If any other sport or industry made the same kinds of offensive mistakes that the pro-wrestling industry has, they would be out of business. Not just WWE, but almost all wrestling organizations seem to operate without any regard to possibly offending their fans. Sometimes this is done to make the product appear edgy and counter-culture. Other times however, it is simply because they don't have a good handle on what is and is not offensive.
When pro-wrestling tag teams are offensive it's even more fun. Tag teams are not generally in the spotlight of a promotion as much as others, and as such any offensive gimmicks tend to fly under the radar more. This allows whatever stereotypical characters, or hyper-sexualized content that Vince McMahon has dreamed up to go on longer without receiving a backlash. Vince McMahon isn't the only one who has been producing offensive tag teams over the years however. In fact, the offensive tag team has almost become a genre of tag-team that crosses promotional boundaries. You have the face-painted warrior teams (LOD, Demolition, Ascension), the high-flying teams (the Rockers, London and Kendrick) and now the offensively gimmick-ed teams (examples below).
Some of these teams weren't just low-brow comedy acts however. Many of the greatest tag-teams in the history of pro-wrestling have gone through gimmick changes or storylines that are cringe-worthy to look back on.
When pro-wrestling is good, it's good, but when it's horrible, it's even better. Here are the top 15 offensive tag teams in wrestling history.
15 Cryme Tyme
The tag team of Cryme Tyme came under scrutiny from at least one civil rights organization shortly after their debut in 2006. It was reported in the Durham Herald Sun, a paper from North Carolina, that a small protest broke out locally in response to the character. Organizers of the protest were concerned over the impact the characters would have on impressionable children who watched the show.
Cryme Tyme, JTG and Shad, were over-the-top "street thugs", who would steal things from their opponents. Often the tag-team would go a step further and sell the items they just stole to members of the live crowd. Many felt that their characters were negative portrayals of racial stereotypes. Much of the concern over the characters died down after their debut however, when it became clear how over-the-top the characters were.
JTG and Shad still compete together as a tag team on the independent scene. Earlier this year they told reporters they would love to get another run in the WWE.
Kaientai as a wrestling stable goes back years before their debut on WWE programming. The group wrestled in Michinoku Pro Wrestling in the mid-90s, as well as occasional appearances for ECW as "BWO Japan". Main members of the group include Taka Michinoku (joined during the Val Venis angle), Yamaguchi-San (manager), Dick Togo, Mens Teioh and Sho Funaki.
Shortly after WrestleMania XIV in 1998, Kaientai were involved in a controversial plot line with Val Venis. The story was something of a satirical take on the John Bobbitt story from 1993. Bobbitt's wife, evidently unpleased with her husband, cut off his penis while he slept. The penis was surgically reattached later.
In WWE's storyline, Kaientai threatened to do what Bobbitt's wife did to him as revenge for Venis seducing Yamaguchi-San's wife. Actually, Yamaguchi-San threatened Venis thusly: "Choppy choppy your pee pee!". The next week Taka turned on Venis, joined Kaientai, and the stable took Venis to the backstage area where it was believed they were going to perform a cruel surgery to Venis. The next week, however, it was revealed that at the last minute John Bobbitt himself showed up to help Val Venis.
13 The West Hollywood Blondes
The West Hollywood Blondes gimmick is a product of the Kevin Nash booking-era in WCW. The story goes that Lenny Lane was influenced by the SNL sketch "the Ambiguously Gay Duo" and pitched the idea to Nash, who naturally loved the idea.
The duo came out decked in glitter, sucking on lollypops, and wore pigtails all in an effort to get heat for being effeminate. They only lasted a couple of months before the Gay and Lesbian Alliance began to claim that the characters were meant to stir up homophobia. They were taken off-air and would later be re-branded as "Standards and Practices", a team akin to "Right to Censor".
Pro-wrestling has had a hard time with gay characters on their programming. It seems whenever a promotion tries to run an angle with a homosexual component it ends with someone shutting it down shortly after it starts.
12 The Mexicools
A gimmick so heavily focussed on racial stereotypes as this one was would not be easily accepted today. Luckily for them, the stable involved 3 exciting luchadors who managed to excite fans despite their gimmick.
The team would have some success, with Juvi winning the cruiserweight championship on two occasions. Backstage problems would force the WWE to release Juvi in early 2006 however, leaving Psychosis and Super Crazy as the two remaining Mexi-Cools.
Midway through 2006, Psychosis was arrested for stealing a car and was also fired. Super Crazy managed to stay with the company until 2008, when he requested his release from the company.
11 The Dicks
In 2005, Tank Toland and Chad Wicks formed the controversial tag team "the Dicks". The pair were done up to look like Chippendale dancers. They would smear themselves with body oil and occasionally use the oil as a weapon against their opponents as well.
In storyline their names were James Dick and Chad Dick, thus allowing for the team name "the Dicks". They lasted five months before being released by the company.
Tank Toland would go on to wrestle for a few years in Ring of Honor, and would briefly marry Jillian Hall. Chad Wicks didn't do much in wrestling after, aside from joining a class action lawsuit against the WWE earlier this year.
Penis jokes are common in wrestling, but if you can believe it "the Dicks" weren't even the most offensive penis-related tag team...
10 The Johnsons
While we are on the topic...
At the time that they debuted in TNA Wrestling, the Shane Twins were already a successful tag team. On June 8th, 2002, Mike and Todd Shane won the NWA Tag Team Championships. Less than two weeks later they would appear on the 1st ever TNA PPV.
Instead of simply having them wrestle as the Shane Twins however, TNA renamed them Richard "Dick" Johnson and Rod Johnson, "The Johnsons". The pair wore flesh-colored, full-body spandex in order to make them look as phallic as possible. The gimmick lasted only a few weeks.
The Shane Twins would gain some degree of mainstream wrestling success in 2005 however. Under the team name of "Gymini" the Shane Twins had a two year run in WWE.
9 The Gangstas
New Jack and Mustafa were one of the most controversial tag teams in wrestling history. New Jack in particular is often accused of stirring up racial hatred for the purposes of further his pro wrestling angles.
From 1994-95 the Gangstas competed in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and were sometimes joined with D-Lo Brown. They would cut promos in support of O.J Simpson and win matches by using fried chicken and watermelon as weapons. At one point the team was claiming victory anytime they got a 2-count instead of a 3 as a form of affirmative action. Fans of the Knoxville, Tenn based promotion absolutely hated them.
When they got to ECW however, everyone loved them! From 1995-97 while wrestling in the northeastern based promotion, fans cheered on the Gangstas as they would blast their opponents with shopping carts full of weapons.
Mustafa left ECW in 1997, but New Jack would continue to frighten and injure people in the promotion for a few more years.
8 Billy and Chuck
Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo are former 2x WWE Tag Team Champions, and one of the most controversial team of all-time.
The WWE actually reached out to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLAAD) regarding the angle, hoping to do it in a non-offensive way. The story started when Chuck Palumbo was fired from the Alliance during the Invasion angle. He then began teaming with Billy Gunn, but their relationship would start to involve allusions to a possible romantic relationship between the two. They would later be joined by "Rico" as the team's "stylist".
In the fall of 2002, Billy proposed a "life partnership" to Chuck, although no clear statements had been made regarding their sexuality. During the commitment ceremony between Billy and Chuck, they revealed that it had all been a publicity stunt gone wrong and that the two weren't really gay. This infuriated GLAAD who released a statement that the WWE lied to them and told them the characters would really come out and get married.
7 The Wild Samoans
"The Wild Samoans" Afa and Sika are WWE Hall of Famers and former 3x Tag Team Champions. They are the first members of the legendary Anoa'i family to become wrestlers, with Afa having been trained by The Rock's grandfather Peter Maivia.
The gimmick of primitive islanders is not something the WWE could get away with today. The stereotype of islanders as violent, wild and cannibalistic caricatures would be something many would feel paints an entire people with a broad negative stroke. It did make for an awesome wrestling gimmick though.
The Wild Samoans would be followed by many tag teams with similar gimmicks, often portrayed by other members of the Anoa'i family. In fact Afa and Sika's nephews would later win the WWE tag titles as "The Headshrinkers", while managed by Afa.
6 The Real Americans
The Real Americans were the tag team of Jack Swagger and Cesaro (managed by Zeb Colter) that competed in WWE from 2013-14.
The name "the Real Americans" had a hidden emphasis on "Real", as there was a strong anti-immigration message to the team's gimmick. The gimmick was actually an attempt to build Alberto El Patron up as the next Mexican superstar, though it ultimately proved unsuccessful.
Zeb Colter played the role of an anti-immigration crusader who was upset about all of the Mexicans that were "sneaking across" the border. Of course the gimmick was hurt slightly by the fact that Cesaro is not an American.
Radio host Glenn Beck took offence to the gimmick, stating that it demonizes the Tea Party movement in the United States. WWE invited Beck to RAW to discuss his feelings, though he declined.
5 The Full Blooded Italians (FBI)
3 years before anti-discrimination groups began protesting HBO's "the Sopranos" for their portrayal of Italian-Americans, the FBI debuted in ECW.
The group was a play on Italian stereotypes, that the fans in ECW's northeastern territory fed into. Live crowds would chant "Where's My Pizza?" at the group frequently. Oddly enough, very few members of the group were Italian. The group first started to gain popularity when non-Italian wrestler J.T Smith joined the group, believing himself to be from Italy after hitting his head in a botched spot. Between J.T Smith's head injury jokes and the racial stereotypes, there was a lot with this gimmick that may not go over well today.
Perhaps the most notable member of the group was "Little Guido", played by James Maritato. When Maritato debuted in WWE however, his name was changed to Nunzio.
4 Legion of Doom w/Droz
Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal are arguably the greatest tag team in the history of pro wrestling. By the late 90s they were starting to get a little stale however, having been a team for 16 years by that point.
They were re-packaged as "LOD 2000" and accompanied by Sunny to the ring. The new branding didn't manage to help them win the tag titles however, and little hints started to be dropped on television that Hawk may have a drug problem. Hawk began appearing "in no condition to compete" for his matches, once falling all the way down the entrance ramp. By this time Droz had become the 3rd member of the team, and would fill in for Hawk.
Finally on one episode of RAW, Hawk climbed the TitanTron and threatened to jump. Droz climbed up as well and appeared to want to help Hawk, but as he did Hawk fell behind the screen. The angle was a complete flop and was quietly dropped.
The angle was a nod to the real-life problems that Michael Hegstrand was dealing with. Hegstrand would die of a heart attack on October 19th, 2003.
3 Harlem Heat in Chains
When Booker T and Stevie Ray were brought into World Championship Wrestling in the early 90s, the promotion ignored that the two brothers are from Houston and coined the team "Harlem Heat". Originally the team was supposed to be a pair of convicts that were managed by Colonel Robert Parker. For those unaware of Col. Parker, he looked, talked and acted like a stereotypical southern plantation owner.
The team was going to come out in shackles and prison jumpsuits, only to be let free on their opponents by Parker. After trying the angle at one WCW house show however, the promotion quickly backed away from the idea. The racist undertones of a southern business man walking around with two black men in chains was far too much, even for wrestling.
Booker and Stevie were re-packaged as just two guys from Harlem with flames on their tights, and they did just fine with that. They would go on to be one of the greatest tag teams in WCW history.
2 The Young Bucks
They are mainly just offensive to Jim Cornette, but they offend him so much that it sky-rocketed this team all the way to the #2 spot on this list.
For those unaware, The Young Bucks are the current darlings of the independent wrestling scene in the United States, and are perennial champions of NJPW's Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team division.
When The Young Bucks began their independent career in the early 2000s, they were known for their high-spots and elaborate chain wrestling. Instead of being respected for their ability however, The Young Bucks began to receive a backlash from the fans (and Cornette, lots from Cornette). Critics argued that the pair used non-sensical high-spots to get a cheap reaction in matches, and also were obviously trying to imitate Shawn Michaels circa 1997 as much as possible.
Instead of changing to suit the desires of their critics however, The Young Bucks turned the volume on their act up several notches. They began crotch-chopping between every move (ala HBK), using dozens of super-kicks a match, and unnecessarily doing back-flips and acrobatic moves before simply raking the back of their opponents. After doing this for awhile, fans started to love them for it.
Many claim that The Young Bucks style of wrestling is offensive to the whole industry. Others think it's hilarious and fun.
1 Shawn Michaels and God
In 2006, Vince McMahon booked God to appear on a WWE PPV.
Normally God would be placed in the main event spot of a PPV, but Triple H was also wrestling on the card so he got the main event.
Shawn Michaels' religion became a focal part of his feud with Vince McMahon shortly after WrestleMania 22. HBK defeated Vince at WrestleMania, but the feud continued, only now Vince had Shane McMahon and the Spirit Squad backing him up. Shawn now needed help, so Vince figured that perhaps God would provide an adequate tag team partner.
God even got a ring entrance. A spotlight played the role of God, although it appeared only to illuminate an empty space. Midway through the match, Vince McMahon declared that God had left the building, leaving Michaels alone. Then the Spirit Squad came out and put Shawn through a table, allowing Vince to pick up the pin.
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