championships together five times, titles Keith also held with Leo Burke and Hubert Gallant. Bret also formed a moderately successful and virtually forgotten team with his brother Smith Hart, together winning the WWC Caribbean Tag Team Championships in Puerto Rico. Bret would continue to wrestle in tag teams after signing with WWE, albeit with his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart as opposed to his blood relatives. Bret also occasionally tagged with brother Owen, although as fans surely know, his true success came as a solo star.
3 The Undertaker Teamed With Dan Spivey
In a different world, Dan Spivey could have become a much bigger star than he was, but he probably never would have achieved anything like partner “Mean” Mark Callous, better known to the WWE Universe and the world as The Undertaker. Callous was actually Spivey’s second partner, replacing Sid Vicious in a tag team managed by Teddy Long and called The Skyscrapers. Spivey was already a minor star before The Skyscrapers formed, wrestling for WWE in the mid 1980s as “The Golden Boy,” though he never won any championships or had a particularly noteworthy feud. Continuing his reputation as an also ran, Spivey additionally achieved brief success during the New Generation as Waylon Mercy, a character that later inspired Bray Wyatt. However, even if you give Spivey full credit as the secret patriarch of the Wyatt Family, he still pales in comparison to The Phenom that is The Dead Man.
2 The Rock Teamed With Bart Sawyer
There are no bigger stars in professional wrestling than the People’s Champion The Rock, and yet his first tag team partner Bert Sawyer is arguably the least noteworthy name on our list. The two tagged while The Rock was still performing as Flex Kavana, and were at least successful enough to win the USWA Southern Tag Team Championships together on two occasions. Their reign coincided with Kavana’s brief feud with Jerry Lawler, who defeated the duo for their belts along with “Superstar” Bill Dundee. Sawyer would never achieve much fame on the national level, though he had long been a mainstay in USWA, feuding both Lawler and Dundee. He also made several appearances in WCW as a jobber. As for the young upstart Flex Kavana, a few name changes was all it took for him to become the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment history.
1 Triple H Teamed With Perry Saturn
What disparity could possibly be larger than the biggest star in the business and a guy nobody has ever heard of? How about the heir apparent to WWE and a once homeless man who openly struggles with serious drug addiction, as is the case with Vince McMahon’s son-in-law Triple H and his first tag team partner, Perry Saturn. The two teamed together while training under Killer Kowalski, wrestling for Kowalski’s International Wrestling Federation, where they collectively won the IWF Tag Team Championships. Triple H never acknowledges this portion of his career, perhaps because of how silly Saturn’s character would become as his career went on. Even in wrestling, silly doesn’t mean unsuccessful, though, and Saturn achieved moderate success in ECW, WWE, and WCW winning multiple championships in all three promotions. Triple H, on the other hand, only ever won gold in WWE. Of course, considering the prize he looks poised to win in the near future, Hunter probably doesn’t find himself feeling particularly jealous.