Although it's obvious to most fans that The Young Bucks are among the hottest things in the wrestling world these days, it's hard to get excited about tag team competition when it comes to certain major North American promotions – we're looking your way, WWE. Tag team wrestlers in WWE, and to a lesser degree, Impact Wrestling and the former WCW, are mostly seen as mid-card mainstays and nothing more. But on many an occasion, companies will make the inevitable decision to break tag teams up. This could lead to great success in singles ranks – see Shawn Michaels for a classic example of a tag team specialist becoming a breakout star. On the other hand, this could also lead to serious irrelevance for one or both members, as we've seen when many other tag teams go their separate ways.
When evaluating whether a tag team breakup helped or hurt someone more, we considered a number of things, but for the most part, those who were "hurt" by the breakup fell especially far down the card after the breakup, while those who were "saved" could have remained stuck in the mid-card, faded into obscurity, or gotten released before their time had the tag team not broken up. There are also a few exceptions here, where a tag team's breakup ended with both members worse for the split, hence creative's decision to reform the team.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the downside, as well as the upside of tag team splits – 10 such breakups where one or both members were hurt by it, and 10 where one or both members' careers were effectively saved in the process.
20 Hurt: Enzo And Cass
When paired together, Enzo Amore and Big Cass were one of the WWE's most entertaining tag teams in recent history. Not since the days of The New Age Outlaws did you hear fans reciting the pair's catchphrases word-for-word along with them, and if you weren't up for that, there was only one word to describe you, and they were gonna spell it out for you – S-A-W-F-T. Then the surprise breakup occurred, just as reports of Enzo's backstage issues began to swirl.
As a singles wrestler, Amore floundered until he was sent to 205 Live, where he briefly reigned as Cruiserweight Champion before WWE fired him in January 2018. Cass, meanwhile, dealt with injuries and his own backstage issues and never developed the tools to become a successful big man wrestler in singles. He was likewise fired a few months later.
19 Saved: The Hardy Boyz (2017)
As of September 2017, it seemed as if the shine was off after Matt and Jeff Hardy made their explosive WWE return at WrestleMania 33. With Jeff going down with an injury that month, Matt was forced into singles competition and seemed to be sinking into irrelevance...until a loss to Bray Wyatt in November caused him to snap and start shouting "DELETE!" just like in the Impact days.
That moment helped launch his reinvention as "Woken" Matt Hardy, and while it wasn't quite as fresh or exciting as the "Broken" original, fans took well to the gimmick's belated WWE debut. Nagging injuries led Matt to seemingly tease his retirement just months ago, though it now seems we might not have seen the last of him in the ring after all.
18 Hurt: The Hype Bros
It's not uncommon for a tag team's breakup to hurt both members as they split off into the singles ranks -- you need not look much further back than The Hype Bros, who had some success in the tag team ranks before it was decided Mojo Rawley should turn heel on Zack Ryder and declare in no uncertain terms that the tag team was over.
After winning a feud that nobody really cared about, Rawley faded into obscurity upon moving to the Raw brand, as he now finds himself a mainstay of Main Event. Ryder also moved to Raw and hasn't fared better – if not for his YouTube toy collecting show with real-life best bud Curt Hawkins, you'd probably guess WWE had quietly given him the pink slip a while back.
17 Saved: The Meta Powers
Free of his "Mizdow" gimmick following a head-scratching loss to The Miz shortly after WrestleMania 31, Damien Sandow swore he was done impersonating people...only for him to team up with Curtis Axel and his Hulk Hogan-wannabe "Axelmania" gimmick, and for the onetime Intellectual Savior to become a Randy Savage impersonator called "Macho Mandow."
The new comedy lower-card pairing was called The Meta Powers, but it wasn't even a few weeks before the team was disbanded due to revelations from Hulk Hogan's past that caused WWE to fire the Hulkster and put the kibosh on all things Hulk-related. And yes, Axel was better for it as he remains gainfully employed to this day – we're guessing WWE would have fired him with Sandow in the spring of 2016 had the Meta Powers not been forced to "explode" as they did.
16 Hurt: (The Original) Nation Of Domination
As you may notice, we've cheated a bit by including a few stables, and one of them is the original WWE version of the Nation of Domination. The first iteration of NOD mainly featured faction leader Faarooq teaming up with Savio Vega and Crush, and it was inevitable that Faarooq would have it with the latter two due to their incompetence and inability to get along.
That was the impetus for WWE's unfortunate "faction war" storyline in the early Attitude Era, as Savio and Crush formed colorless new stables, respectively consisting of Puerto Rican street toughs and bikers. While Faarooq's "new" NOD thrived, thanks to additions such as the would-be Godfather and The Rock, the two other warring factions soon became jobber-to-the-stars material, with Crush quietly leaving the WWE before the feud even ended.
15 Saved: APA
Speaking of Faarooq/Ron Simmons, who could forget his later tag team with Bradshaw? As The Acolytes, and later on the Acolytes Protection Agency (APA), both men shed almost all traces of their previous gimmicks and got over as legit butt-kickers for hire who loved having a good time backstage. But with Simmons preparing to retire from in-ring competition, the time eventually came for the APA to close its doors.
This was done in a way where, in storyline, Bradshaw essentially sold out on Faarooq to save his job, despite the career-threatening consequences of APA's final loss to Too Cool. This allowed him to transition into his new gimmick as John "Bradshaw" Layfield, the rich Texan businessman and soon-to-be WWE Champion after years spent in the mid-card ranks.
14 Hurt: The Bella Twins
We needed to have a female example in this list, and this, we'd say, is quite an interesting entry. In 2014, WWE made the bizarre decision to have Nikki and Brie Bella feud with each other. It could have worked in theory, but fans would soon see how poorly the rivalry was executed – poorly acted video and in-ring segments, a cheesy script, Jerry Springer as mediator, and Nikki's now-infamous "I wish you died in the womb!"
We can also mention Brie getting her own ring theme as another unpleasant consequence of this temporary split, but in the end, WWE decided to bring the Bellas back together. Yes, it was in a similarly head-scratching manner, and fans are still divided due to their many shortcomings compared to WWE's other female veterans, but it was all for the better.
13 Saved: #DIY
We don't doubt that Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa would have had a chance to be an all-time great NXT tag team as #DIY. Then again, there's also the outside chance they might have flopped much like The Mighty ultimately did. Thank goodness, in that case, that Ciampa turned on Gargano and became the Blackheart we know today.
Truly, the Ciampa vs. Gargano feud on NXT helped restore the faith of many a fan who felt the art of wrestling and good storytelling was getting lost in all of WWE's attempts to focus on the "entertainment" aspect of sports entertainment. The jury's still far from out regarding their main roster prospects, but it's undeniable how both #DIY members broke out in the singles ranks, thanks to that classic rivalry of theirs.
12 Hurt: Gold And Stardust
We're aware that Cody Rhodes "saved" his wrestling career by leaving WWE. But as far as his prospects within WWE were concerned, he was certainly worse for the breakup of Gold and Stardust, which saw Cody's Stardust character going off the deep end and going as far as screaming at fans not to call him by his birth name. So far, so good, at least at first.
While Goldust quietly settled into a lower-card, lower-profile role after the brother vs. brother feud ran its course, Stardust was used far more frequently as a jobber to the stars, so much so that he briefly formed a faction with The Ascension. That didn't do any favors for the man behind the makeup, and it was completely understandable when Cody asked for his release in the spring of 2016.
11 Saved: Jesse And Festus
One of the many Ruthless Aggression Era teams that may be forgettable to many of today's fans is Jesse and Festus – the son of a Freebird and the onetime fake Kane, booked as a pair of good ol' boys who like biscuits and gravy. Then again, you just might remember Festus as the big, ostensibly slow guy who turns into a wrecking machine after hearing the bell ring.
After being split in the 2009 supplemental draft, Jesse was repackaged as rapper Slam Master J, which didn't turn out too well, while Festus became Luke Gallows, the muscle of CM Punk's Straight Edge Society. That helped Gallows remain relevant in the years to follow, though it sure doesn't seem that way at the present for him and his fellow Good Brother, Karl Anderson.
10 Hurt: Cryme Tyme
Due to the stereotypical nature of their gimmick, Cryme Tyme was a very polarizing duo for WWE fans. They did entertain a fair share of viewers, though, but when WWE split them up in the spring of 2010, there simply wasn't a spot in the mid-card for either Shad Gaspard or JTG.
After the split, Shad was sent down to FCW and released toward the end of the year, while JTG's ability to hide in catering (seriously, look it up) kept him employed by WWE until June 2014 despite hardly having a role from 2012 onward. Neither man benefited from Cryme Tyme's breakup, as it was a case of "money, money, no, no" as far as their singles prospects were concerned.
9 Saved: Marcus Bagwell And Scotty Riggs
Think about it – if WCW didn't book Marcus Bagwell to turn on Scotty Riggs, all those two would be known for now would be their ring theme that was the epitome of '80s cheese right smack dab in the '90s. For all their (mild) success as a tag team, They weren't ever going to be as famous or as successful as, say, The Steiner Brothers were for WCW.
While Riggs wasn't really that much worse for The Males' breakup, the split was just what his partner, now renamed Buff Bagwell, needed to emerge as an upper mid-card heel and a much more interesting in-ring character. Of course, there's also his sole WWE match against Booker T, but he probably wouldn't even have been considered for that (legendarily bad) match if not for his singles breakout in WCW.
8 Hurt: The Prime Time Players
As The Prime Time Players, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young had great chemistry and were fun to watch despite not being skilled in-ring technicians by any stretch. As rivals, they could have had potential, if only WWE did more to make fans care about their two separate attempts at a Titus vs. D-Young feud. But as wrestlers doing their own thing, both have failed spectacularly.
For one, there's Young's awkward pairing with Bob Backlund, where the WWE Hall of Famer couldn't "Make Darren Young Great Again" because they were like oil and water. O'Neil, on the other hand, is best known these days for his Greatest Royal Rumble botch rather than anything else he's done, may it be his forgettable singles runs or his Titus Worldwide faction, which "went out of business" earlier this year with hardly any fanfare.
7 Saved: 3MB
Again, 3MB is more of a stable than a tag team, but any permutation of this trio could have competed as a tag team on any given night. Unfortunately, the outcome of most of 3MB's matches was pretty much decided from the first strains of their ring theme – either Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre, or Jinder Mahal would end the match on their back as they counted the lights. In other words, they were the antithesis of The Shield.
McIntyre and Mahal's release in 2014 ended 3MB as we know it, but that also allowed them both to reinvent themselves in the indies and return with much better pushes than ever before. (Perhaps too good of a push in Mahal's case, but still.) And despite not enjoying any success outside of his brief SmackDown Tag Team Championship reign with Rhyno, Slater remains under WWE's employ to this day.
6 Hurt: Jordan & Gable
The circumstances behind this breakup were certainly unusual – WWE had big plans for Jason Jordan, and those plans were to send him from SmackDown Live to Raw and present him as Kurt Angle's long-lost (kayfabe) son. Had it not been for injuries, Jordan could have gotten some mileage out of that gimmick, poor fit that it was at first. Chad Gable, on the other hand, was another story.
For more than a year, Gable found himself slowly sinking in creative quicksand, as his tag team with Shelton Benjamin failed to live up to its promise. He was also hardly used on Raw after the 2018 Superstar Shakeup. Right now, he's reigning alongside Bobby Roode as Raw Tag Team Champions, but that partnership simply doesn't work as well as this pair did.
5 Saved: Reverend D-Von & Deacon Batista
It was a curious enough decision for WWE to split The Dudley Boyz up via the 2002 brand split, but even more so when the repackaged "Reverend D-Von" was given a heavy by the name of Deacon Batista, whose job was to hold the collection plate and do the reverend's dirty work. They even had a few matches as a tag team on SmackDown, defeating Randy Orton and a variety of partners on all three occasions in the summer of 2002.
With D-Von's reverend gimmick flopping and top prospect Batista wasted in his role, WWE wisely had Batista turn on D-Von, ending the partnership and setting the would-be Animal on the path to main event stardom on Raw, while wisely allowing D-Von to reunite with Bubba Ray and keep doing what he does best – getting the tables.
4 Hurt: Tons Of Funk
After flopping as kayfabe Japanese monster heel Tensai because he was so obviously a repackaged version of the wrestler once known as Albert, Matt Bloom's last WWE run took a turn for the comedic when he teamed up with Brodus Clay to form Tons of Funk – a pair of big, beefy, and jolly mid-carders who loved to dance.
By the end of 2013, Tons of Funk had run its course, as Clay was booked as an increasingly bitter and jealous individual who had a hard time coping with the arrival of a promising young newcomer named Xavier Woods. While Tensai/Sweet T thrived in a way after moving to NXT and eventually becoming their head trainer, the "Main Event Player" Brodus Clay was a lower-card flop who was barely seen on TV before his June 2014 release.
3 Saved: America's Most Wanted
As TNA Originals, James Storm and Chris Harris were very memorable during their run as America's Most Wanted. Together, AMW won six World Tag Team Championships and were among the then-fledgling TNA's brightest stars. Toward the end of 2006, however, Storm turned on Harris to end AMW for good and cost them a title match against LAX.
It was the best thing that could have happened to Storm, who soon formed Beer Money Inc. with Bobby Roode and, at the present, is a top free agent whom many believe still has a chance of signing with WWE. Harris, meanwhile, had a meh 2007 in TNA and forever became meme fodder when, despite clearly being out of shape and rusty, he showed up in WWE in 2008 as Braden Walker.
2 Hurt: The Rockers
Debuting in the WWE in the late '80s, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were young, talented, and charismatic workers whose flawless in-ring teamwork led announcers to frequently call them "tag team specialists." Of course, they were The Rockers by any other name, and good as they were, real-life tensions between the two led to the now-legendary segment where Michaels turned heel on Jannetty by super-kicking him through the Barber Shop's window.
While the breakup set Michaels on the path to becoming the Heartbreak Kid and a certified WWE legend, Jannetty's personal issues prevented him from reaching his potential in singles action. Nowadays, Marty's surname is a byword for anyone perceived to be the weaker half of a tag team.
1 Saved: The Spirit Squad
They were loud and obnoxious, and the fact they defended their World Tag Team titles under Freebird rules made them even more annoying. That's exactly how WWE wanted fans to view The Spirit Squad, but looking at what happened to four of their five members after the faction disbanded, singles success was hard to find after the male cheerleader shtick ended.
Except, that is, for Dolph Ziggler, who went by the name Nicky while wearing the green and white of The Spirit Squad. After honing his skills in OVW, he returned to the main roster under the Ziggler name and has, over the last decade, won a few titles as a solid mid-card hand. Sure, it could've been a better run, but that sure beats yelling at announcers who have a "distinct lack of spirit," doesn't it?