Tag team wrestling has been in the doldrums for the last decade or so but is enjoying a comeback. WWE seems so intent on pushing it again that both brands have tag titles once more. The New Day just finished their record reign and SmackDown is doing nicely as well. TNA and ROH still have their belts too to push things and the question of who can hold them is a big one. It’s tricky as there are many choices but not everyone is worthy of holding the belts. That’s different than in the past in some ways, as it’s really impressive how many truly great and deserving teams never held the big world titles.
WWE has the most in that regard as their division in the late 1980s was fantastic. WCW, on the other hand, seemed to slap almost any pairing with a tag title run no matter how short. Of course, not everyone deserved the belts at all (as seen by many of those WCW teams). It’s remarkable to see how many really great teams never got a run when baffling pairings reigned as champs for some time.
Here are eight tag teams that deserved world championship runs but never got them and seven that never should have had the belts in the first place. This just shows how tag team wrestling can be perplexing.
15 DESERVED: Powers of Pain
There have been a lot of teams to copy the Road Warriors with Demolition famous as getting even bigger than the LOD as tag team champions. The Powers of Pain were among the better copycats, hard in the ring but showing some skill as well. Warlord and Barbarian just gelled well and had a good run in the NWA facing the Warriors in great battles. However, a pay dispute led to them leaving just when a feud was taking off.
They journeyed to WWE where they were pushed as faces against Demolition but fans didn’t take to that. So in a great double-turn, they became heels with Mr. Fuji as manager and it fit them better. Maybe having them beat the Demos for the belts would have been a good move to spark things up even if it meant Demolition not having their record reign. They eventually split but it's funny to think how the Powers couldn’t quite match the other two teams in a title run.
14 DIDN’T DESERVE: Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude
This is an incredibly odd pairing on many levels. Fernandez was a hot worker, rising up with his Texas vibe and being a good heel worker. Rude was taking off coming off a WCCW championship reign and his arrogance was riding high. Yet having them as a regular team was off, their chemistry not that tops and too many opposites. Yet in 1986, they were put over the Rock n Roll Express to win the NWA tag titles. Given the amazingly hot teams around at the time (such as the Road Warriors) having Rude and Fernandez as champs was an odd choice as their matches didn’t exactly set the promotion on fire.
Their end was quite sudden as in early 1987 Rude jumped to WWE without giving JCP any notice. Thus, they had to use a non-title match against The Express as the “title change” for TV. A fitting end for a bizarre choice as champions at a major period.
13 DESERVED: The Harts
Bret has said he always wished this could have happened. He, of course, had been ruling in WWE as multiple Tag Team, Intercontinental, and World Champion and doing a great job as one of their biggest stars. Owen had spent time in tag teams with Jim Neidhart as the New Foundation and then with Koko B. Ware as High Energy. While great, he wasn't given the major push he deserved and it obviously annoyed him. In late 1993, he and Bret began teaming up more which was to fuel their eventual breakup and Owen’s heel turn.
That came when they lost in a match to The Quebecers but given how genius they were in the ring, it might have been better had they won the titles first and then lost to cause the breakup. It would have been great and Bret obviously wished for it as even a short run as champions with Owen would have been a great stamp on the Hart family legacy.
12 DIDN’T DESERVE: Deuce and Domino
Even if they had appeared in early 1990s WWE, this would have been a ridiculous act but showing it in 2006 was just nuts. A pair of decent workers, they came out dressed like 1950s greasers in leather jackets with a “doo-wop” song as their entrance theme and a valet named Cherry on roller skates. The gimmick was okay but it was reflected too much in their ring work. In turn, their work suffered trying to live up to the act too much. They won the tag belts off the long-reigning Paul London and Brian Kendrick, an odd choice to dethrone them.
Domino suffered a badly cracked orbital and was out for months which exposed Deuce's weaknesses in the ring. They dropped the belts to Matt Hardy and MVP and vanished quickly, showing a classic case of a team more memorable for their bad gimmick than their matches.
11 DESERVED: Fabulous Ones
One of the first to see how music videos were going to change things in the 1980s, Memphis promoter Jackie Fargo had a great idea. He took Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, two handsome mustached workers and put them together. He then had them do videos in suspenders and ties, set to rock music, bowler hats and gloves completing the image. Ladies loved watching them strut but the Fabulous Ones also backed it up with first rate team-work and mixed some brawling with fine technical stuff. While they won some regional titles, a major one always eluded them.
They were to win the AWA titles off the Road Warriors but the Warriors did a shoot on them in the ring and refused to drop the belts in what they thought was a dumb manner. The Fabs broke up in 1987 as Lane would join the Midnight Express to win the NWA tag belts but odd that a team that helped shape the presentation of wrestling in the ‘80s wouldn’t be on top.
10 DIDN’T DESERVE: David Flair and Crowbar
WCW really did help push the idea of “anyone can have a run as champs” with their tag titles. Whereas WWE guys would hold the belts months on end, WCW would have fast reigns by pretty much any pairing being tossed together. By 2000, the belts were barely worth their weight in gold but even then, this was a terrible pairing. David Flair possessed none of his dad’s skill or charisma yet kept being shoved down the throats of fans with bad “heel turns” that just showed how terrible he was.
Crowbar was a beefy worker and was even worse in the ring with a bad attitude and their “teamwork” left a lot to be desired. They won a tournament for the vacant titles thanks to massive weapons and interference and their defenses were truly horrible to watch. They dropped the belts after a few weeks but just getting them showed how badly WCW had fallen and how depleted their tag ranks were.
9 DESERVED: Power & Glory
According to many, this was supposed to happen. In 1990, Hercules was a veteran of WWE while Paul Roma had promise but both floundering in the mid-card. So WWE decided to put them together with Slick as their manager and the two clicked nicely. They had awesome sunglasses, got along well and their Power-Plex finisher was impressive. The fans responded to their heel moves and they were rising well. The plan was that the Rockers would win the tag belts in late 1990 and then Power & Glory would get them by WrestleMania for a good run. But first, the Rockers' win was invalidated due to backstage politics. Then The Nasty Boys were hired from WCW and given an immediate run as the champs while P&G faded into the background and eventually split. It’s too bad as they had all the potential to rise up as a great heel pairing and give the veteran Hercules and young Roma a good run on top.
8 DIDN’T DESERVE: American Males
Starting out, Buff Bagwell really wasn’t a bad worker. He was actually a quick and fast guy, capable in the ring and showed real promise. In WCW, he was seen as a good tag guy and put into partnerships with 2 Cold Scorpio and then the Patriot, both of which had runs as tag champions briefly. In 1996, he was paired with Scotty Riggs as the American Males, a pair of “male model” types in sunglasses and coats and saddled with one of the absolutely worst theme songs of all time. WCW really thought these muscle heads had the fans going and while ladies liked them, it was not nearly enough to make up for their flaws. They upset Harlem Heat for the titles on a Nitro but the reaction was so poor that just days later, they dropped the belts back. Bagwell would turn heel to join the New World Order yet even this short reign shows how badly WCW misjudged what fans wanted in champions.
7 DESERVED: Can-Am Connection
WWE was really hot on this pairing in 1987 and it’s easy to see why. Rick Martel was coming off a run as AWA champion, a great worker and good on the mic. Tom Zenk was a rising star in his own right and together, they formed a fine pairing. They were incredibly popular with female fans, good mix in the ring and their “slingshot splash” finisher was pretty unique. The heat for them was rising more and plans for them to get a real feud with the Hart Foundation. However, an issue over money revealed how Zenk and Martel pretty much hated each other, each considering themselves the real star of the team. Zenk left the company with Martel teaming with Tito Santana to become Strike Force and hold the titles. Too bad they had to break up as their chemistry in the ring showed they had real potential as champions.
6 DIDN’T DESERVE: New Legion of Doom
Sometimes, it’s best to just leave a legacy to die. For two decades, the Road Warriors were seen as the greatest team ever, changing the game totally with their leather and face paint look, trashing every opponent in their path and riding high. They held the AWA, NWA, IWGP and WWE tag titles and were regarded as true legends. When Hawk died in 2003, that seemed to be the end of it with Animal coming about in 2005 to help promote a DVD about the team. He was accosted by tag champions MNM who jokingly challenged him. Enter Heidenreich, the goofball muscleman known for bad poems who offered his aid to Animal.
He was given face paint, Mohawk, and his own spiked pads as they would beat MNM for the belts. But this new version was not what fans wanted one bit as they felt it spat on the memory of Hawk. They faded fast and most thought this was a bad nostalgia trip and part of the LOD’s legacy to forget.
5 DESERVED: The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
Already stars in their family’s Montreal promotion, Jacques and Raymond came into WWE as clean-cut babyfaces. A terrific team, they mixed some fine skill with a bit of high flying and sensational in their moves. They seemed to beat the Hart Foundation for the titles in Montreal but it was overturned which angered fans. The duo then switched to a brilliant gimmick as “All-American Boys,” waving flags, facetiously talking of loving the country and being total jerks. This got them newly over with Jimmy Hart as their manager, opening them up to facing face teams like The Rockers for great matches. Like many teams of the time, the Rougeaus just couldn’t break out as Demolition dominated the scene then. Raymond would retire due to injuries as Jacques became The Mountie then holding the tag belts as part of the Quebecers but it's a shame a fun team never got their real run.
4 DIDN’T DESERVE: Pacman Jones and Ron Killings
Here is the idiocy of TNA on full display. In a desperate attempt to get some press, the company decided to shell out a few hundred grand for Pacman Jones, a Tennessee Titans football player. Jones was available due to the fact that he was suspended for his part in a shooting. TNA pushed him hard ignoring that due to his contract, Jones was forbidden from partaking in any actual wrestling. Not letting a little thing like that stand in the way, TNA paired him with Ron Killings and had them win the tag titles. This meant Killings did all the wrestling while Jones stood on the apron and did his best to avoid any actual contact with guys. His “promos” were stilted and horrible and the publicity wasn’t best as the media basically acted like TNA was a step DOWN for Jones. Nothing sums up how bad this company can get than this idea of a “championship duo.”
3 DESERVED: The Killer Bees
Jim Brunzell had already showcased his work in the AWA as he and Greg Gange were the High Flyers, reigning as tag team champions. In WWE, he joined with B. Brian Blair, calling themselves The Killer Bees with yellow and black shorts and headbands. They showed some great sting on their own, a fine team working great matches with Brunzell’s high flying mixing with Blair’s technical work. They became famous for the bit where they would don masks midway through a match to confuse their opponents and got them nicely over. Really, they were victims of timing as they were in a period where WWE was packed with several great teams already and that prevented them from doing much more than mid-card stuff. It's a shame as they were a terrific pair and could have done well with a run as champions on their own.
2 DIDN’T DESERVE: Eric Young and ODB
Once, the Knockout Division was a true high point of TNA, boasting some very high-class ladies who gave more actual wrestling action than WWE did. The division was so strong that TNA even created a Knockouts tag title to help boost it up more. For a while, it was held by good teams like Brooke and Tara, Sarita and Rosita and Gail Kim and Madison Rayne. But then came the final champions: ODB and Eric Young. Yes, TNA’s resident goofball was allowed to win a women’s championship with his hard-drinking partner. It was meant as a joke but they kept on defending the belts over and over and were recognized as champs despite Young being a man. It basically killed the titles off, long forgotten before they were finally deactivated and the Knockouts began slumping as a whole. Yet another reason to dislike TNA.
1 DESERVED: The Rockers
It really is remarkable how they never held the titles. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty rose high in the AWA, showing amazing drive and some sensational moves and held the tag titles there for a bit. It took a while for them to get into WWE but when they did, they were stunning. In 1989, you didn’t see guys pulling off such amazing tandem moves, totally in synch in high-flying and technical work and fantastic, making any match a winner. They put on classics against the Brainbusters and especially their amazing battle with the Orient Express at the 1991 Royal Rumble.
In October of 1990, they did beat the Hart Foundation for the belts on Saturday Night’s Main Event. However, a rope breaking marred the entire match and so it never aired with WWE preventing The Rockers from ever getting the belts due to politics. They had their famed split in 1992 and each would hold the gold with other partners down the line. But it still amazes that one of the most fantastic teams WWE knew never got a run as actual champions.