Tag teams will always have a place in professional wrestling, and fairly recently, the WWE has been putting forth a conscious effort in attempting to reinvigorate its formerly stagnant tag team division with talented duos such as Sheamus and Cesaro, Jeff and Matt Hardy, The Usos, The New Day and Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose. Although we can all appreciate a great tag team, if there's one thing most fans can agree upon, it's the fact that many of us like to see our favourite tag team specialists eventually get the opportunity to make a mark in the business on their own as a singles competitor.
Some of the most notable breakout stars from tag teams include the likes of Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Booker T - though there has definitely been plenty of failed experiments when it comes to tag team wrestlers going solo including the likes of Marty Jannetty (extremely failed), Rick Steiner, Stevie Ray, D-Von Dudley among many others. Recent tag teams such as Big Cass/Enzo Amore and Jason Jordan/Chad Gable have split up, and only time will tell if any of those four young, bright talent make it on their own in the WWE.
Stay tuned, as we divulge 8 wrestlers who took off following their tag team breakup, and 8 who unfortunately faded away from the spotlight.
16 Took Off: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner began his professional wrestling career back in the mid-to-late 80's performing alongside his real-life brother Ric Steiner as one half of The Steiner Brothers in promotions such as the WWA, CWA, ECW, WCW and the WWE. As a tag team, the Steiner's were fairly successful as they captured the Tag Team Championships in most of the promotions they performed for.
However, Scott Steiner had bigger aspirations for his career in the late 90's, as he joined WCW's New World Order in February '98 after he attacked his brother Ric. Though Scott was a great tag team performer, one could clearly see potential in him as a singles competitor given his mean attitude and incredibly imposing look. Scott Steiner became one of WCW's focal points in the upper midcard for the remainder of the company's existence, and he even captured the World Heavyweight Championship on one occasion.
15 Faded Away: Kenny Dykstra
If you've since forgotten, Kenny Dykstra was the leader of the faction "The Spirit Squad" between 2005 and 2007. Although some of Spirit Squad's members looked like promising young talent (Dolph Ziggler included), Kenny Dykstra was the guy from the comedy duo that looked as if he had a real future in the business. However, despite the fact that Kenny had some potential in the WWE as a singles competitor, any possibility of Dykstra becoming a new star quickly fizzled out due to WWE's lack of interest in him.
Just over one year removed from his singles debut in November 2007, Kenny Dykstra was released from the company following his underwhelming solo run. Since his departure, Dykstra has been performing on the Indies. This just goes to show you that not all make it in the WWE even if they possess the key traits of a future star - some make it, where others simply don't. That being said, there was one wrestler from the Spirit Squad who took off following the split, and you probably have an idea as to who that may be.
14 Took Off: Dolph Ziggler
As you may have expected, the member of "The Spirit Squad" faction who took off following its split-up was none other than "The Showoff" Dolph Ziggler. However, unlike Kenny Dykstra, Dolph would be sent back to OVW and would later move onto FCW between 2007-2008. By September of '08, Ziggler was ready for his main roster debut, and he was introduced as Dolph Ziggler. Although Dolph has been booked horrendously over the past couple of years (2014-present time), that doesn't take away from the fact that Ziggler achieved the most in professional wrestling compared to the rest of the Spirit Squad members.
Ziggler is a 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, a former United States Champion, a 5-time Intercontinental Champion and the 2012 MITB Briefcase winner (for the WHC). Dolph may be misused presently, but he still had a pretty good run early on in his career. Right now, it looks as if things are starting to wind down for Ziggler, and I doubt the WWE will have any big angles for Dolph following his inevitable loss(es) to Bobby Roode in the near future.
13 Faded Away: D-Von Dudley
Although Bubba Ray failed to truly "take off" following The Dudley Boyz' split in 2002, D-Von definitely took the cake for being the Dudley who absolutely faded away from the spotlight. Saddled down with a crappy and forgettable gimmick to begin with, "Reverend D-Von" failed to get over with the fans, and it was a total bust. However, if one positive thing was to have come from D-Von's failed "Reverend" gimmick, it was the introduction of Batista, or at the time, "Deacon Batista".
Considering just how much of a flop D-Von's singles run was, the WWE reunited The Dudley Boyz before 2002 came to an end - a wise choice. Up until their departures from the company in 2005, The Dudley's remained a cohesive unit. This just goes to show you that no matter how popular of a tag team performer you were, that doesn't exactly equate to "cutting it" as a singles star. The Dudley Boyz are one of the most decorated (and greatest) tag teams in professional wrestling history, though both of their singles runs in the early 2000's were complete flops.
12 Took Off: Braun Strowman
When you've out-shined the leader of your own faction, then you know you've "taken off" so to speak. "The Monster Among Men" Braun Strowman has truly risen above every member of The Wyatt Family - including Bray Wyatt. When Braun had originally made his WWE main roster debut back in the summer of 2015, one could clearly see that the lumbering giant was entirely too green to be placed centre-stage. Most fans at the time couldn't have imagined that Strowman would go on to improve as much as he has over the past year, as he resembled The Great Khali more than he did say Brock Lesnar.
However, when Braun was drafted over to Monday Night Raw in the 2016 WWE Draft , things started to look up for the imposing monster. Improving with each passing week, Braun started to evolve and grow as a performer (all while getting over with the WWE Universe at the same time with his endless squash matches). Braun Strowman is now one of the WWE's most polarizing figures, and he's truly a "star" - something that cannot even be said for the leader of the Wyatt's, Bray.
11 Faded Away: Luke Harper
Unlike Braun Strowman, Luke Harper has faded away from the spotlight following The Wyatt Family split-up, and the WWE is completely to blame for this being the case - not Luke. As some of you are probably well aware of, Luke Harper is an exceptionally talented big man, and he has all the tools required to make it in the business (his short pushes demonstrated his ability to get over and show his potential as a top tier star). When Harper first went solo in 2014, Luke was given a small push as he captured the Intercontinental Championship after successfully defeating Dolph Ziggler.
However, this push was short lived (what else is new), and he returned to being one of Bray's "henchmen". However, Luke Harper split-up from The Wyatt Family clan earlier this year for the second time - though this singles run completely bombed (again, WWE's fault). For a brief while, Harper was treated like a legitimate "star in the making" - though his push was quickly scrapped towards WrestleMania due to the company's lack of faith in Luke being a good fit in Wyatt's and Orton's WWE Championship match.
10 Took Off: John Bradshaw Layfield
APA's Bradshaw would go onto transform himself into the cocky and arrogant JBL character back in 2004 - the beginning of Layfield's first big push in the WWE. Though JBL was a pretty cool tag team guy with Faarooq, few fans ever expected Bradshaw to become a main event Superstar in the future. Upon John's transformation in looks and attitude, he was quickly shot up into WWE Championship contention - and as most of us fans know, he won the gold from Eddie Guerrero in a Texas Bullrope Match at the Great American Bash pay-per-view.
JBL's WWE Title reign was shockingly long (longer than most fans had anticipated), and he defeated the likes of Booker T and The Undertaker (controversially of course). JBL remained an upper mid-card star for the remainder of his tenure with the WWE up until his final retirement in 2009. Although most fans would consider JBL's main event run to have been a total flop, you cannot deny the fact that he took off following his breakup from Faarooq.
9 Faded Away: Erick Rowan
Erick Rowan has failed on every level as a singles competitor, and considering Luke Harper (who also flopped) is a much more talented performer, this was inevitable. Back in 2014, Erick Rowan was given a singles run as a babyface (remember the Team Cena versus Team Authority Survivor Series angle), and as you may have expected, it completely failed to catch on. Rowan certainly doesn't possess very much charisma, and this became apparent relatively quickly following his singles run.
Erick would go on to join The Wyatt Family in 2015 along with Luke Harper, and he remained one of Wyatt's henchmen up until earlier this year when he resumed his singles run (following Bray's draft over to Monday Night Raw during the Superstar Shake-up). Erick Rowan has been used very sparingly this year, and when he has been around, jobbing ensues. Although Luke Harper is a far greater overall talent in my opinion, Erick Rowan could still be utilized much more effectively in a larger role - he shouldn't have faded away to the degree he has.
8 Took Off: Edge
The legendary Hall Of Fame Superstar Edge would find himself pursuing a singles career following his King Of The Ring win in '01 - something that had obviously rubbed his former partner Christian the wrong way (in kayfabe anyways). Christian would go on to betray Edge, and they began feuding over the Intercontinental Championship. After a couple years performing in the WWE's mid-card title scene, Edge would later move up the ranks in 2004 as he began feuding with some of the company's top stars over the World Championship.
Before long, Edge captured his first WWE Championship in 2006 after he cashed in his MITB Briefcase on a bloody John Cena. From that point onward, Edge remained one of the WWE's top stars, and he captured the WWE/World Heavyweight Championship on 10 more occasions. Although Christian had a few good runs in the WWE towards the mid 2010's, Edge was by far the guy who "took off" following their tag team breakup - he's one of the all-time greats!
7 Faded Away: Rick Steiner
Rick Steiner (who you may have totally forgotten about) went solo for a while following his split-up from Scott Steiner in early-mid 1998. For the first bit of Rick's singles run, he performed as a babyface - though he would later turn heel in '99 (probably a wiser choice). Though Rick never saw the success that his brother did in WCW, Rick still captured a few titles including the Television Championship (3 times) and the United States Championship once.
However, Rick Steiner would quickly fade away from the spotlight when WCW was purchased by the WWE in 2001 considering he wasn't re-hired to work under the WWE brand. Though Rick has made some appearances in TNA Impact Wrestling over the years, he truly faded away unlike Scott Steiner who has remained somewhat relevant (perhaps for all the wrong reasons).
6 Took Off: Batista
"The Animal" Dave Batista is one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time - despite the fact that his 2014 "Bluetista" run was a complete and utter failure. Back in early 2003, a young Batista joined the stable Evolution alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. Batista and Ric Flair would go onto win the World Tag Team Championships, and this marked the beginning of Batista's rise within the company. Before long, "The Animal" was vying for Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship (which he won at WrestleMania 21).
Although Randy Orton became a huge star in his own right following his split-up from Evolution, Batista undoubtedly became the bigger star of the two (and many didn't expect him to rise higher than Orton since Randy was the "chosen one"). For the entirety of Batista's WWE career, he was the second biggest star behind John Cena, and he was a legitimate pay-per-view draw. Only time will tell if we ever see Batista back inside the squared circle, but if he doesn't, the WWE is solely responsible for this being the case considering Batista's fully interested in making a comeback to work a retirement program with Triple H.
5 Faded Away: Stevie Ray
Stevie Ray, one-half of the Harlem Heat tag team with his brother Booker T, went solo in WCW back in 1998. After a short run performing as a babyface, Stevie would go on to join the "black and white" nWo in August '98 where he tag teamed with the likes of Scott Norton and Horace Hogan. Long story short, Stevie Ray was slowly fading out of the spotlight all while his brother Booker T began picking up steam as he started to move up into the World Championship main event scene in 2000 following a few United States Championship runs. Stevie Ray would end up retiring from pro-wrestling in 2002, and we haven't heard or seen much from him since besides the 2013 Hall Of Fame ceremony in which he inducted Booker T. It was clear right from the start that Booker T was the future star of the two, as he possessed the charisma and talent required in a top-tier performer.
4 Took Off: Jeff Hardy
2002 marked the year when Jeff Hardy began pursuing a singles career on Monday Night Raw, and Matt Hardy did the same thing over on SmackDown. However, Jeff would find himself released from the WWE in 2003 for numerous reasons including erratic behaviour and drug usage. During his time away from the WWE between '03 and '06, Jeff performed on the Indies and in TNA Impact Wrestling. When Hardy re-signed with the company back in August 2006, his career began to project upwards.
Up until his departure in 2009, Jeff Hardy performed as an upper midcard star with multiple World Title reigns - far exceeding his brother Matt's accomplishments. Jeff was undoubtedly one of the WWE's most popular Superstars during his main event pushes, and he truly out-shined his less talented brother in every aspect. Though Matt Hardy would strike gold with his "Broken" gimmick years later, Jeff was definitely the Hardy who took off initially following their breakup.
3 Faded Away: Matt Hardy
Now this may seem crazy considering Matt Hardy completely reinvigorated his wrestling career with his "Broken" shtick (and actually began outshining his brother Jeff) back in 2016, but after a short while following his initial split-up from Jeff Hardy in '02, it was clear that Matt was the Hardy brother who was slowly fading out of the spotlight. After Matt's great feud with Edge finished up in 2005, it was clear that the WWE didn't view Matt Hardy as a "star in the making", and they instead placed Matt firmly in the mid-card.
Matt's greatest accomplishment in the WWE was the ECW Championship back in 2008, and though this was a fairly respectable achievement, everyone knew that Matt was living in Jeff's shadow. However, Matt is one of the few examples of a performer who initially faded away following a tag team split-up, yet found a way to take off later on in his career - in this case, Matt's "Broken" gimmick. Matt and Jeff Hardy are fairly equal now in terms of overall relevance and popularity, but this certainly wasn't the case 10 years ago, as Jeff was by far the bigger and more popular star.
2 Took Off: Seth Rollins
Out of all three Shield Members, the guy who has "taken off" the most is definitely Seth Rollins. Regardless of the fact that Roman Reigns is positioned in the "face of the company" spot and Seth is currently tag teaming with Dean Ambrose, Rollins is still the greatest performer to come out of The Shield faction (and the most popular). One of the reasons behind Seth being put on this list as a tag team wrestler who "took off" is simply because of the fact that he was the least popular member of The Shield, and he has come the furthest since the split-up.
Roman and Dean were always looked at as the future "Superstars" of the group (though some obviously liked Rollins as well), and Seth was merely the third wheel. However, Seth proved that he was fully capable of being a top-tier star once he "betrayed" his Shield Brothers in 2014, and he has since shined on his own. Perhaps Rollins isn't booked as strongly as Roman is, but in terms of overall popularity and fan reception, Seth Rollins has FAR exceeded Roman Reigns.
1 Faded Away: Dean Ambrose
Now some of you are bound to disagree with me here on this one, but in my humble opinion, Dean Ambrose has totally faded away from the spotlight since his Shield days. Right from the start, great things were expected from Ambrose, and though he has captured a few titles in his career including the WWE World Championship, Dean Ambrose has failed to stay relevant. Prior to tag teaming with Rollins, Dean was extremely stale, and he lacked any sort of momentum or direction (the story of his career thus far).
Ambrose isn't as popular as he was during his initial singles run, and he has actually worsened in the ring over time (perhaps "laziness" is one of the reasons behind this). Instead of cementing himself as a top Superstar, Dean Ambrose has slowly but surely faded out of the spotlight, and it seems as though the WWE lacks faith in Ambrose as a top-tier guy. However, Dean Ambrose has been somewhat reinserted into prominence with his tag team alongside Seth Rollins, and this may be the first step in recapturing Ambrose's lost momentum. Only time will tell I suppose.