It's widely understood that much of what happens in the wrestling business is recycled. From generation to generation, and era to era, ideas are reused, and concepts are recycled all the time. It's almost a hallmark of the industry to have homages, and even outright ripoffs of previous gimmicks and storylines. It transfers over to the tag division as well, and throughout the years we've seen our share of blatantly stolen ideas as far as gimmicks are concerned. It's resulted in both positive and underwhelming outcomes, and it's occurred in just about every major promotion you can think of.
For a long time, tag team gimmicks were pretty formulaic, so whenever somebody came along to break the mold that was in place it was often a big deal, even if the gimmick happened to be "borrowed" from another tag team. Even if the idea didn't happen to work out, most people would say that it was at least noteworthy for the time. So let's take a look at some of the great, and not-so-great stolen gimmicks that have appeared on the tag circuit.
Ranked below are 8 stolen tag team gimmicks that were better than the original, and 8 that weren't.
16 Better: Paul London & Brian Kendrick (Stolen From High Energy)
In the mid-2000s, London and Kendrick actually had a fairly successful run as a team in WWE. In fact, until The New Day were able to top their record, they had achieved the longest run with the tag titles in the history of the company. That's fairly impressive, and showed that London & Kendrick were exactly the team needed to break the stagnant nature of the tag division at the time.
WWE had tried this sort of gimmick (showcasing speed and agility in a flashy tag team) before with Owen Hart and Koko B. Ware as the High Energy tandem. The previous incarnation had an early-90s stench about it though, and the approach with London & Kendrick was far more coherent and less silly. As a result, it was more well-received.
15 Worse: The Mexicools (Stolen From The Filthy Animals)
When Psicosis, Super Crazy and Juventud Guerrera were signed to WWE in the mid-00s, everyone was excited at the prospect of having such world-renowned Lucha talents on the WWE roster. Unfortunately, and maybe predictably, WWE didn't use them in the right way, and shoehorned them into a derivative and borderline insulting stable called The Mexicools. It was a play on Mexican stereotypes, and effectively buried any chances they had of moving up the roster.
The Filthy Animals did the same kind of thing in WCW, but instead celebrated Mexican culture in a way that didn't turn them into a punchline. Comprised of Konnan, Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman and Eddie Guerrero, they were one of the better aspects of WCW in its later-day period. It portrayed the same kind of idea for a stable in a much better way. The Mexicools were a dead idea from the beginning.
14 Better: The Natural Disasters (Stolen From Akeem & The Big Bossman)
WWE had toyed with the idea of putting two gigantic wrestlers on the same tag team before, but it wasn't until The Natural Disasters that they finally got it right. Earthquake and Typhoon were a better duo than past haphazard attempts such as Akeem & The Big Bossman, who had no sense of cohesion whatsoever. When the Disasters came along, the tag division was going through a lull period, but they were able to have numerous quality feuds, including one with Money Inc.
The team didn't last terribly long, but it was at least turned the idea of multiple super-heavyweights on the same team into something that could be successful. The Disasters did a run with the tag titles, and are actually one of the better WWE teams of the early-90s.
13 Worse: La Resistance (Stolen From The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers)
This was nothing more than a wholesale ripoff, in another attempt to inject some life into the tag division. Everyone could see through the actions of Rob Conway, Sylvan Granier and Rene Dupree however. Just about everything they did had been lifted from the antics of the Rougeaus from the late-'80s. Even going past the obvious French/French-Canadian getup of the team, their heel tactics had been done before, and done better quite frankly.
La Resistance would break up in due time, and none of its members went on to do anything notable in WWE again. The team was a fine filler for the time when the company really needed a consistent heel tag duo, but overall comes up short when compared to the Rougeaus.
12 Better: The Usos (Stolen From The Headshrinkers)
This one isn't surprising at all, considering that The Usos are literally the children of one-half of The Headshrinkers. The gimmick of the latter has been successfully employed in today's WWE landscape, and has been done so because of the time between the 25-year gap between the two tag teams. The Headshrinkers may have had their place at one point, but The Usos have eclipsed them as a duo, and aren't done yet either.
So while their gimmick may have been stolen, The Usos are also related to one-half of the tag team that the idea came from. Not only that, but they have been more successful than The Headshrinkers, and will go down as the better tag team when it's all said and done.
11 Worse: The World's Greatest Tag Team (Stolen From The Steiner Brothers)
The collegiate wrestler gimmick had been played before by the Steiners, and in better fashion to boot. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin were definitely a good team, but they never quite ascended to that next level, with each wrestler embarking upon singles careers. While Rick and Scott Steiner were originally focused around a specific school (Michigan), the gimmicks were extremely similar in image and mannerisms.
The Steiners were simply a revelation when they came onto the scene in the late-'80s. With a combination of strength, athleticism and innovative maneuvers, they took the tag circuit by storm in WCW, and later on saw some success in WWE as well. Ultimately, they were a notch above Haas and Benjamin.
10 Better: Harlem Heat (Stolen From Soul Patrol)
Booker T and Stevie Ray brought the same inner city swagger that Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas had done nearly a decade earlier, but with the skill of the modern day wrestler. Truly, there wasn't a better team for a period of time in WCW, and the Heat proved it by winning nearly a dozen tag titles during their run together, because they split off into singles careers.
While The Soul Patrol may have done the same kind of thing first in WWE, their lack of longevity puts them a step below. They were influential no doubt, but the high points of the Harlem Heat eclipse them pretty easily. Atlas and Johnson would disband in the mid-'80s after just a few years of activity, never to reform again.
9 Worse: The Rockers (Stolen From The Rock N' Roll Express)
To capitalize on the craze that was happening with The Rock N' Roll Express in the NWA, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were keen on forming The Rockers in the latter half of the decade. They first rose to prominence in the AWA, and then of course in WWE later on, but they never were able to duplicate the kind of success that The Express had seen mere years earlier.
The Rockers were definitely a key part to the tag scene in WWE at the time, but comparing them to one of the all-time great teams is a bit of a stretch. They made good use of the stolen gimmick, but still weren't able to achieve the same heights. For sure, The Rock N' Roll Express are the definitive rock music-based gimmick of the 80s.
8 Better: America's Most Wanted (Stolen From The Smoking Gunns)
When TNA looked to be on the rise in the mid-00s, one of the primary reasons was the creation of new stats such as America's Most Wanted. Chris Harris and James Storm made good use of the classic outlaw cowboy gimmick employed by the Smoking Gunns, and turned it into a viable modern-day gimmick with some distinct improvements. Their in-ring action was great, and the updated version of this gimmick served them well to the tune of six NWA Tag Title-victories.
While the Smoking Gunns jumpstarted a few notable WWE careers, notably Billy Gunn's, it was a little too straight ahead for its own good, and didn't really fit the aesthetic of the changing times in the mid-'90s. It definitely worked better for Harris and Storm, and they rode it to great heights in TNA.
7 Worse: The Un-Americans (Stolen From The Hart Foundation)
Lance Storm, Christian and Test combined to form this tag team and stable, but it had already been done better before, when Bret Hart led the reformation of The Hart Foundation in 1997 with Brian Pillman, The British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Jim Neidhart. It was the biggest angle for WWE that year, and the anti-American gimmick they portrayed was so brilliantly executed in an original manner, that nobody ever had a chance of improving on it.
Really, The Un-Americans was just a way to occupy the time for some mid-card wrestlers whom WWE had no idea what to do with. They won some tag titles, but the actual gimmick of the group was portrayed better in '97,
6 Better: The Acolytes (Stolen From Doom)
An intimidating tag team if there ever was one, The Acolytes saw Ron Simmons double down on his go-to tag team gimmick that he had with Doom in WCW, and combined with Bradshaw in the late-'90s WWE tag team circuit. Both were veteran tag wrestlers, and put with an undeniably cool gimmick like this was easy money for WWE creative. They seemed to steamroll everything in their path, en route to three WWE Tag Team Title runs.
Doom was definitely an innovative team, and also intimidating in their day, but the same idea was essentially portrayed better by The Acolytes. Both teams were very good in their heyday, but Simmons and Bradshaw proved that The Acolytes were the better team, and on the biggest stage of The Attitude Era to boot.
5 Worse: MNM (Stolen From Hollywood Blonds)
In order to help revitalize a tag division that was rapidly losing a lot of its top teams in the mid-2000s, MNM was pushed heavily and immediately upon being called up from WWE developmental territories. Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury were solid talents overall, and certainly had some intrigue going for them, but they were also a wholesale ripoff of a way better team, for anybody who thought to read between the lines.
Everything about their gimmick was copped from the Hollywood Blonds. The ring attire may have varied slightly, but their swagger, promo skills, and image as a tag team borrowed heavily from Steve Austin and Brian Pillman's combo in WCW. Sure, MNM was fine for a couple years in WWE, but they fizzled out relatively quickly.
4 Better: The Brain Busters (Stolen From The Minnesota Wrecking Crew)
Gene and Ole Anderson were popular tag wrestlers as The Minnesota Wrecking Crew in the regional days of wrestling. No doubt they were influential, but the apex of this linage of The Four Horsemen came when Arn Anderson teamed up Tully Blanchard as The Brain Busters. Succeeding in both the NWA and WWE, they took the hard-nosed this of The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, and turned up the entertainment factor.
With the ability to succeed on the mic and in the ring on a consistent basis, they were able to improve on the original gimmick, and become the backbone of The Four Horsemen. They caught the wrestling business in a transitional time to becoming a national entity, and they capitalized on it.
3 Worse: The Faces Of Fear (Stolen From The Islanders)
Of Haku's prominent two tag teams he participated in during his career, The Islanders were clearly the better duo. With a stiff in-ring style and a mystique about them in character, they were perfect for the WWE landscape of the time and provided a nice contrast in the late-'80s. To no surprise, given their penchant for recycling ideas, WCW tried to put the same gimmick on Haku yet again, teaming him with The Barbarian.
Now going under the name Meng, he and The Barbarian never were as relevant as The Islanders has been. Far too often they were used as a filler team, or whenever WCW needed a heel team to take a loss. There were opportunities here and there, but The Islanders were the more noteworthy team who got more title opportunities, had a more definable persona, and were consistently relevant in the tag division.
2 Better: The Wyatt Family (Stolen From The Brood)
Maybe this gimmick wasn't a wholesale ripoff of The Brood, but in style and feel it's proven to be close enough. The Wyatt Family has been a staple part of WWE for years now, and more often than not, it's been executed incredibly well. It has just enough ridiculousness attached to it to make it an all-time great as far as WWE gimmicks are concerned.
And it's an improvement over The Brood, which fizzled out relatively quickly with all of the competing gimmicks in place at the time. Sure, it sparked the careers of both Edge and Christian, but while the gimmick was entertaining at its best, it didn't help to contribute to nearly as many high-profile storylines. The Wyatt Family is ultimately the more important of the two.
1 Worse: Demolition (Stolen From The Legion Of Doom)
No team was ever formed to be as much of a response to a popular competitor as Demolition was to The Legion Of Doom. The LOD was steamrolling the NWA and AWA at the time, and had become the most popular tag team in wrestling. They were wholly original, and provided a stark contrast to the WWE tag teams of the time, which were comparatively far less intense.
With Bill Eadie as Ax and Barry Darsow as Smash, Demolition also took the WWE by storm in the late-'80s. The sole purpose of the team was to provide competition to the LOD, but in hindsight it just doesn't hold up in the same way. The team was good no doubt when at their apex, but far too derivative to be considered anything other than a blatant ripoff.
The real indicator here was that Demolition's popularity only began to decline when the LOD had joined WWE for themselves in the early-'90s, with Brian Adams (Crush) also replacing Eadie on the team. Once WWE fans got a taste of the real thing, they weren't going to settle for a what was usually a half-baked substitute.