There's an old proverb that goes "familiarity breeds contempt," but in the world of pro wrestling, it's equally true that contempt breeds familiarity. As such, we've often seen two heated rivals face off on such a regular basis that they know their opponent's every move, every thought and every plan of attack, resulting in each battle becoming more intense and heated as the rivalry goes on. There have been several instances where bitter feuds have taken a strange turn and a wrestler is suddenly forced into a team with his arch-nemesis, resulting of one of two possibilities: a fantastic, entertaining partnership with two performers that are on the same page, or a truce that quickly implodes.
This may sound very familiar to those who have watched the Sheamus/Cesaro rivalry unfold over the last two months. These physical, hard-hitting Superstars went toe-to-toe on two occasions before engaging in a Best of Seven series, culminating in a show stealing final match at Clash of Champions which surprisingly resulted in a no contest when the action spilled over the barricade. This outcome made it seem probable that the fierce rivalry would be settled in one final decisive encounter inside Hell in a Cell, but instead we found out that these enemies will be forced to team together to challenge for the WWE Tag Team Championships.
Whether this is the start of a physically dominating tag team, or just a bump in the road before a violent resolution remains to be seen. In the meantime, let's look at eight former rivals that did make it work, and seven that swiftly deteriorated into chaos.
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15 Worked: Tommy Dreamer and Raven
In 1995, the grungy, disillusioned and damaged Raven debuted in ECW and immediately launched into a rivalry with Tommy Dreamer, a rivalry that became the most heated in ECW history. For years, these two were at each other's throats and the fans savoured every second of it. Sprouting from a childhood friendship that evolved into a venomous hatred, Dreamer went to war with Raven and his followers, but was constantly frustrated by his inability to gain a pinfall victory over the devious and intelligent Raven, until finally accomplishing this feat two years after the feud began. This is a rivalry that not only made the careers of Raven and Dreamer, but had a big hand in the success of ECW.
In 1999, a mutual vendetta against The Dudley Boyz led to the longtime rivals becoming ECW Tag Team Champions. However, during this time, their hostility towards each other was still apparent, not just in the dirty looks they shot each other, but in their tendency to attack each other and only help the other when their title run was in grave peril. Despite the animosities, these two managed to use their creativity, similarities and ECW's incredibly relaxed view of the rules to retain the titles for five months.
14 Quickly Imploded: Matt Hardy and MVP
In 2007, SmackDown featured one of it's most entertaining feuds when brash, rising star MVP and beloved veteran Matt Hardy came to blows. At this time, MVP had become the United States Champion, while Matt Hardy sought to establish himself as a championship level singles competitor.
Due to MVP's claims that he was better than Matt Hardy "at everything," the competition quickly branched from wrestling to all manner of contests such as arm wrestling, chess and basketball. The focus returned to the ring when the two rivals were forced to team up against then-champions Deuce and Domino. Despite the constant in-fighting, Hardy and MVP managed to win the match and the titles, adding a new level of depth to their feud and allowing MVP an excuse to distract Hardy from his incessant pursuit of the U.S. Title.
Despite a few successful titles defences, this union fell apart after two months when they lost the titles to Miz and Morrison, before MVP viciously attacked his partner, putting him out of action for four months.
13 Worked: Two-Man Power Trip
By 2001, the WWE was absolutely white hot and featured a gathering of some of wrestling's all-time biggest stars in the same place, at the same time, near their peaks.
Potentially the most personal, hatred-fueled rivalry going into 2001 was that of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H. After arranging for Stone Cold to be hit by a car and taken out of commission for ten months, Triple H was on top of the world. That is, until The Rattlesnake came back hell-bent for revenge with his sights set firmly on The Game, with the two eventually tearing each other apart in a brutal Three Stages of Hell Match at No Way Out.
Following Austin's historic heel turn less than two months later, these villains set their differences aside and formed a union known as the Two-Man Power Trip. Although this union only lasted two months before Triple H suffered a career-threatening injury, they had an incredibly dominant reign. They ran through legendary teams The Brothers of Destruction and The Hardy Boyz, and together, held the World, Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships at the same time.
12 Quickly Imploded: Baron Corbin and Rhyno
The Lone Wolf was having the easiest work day of anyone on the NXT roster for a long time - constantly competing with mismatched challengers, as he emerged victorious in short bouts every outing. This changed when he came up against grizzled ECW grappler Rhyno. These two brick walls clashed in back and forth matches and although Corbin emerged victorious, for the first time in his career, he knew he'd been in a fight.
So when it came to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and these men needed a partner, they each had one obvious choice. The team forced their way straight to the finals of the tournament, but after coming up short in that final match, the partnership was all but over.
The final nail in the team's coffin came shortly thereafter, when Corbin eliminated Rhyno from a Number One Contender's Battle Royal and these two were once again at each others' throats.
11 Worked: Rated RKO
During the early to mid 2000s, both Randy Orton and Edge sought to scratch their way to the main event scene and establish themselves as solo PPV headliners. Their paths first crossed in 2004, when Orton was in the midst of a notable Intercontinental Championship reign before feuding with, and eventually losing the title to, Edge.
From this point on, both Superstars' stock continued to rise until, in 2006, they were both main event caliber talents. At this point, they formed an alliance to take on a joint enemy - the newly reformed D-Generation X. Not only was the Edge/Orton alliance able to defeat D-X, but they became Tag Team Champions only a month after aligning and carried the gold for another two and a half months. The alliance continued on a tenuous basis while both stars targeted the WWE Championship, but after six months together, inevitably began to come apart, before a draft left the former teammates on separate shows.
10 Quickly Imploded: John Cena and Batista
Much like the previous entry, this was also a union between two competitors who fought their way to prominence in the mid-2000s and spent a long time as top flight competitors on their respective brands, but, unlike Rated RKO, this quickly ended disastrously.
On the way to their SummerSlam clash in 2008, John Cena and Batista were forced to set their animosity aside and combine their efforts in a tag team bout against champions Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase Jr. The musclebound duo would dethrone Legacy and stand atop the Tag Team Division for an entire week before dropping the titles in a rematch. Following the loss, Cena and Batista quickly gave up any inclination of reclaiming the gold and immediately set their sights solely on each other.
9 Worked: Kane and Big Show
These towering colossi have been two of the most enduring characters on WWE television, with a combined tenure of over 36 years. Kane and Big Show had several confrontations and run-ins between The Attitude Era and the mid 2000s, but joined as a seemingly unstoppable force in late 2005 when, after being forced together as a result of the Taboo Tuesday voting system, they ran through Cade and Murdoch to obtain the World Tag Team Championships.
They reigned as champions for over five months, gleefully obliterating the competition in a series of one-sided contests. The tandem were eventually torn apart only by themselves as Kane's inner demons and obsession with 'May 19th' left friend and partner the Big Show struggling to keep the demon in check.
8 Quickly Imploded: The Rock and Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho's long awaited debut on WWE television in 1999 has become the stuff of a wrestling legend. The charismatic, ultra-talented newcomer was thrust straight onto as high a pedestal imaginable as he interrupted one of the biggest stars that the industry has ever seen in The Rock, and engaged in a verbal joust that sent fans into a frenzy.
However, a deep rivalry with The Great One didn't emerge from this exchange of words, but rather, that would wait until 2001, after Chris Jericho had become the first Undisputed Champion. The rivalry was diverted toward tag team gold in October 2001, when The Rock and Chris Jericho had to put their egos aside in a bout with The Dudley Boyz, which saw the brash rivals emerge as champions.
Unfortunately, this highly entertaining duo soon let their hatred for the other take precedence, as they lost the titles only a week later to the makeshift team of Booker T and Test.
7 Worked: The Rock and Sock Connection
Since Survivor Series 1998, when The Rock became anointed as the chosen "Corporate Champion," he was engaged in a fierce rivalry with Mankind who, with his tattered attire and unpredictable, psychotic nature was the antithesis of what Mr. McMahon projected as the company's image.
However, when these two formed a union in August 1999, what they produced was lightning in a bottle. The dichotomy between these Superstars led to some of the most entertaining and talked about television in all of wrestling, including the fabled "This is Your Life" segment which smashed ratings records. Although the partnership only initially lasted three months, the duo managed to become three-time Tag Team Champions and left a unique mark on wrestling history that means this bizarre team is still highly praised to this day.
6 Quickly Imploded: Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker
In mid 1998, The Attitude Era was in full swing and the two biggest stars in the company were engaged in a rivalry based on respect, but shrouded in mystery due to questions over allegiances, secret alliances and whispered conspiracies regarding The Undertaker and his brother Kane.
In an attempt to discover the truth, the champion and number one contender were paired together to face off against Tag Team Champions Kane and Mankind in an all-star encounter at July's Fully Loaded PPV. Although Stone Cold and The Undertaker emerged victorious and were crowned the new champions, this match failed to settle the debates and just fueled the tension between begrudging partners. Unsurprisingly, this dream team failed to work as a unit and lost the titles just two weeks later.
5 Worked: Team Hell No
Easily the finest illustration that "opposites attract" since Paula Abdul and that singing cartoon cat, undersized technical marvel Daniel Bryan and seven-foot demonic powerhouse Kane provided one of the most hilarious, entertaining and successful tandems in recent memory when they came together to form Team Hell No.
Originally linked in a lengthy rivalry caused by AJ Lee's wandering eye, the duo were brought together by their one common trait - unbridled anger. After being consigned to anger management sessions, Kane and Bryan were forced to get along as a team and, despite the constant bickering, they were able to obtain tag team gold (albeit by Bryan shoving Kane off the ropes, resulting in him landing on his opponent). These two went on to create some fantastic television, whether it be the therapy sessions with Dr Shelby, the regular need to "hug it out," or just the ability to put on highly entertaining matches. By the time the team split, they had breathed new life into a floundering Tag Team Division and Daniel Bryan's new ultra-aggressive style and quest to prove that he's "not the weak link" had catapulted him into the World Title picture.
4 Quickly Imploded: Chris Jericho and A.J. Styles
Longtime fans of The Phenomenal One had good reason to be worried about his WWE future after his debut earlier this year. People who are familiar with his accomplishments and talent no doubt hoped to see him used as a main event star, as he deserved.
So when his first rivalry was a mid-card feud with Chris Jericho, it was difficult to see how things would go. The two put on some stellar matches that were constantly a highlight of any show, which seemed like a great start. But when the two decided on an alliance to take on Tag Team Champions The New Day, it seemed as though Styles would be part of the Tag Team Division for the foreseeable future.
Using the awful team name "Y2AJ," the duo seemed committed to the endeavour, even having T-shirts produced by the merchandise department. After an action-packed highlight reel of a Tag Team Title match, Y2AJ came up short and then it became obvious that their one on one rivalry wasn't over as Jericho turned on Styles, beating him down and destroying Y2AJ after just one week as a unit.
3 Worked: Rob Van Dam and Sabu
Before he became the most popular wrestler in ECW history, Rob Van Dam was the incredibly arrogant newcomer who put himself on the map with a long-term rivalry with real-life close friend Sabu. The two created some incredible (and incredibly dangerous) hardcore matches with their innovation and complete disregard for their own bodies. So when the two decided to become a tag team under the guidance of Bill Alfonso, they were able to utilise their creativity and the hardcore environment to become one of the most successful teams in the promotion's history.
As two-time ECW Tag Team Champions, RVD and Sabu were able to put aside the hostility that they held towards each other and direct their fire onto opponents. This duo was one of the most reliable acts in ECW and always stood a strong chance of stealing the show on any PPV that saw them team together.
2 Quickly Imploded: John Cena and The Miz
John Cena's horrible luck with tag team partners reached its pinnacle in February 2011 when, on the road to their showdown in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, he was paired with chief rival The Miz to face off against Tag Team Champions The Corre. Miz and Cena were initially successful in their attempt and became champions - for approximately 10 minutes, before The Corre invoked their rematch and regained the belts after The Miz delivered a Skull Crushing Finale to his partner, marking Miz and Cena with the shortest WWE Tag Team Championship reign in history.
Despite achieving championship success as a tandem, The Miz's hatred to John Cena was such that he couldn't wait to get rid of the gold just as long as it meant making his partner look foolish in the process.
1 Worked: The Brothers of Destruction
Kane and The Undertaker have such a rich and deep rivalry that their careers have become intrinsically linked to each other, to the point where it's difficult to think of one without the other immediately coming to mind.
When Kane debuted in late 1997 as The Undertaker's long lost brother, this began a storyline so grand and chimerical, that it's been likened to something found in Greek mythology. The feud that this ignited saw these two giants battle tooth and nail at WrestleMania XIV and then at 1998's Unforgiven in the first ever Inferno Match.
The two eventually began to see eye to eye as they both looked to dethrone Stone Cold Steve Austin as the WWE Champion and in joining forces were able to run roughshod over the entire roster. The brothers united many more times over the next few years, most notably throughout 2001, when they won the WWE Tag Team Championships twice, as well as the WCW Tag Team Titles.
In short, not only did Kane and The Undertaker produce one of the greatest rivalries in wrestling history, they also became one of WWE's greatest and most dominant tag teams.
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