Tag teams wrestling rules, plain and simple.
Whether your cup of tea consisted of the historic brawls between The Freebirds and The Von Erichs, or the death-defying Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches between Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz, there’s no denying wars pitting crews against one another are an integral part of pro-wrestling.
Tag team titles may not be as prestigious as world titles reserved for single competitors, but they’re just as essential. Over the course of numerous decades, hardcore fans sung the praises of The Road Warriors, The Hart Foundation, The Rock n’ Roll Express and Demolition, proving the stars making up these teams became larger than life superstars. Some duos, like The Hart Foundation and The Rockers, featured some of the biggest names in WWE history, with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels going on to become storied WWE Hall of Fame members.
Unfortunately, WWE’s tag team division isn’t what it once was, but partnerships like The Usos, Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (members of The Brass Ring Club) and The Prime Time Players are doing a good job of rebuilding. Outside of WWE is where tag team wrestling has truly flourished, with teams like The Young Bucks, reDRagon, Candice & Joey and The Time Splitters, to name a few, mesmerize crowds with their excellent matches and unbelievable work rates.
Over the past few years, WWE gave us unorthodox partnerships including Team Hell No and Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (of the defunct Shield stable), and a few that simply didn’t work, like Rybaxel and Hunico & Camacho.
Some teams, though, paved the way for future stars and it’s easy to overlook their contributions. Hotbeds for tag team wrestling from the 1980s to 2000s, both WWE and WCW excelled in bringing fans some of the best tag team matches in history, and even a couple of other promotions, like TNA and ECW, had compelling bouts featuring some of the best teams from their respective divisions.
While it’s easy to pinpoint those with the most title runs, this listing will feature champions, pioneers and forgotten pairings from the world of tag team wrestling, including those that don’t get enough credit.
Here are the 20 most underrated tag teams in wrestling history:
20 The Briscoe Brothers
Winning over a dozen tag titles in their careers, both Jay and Mark Briscoe have been with Ring of Honor since day one, currently holding the record for most ROH Tag Team Championship wins (eight).
They’ve both ventured out to singles competition as of late, but still team up from time to time.
19 Booker T & Goldust
The pairing of these two Texans won’t be remembered for their legendary matches in the thick of things, yet the partnership of Bookdust -- Booker T. and Goldust -- gave us some of the funniest backstage segments in WWE history. The former WCW World Heavyweight Champion wasn’t fond of the “Bizarre One” in their early days, which made for incredible television.
The team of Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan may be unfamiliar to some wrestling fans, yet they’re one of the most revered tag teams in Japanese history.
Competing on and off for over a decade starting from the mid-1990s, they've won the IWGP Tag Team Championship a record five times and also took home Super Grade Tag League honors in 1995. Some would make a bigger case for Tencozy (Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) or The World Class Tag Team (Gedo and Jado), to take their place.
In a time where natural tag teams seemed nonexistent, Chris Jericho and Big Show formed Jeri-Show, a team consisting of a rock star and a giant. Jeri-Show competed against the likes of Legacy and D-Generation X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H), before disbanding in 2010. They won both the World Tag Team Championship, along with the WWE Tag Team Championship in their short time together. They have been recognized as an elite team, winning a Slammy in 2009 for Tag Team of the Year.
16 Mark Jindrak & Sean O’Haire
When WCW was beginning to crumble like a house of cards, The Natural Born Thrillers became a promising young stable featuring some of the promotion’s top rising talent. Two of the group’s members, Mark Jindrak and Sean O’Haire, looked as if they were going to be massive superstars in the wrestling business. They won the WCW Tag Team Championship twice, both times in unusual fashion (winning a battle royal, then reclaiming the titles the same night after losing them).
15 Rob Van Dam & Sabu
ECW had a bunch of impressive tag teams like The Eliminators, The Gangstas and The Impact Players, but none of them were as star-studded as the partnership of Rob Van Dam and Sabu. The team had spectacular matches against the likes of The Dudley Boyz, Hayabusa & Jinsei Shizaki and Lance Storm & Chris Candido.
Under the guidance of Bill Alfonso, the duo won the ECW tag titles twice, and when both WWE and TNA tried to recapture the magic they had in ECW, the promotions failed miserably.
14 America’s Most Wanted
TNA is no slouch when it comes to tag team wrestling, with teams like Beer Money and The Motor City Machine Guns dazzling crowds in their heydays.
The most successful team in TNA history, America’s Most Wanted, made up of Chris Harris and James Storm, paved the way for TNA’s best duos. They are six-time NWA World Tag Team Champions, having engaged in memorable matches against Disciples of The New Church, Triple X and The Naturals, many of which were contested in cages.
13 Brian Kendrick & Paul London
One of the best cruiserweight tag teams in WWE history, Brian Kendrick and Paul London had two memorable stints in the promotion. Their fast-paced matches featured many unique spots and maneuvers, and it’s a shame they weren’t given the chance to stay around longer to compete with better opposition. After leaving the WWE, the exciting pair stayed together on the independent circuit, winning ICW Tag Team Title.
12 Kane & X-Pac
The David and Goliath partnership between Kane and X-Pac were as over as any tag team you could think of in the Attitude Era. Before X-Pac turned on Kane in the fall of 1999, the team defeated the likes of Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett, The Dudley Boyz and The Acolytes for tag team supremacy, in the midst of a problematic relationship courtesy of exterior forces like D-Generation X and The Undertaker.
11 Sting & Lex Luger
Two of WCW’s biggest stars found success together in WCW’s tag team division from the early to mid-1990s, and you have to wonder if they were given the push together based on reputation alone.
But Sting and Lex Luger both had the chops, competing against the biggest tag teams in the world including The Road Warriors and The Steiner Brothers. These real-life best friends were also in the thick of things when the New World Order (nWo) formed at Bash at the Beach in 1996.
10 Two Dudes With Attitude
Much like the team of Sting and Luger, forming a tag team with the promotion’s top two superstars is a win-win situation.
Shawn Michaels and Diesel originally formed this team when Kevin Nash served as the “Heartbreak Kid’s” bodyguard, winning tag titles in 1994 shortly after. Their most successful run happened in 1995, though, when their biggest feat saw Michaels (then Intercontinental Champion) and Diesel (then WWE Champion) wrapped in gold after capturing their second tag team championship over Yokozuna and The British Bulldog (even if it only lasted one night).
Presented by Woman in 1989, both Ron Simmons and Butch Reed were a masked duo that soon dropped fabric and aligned with “The Godfather” Teddy Long. The team was given big pushes on separate occasions, pinning juggernaut teams like The Steiner Brothers and The Rock n’ Roll Express. Their partnership only lasted a few years, yet they were undoubtedly the most cutthroat team on the WCW roster.
While their valet Melina stole most of the attention, both Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury excelled as the playboys they portrayed. They were gifted wrestlers that weren’t afraid to take risks as high-flyers, which led to three title reigns. Mercury was no stranger to tag team wrestling, competing alongside Christian York prior to his WWE career, and Nitro also had a successful partnership with The Miz shortly after.
7 The Smokin' Gunns
It’s easy to laugh at the cowboy gimmick now, yet these two dudes weren’t exactly chopped liver in the ring.
Both Bart and Billy Gunn were arguably the best tag team in the WWE throughout the mid-1990s, and some would suggest they were more over when turned heel with Sunny by their side. Billy went on a successful career alongside Road Dogg as The New Age Outlaws, but Bart never fully recovered from his Brawl For All knockout loss to Butterbean at WrestleMania XV, which came after a forgetful run as a part of The New Midnight Express alongside Bob Holly.
6 The Quebecers
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers were another underrated tag team from the late-1980s, yet The Quebecers proved to be more successful.
In the early-1990s, where many of WWE’s top stars were exiled in a steroid scandal, The Quebecers were slowly making a name for themselves as one of the top teams in the world. Both Jacques Rougeau and Pierre Ouellet were gifted Canadian athletes, winning the WWE Tag Team Championship three times. Their manager at the time, Johnny Polo, would go on to be Raven, which was quite a shift in character.
The team had great matches against The Steiner Brothers, 1-2-3 Kid & Marty Jannetty and The Headshrinkers, and the hardcore fans will remember they were on opposing sides of Bret and Owen Hart at Royal Rumble 1994, where Owen turned on his older brother.
5 The Hollywood Blondes
Both Steve Austin and Brian Pillman were budding superstars when they formed the Hollywood Blondes in WCW. Misguided as singles wrestlers, these two weren’t the first ones associated with the name. Much like “The Nature Boy,” they borrowed the moniker from three teams that came before them, but they were certainly the best-known version.
They won two tag team championships together, and also earned Tag Team of The Year in 1993’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Both Austin and Pillman were incredibly arrogant on camera, but because they were exceptional wrestlers and some of the best competitors WCW had at the time, a cult following commenced until thousands of fans started to take notice.
They would both jump ship to WWE shortly after, engaged in a bitter quarrel which gave us the infamous “Pillman 9mm” home invasion angle.
4 World’s Greatest Tag Team
Team Angle, seen as one of the best stables in the past 15 years, featured two rising stars in Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas.
Both possessing collegiate wrestling backgrounds, these two freak athletes were able to do it all in the ring, whether they were flying off the ropes or chain wrestling for 10 minutes. The Kurt Angle associates had an immediate impact in WWE, winning titles just two months after their debut.
Not only were they two-time WWE Tag Team Champions, the team captured gold a decade after their initial WWE run, winning the ROH Tag Team titles twice. They both still compete, and it doesn’t look like they’ve fully closed the door on teaming up again.
3 Public Enemy
When Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge came through the curtain waving their hands in the air, you knew it was going to be a violent night.
The team performed in WWE, NWA and WCW, but their notoriety was due to their work in ECW, where they competed in countless hardcore matches against the promotion’s best. Their accolades are impressive too (over a dozen tag title wins) and wrestling fans shouldn’t forget the impact these two men had on the business, considering some of their maneuvers were way ahead of the times.
Plus, how can you not love a team that brought a table to the ring every night?
2 Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
Before the Hart Foundation returned as a stable in the latter half of the 1990s, brother-in-laws Hart and the Bulldog were one of the best pairings in WWE history.
Owen didn’t find much success alongside Koko B. Ware and Jim Neidhart before his successful run alongside Yokozuna, which made him a big player (that team was pretty underrated, too). The Bulldog, on the other hand, was one-half of the British Bulldogs, considered as one of the best tandems in wrestling history. Together, Owen and Davey Boy Smith made an impressive team that held the now-defunct World Tag Team Championship for 245 days. They competed against a who’s who of teams, including the Legion of Doom, the Smokin’ Gunns and Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon.
One of the fondest memories involving the two was when they competed against one another to crown the first European Champion in Germany as the tag team champions. They were never the same after losing the belts to Austin and Michaels, capping off a short yet successful run as an ensemble.
1 Harlem Heat
If you’re scratching your head at Harlem Heat’s inclusion, it’s understandable.
The truth of the matter is few mention Harlem Heat on the top of their greatest tag teams lists, which is downright laughable. Made up of brothers Booker T and Stevie Ray, they came a long way from their early days, billed as The Huffman Brothers and The Ebony Express.
Debuting for WCW in 1993, they were first subject to racist storylines that were scrapped, but when the foolishness was cast aside, they found themselves sharing rings with Sting, Vader, Sid Vicious, Dustin Rhodes and the Bulldog, before capturing their first tag team championship in just over a year’s time. Their five-month title reign meant WCW thought highly of both Booker and Stevie, who would win 10 championships together.
Sometimes accompanied by Col. Rob Parker and Sister Sherri, they feuded against some of the biggest teams in the business before the travesty that was Harlem Heat 2000. Booker T went on to a successful WWE career, and believe it or not, the team reunited earlier this year for the final time.
With Stevie Ray recently signing a Legends deal with WWE, we may see Harlem Heat suit up one last time, whether it's in the ring or for a WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.