Throughout the course of wrestling history, it's been pretty easy to determine the era just by looking at the tag team landscape of the time. There's been some distinctive tandems over the years, each displaying their own personalities and gimmicks. For a long time in wrestling it was difficult to come across a tag team that didn't sport some kind of an exaggerated, hokey gimmick. Specifically, it's been rampant in WWE over the years, mainly in the 80s and 90s. In many instances, the wrestlers who made up the team itself were high quality, but in attempt to make them stand out, their gimmicks were the result of some head-scratching decisions.
Some teams were able to overcome this and elevate themselves to join the best in the business with title reigns and years of longevity. Others were hampered by it, quickly becoming a joke, or appearing derivative of other teams, even if they were good in the ring. In any event, these gimmicks weren't the best of the bunch, and served as an example of how not to portray a tag team. Some walked away from it unscathed, while other careers were destroyed altogether.
Ranked below are eight tag teams that survived and seven that were destroyed by awful gimmicks.
15 Survived: The Bushwackers
Despite their comedic role, The Bushwackers were actually around the WWE landscape for 10 years in the 80s and 90s. Sure, they were often featured on B-shows, never had a real, legitimate title run, and were clearly there as glorified children's entertainment, but it's hard to fault them too much when they were able to stick around for so long. They weren't going to have any five-star matches, but for a filler match that could produce a few laughs, they were pretty much unbeatable. Their Australian sheepherder gimmick, and odd antics weren't very original or brilliant, but they were able to overcome it, and actually become one of the more recognizable names in the company during their heyday.
14 Ruined: Rhythm & Blues
This was a tag team that just never made much sense to begin with. In the late-80s, WWE decided to pair up former Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man, who always had a lighthearted gimmick, with the stiff-working and stoic personality of Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. It was an awkward pairing, and the idea that was envisioned for the team never materialized into anything successful. In all, they only stuck together for a few years, before returning to singles competition. Rhythm & Blues is one of the most overlooked failures of the WWE creative department, considering both Valentine and Honky Tonk Man were pretty renowned names at the time.
13 Survived: Demolition
Certainly a legendary tag team in WWE, but in all honesty, Demolition's gimmick was really just a wholesale ripoff of the Road Warriors. It was WWEs attempt to capture the same energy, with different facepaint and an altered color scheme. Still, the same idea was there for all fans to see, and they really resembled the Legion Of Doom in just about every aspect. It was a good idea though, and Demolition were arguably the most popular tag team of their era in WWE. They've survived the test of time, and are still occasionally mentioned on WWE broadcasts and in the conversations of the best all-time tag teams. It wasn't very original, but they have their marquee moments and matches just like all the best tandems.
12 Ruined: Mean Street Posse
A spoof during the Attitude Era on Shane McMahon's friends from Connecticut, the Mean Street Posse was a cardigan-wearing comedy stable that was probably used far too often on WWE programming. It was definitely intended for comedic purposes, but it always seemed like they would get the air time that better talents could have used, and that their association with Shane O' Mac was the only reason why. It wasn't around all that long in the end, but the joke got old pretty fast, and it wasn't going to have a long shelf life regardless. This one definitely fizzled out early, and WWE fans were all the better for it.
11 Survived: Too Cool
It's funny, years later after the Attitude Era, one of the most fondly remembered aspects of it among the mainstream wrestling audience remains the Too Cool stable. They were utilized for their comedic value, but the trio of Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay actually managed to remain relevant and enjoyed years after they left a WWE ring. They weren't a top flight team, but their antics were entertaining to just about everyone, and they successfully carved out a niche for themselves in the tag scene at the time. With most other talents, this gimmick would have flopped, because it was pretty inane overall, but this trio of performers kept it interesting, and it was over for much longer than it probably had any right to be.
10 Ruined: The Bodydonnas
This was a played out gimmick in the mid-90s that essentially took Mr. Perfect's gimmick from a few years ago and put it in the form of a tag team. Chris Candido and Tom Pritchard made up the tandem, and both wrestlers would go on to accomplish more during their careers. They did win the WWE Tag Titles once, but in total were around for less than a year, remaining wholly uninteresting to the WWE fanbase, despite the roster as a whole not being up to snuff at the time. As mentioned, the narcissistic gimmick had been done better in WWE by names like Mr. Perfect and Lex Luger prior to the Bodydonnas, and the audience recognized that it was just a second-rate ripoff from the beginning.
9 Survived: The Nasty Boys
Another team that remained relevant for far longer than they probably should have, The Nasty Boys had a generic brawler gimmick, but were able to sustain the appeal for years. They won tag titles in both WWE and WCW, remaining a focal point of the tag division in each promotion, at different times for roughly a decade. Being able to square off against all-time great teams such as The Road Warriors and Harlem Heat allowed them to get over with a simple gimmick, so they didn't constantly need to reinvent themselves. The Nastys overcame what should have been a filler tag team role, and turned it into one of the best tandems of the 90s.
8 Ruined: The Natural Disasters
A generic team of two super-heavyweights that were just needed to fill out the roster in WWE, this was always a boring gimmick, even at the time that it happened. Earthquake was actually an entertaining singles competitor, but he was a poor fit for this team. The idea to pair them together was likely an effort to find some kind of a role for Fred Ottman, who played Typhoon in the tandem. He didn't have the drawing power that Earthquake did, and this was a quick fix while he was still on the remainder of his contract. They're probably one of the worst teams to win the WWE tag titles, and ultimately signaled one of the low points for the WWE tag division in general.
7 Survived: The Headbangers
Thrasher and Mosh shouldn't have stuck around, but they were a key factor in the tag division during The New Era, and The Attitude Era. Their look and gimmick of grunge-meets-metalhead was portrayed better by other wrestlers, but the team managed to remain relevant for roughly five years within the company. It's pretty impressive that they were actually able to transition into the Attitude Era and still remain on the roster. Overall, they overcame the challenge and are probably one of the more recognizable teams of the late-90s. What was originally, clearly a ho-hum idea for the mid-card, turned into a popular tag team that had shelf life well beyond what anybody expected.
6 Ruined: The Twin Towers
Easily the most awkward pairing of any two wrestlers on this list, the combination of Big Boss Man and Akeem The African Dream (also known as The One Man Gang), was a complete head-scratcher from the beginning. Two heavyweight wrestlers, with two completely unrelated gimmicks, just slapped together to take up space in the tag division. As expected, they only lasted about a year, and were quickly placed back in the singles ranks afterwards. Everything about it just screamed "filler", and looking back on it now, it's probably one of the worst tag teams that WWE creative ever devised. One of the more overlooked failures of the late-80s era in the company.
5 Survived: The British Bulldogs
Maybe it was just a sign of the times, but the Bulldogs, for being as strong and tough as they were, always seemed to have a kind of wimpy presentation as a tag team. The presence of Matilda, the mascot dog that would accompany them to the ring, the classical music as their entrance theme; it never seemed to properly suit them. Of course, it didn't matter, because Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith were two of the best in-ring talents of their era in WWE, but the gimmick was probably less of an ideal fit than many people remember. Still, they succeeded in WWE during their tenure as a tag team, with Smith going on to have several more successful runs in singles competition.
4 Ruined: The Godwinns
Their gimmick was a direct ripoff of past wrestling stars like Hillbilly Jim, and the Fabulous Freebirds, and the Godwinns were the product of a poor tag division within WWE in the mid-90s. At the time, WWE was desparate for anything resembling some kind of a shakeup to a bland roster, and the Godwinns fit nicely into the depleted tag division of the time. The Godwinns stick around for a while initially, but after they parted ways with WWE, they've hardly been brought up in any kind of context since. Definitely a product of the time, just before the Attitude Era started to arrive in full force. All in all, they were pretty mediocre, and their derivative gimmick didn't help matters.
3 Survived: Wild Samoans
The Samoans were an awesome tag team, but the "wild islander" type gimmick had been used for years before them, and years after them. For them, the key component was their manager in Captain Lou Albano, who gave them a flair, and spurred on their crazy antics inside and out of the ring. It's been well-documented what their family and legacy have meant to wrestling, and they were the originals of the legacy, and were influential in the sense that they set the blueprint for teams such as The Headshrinkers during the 90s WWE tag scene. One of the most fondly remembered tandems from the 80s, the Wild Samoans were survived the test of time, and are still talked about to this day on WWE programming, and from wrestling fans all over.
2 Ruined: The Rockers
Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were high-flying and exciting in the ring, but their gimmick was obviously a complete ripoff of the popular Rock N' Roll Express, who were popular in the NWA. They barely even changed the attire or the style of the wrestlers, just pretty much transferred the same characters that Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson played, and appropriated it through Michaels and Jannetty. While the team was a revelation in the late 80s WWE tag scene, it's pretty obvious that the group was better off in singles competition, given Michaels' main event success, and Jannetty's ability to carry himself. In all, they really didn't last very long as a team all things considered, and are probably remembered more fondly as a team than warranted. They would both go on to greater success apart, ultimately.
1 Survived: Hart Foundation
The Hitman was one of the best main event stars that wrestling ever had, and Jim Neidhart was a consistent, solid mid-card talent, but the gimmick they had as The Hart Foundation tag team in the 80s didn't warrant several runs in WWE, spanning nearly a decade. WWE creative always oversold the appeal of Bret Hart's last name, and tried to make it a focal point of his gimmick far too often. Neidhart definitely wasn't an ideal partner for him either, but they did have plenty of success in the tag division over the years regardless. When the gimmick was brought back in 1997 however, the idea had pretty much run it's course, though again, they had talented wrestlers (Owen Hart, British Bulldog), making use of it. Despite the overplayed character, Hart went on to be one of WWEs biggest stars.