Originally introduced as a novelty act, nobody expected tag team wrestling to explode as it has over the past 50 years. From the 1950s when brother acts (both legitimate and fictional) were the order of the day into the modern era where any combination of talented wrestlers could be partnered up and form a memorable duo, many fans gravitate to the exciting nature of tag team wrestling as their favorite spectacle between three ropes.
And wrestling has given us some great teams, hasn’t it? It’s hard to imagine The Dynamite Kid without his British Bulldogs tag team partner, Davey Boy Smith. In fact, any other partner might have been a letdown to the fans. Think about some of the best tag teams we have ever witnessed – the Steiner Brothers, the Rock ‘n Roll Express, the Road Warriors – it’s hard to imagine that any other combination of wrestlers could ever come together so seamlessly.
Still, whether due to injury, retirement, or just a character change from good to bad or vice versa, we have seen some unwelcomed changes to tag team franchises that simply didn’t do justice to the original. The following is a list of 20 tag team re-boots that simply didn’t cut the mustard and we’re still disgusted about it.
20 The Dream Team
There was something rather striking about the combination of the no-nonsense grappler Greg Valentine and the flashy, style-over-substance presence of Brutus Beefcake. The one time WWE World tag team champions represented a contrast of styles that probably nobody would have figured to pair up well, yet the duo claimed their spot in history with championship success. However, as Beefcake’s image started to generate a fan following, it was time to break up the team and with Brutus hearing the cheers of the fans, Valentine was in the market for a new tag team partner. Trading the “Barber” for “Canada’s Strongest Man,” Valentine was paired with Dino Bravo as the “New Dream Team” under manager Johnny Valiant.
While the argument could be made that Bravo increased the work rate for the duo, the re-boot of this championship-winning team quickly fizzled. While it wasn’t the worst tag team assignment Valentine would have during his WWE, ala Rhythm & Blues, it lacked the spark that the pairing with Beefcake had created.
19 Full-Blooded Italians
Professional wrestling loves parody. The image of the rotund Buddy Rose in his “I worked hard for this body” t-shirt, or the diminutive Crash Holly declaring himself a contender in the super heavyweight division are just two examples of this. It was along this vein that pairing a couple of dyed-in-the-wool southerners like Tommy Rich and Tracy Smothers and billing them as the Full-Blooded Italians made for some entertaining television. A couple of apparent non-Italians, playing out stereotypes as a couple of good fellas is what created the gold for that gimmick. However, when the WWE tried to recreate the FBI with what was portrayed as authentic Italians, it may have played well to an isolated demographic, but the intent and the feel of the Full Blooded Italians was lost in translation. However, in fairness, perhaps the same could be said about the entire Extreme Championship Wrestling brand under Vince McMahon’s banner as well. It just didn’t have the same emotion or essence as the original.
18 Razor & Diesel
It is repeated often as almost a comedic footnote of the Attitude Era that the WWE felt that it could downplay the departure of two of its biggest stars to the rival World Championship Wrestling by simply exercising their trademark rights to re-cast the characters. Dressing Calgary’s Rick Titan in Scott Hall’s Razor Ramon attire and casting the future Kane to reprise Kevin Nash’s Diesel role, the buildup caught everyone’s attention. The WWE promised to produce two stars on their television program that had apparently moved on to their most competitive rival. However, once they stepped through the ropes, the fans didn’t feel like they were in on a clever piece of legal maneuvering. They instead felt that their intelligence was being insulted. How could they not know that this was a new Razor and Diesel? This tag team re-boot was a royal backfire on Vince McMahon and the WWE creative team. Luckily, Kane survived and would return the following year for his most acclaimed role. Rick Titan wasn’t so lucky.
17 La Resistance
Inspiring patriotism in the United States by reminding the country of their disdain for foreigners is a recurring theme in wrestling. While the United States and France have never been at war, there is certainly a great deal of cultural tension between the two countries that plays out well in a professional wrestling setting. Pairing second generation wrestler Rene Dupree with Montreal’s Sylvain Grenier, the WWE launched a very marketable duo as La Resistance. Things started to go sideways for the team, though with the addition of a third member who would eventually replace Grenier due to injury. While, aesthetically, Conway fit the look of the team, you take steam out of an elitist foreign threat when you incorporate an Indiana-born American to the fold. Grenier and Dupree showed the potential to eclipse the success enjoyed by the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers of the 1980s, until Grenier’s injury led to the re-configuration that would kill the team.
Whether you remember them as the Kiwis, the Sheepherders or the Bushwhackers, the duo of Butch Miller and Luke Williams were one of the most successful travelling tag teams in north America from 1973 to well into the 1990s. It’s fitting that the team was inducted as a pair into the WWE Hall of Fame in recent years. Many fans may forget, though, that there was a period of two years when the Sheepherders campaigned across the southern United States and Miller was not a part of the team. Butch had returned to New Zealand and was replaced by Jonathan Boyd. Williams and Boyd were successful in the Memphis wrestling territory, but would never have achieve the same success on a national level as Butch and Luke. Thankfully, Miller returned to the U.S. in 1983 and that led to some of the most successful years in the team’s collective history.
15 Midnight Express – Condrey & Rose vs. Lane & Eaton
If you ask a connoisseur of tag team wrestling about some of the greatest tag team matches of all time, some of those listed might include the series of matches in 1988 between the Midnight Express and the Fantastics. Interestingly, both of those tag team tandems have made this list. When it comes to the Midnight Express, let’s try to summarize their convoluted configuration. In the early '80s, while wrestling in the southeast, Dennis Condrey partnered with Randy Rose as the Midnight Express. However, the team didn’t achieve national celebrity until Condrey partnered with Bobby Eaton under manager Jim Cornette.
However, as the team was starting to rise to acclaim, Condrey suddenly walked out and was replaced by Stan Lane. Lane and Eaton were arguably the best version of the Midnight Express, even winning the NWA United States and World Tag Team titles. Things get interesting as Lane and Eaton reached their peak. Suddenly, “The Original Midnight Express” of Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose turn up in the AWA and then later the NWA. Though they may have been the first, their re-introduction certainly lacked the firepower that maybe they believed it would have, making it one of the worst re-boots in tag team history.
14 Minnesota Wrecking Crew II
Minnesota owns a proud tradition of producing some of the roughest athletes in sports. In professional wrestling, the “Minnesota Wrecking Crew” of Ole Anderson and his fictional brothers Lars and Gene were among the most celebrated and successful tag teams in the Carolinas and Georgia. Fast forward two decades and Ole Anderson had found himself in an administrative role with World Championship Wrestling when he was presented with a couple of fresh faces from his home state to the company. Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom had been AWA World tag team champions as the Destruction Crew for Verne Gagne.
Arriving in WCW, Ole elected to put them under masks and dub them the “Minnesota Wrecking Crew II” for what turned out to be a thankfully short-lived and otherwise unremarkable run in their careers. While the Andersons enjoyed multiple reigns as champions and acknowledgement in the trade media as a top duo, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew II was little more than cannon fodder for the WCW’s tag team elite.
13 Fabulous Ones
This re-launch feels a little like Vince McMahon’s attempt to re-package Razor Ramon and Diesel, but it took place more than a decade earlier. The team of Stan Lane and Steve Keirn had been one of the most popular teams in the Memphis wrestling territory. Coming to the ring in apparel that reminded female ticket buyers of the Chippendales dance troupe, the Fabulous Ones drove ticket sales as well as increased heart rates wherever they would appear. However, when their talent and appeal caught the attention of Verne Gagne and the team was called up to the AWA, Memphis was left with a vacancy to fill in the roster. Their solution? Pair two other popular wrestlers – Eddie Gilbert & Tommy Rich – and bill them as the “New” Fabulous Ones. Sadly for Gilbert and Rich, their attempt to piggyback onto a successful franchise was short-lived and their tag team career spanned only five months as a team.
12 The Funk Brothers
When you think about Vince McMahon’s ambition to take over the world of professional wrestling in the 1980s by expanding nationally and snuffing out the AWA and NWA’s national network of promotions, there may have been no greater signing in 1985 than securing the talents of Terry Funk and his older brother Dory Funk Jr. The brothers, who had both reigned as NWA World Heavyweight champions in the previous decade and who were both very influential in the industry, contributed to the legitimacy of the WWE as a wrestling superpower that was bigger than a regional circuit. However, frustrated at being stuck in the middle of the card, Terry opted to leave the company. Rather than sideline plans for the Funk Brothers tag team, Terry was replaced by Jesse Barr, who would don a black Lone Ranger mask to become Jimmy Jack Funk. However, while Barr was of a similar size and build to Terry, the second version of the Funk brothers team failed to catch fire.
11 U.S. Express
The WWE was evolving in 1984. Not only were they expanding from a regional circuit to a national franchise, they needed to snap up fresh blood. They hand-picked the best of the talent available from each of the regional circuits and two of the brightest prospects were called up from Florida in Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham. The reallife brothers-in-law represented a fresh-faced team that could carry Old Glory to the ring and battle against some of the WWE’s old guard, even winning the WWE World Tag Team titles on two occasions. However, feeling the strain of the hectic schedule, somewhat on a whim, Barry Windham walked out in protest. By the time he realized what he had done, his spot had already been filled by Danny Spivey. Aesthetically, Spivey bore a slight resemblance to Windham, so the look of the team seemed the same, but the Rotundo-Spivey partnership couldn’t hold a candle to the original U.S. Express with Windham.
Sadly, professional wrestling history may overlook the greatness that was represented in the ring when Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers campaigned as the Fantastics. Their battles against the top villain pairings of the day were legendary and they made their mark in the Universal Wrestling Federation as well as the National Wrestling Alliance in the mid to late 1980s. The Fulton/Rogers duo was worthy of a run as World Tag Team champions for their innovative style and high energy performances. However, when Rogers took a hiatus from wrestling to pursue career opportunities in another field, Fulton looked to his younger brother, Jackie Fulton, to fill the void. While the duo hit the mark in terms of charisma, the box office appeal of the Fulton brothers could never eclipse the Fulton/Rogers combination. Jackie Fulton would go on to greater success in Japan, teaming with The Patriot for All Japan Pro Wrestling and even THAT endeavor probably eclipses his tenure in the Fantastics.
When you look back at it now, it’s quite possible that manager Teddy Long traded up when he needed to find a new partner for Danny Spivey in his WCW tag team the Skyscrapers. However, that’s not the way that history will remember it. In 1989, the 6’8” Spivey was partnered with the 6’11” Sid Vicious as “The Skyscrapers” and they were originally poised for great things. When the team dominated in a two-ring battle royal at the Great American Bach, with each partner clearing out his ring to co-win the event, they were lined up to feud with the most dominant tag team of the decade – The Road Warriors. The team’s trajectory was forever changed when Vicious was sidelined with a punctured lung. Spivey was paired with a relative newcomer to WCW in “Mean” Mark Callous and they continued their feud with the Road Warriors. However, the team came to an abrupt end when Spivey walked out on the company. The following year, Callous would leave WCW to latch on to his most iconic role in the WWE as The Undertaker.
8 Midnight Express
Sometimes we need to remember that you can never go home again. With the passage of years, those things that were great seem to see their legend grow. Such might be the case with the Midnight Express. While Jim Cornette’s greatest success may be as the corner man for Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, when the idea crossed the WWE’s board room table close to a decade later, Cornette might best have been served to veto the notion. Pairing Bob Holly with Bart Gunn as a re-launch of the Midnight Express was a horrific mis-match. While Bob Holly may not have objected as this was a huge leap forward from his WWE introduction as Thurman “Sparky” Plugg, the WWE version of the Midnight Express served only to tarnish the legacy of all pairings to ever compete by that name. This was even worse that the Condrey-Rose re-run as the “Original Midnight Express.”
7 New Blackjacks
At some level, fathers who watch their sons grow up wanting to follow in their footsteps might be touched when the next generation expresses an interest to reprise a role with which they themselves had seen great success. Bob Windham is best known during his ring career as Blackjack Mulligan and his partnership with Blackjack Lanza in the 1970’s helped to elevate the careers of both wrestlers. However, when Windham’s son Barry was partnered with John Bradshaw to re-create the Blackjacks in the 1990s, everyone quickly discovered that society had outgrown playing cowboys and Indians and the gimmick was just not very well received by this time. The Blackjacks entered the scene after a build-up of vignettes failed to generate interest at the box office. Bradshaw would move on to tag team success with Ron Simmons, while the Blackjacks legacy would pretty much signal the end of Windham’s storied career with the WWE.
Forget the dismissal that Demolition was simply the WWE’s answer to the Road Warriors as many are inclined to do. What’s important to remember is that the combination of Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow as Ax & Smash was one of the most iconic and memorable pairings in the history of the WWE’s tag team division. Setting a championship reign record that has yet to be eclipsed after more than a quarter of a century, Ax & Smash grabbed the attention of the ticket-buying public. However, when Ax was sidelined after a severe allergic reaction to shellfish that threatened to bring an end to the team, he was replaced by Brian Adams under the name Crush. While the interim period with Demolition as a trio was exciting, Ax’s exit from the team signaled the beginning of the end. The team of Demolition went from featured matches at WrestleMania to under-card fodder for visiting opponents. It got even worse for the WWE when Ax tried to create a new version of Demolition with tag team partner Blast. Ugh!
5 New Foundation
How will Jim Neidhart be remembered for his time in the WWE? If history is kind, it will be from his two-time tag team championship winning partnership with brother in-law Bret “The Hitman” Hart as the Hart Foundation. Often considered to be the contrast of a Porsche and an Army Tank, Bret and Jim carved their place in history as a team hearing both cheers and jeers during their run. However, following a five-year run as Bret’s partner, Jim’s re-introduction with another family member as the New Foundation with the youngest Hart brother Owen failed to rate in comparison. In fact, shortly after their only pay-per-view appearance, the team was already shelved and Owen was paired with Koko B. Ware instead as High Energy. It wasn’t due to a lack of talent, but could it be that the world simply wasn’t ready for a 276-pound white guy to dress like M.C. Hammer?
4 Fabulous Freebirds – Jimmy Garvin Replaces Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts
Even though they spent little more than days of their entire tag team career in the WWE, the Fabulous Freebirds trio seems to be among the few that have been able to blur the lines of WWE history vs. wrestling history to find themselves ranked as one of the WWE’s top 10 tag teams of all time, as rated by viewers of the WWE Network. The trio of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts were an inseparable pack in the 1980s, appearing in the AWA and other territories, but most notoriously remembered for their headline performances in Texas against the Von Erich brothers. The Freebirds, as a trio, have since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Interestingly, Michael Hayes exercised his influence to ensure that his partner in a later version of the Freebirds was also included into that ceremony. While Hayes, Gordy and Roberts were riot-starters where they appeared, the WCW version of the Freebirds, featuring Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin, was a watered down version of a team – bearing little resemblance to the original squad of the same name.
Before their arrival in the WWE, the team of Samu & Fatu had campaigned the territories and had enjoyed a brief run in WCW as the Samoan Swat Team. Their direct lineage to the Anoai wrestling bloodline fortified their fit as a tag team that reminded many of their Wild Samoan relatives, Afa & Sika. The team found themselves atop the tag team scene as WWE World Tag Team Champions, but things quickly unraveled. It is reported that Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash reported Samu for coming to work under the influence and that he was a danger to his opponents in the ring. Samu was fired, replaced by The Barbarian, who was repackaged as simply Sionne. However, while the Barbarian was a credible wrestler in his own right and would be successful in team with The Warlord and Haku at different times, the fit as a Headshrinker wasn’t natural and this led to the demise of the team.
2 Legion of Doom – Heidenreich Replaces Hawk
No list of wrestling’s greatest tag teams fails to include the pair that “snacked on danger and dined on death.” Hawk and Animal – whether billed as the Road Warriors or the Legion of Doom – dominated wherever they appeared and are the only team in history to hold the AWA, NWA, WWE and WCW World Tag Team titles. While Animal was out with injury, Hawk was so identified as a tag team wrestler, that he was booked almost exclusively as a tag team act. The duo would re-unite and continue to see success as a pair.
However, following Hawk’s death, when Animal was re-introduced to the WWE, they attempted to re-create the magic of the L.O.D. by pairing Animal with Heidenreich. This one sorely missed the mark and while the Road Warriors are regarded as one of the best, this failed re-boot rates near the top as one of the worst tag team pairings of all time.
1 The New Rockers
“One without the other isn’t any good,” Bobby Heenan said of the Rockers pairing of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, ironically just moments before Michaels would throw Jannetty through a plate glass window to bring about the end of their four-year run as The Rockers. Michaels and Jannetty first met in the early days of their careers and promised to keep in touch if either of them got a break. Jannetty got the call to the AWA and, true to his word, opened the door for Michaels. The team ascended the AWA ranks and jumped to the WWE where they remain one of the most beloved duos of all time.
However, when Michaels' star was on the rise as a solo star, Jannetty was paired with Al Snow, under the name Leif Cassidy, as the New Rockers. This re-make of a wrestling classic failed to measure up on the charts.