Tag team wrestling is not what it used to be. Once, there were slews of teams packing the promotions with tons of potential, so much that WCW had the U.S. tag titles and some wondered if WWE deserved a secondary title as well. It’s faded today but some pushes to try and change things back up. The New Day have proven themselves wonderfully in WWE as an act that went far better than expected and huge success to revive the division nicely. It’s still a ways to go but it showcase how WWE is doing nicely by tag teams now which is better than in the past.
There have been slews of fantastic tag teams in wrestling history, many famous for their long careers from the Road Warriors to the Dudley Boys. However, there’s a flip side, teams that had so much promise but were split apart just as they were hitting their groove. Sometimes, it’s politics and the usual short-sightedness of bookers. Sometimes, the guys themselves have a falling out that causes it and others are just bad timing. In any case, there are plenty of teams that had so much potential left in them but for one reason or another, were broken up before they could reach it. Here are the 15 best examples of partnerships that should have gone a lot farther than they did and one wonders at the great teams that could have been.
15. Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko
WCW was infamous in its last years for tag team champions that were mostly short-term groups, pairings that barely lasted and had short reigns. Benoit and Malenko were notable, both having proven themselves as terrific in-ring performers and should have gotten more of a rise in WCW. In late 1998, Malenko joined Benoit in the Four Horsemen, the two working together a lot and clicking incredibly well as a team. In March of 1999, they won the tag titles and seemed set for a long run with them but instead, WCW had them lose the belts just two weeks later to Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman. The Horsemen would be disbanded after that with Malenko moving to the Revolution and Benoit joining before going face for a singles run.
While they worked together in WWE, they never became a serious team again, a shame given how amazing they were in the ring together and could have been a technical marvel to enjoy.
14. Ricky Steamboat & Dustin Rhodes
One of the very few times WCW actually pulled off a good surprise was in 1991 when Barry Windham was injured before a Clash of the Champions card and Dustin Rhodes needed a new partner against champions the Enforcers. Out came a guy in a goofy lizard mask who turned out to be Ricky Steamboat, fresh off a WWE run. The crowd went nuts as Steamboat and Rhodes beat the Enforcers for the tag team titles in a terrific match. They would hold the belts for a few months before losing them to Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton and would split after that. They were great, with a veteran Steamboat giving Dustin a rub and showing his own skills off and should have stayed together a while longer rather than one brief, if memorable, run.
13. Allied Powers
In early 1995, with his various runs at the WWE title failing, Lex Luger was in a tough position, still over but not for the main event. So WWE put him with Davey Boy Smith as the Allied Powers, a classic patriotic team (never mind Smith was from England) and big faces. They did get support with runs against Owen Hart and Yokozuna for the tag titles and seemed ready for a bigger run as popular guys. But then Davey Boy was suddenly turned heel and Luger got lost, a decision that pretty much settled his idea to jump at WCW’s offer. Such a popular duo but WWE barely gave them a chance to really go far.
12. Power & Glory
Paul Roma was a guy who really seemed ready for a major run with handsome looks and good in the ring but never got the right opportunity. In 1990, he and Hercules were paired up as Power & Glory, coming out in nifty sunglasses and on a rise with good wins. They were a good mix, with Roma’s speed and Hercules’ strength and the plans were for them to beat the Rockers for the tag titles at WrestleMania VII. However, circumstances prevented the Rockers from getting the belts and when the Nasty Boys came into WWE, they were pushed to the titles instead. P&G soon fell by the wayside in forgettable battles before being split in 1991 with Roma leaving. A case of a team planned for bigger things but it never happened and how you can’t trust wrestling plans too much.
11. Cryme Tyme
It’s true that this has to rank among the more racist and tasteless gimmicks in recent WWE history. JTG and Shad were two really talented guys who mixed well together but WWE decided to push them as the most stereotypical idea of “urban black guys” imaginable. They’d come out in jeans, loud jewelry and T-shirts, cutting promos using “street slang” and lusting over white women. The shame is that they were good in the ring together and seemed ready for a run at the titles. However, concerns over the fan reaction to the act combined with injuries to both guys would constantly hold them back.
They finally split for bad singles runs and while the team may have come off harsh, they still had potential and with a bit of softening of the thug act, could have gone farther but once more, WWE failed to let it happen.
10. The Shield
Some may argue this given how Seth Rollins moved from the breakup to become a fantastic heel champion. However, it’s still strange how WWE decided to break up the hottest and most popular group in the company at their height. After tearing it up as heels with tag team and U.S. titles, Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose were so hot that turning them face made sense and were taking off again, selling more merchandise and getting huge pops. Splitting them at that point just made little sense as there was still so much potential for them to go on and continue as this dominant face trio before the break-up.
It didn’t help that WWE immediately pushed Reigns hard to the dislike of fans before going with Rollins and poor Ambrose mostly left behind despite being more popular than the other two. Just sad to see what had been a fantastic trio ending in a poor way.
9. AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels
By 2006, Styles and Daniels had established themselves as two of the best workers in TNA, both huge stars who put the X Division on the map as champions and had engaged in several fantastic battles. In 2006, they decided to unite to face tag champions America’s Most Wanted, coming up short in various fights but finally winning the belts at Slammiversary. They would trade the belts in a great feud with LAX, hot with the crowds, good promos and their ring work was simply sensational. However, by the end of the year, they would be split up and back into singles runs, a few reunions here and there but not at the same height. While it’s true both were better in singles work and Styles a huge star, seeing these two together was a dream come true for TNA fans and still one of the best pairings ever.
8. The Nexus
Their debut remains one of the best moments of WWE in years, this pack of rookies coming out, beating on everyone, literally tearing the ring apart. It was gripping and amazing. WWE managed to blow it worse than you could possibly imagine. Instead of coming out strong, the Nexus was made to look weak in battle time and again to the point they had to force Cena to join in order to give them more of a push. The potential for this was huge, something that could last a while and take these guys to a new level but WWE had no patience for it and by the end of 2010, they were a mess, revived as a “new Nexus” but the heat had died down and this disbanding just hurt the guys involved. High on any list of great things WWE just let slip through their fingers.
7. Straight Edge Society
Created in 2009, the SES was a terrific idea as CM Punk took his “straight-edged” philosophy to a new degree as a pseudo cult leader promising to “save” people. He first pushed Luke Gallows then the wild segment of bringing out “fan” Serena and shaving her head to show herself as coming to a “new beginning.” The trio were good but the weakness was shown when Punk would yell at guys of “bringing the strength of the Society down” and would be answered with “you mean all three of you?”
Supposedly, WWE was nervous about boosting this more because of Punk’s popularity and serious worries of suddenly hundreds of fans showing up with shaved heads. Serena was soon cut after being shown on video drinking, Punk turned on Gallows and the whole thing was a promising affair turned into a mess, something Punk hated seeing happen and clearly one of the many things that drove him to leave WWE.
6. The Brain Busters
For years, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were in different circles in Jim Crockett Promotions, holding the TV title at different times and while allies in the Four Horsemen, it wasn’t until 1987 they became partners. When they did, they exploded as a terrific team, a mix of speed, power, skill and cheating that earned them the NWA Tag team titles and instant success. They left in 1988 for WWE where as The Brain Busters they would win tag gold again, wowing with their skill and seemed ready to last a while. But politics soon forced them out after only a year and their planned reunion in WCW ruined when Blanchard failed a drug test and soon retired. Arn would hold gold with various other partners but Tully was the best and they deserved a far longer run to be named among the best teams ever.
5. The Hart Dynasty
This should have been a fantastic and long lasting team as Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith had wrestling in their blood and thus paired in Florida got them hot off the bat. They rose high with Natalya, soon winning over fans and holding the tag team titles, including the final “World” tag champions before it was merged with the WWE tag titles. Just as they were going, however, the two were split up with Kidd becoming a heel. Neither man did anything of note in singles work and were both cut, clearly better together than apart and a shame WWE couldn’t do better by the Hart name as it deserved.
4. Miracle Violence Connection
Just what sort of a connection there is between a miracle and violence was never explained but you have to admit, it’s a damn cool name. Steve “Dr. Death” Williams and Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy were two of the hardest, stiffest and toughest workers ever and paired in Japan, and they were naturally hits. Coming to WCW, they were pushed hard by Bill Watts as a great team winning the WCW and NWA tag titles and engaging in great fights with other teams.
However, the politics of the time and the clashes of Watts and Japanese promoters (who Gordy felt more loyal to) soon created difficulty and Gordy would leave in late 1992 with Williams following afterward. Gordy would soon suffer his devastating brain injuries and a reunion never followed, leaving the Connection only a brief time to show off their amazing work.
3. Can-Am Connection
In 1987, WWE was seriously pushing Rick Martel, seeing his great potential after being AWA champion. He and Tom Zenk were paired together in a fun team, truly over with the fans, both athletic, high-flying and able to handle the top teams. They really seemed to be going places until Zenk had a pay dispute with the company and the arguments exposed how he and Martel pretty much hated each other. Zenk was gone, Martel soon teamed with Tito Santana to become Strike Force and win the tag titles. Still, the Can-Am Connection was a great pairing and had so much potential before WWE split them up.
2. Barry Windham and Lex Luger
When Luger turned against the Horsemen in 1987, he was a hot commodity with the fans and pairing him with Barry Windham made sense. A terrific athlete, Windham was a great star too, tearing down house shows with Ric Flair and pairing them together forged a great popular team. They won the tag titles off the Horsemen at the first Clash of the Champions and seemed ready to continue for a while. But just two weeks later, Windham turned on Luger to join the Horsemen himself. Supposedly, it was a last minute decision by the company and it did work great to boost Windham and the Horsemen but still a bit jarring that a team so perfect were split so fast and could have lasted longer.
1. The Hollywood Blondes
Few things showcase the utter stupidity of WCW than this. Thrown together as a pair with nothing better to do, Steve Austin and Brian Pillman quickly clicked as a team in 1993, putting on fantastic matches with terrific promos and arrogant personas that made them huge winners to fans. From their teamwork to cheating to their catchphrase of “your brush with greatness is over!” the Blondes were a huge hit and rising high as tag team champions. But just as they were hitting their stride as partners with a feud with the Four Horsemen, WCW blew it by forcing them to drop the belts to Arn Anderson and Paul Roma to keep in time with the infamous Disney studio tapings so an injured Pillman had to be replaced by Steve Regal.
Then WCW just broke the two up with no build, Pillman turned face (a move that never fit) and WCW losing the best team they had. Yet another entry in the way too long list of good things WCW screwed up.
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