Tag team wrestling has seen its share of ups and downs. Just when it appears as though it's making a breakthrough, it takes a downturn and isn't given the time and attention that it truly deserves. Often times this is because the promotion isn't invested in making tag team wrestling a focal point. We have seen recently in WWE's NXT brand that tag team wrestling has become a focal point and have been key to the brand's success. Tag team wrestling was once about putting together wrestlers that were otherwise not being used, quality wrestlers who had been sitting idle when their skillset was best suited as part of a tag team.
One of the most notable times when tag team wrestling thrived was during the 1980s. During an era of big hair and acid washed jeans, there were teams that featured talented wrestlers that would otherwise not garner attention by having them compete together. The success of tag team wrestling wasn't confined to one promotion either; the AWA, NWA and WWF were all boasting talented men that worked together to create some of the most technically sound and innovative offense ever seen. While the AWA eventually closed its doors, the NWA and WWE continued to showcase men of different sizes, looks, and personas, with the goal of highlighting their athletic and technical ability. It didn't matter whether these guys were big or small or even on the downside of their careers, these guys managed to capture the attention and enthusiasm of the audience. Here are the Top 15 Greatest Tag Teams of the 1980s.
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15 The Killer Bees
B. Brian Blair and Jumping Jim Brunzell made team work an essential part of how they operated in the ring. They would often use masks and pull a switch to trick the referee. They were over with the audience, wearing black and yellow striped tights that resembled a bumblebee. There was no overbooking for this team, they had a simple recipe for success. They were quick, worked together and were untraditional because they were faces that pulled a stunt that would often level the playing field against heels.
14 The Rockers
Whether they were in the AWA or in the WWF, the team of Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels would excite fans with innovative and high flying tandem moves. While competing in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, they used the name The Midnight Rockers, but in the WWF they dropped the Midnight and were simply known as The Rockers. They duo captured the tag team championships once while in the WWF, but it was never formally recognized. They came to the ring with rock music blaring and their hair flowing, and were among the most creative teams of their time.
13 Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine - The Dream Team
There was no more colorful pair of heels in the WWF during the 1980s then the Dream Team. Led to the ring by “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine were absolutely despised, and worked as a perfect combination of finesse, toughness and cockiness. Beefcake was the vain one, while Valentine was the experienced veteran that captured the Intercontinental championship while on his own. Together they captured the WWF tag team championship during their three-year run. The duo could talk the talk, and had Valiant to back them up during promos.
12 U.S. Express
The tandem of Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda weren't together a long time in the WWF, but while together they were very successful. The former WWF tag team champions had a lengthy feud with Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik. Windham was a second generation wrestler, and his father Blackjack Mulligan was someone he could lean on for advice; Rotunda could also lean on Mulligan since Blackjack was his father-in-law. Before Hulk Hogan boasted being a real American, this duo did it first. While it would have been great to see them team together longer, their time was unquestionably notable.
11 The Fantastics
Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton may not have been household names to fans of the WWF, but they were certainly popular in the southern United States as part of the National Wrestling Alliance. Much like the Rock n Roll Express, this smaller duo would use speed, finesse and technique to get the better of their opponents. They flew under the radar as other teams got more exposure and generated more buzz. What is remarkable is that they teamed for over twenty years and captured multiple tag team championships during their time together. They were one of the best tag teams never to be in the WWF.
10 Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik
These were two heels that were jeered mercilessly, but were incredibly talented in the ring. What got lost was how good Volkoff and former WWF champion The Iron Sheik worked together. Whether they were feuding with the US express, British Bulldogs, or Killer Bees, the tandem was always boasted how their countries were #1 and the US wasn't. They proudly waved their flags and sang the Russian national anthem much to the chagrin of their competition and those in attendance watching them. It's incredible how notable these two were together during their time when they were only together a few years.
9 The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
This Canadian duo first earned popularity competing out of the Montreal area, but once they made it to the WWF they were in need of a change. Their athletic ability alone wasn't enough to get over with the audience, so they needed to turn heel. Though they had the fleur de lis symbol emblazoned all over their tights, yet still called themselves “All American boys” and were led by the /Mouth of the South' Jimmy Hart. They were heels that tried to act like faces, and were disliked in the process. It was the right fit for these two.
A team that seemed to be created as a copy of another big tag team of the 1980s (we'll get to them later) became the most intimidating team in the WWF. Ax and Smash came to the ring wearing what appeared to be goalie masks and covered with leather and spikes and weren't fancy in the least. Managed by Mr. Fuji, the team was big and strong and beat down their opponents. At a time when heels were jeered, Ax and Smash always used the same tactics, and when they became faces they were loved by fans, though they maintained the same attitude as always.
7 The Fabulous Freebirds
If you've heard the term ‘Freebird rule,' this is where it originated. The rule was that while they held the tag team championships any two of the three team members could defend the title. Despite having several acquaintances, Michael P.S Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts were the most notable members of the Freebirds. While this team had several feuds, they are most known for their longstanding feud against the Von Erich family. They were the first team to sing their own theme music, as “Badstreet USA” became their anthem.
6 The Rock 'n' Roll Express
Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were multi-time tag team champions for the National Wrestling Alliance. Like a number of other smaller teams of their era, they worked best together. Morton at one point worked for WCW as a singles wrestler, but it never seemed like the right fit. He and Gibson worked well together, with their speed the primary attribute of their team. Of course, a wrestler can be fast, but if he isn't able to work an opponent it didn't mean anything. Gibson and Morton were an effective tandem that could do just that. Their signature double dropkick was how they put their opponents away.
5 The Hart Foundation
While modern wrestling fans may be more familiar with the Hart Foundation that was comprised of several Hart family members, it didn't begin that way. Led by the “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, no relation, brothers-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Bret “Hitman” Hart had very specific roles and were convincing at them. Neidhart was the strength of the team, and his evil cackle was unmistakable. Bret was the technical wrestler, and the one who would hit the team's signature move, the Hart attack. Whether they were faces or heels, there was no question this duo was among the best of their generation.
4 The British Bulldogs
Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid were different right from the get go, with bodies unlike others that were in the WWE at the time. They had size, speed, strength and were generally likeable. The Dynamite Kid in particular worked very stiff in his matches, uses skills learned in Japan and showing North American audiences a style that has become popular today. Smith on the other hand was not only strong, but quick, demonstrating his strength by gorilla pressing his opposition. Their feuds with other teams of that era certainly stood out.
3 Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard - The Brain Busters
Two of the greatest technical wrestlers of their or any other generation, and members of the famed Four Horsemen, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard worked seamless in the ring. In fact, current NXT tag team (and former champions) The Revival have drawn comparisons to this famed duo. They walked with the belief that they were the best and backed it up. They captured tag team titles both in the NWA and the WWF. Blanchard also earned notoriety on his own capturing the US championship, while Arn Anderson originally was paired up with Ole Anderson. Together they were a unit that was as fierce as any other.
2 The Legion of Doom
The Legion of Doom, Animal and Hawk, were an original. While many teams blatantly copied their look and feel, this duo stood alone for their smash mouth, in your face teamwork. They were booked well, but could work too, and this combination, led by “Precious” Paul Ellering, were as much of a certainty in the ring as anyone of their generation. These the football shoulder pad and Mohawk wearing duo didn't just impress in the ring, they could do it on the mic. While Ellering was the team's mouthpiece, Hawk was fairly charismatic on the mic when selling what impending doom was coming to their competition.
1 The Midnight Express
The team was led to the ring by James E. Cornette, who with his trusty tennis racquet would often help ensure that his team would be successful in the end. They had various incarnations and different members, including “Loverboy” Dennis Condrey, Randy Rose, Norvell Austin, and “Sweet” Stan Lane; the longest tenured member being “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton. These guys perfected heel tag team wrestling because they not only had someone that could boast what they could do in the ring in Cornette, but they proved it in the ring against much of the decade's other highly decorated tag teams.
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