In its heyday, tag team wrestling was a major draw on any wrestling card in the country. The allure of various duos and trios through the years has made for some of the most memorable wrestling factions of all time, and offers a different kind of payoff than an entertaining singles match does. The best of them had a rare camaraderie, that was put on display during countless matches, promos and entrances. Further, a sizable portion of these tandems gained their recognition outside of Vince McMahon's control.
As regional an industry as professional wrestling used to be, it's not surprising that many of the greatest all-time tag teams were at least established outside of WWE. Each section of the country could lay claim to their own promotions, and with that came their own favorite teams. What was popular in, for instance, the AWA in Minneapolis, was wholly different in North Carolina where Jim Crockett Promotions reigned. It was an established thing, where if you went to different regions of the country to see a wrestling event, you were going to typically see completely different performers.
Naturally, tag team wrestling was a large part of that. Each promotion featured teams with different kinds of charisma and in-ring styles. Some of them eventually made it over to WWE as the 1980's lingered on, and some stayed put, touring the same regional promotions they had frequented their whole careers. Whatever the career trajectory was, a lot of tag teams never got the recognition they deserved, and remain underrated to this very day. This list is intended to highlight some of these forgotten tandems, many of which were some of the very best to step inside the squared circle.
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15 Public Enemy
Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge were mainstays in ECW, and were incorporated in some of the most legendary feuds the company had to offer during the early 1990s, winning the tag titles four times along the way. Marginal success continued when they went to WCW in 1996, staying for three years, winning the titles on one occasion. They did manage a brief, two month stay in WWE in 1999, but their quirky, hardcore style wasn't a fit with the mainstream tendencies of the company, and they quickly departed. Unfortunately, both Rock and Grunge passed away in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
While their run in WCW was brief, Doom made an impact on the promotion during the late 1980s. Made up of Ron Simmons, who later went on to succeed in WWE as Faarooq, and Butch Reed, who had just left a mid-card role in WWE, the team wrestled a power style, feuding with the Steiner Brothers. They won the WCW tag titles on one occasion, and could have easily had further success had Ron Simmons not pursued his singles career. As is stands, they are a cornerstone of WCW history, beating nearly all of the top teams in the company at the time.
13 East-West Connection
Made up of the ever-popular Jesse "The Body" Ventura, as well as the legendary Adrian Adonis, the East-West Connection wreaked havoc on the AWA in the late 1970s and early 1980's. While both members would post significant solo careers as well, this was a team that could have been popular in the right situation for ten years or so. They captured the AWA tag titles twice, at a time when the promotion was in high demand throughout the industry. Adonis would later be a solo wrestler in WWE, with Ventura taking over broadcast duties for the company in the mid-1980s.
12 Sabu & Rob Van Dam
While both wrestlers have had massive singles careers as well, considering that they were both perhaps the two most important stars in ECW history, the team worked from the formation in 1996. Previously they had feuded, and both had established themselves as innovators of the burgeoning hardcore style that the promotion was beginning to make popular. Ultimately, they captured the ECW tag titles twice, and contributed to some of the best tag matches in the promotion's history. Ordinarily a tandem that shouldn't have worked, Sabu & Rob Van Dam were a perfect fit because of their reckless styles, which conformed nicely to the ECW ethos.
11 The Eliminators
Made up of John Kronus and Perry Saturn, The Eliminators were another ECW staple tag team in the mid-1990's. Winning the promotion's tag titles on three occasions, they were at the center of the tag ranks, feuding with just about every team that mattered within the company, while of course employing the rough, physical style that was typical of ECW. Saturn went on to some singles success in WWE and WCW, while Kronus bounced around the West Coast independent circuit for several years following the breakup of the team in the late 1990s. Add this one to the bevy of underrated ECW tag teams.
10 The Dudley Boyz
Of course, the only reason they aren't higher is because they probably were more popular in WWE, but the foundation of the Dudley Boyz was born in, you guessed it, ECW during the 1990s. Bubba Ray and D-Von were just two of, what included an entire stable of different Dudleys at the time, but ultimately they were the ones that survived the longest. In addition to ECW, the Dudleys have drawn big in various independent promotions across the country, as well as in Japan, wrestling for HUSTLE and AJPW. So while WWE can lay a large claim to them, they're equally as popular the world over, and are one of the best duos of all time.
9 Fabulous Freebirds
A trio that was ahead of its time, the charismatic Fabulous Freebirds were at one time arguably the most popular team in the world. Featuring Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy and Buddy Roberts, the team was a major draw for all NWA affiliated promotions throughout the 1980s. Their wild, unpredictable style garnered attention from everyone outside WWE during this time, and the fact that they were a trio was unusual as well. It all worked though, and the group captured a plethora of tag titles before disbanding for good in 1994. In 2016 the Fabulous Freebirds were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
8 Minnesota Wrecking Crew
While the first incarnation of the group came in the 1960s featuring Gene and Lars Anderson, the one that basically everyone is actually aware of came in the 1970s, when Ole Anderson was brought along to replace Lars and the new duo won eight NWA tag titles during the decade. When Gene stopped wrestling in 1981, the group was defunct for four years before being brought back yet again with Arn Anderson replacing Gene. This was the version of the team that, while continuing to win tag titles, were founding members of the legendary Four Horsemen stable, along with Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard. Needless to say, this was a team on top of the tag game for the better part of 20 years, and deserves tons more recognition today.
7 Harlem Heat
Before Booker T. went on to unlimited singles success, he got his start as a one half of the innovative Harlem Heat tag team, alongside his brother Stevie Ray. The duo won the WCW tag titles a whopping ten times, and were one of the most popular draws in the entire company during this time. While Booker T maintained his success, Stevie Ray was never able to counter with his own, despite joining the NWO faction following the breakup of the team. Still, the legacy of the Harlem Heat lives on, and for a brief time in the 1990s, there weren't many, if any at all, teams that could rival their popularity and achievement.
6 The Briscoes
A top contender for the best tag team in the past ten years, The Briscoes have traveled the world over, and been successful in nearly every promotion they've participated in. This is most evident in ROH, where they've won the tag titles eight different times, and been a part of countless classic matches. Jay and Mark wrestle in a fast-paced, yet powerful style that combines high-flying maneuvers alongside a technical base.
They haven't yet gone to WWE, but they may never have to, as they will have left a mark on the industry even if they retired tomorrow. It is a rare scenario in this day and age, but a deserving one nonetheless.
5 Midnight Express
Managed by Jim Cornette, the Midnight Express was one of the top teams throughout the 1980's. For years they feuded with their fellow top teams in the NWA, and went through several incarnations, with the most notable probably being the one featuring Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton. Their only kind of appearance in a WWE setting came in 1998 when Cornette put the moniker of "The New Midnight Express" on Billy Gunn and Bob Holly, but the gimmick lost favor quickly. As it stands, the group will be remembered as a staple for the NWA, and pretty much any promotion in the Southern region of the country.
4 Hollywood Blonds
Featuring two wrestlers in "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, that had notable success in WWE (one much more so than the other, take a guess), the Hollywood Blonds could have been atop the WCW tag team world for ten years if the talent in question didn't have massive potential in singles competition. Still, they were a valuable part of early 1990s WCW, and did end up capturing the tag titles once, despite their limited run. While the Blonds were a stellar tag team, it was a good decision for WWE not to use Austin in tag team competition, give his transcendent status as world champion.
3 The Outsiders
After Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon) and Kevin Nash (as Diesel) left WWE in 1996, no one really knew where they would end up or what they would do. That was answered the following year, when they debuted in WCW as The Outsiders, and set in motion sweeping change throughout the entire industry when they formed the NWO faction soon after. It could be argued that the initial formation of The Outsiders was the precursor to the most popular time from a fans and ratings standpoint in wrestling history.
Besides that, they were a great team, employing a power style, highlighted by their finishing moves, the "Outsider's Edge" and "Jackknife Powerbomb" respectively. Ultimately, they never worked during their short time later in WWE, but their time in WCW is undoubtedly of prime importance.
2 Road Warriors
While they did have a successful stint in WWE in the early 1990s, most people recognize the Road Warriors at their peak in the NWA, and to a lesser extent, the AWA, through the 1980s. They were a duo completely ahead of their time, and destroyed just about every team in their path throughout the decade, feuding with nearly every relevant, main event team throughout the country. Their no holds barred style was innovative, and inspired dozens of teams that made their debut a decade or two later. Factor in an all-time great finishing move in the "Doomsday Device", and the Legion Of Doom may have just about been the best tag team in history during their time in the NWA. The only reason they don't take the number one spot is because they were in fact successful in WWE for a short time.
1 Rock 'N' Roll Express
For about a five-year period, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were undoubtedly the biggest fan-favorites in all of tag team wrestling. Most notable during their run in 1980s NWA, but appearing in dozens of promotions the world over, their high-flying style as a team was just as innovative as the power-style exhibited by the Road Warriors. Although they never received a real chance in WWE (besides a brief stint in 1998 that never amounted to anything, seven or eight years past their prime), they are without question one of the greatest tag teams of all time, sworn by many who saw them to have gotten some of the loudest crowd "pops" ever witnessed. They remain to this day, a true staple of the golden age of tag team wrestling.
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