Tag team wrestling has seen a lot of ups and downs over the years, its popularity waning and growing as the business has evolved. In the late 1980s, the tag scene was truly alive, with slews of fantastic pairings that pushed things nicely, winning over fans with great matches and getting guys some titles they may not be able to acquire in singles competition. WWE saw a huge array of teams to the point that there were serious calls from fans for a secondary championship to accommodate them. Meanwhile, NWA/WCW would have the U.S. tag titles to push things along as many other promotions had teams of their own to spice things up.
It’s sunk a bit in the last several years but still maintains popularity. WWE has been pushing the tag titles more and ROH has always had great teams while TNA has offered some good pairings in the past as well. Nowadays, it seems just about every team that goes out there gets the titles at one point or another, makes sense given the smaller selection of teams today. But it wasn’t always so. There are, in fact, slews of teams that never got the chance to win the big belts in their big companies, despite numerous tries. This list puts together a selection of teams that came close but never quite got the big titles.
I should point out the criteria in that some of these teams did hold titles but they were secondary belts or in other promotions. After all, if you left out teams that never got ANY titles at all, it’d be a far shorter list. Others might argue about teams that were AWA champions but it’s pretty obvious that by the late ‘80’s, the AWA had fallen to a secondary promotion and despite the talk they might give, other smaller promotion didn’t exactly lay claim to the “world” title. These are for the teams who tried in their main companies but never got the big gold despite the great matches and legacy they left behind.
15 The Twin Towers
For all the love WWE has had for big guys, it’s surprising you don’t see many tag team champions who fit that description (The Natural Disasters a notable exception). On paper, The Twin Towers could have been major team. Akeem (the former One Man Gang) and Big Bossman clicked well, both big guys and incredibly strong but each was faster and more agile than you might expect. Bossman was practically svelte in those days and could take it in the fighting while Akeem used more brute strength with splashes. Despite that power, they received surprisingly few title shots, amazing as they could have dominated as the heel champs and been a major challenge for foes to defeat. They would split with the Bossman turning face and it’s true the name today would have very different connotations but you’d think that in a time when Vince McMahon loved to push big guys, having a pair of giants as champs would have worked damn well.
14 The Orient Express
Introduced in 1990, this was Mr. Fuji’s latest attempt to take over the WWE with Pat Tanaka (actually from Hawaii) and Akio Sato teamed together. They got a good start with a hot feud against The Rockers, mixing martial arts moves with good skill and high-flying maneuvers for some great battles. The team got better when Sato left in late 1990 and was replaced by Tanaka’s old Badd Company partner Paul Diamond as the masked Kato. Together, they put on even greater matches, including a true classic against the Rockers at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Again, a case of a team at the wrong time, just so many other pairings in WWE at the time and it was clear between The Nasty Boys and The Road Warriors, The Express wouldn’t get too far ahead. But they kept trying, including a good match against New Foundation at the ’92 Royal Rumble. They would break apart without tasting real gold but still left fans with some great bouts in a hot time for tag wrestling.
13 Power & Glory
This was supposed to happen, according to many reports. When Paul Roma and Hercules joined forces, there was a lot of promise there. Managed by Slick, Hercules had the strength and experience while Roman brought youth and skill and they managed to gel quite nicely together. They were soon getting over with their arrogance and a great finisher of Hercules slamming a guy and then pressing Roma off the top rope onto him. The plan was for the Rockers to win the belts in late 1990 and Power & Glory to get them at WrestleMania. However, things shifted with The Nasty Boys getting that shot instead and becoming champions. P&G would soon fall by the wayside and you can tell how disappointed they were to be pushed so far and yet fall short, something that sadly occurs to a lot of the teams on this list.
12 The Beverly Brothers
Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom were a damn good team, the last gasp of the AWA championship as the Destruction Crew. They were both skilled heels with great chemistry, able to brawl with the best of them while still holding to good technical skills. Their move to the WWE had them taking on the persona of a pair of spoiled siblings from Beverly Hills with Lanny Poffo as their manager. Even with the gimmick change of “Beau and Blake,” they were a great team, acting up their arrogant personas while backing it up with some good fighting. They were set against The Natural Disasters for the tag titles in the summer of 1992 and it might have been fun for them to get the upset to be champs rather than Money Inc. They would soon fade away which was a sad waste for WWE for two guys who could have given nice spark to the division as heel champs while still setting their own path.
11 The Powers of Pain
One of the more famous teams to emulate The Road Warriors, Warlord and The Barbarian broke out in the NWA, managed by Paul Jones and boasting the same makeup and leather outfits as L.O.D. A feud was natural and led to some nice battles but before it got more serious, The Powers left for the WWE. Their entry as faces just didn’t suit them so it made sense to switch them to heels while turning Demolition faces. Yet despite the natural storyline of them getting help from Mr. Fuji, the Powers could never unseat Demolition, even in a three-on-two battle at WrestleMania V. The Powers fell to the wayside after that, eventually splitting with both soon turned into fodder for jobbers. Too bad as they had a good look and power and would have made a good heel championship team but I guess one Road Warrior rip-off pair was enough for WWE.
10 Bret & Owen Hart
There are many who will argue that Owen was actually the better of the two Hart brothers, both in the ring and especially in promos. Bret himself has pretty much said as much. Their teaming in late 1993 and early ’94 was pretty much a push for Owen’s heel turn but in the process, both men clicked just beautifully together. Both technical geniuses who could tell a story, we also had Owen’s cocky demeanor and high-flying against Bret’s grounded experience. The break-up was inevitable but you still wish WWE had given them even a brief reign. Especially today as holding the belts with his brother was something Bret would have loved and reminded us more of the sad loss of Owen as despite all their tag belts separately, having the brothers hold gold together would have been beautiful.
9 The Mega Powers
Okay, yes, it’s not like they needed the belts. It was Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, the two biggest stars of WWE at the time, already massively over with everyone. Still, you have to wonder what if the WWE had decided to throw in another twist to their eventual break-up by having them win the tag titles together. The idea of Savage as a double champ would have been intriguing as well as seeing them defend the belts. Hell, the promos alone with them as champs would have been even more wild and epic than what we already got. Again, it’s not as if it was needed but having the Madness and the Mania as tag team champions would have made this period of WWE even more golden than we remember today.
8 The Can-Am Connection
There were big plans for Rick Martel and Tom Zenk in 1987 and it seemed they were on the rise for it. The two mixed very well together, former AWA champ Martel giving power and Zenk the speed and flight, coming off nicely in the ring against top-notch opponents. They had massive crowd support and a fun finisher of one sling-shotting the other over the top rope for a splash and pin. They feuded with The Islanders and were really getting over when a pay dispute revealed how the two basically loathed each other behind the scenes. Zenk soon left with Martel joining with Tito Santana to win the titles as Strike Force. Nothing against that pairing but Zenk and Martel, for all their personal issues, were pretty good as a team and one has to wonder how their careers would have turned out if they’d held on long enough to get the title run that seemed due them.
7 The Sheepherders/Bushwhackers
Fans who know Luke and Butch only by their goofy antics in WWE should look up their work as The Sheepherders in Mid-South and World Class. The same duo that licked fans’ heads and acted like morons would get into brawls so bloody it would make an ECW fanatic wince. They carved a path of destruction in Florida, Texas and the Pacific Northwest, taking on the Fantastics and the Fabulous Ones in incredibly brutal feuds and were the last team to hold the UWF tag titles. Their transformation into goofballs was surprising and while it made them long-lasting and popular, it also harmed their chances of being taken seriously as champions. The Bushwhackers may have been goofy but The Sheepherders were a damn scary duo who could have truly embarked on a reign of terror.
6 The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
Jacques and Raymond Rougeau already had the skills to be a fine tag team, both stars of their family’s Montreal promotion. They debuted in the WWE as clean-cut faces, mixing strength with skill and were popular. They seemed to beat The Hart Foundation for the titles in a Canadian show but the decision was reversed afterward and the switch never mentioned on TV. They soon took on the brilliant idea of being heels, pushing themselves as “All-American Boys” and acting like the fans loved them, which just got them more heat. With Jimmy Hart as manager, they took on Demolition and others, mixing cheating with a grinning persona that got them nicely over. A title reign just never came to be, however, as Raymond retired to back injuries and Jacques would remake himself as the Mountie before finally winning tag gold as one half of the Quebecers. A shame they never got their run as they were a damn funny heel team who could give fans a great battle.
5 The Fantastics
When great tag team feuds are mentioned, most think of he Rock N’ Roll Express against the Midnight Express. But the Midnights also had a long-term feud with The Fantastics that spread from Mid-South to the NWA. Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers were a truly great pair, living up to their name with amazing quick moves, fast tags and high-flying along with their great “Rocket Launcher” finisher. Their accolades would include titles in the UWF and the U.S. tag titles with a memorable 1988 program with the Midnights. They were young but made up for it in energy, great fan backing and a run with the belts seemed inevitable in many ways. But between the Midnights and the Four Horsemen, it was just not their time and they would fail to get more shots in the future. A shame as these two truly were fantastic and could have been a great world championship team to fire up the NWA scene.
4 The Killer Bees
This one is rather surprising. B. Brian Blair and “Jumping” Jim Brunzell were a truly great team in WWE in the mid-1980s. Both men had time in Japan and Brunzell had held the AWA tag titles with Greg Gagne so they could mix it up pretty well as a damn good team. They were quick and fast with good double-team moves but what really got fans going was the “Masked confusion” gimmick. With the ref distracted, the two would duck under the ring and emerge both wearing yellow masks, thus you couldn’t tell who was who. A heel tactic, the fans loved it and the Bees would challenge The Hart Foundation and others (with a genius bit of the black-skinned S.D. Jones using the gimmick with them and the ref acting like he still couldn’t tell who was who). But a title reign just wasn’t to be, with the two breaking up in 1988. A shame as the mask gimmick would have been fun to use as champs and the two were deserving of a run, just their fault they hit at an incredibly packed time for the WWE tag scene.
3 The Fabulous Ones
It was a great mix of old and new as Jackie Fargo put Steve Keirn and Stan Lane, two good workers who gelled well together and married them to the rising art of music videos. Coming out in suspenders and ties, the two would strut about for the ladies but could brawl with the best of them. While they had success with the Southern tag championship, they never really got the big break in the bigger leagues despite how they paved the way for so many other flashy tag teams. They were to win the AWA titles in 1985 but The Road Warriors flipped the script to stop that. The team broke up in 1987 with Lane joining Midnight Express to finally get World gold on his hands. However, it still seemed off that a team that helped break ground in mixing flashy rock presentation with wrestling never got the titles that seemed due them.
2 The Fabulous Kangaroos
It seems bizarre that the team that basically pioneered tag team wrestling as we know it never got the actual world titles. We saw a mix of pairings over the years: Al Costello, Roy Heffernan, Don Kent and Bruno Bekknar, all great athletes and really set themselves up as a fantastic team no matter what. They paved the way for so many other teams with their work from small territories to Madison Square Garden and while they may not have invented tag team wrestling, they sure did push it majorly and made it an accepted form for fans. Yet while they held some “world” titles, they were in Detroit or other areas, not the true accepted NWA tag titles. They would hold gold in Puerto Rico yet it just seems odd that the team that made tag team wrestling what we know today never could claim true World champion status. But at least they left that fine legacy behind to shape so many others.
1 The Rockers
The obvious pick for so many. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were pulling off moves no one could imagine in the late 1980s, their high flying great and their double-team moves truly clockwork. They were hot with the fans and even fellow workers were in awe of the stuff they put out in the ring that was fast and energetic. After proving themselves in the AWA, they found their way to the WWE and took things by storm so the idea of them as champions made perfect sense. Yet it never happened, constantly “not the right time” for them despite all their efforts. They were to be given the belts in 1990 but a combination of a rope break and backstage politics ended up removing it from history. They hung together for another year before their famous break-up as Michaels embarked on his fantastic singles career. Both would hold gold with other partners yet it just doesn’t seem right The Rockers never got their chance as WWE tag team champions. Their reunion in 2005 showed they could still work together wonderfully and a brief reign might have been nice to reward a team who truly rocked the tag scene like few others.