In the history of wrestling, there have been a lot of great tag teams such as The Freebirds, The Road Warriors, The British Bulldogs, The Rock n Roll Express and countless others. Tag team wrestling has seen ups and downs but it always maintains an allure for fans who love seeing two great workers forming a fine team for success and exciting matches abound. There are so many cases where two guys were just tossed together and became a fine team and boosted them to success. It may not always work but when it does, the results can see a massive winner (see The New Day). However, there are also cases when attempts to boost a team with a different guy just end up ruining the group.
The reasons can vary from a guy being injured to leaving the company under a cloud. Some replacements can work well as Demolition really clicked when Bill Darsow replaced Randy Colley as Smash. But others are terrible ones that hurt a team and their legacy. The replacements just don’t have the right look or feel and the results are just terrible. Some teams are just overshadowed by these bad choices which hurt the team’s standing totally and a shadow on their good work. Here are 15 wrestlers who cast a bad light on famous tag teams with their attempt to fit in and show how you can't just plug anybody in.
15 Boris Zhukov
WWE had a great heel team in 1985 when former champion The Iron Sheik was teamed up with Nikolai Volkoff. They were good in the ring, as Sheik had his skill and technical fighting style and Volkoff was the powerhouse. They had fans going against them with Volkoff doing the Soviet National Anthem before matches and they made history winning the tag team titles at the very first WrestleMania. In 1987, they were still going well but The Sheik was arrested driving with drugs in his car. He was immediately fired, leaving Volkoff drifting. WWE paired him up with Zhukov, fresh off an AWA run with The Bolsheviks.
The idea of two Russian heels seemed great but neither guy could deliver a good promo and their chemistry was off in the ring. They were basically jobbers for other teams and Volkoff’s face turn in 1990 was a terrible idea. The Sheik was just such a great star that having any other partner exposed Volkoff's weaknesses.
14 Dan Spivey
In 1985, WWE hit gold with Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda as The U.S. Express. Managed by a now-face Lou Albano, the duo were terrific in the ring together and were major fan favorites, especially with the female fans. They won the tag team titles twice, ready to continue onward as a major team. But in 1986, Windham had a falling out with management regarding money and abruptly left the company. To fill his space, they hired Dan Spivey who looked much like Windham; tall with blonde hair.
However, he lacked the same in-ring skills and great charisma and Rotunda had to carry much of their matches. This new version of the Express stalled, falling fast and would be split with Rotunda following Windham to the NWA. While it wasn’t totally his fault, Spivey’s entrance to the team caused the Express to bottom out.
The Wild Samoans have had various incarnations but are still regarded well by fans as a great team. They sold the “wild man’ gimmick to the extreme and did it with fun style too. In 1993, WWE had another take on them as Fatu and Samu came in as The Headshrinkers, ready to carry on their family legacy as 'wild' workers. In 1994, they surprisingly turned face with Captain Lou Albano as their manager and were soon winning the tag team titles. However, Samu left due to injury and was replaced by Fione…aka The Barbarian.
Having this muscleman on a team best known for high flying moves was not a good move as he just didn’t fit at all as the team switched from their barefoot attacks to wearing boots. The team faded fast and split when Barbarian went back to WCW.
12 Barry Windham and John Bradshaw
Here’s a great case of how changing fan tastes can affect the attempt to revive old magic. The Blackjacks had formed in the 1970s as Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza took off well. Coming out in black cowboy garb, the two were tough men who played up the “hard ranch life” to become a great team. They won gold in both the AWA and WWE, did terrific business and paved the way for many “tough guy” teams to follow.
In 1997, Mulligan’s son, Barry Windham, joined with a young John Bradshaw to become a New Blackjacks team. They had the same great look of thick mustaches, black hair and outfits, came out as tough guys and seemed ready to rise up. However, while a good team, they lacked fan support as by 1997, the entire “cowboy” motif had been passé for quite a while. The team just never clicked with fans and were soon fading into the background, showing that replacing a legendary team of the past isn’t as easy as it sounds.
11 Iceman King Parsons
The Fabulous Freebirds were the first “cool heels,” the first bad guys fans loved to cheer for. Michael Hayes was the great talker, Terry Gordy was a fabulous worker and Buddy Roberts was terrific at taking bumps. In World Class, they did huge business with their epic feud with the Von Erichs pulling fans in by the droves. In 1988, the Freebirds had a falling out with Hayes shockingly teaming with Kerry Von Erich against his old partners.
In response, Gordy and Roberts teamed with long-time WCCW face Iceman King Parsons who turned heel himself. Now calling himself “Blackbird,” he led these Freebirds attacking Hayes and Von Erich. While good on the mic, Parsons lacked the same amazing charisma as Hayes did and frankly, the Freebirds without Hayes just were not the Freebirds at all.
The whole feud was a mess with Hayes leaving for WCW to form a new Freebirds team with Jimmy Garvin and showed how losing a key part of a team is a good way to kill it off.
10 Dino Bravo
In 1985, Greg Valentine was already known as a great worker in WWE, having had successful reigns as Intercontinental Champion. Still hot, he was teamed with rising star Brutus Beefcake with Johnny Valiant as their manager. The Dream Team soon became a great unit, winning the tag team titles and having great feuds with The British Bulldogs and others. They broke up in 1987 with Beefcake turning face as “The Barber.”
Now managed by Jimmy Hart, Valentine was teamed with Dino Bravo as a new Dream Team. While their work rate was fine, they lacked the same flash and smug heel aura that made the team one fans loved to hate. Instead, they just hated them, the team sunk without the same aura and were split up for rough singles runs. Funny how losing Beefcake was the move that ended The Dream.
9 Bob Holly and Bart Gunn
Some teams just deserve to be left to rest in peace. The Midnight Express was one of the best teams around in the NWA. Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey were terrific as tag team champions in Mid-South and NWA. Condrey was replaced by Stan Lane for an even better version that held both the U.S. and World Tag Titles at once. In 1998, Jim Cornette talked WWE into creating a new version of The Express for WWE with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn paired together. While okay in the ring, and each being a former tag champion, the two didn’t click as partners and just didn’t seem to shine as heels.
They held the NWA tag titles (part of a brief partnership between WWE and the NWA) but never got their due. Cornette realized WWE was basically just turning them into a joke and the team was nixed. Some teams should just be left in the past after all.
8 Owen Hart
This was not Owen’s fault but it still has to be counted. The Hart Foundation were one of the best teams in one of the most stacked periods in WWE history. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart just clicked perfectly, Bret the speedy technician and Neidhart the powerhouse. In 1991, they finally split with Bret embarking on his championship singles run while Neidhart did commentary. In 1992, WWE decided to push him again with a “New Foundation” teaming Neidhart with Bret’s brother, Owen. True, Owen was a fantastic worker (perhaps even better than Bret in many respects) but he was still young and raw and he and Neidhart didn’t click nearly as well as Bret did.
It wasn’t helped by their atrocious outfits of checkered colored balloon pants and suspenders that looked ridiculous. Neidhart eventually bowed out for health reasons but this “Foundation” was cracked from the start.
This wasn’t totally his own fault but it still ranks as a big bust. Demolition had entered WWE as an obvious rip-off of The Road Warriors with spiked leather and makeup. However, Ax and Smash turned out to be a great team who dominated as tag team champions for nearly a year and a half in one of the most talented periods of tag teams ever. By 1990, Bill Eadie was suffering from heart problems that had him needing more time off but WWE didn’t want to break up such a hot team.
So they had them turn heel then introduced Brian Adams as Crush. While he looked good, Crush was taller than the other two and his younger vibe just seemed to throw the team off. Eadie was soon phased out and Crush took over but somehow, this version of the team didn’t have the same chemistry and aura as the original pairing did. They split in 1991 for singles runs under different names and most agree it’s Ax and Smash who were Demolition and Crush was just an afterthought to an otherwise great team.
6 Big T
Harlem Heat had come into WCW with a terrible gimmick, actually pushed as convicts in chains until the hostile fan reaction changed that. With Sherri Martel, Booker T and Stevie Ray soon became one of the best teams in the company, holding the tag team titles 10 times and facing some of the best teams around. By 1999, Booker had embarked on his singles career as TV champion but also reunited with Stevie Ray. Stevie turned on his brother to form a new Harlem Heat with Big T, formerly known as Ahmed Johnson.
In one of those “only in WCW” storylines, Booker lost the use of the “T” name to Big T and had to become G.I. Bro. He “won” the name back while the new version of the Heat faded and Johnson, while a decent worker, just failed to capture the charisma. Booker’s career continued to ride high while Johnson’s presence just cooled the Heat down majorly.
5 Jimmy Jack Funk
Given his infamous temperament, the fact that Terry Funk stayed with WWE as long as he did in the 1980s is remarkable. He and Dory are notable as the only brothers to each hold the NWA World title and both were fantastic wrestlers. In 1986, they were getting a push with various feuds but Terry had issues with Vince McMahon and held out for money. He finally got tired of it all (including WWE’s harsh schedule) and walked out. To fill him in, WWE had Florida star Jesse Barr show up in a Long Ranger mask as “Jimmy Jack Funk” a “cousin” of the team. He and Dory were okay but frankly, Barr was a poor replacement for the far superior Terry. The team soon faded away with both leaving and the Funks’ shot as a great team went down.
4 Al Snow
When The Rockers split up in 1992, it soon became obvious Shawn Michaels was going to be the major star, embarking on his now legendary singles career. Marty Jannetty wasn’t as lucky, held back by his drinking issues which led to him being fired a couple of times. A short reign as IC champ and tag champ didn’t do much good either but in 1996, WWE decided to try by having a “New” Rockers form. Joining Jannetty was a young Al Snow under the name of Leif Cassidy.
Originally a flat-out attempt to replicate the magic, the team was soon turned more into a comedic pairing, the change pushed by Michaels behind the scenes. That didn’t work as Snow and Jannetty just lacked the same chemistry Jannetty and Michaels had and the team soon split. Snow would find further fame in his own way while The Rockers just had their time run out.
The Road Warriors changed everything in wrestling. Their brutal style, no-selling attacks, their spiked outfits, their makeup, it was nothing seen before and led to them being one of the greatest tag teams in history. Their last years were marked by some bad matches and Hawk’s addictions which led to his death in 2003. That seemed to end it once and for all but in 2005, Animal came out to help promote a new DVD on the team. He was insulted by MNM who challenged him to a match. Out came Heidenreich, known as the goofball with weird poetry who offered himself up as a partner.
The fans hated this New L.O.D but WWE kept with it, complete with Heidenreich getting makeup and shoulder pads. He and Animal won the tag titles but their reign was shorter than planned because of the bad fan reaction and they were soon split up. Many consider this a terrible footnote in the otherwise great legacy of The Legion of Doom and how some teams should just fade away.
2 Lance Von Erich
Most consider this the worst move Fritz Von Erich ever made. In 1985, the Von Erich clan was riding high in Texas although they had their trials and tribulations. The attempts to push Mike didn’t work as he was a thin guy never suited for wrestling. When Mike suffered his bout of toxic shock syndrome, he was out for months and most agree he was never the same and contributed to his suicide two years later. To fill the gap, Fritz got jobber Randy Vaughn and introduced him as “cousin” Lance. While he looked good, he just didn’t have the same energy and vibe as the real Von Erichs and their matches were off without the family chemistry.
What was really bad was that kayfabe was a big thing then and when fans discovered he wasn’t really a Von Erich, they reacted badly. So Fritz went on TV to bury Lance as a fraud and blackballed him.
1 Paul Roma
Boy, 1993 WCW was packed with amazingly stupid ideas (Shockmaster springs to mind) but this remains one of their worst. When Ric Flair returned, the company wanted to push him big and thought it would be great to have a reunion of The Four Horsemen. They had Arn and Ole Anderson but Tully Blanchard declined the low-money offer and Barry Windham was in the middle of a feud for the NWA title. So on a big “Flair For The Gold” segment, Flair announced that the newest member of the Horsemen was…Paul Roma.
A lifelong midcarder with good looks but no real flash, Roma was the worst choice imaginable for the most elite stable in wrestling. He never fit in at all and the fans hated him being with the team. He and Arn were rough as partners despite a reign as tag team champions and he was out the door in months, ending what most agree is the worst version of the Horsemen ever.