Most of the time, you may look back at a tag team and notice how they've essentially had the same gimmick through the years, or had multiple gimmicks that were equally or similarly memorable. Take the examples of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart of The Hart Foundation, or their old Stampede Wrestling and WWE rivals, The British Bulldogs. Beer Money, aka James Storm and Bobby Roode, are another tag team that's been consistently memorable with no forgotten or forgettable gimmick change in between, same with Shawn Michaels and Triple H as part of D-Generation X. But there are so many other tag teams whose history includes some gimmick changes/early-era gimmicks that today's fans oftentimes overlook.
When choosing tag teams for this list, we're qualifying "famous" tag teams as those that have either won at least one tag team title, or enjoyed a substantially long run teaming together. (In some cases, we'll be featuring different configurations of these famous tag teams that included at least one member of the "classic" lineup.) Either way, however, we're looking back at those gimmicks of theirs that aren't as memorable as the ones they normally use, recalling the story behind these gimmicks, and in many cases, explaining why they didn't work out in the end. So with that having been said, let's look back at 15 well-known tag teams and their forgotten/forgettable gimmicks.
15 The New Day: Nation Of Domination V2.0
In 2014, Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods were men without creative direction. Kingston was essentially a jobber to the stars, and so was Big E, despite the fact he had just recently held the Intercontinental Championship. Xavier Woods was comparatively new to the main roster, but was firmly entrenched in the lower-card. For a moment, WWE thought it would be a good idea to revive the Nation of Domination gimmick of the late '90s, and have Woods trying to convince erstwhile tag team partners Kofi and Big E that they couldn't get ahead "by kissing babies and shaking hands."
Television viewers got to see a bit more of this, as Woods' words appeared to have a militant edge to them, and he seemed to be making an impression on Kingston and Big E.
Then they disappeared from TV, as WWE continued teasing the rise of a new Nation of Domination on house shows. As WWE Live events are typically used as a way to test potential turns and gimmick changes, it's safe to say that house show crowds weren't exactly looking forward to a modern-day take on the Nation.
Likewise, the WWE Universe panned The New Day once they re-debuted later that year with their gospel-inspired "Power of Positivity" gimmick, though we all know how things turned out when WWE allowed them to get goofy and made sure they were no longer "booty."
14 The Rockers: The New Rockers
Okay, so we're cheating it once again with this entry, but unlike other "New" tag teams of the 1990s, e.g. The New Blackjacks, The New Midnight Express, this team featured one member who was part of the original version. As such, we're listing The New Rockers as the "forgotten" incarnation of The Rockers – sure, they're a little more familiar than most of the teams on this list, but for the benefit of those who don't remember, allow us to take you back in time to 1996 and explain just how bad this gimmick was.
With original Rockers member Shawn Michaels tearing it up as a singles star, Marty Jannetty was rehired by the WWE late in 1995, as the company gave him one of many second chances in a career filled with drug-related missteps. Months later, he was teamed up with Al Snow, who then had the clean-shaven look and long hair to pass as a Rocker, and they became a villainous, yet comedic take on WWE's original "tag team specialists," with Snow using the name Leif Cassidy, i.e. a mash-up of 1970s teen idols, Leif Garrett and David and Shaun Cassidy.
Not surprisingly, the comedic, heelish Rockers reboot flopped, and Jannetty was out of the WWE once again in December 1996, with Snow moving on to slightly bigger things as the unhinged owner of a mannequin head.
13 Edge And Christian/Hardy Boyz: Los Conquistadores
There were many men who donned the golden bodysuits and masks and wrestled as Los Conquistadores, though the most prominent ones, if you could call them "prominent," were Puerto Rican jobbers Jose Estrada Sr. and Jose Luis Rivera. The highlights of their career came in Survivor Series 1988, when the ostensible jobbers, along with eventual winners Powers of Pain, were the last two teams in the 10-team tag team elimination match, then over a decade later, when they made their triumphant return, made their way up the card, and defeated The Hardy Boyz for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Of course, Conquistador Uno and Dos were not played by Estrada and Rivera, who were definitely long in the tooth by the turn of the 21st century.
Instead, they were played by Edge and Christian, who used this disguise in memorable, comical fashion to work around a stipulation that prohibited them from facing The Hardy Boyz for as long as they remained champions.
Then Edge and Christian, both unmasked, lost to Los Conquistadores, who turned out to be Matt and Jeff Hardy wearing the costumes they had stolen from E and C's henchmen, Christopher Daniels (yes, that Christopher Daniels) and Aaron Aguilera (later Jesus).
Sure, it was confusing in the end, but it was a fun storyline to watch, back in a time when tag team wrestling was arguably at its peak in the WWE.
12 The Godwinns: Southern Justice
We admit it's a bit of a stretch to call The Godwinns a "famous tag team." But for what it's worth, Henry O. and Phineas I. Godwinn held WWE's Tag Team Championships twice in the mid-'90s, proving that it was possible for a pair of pig farmers (I mean, just look at their names) to hold those prestigious straps. It was somehow a better push than the one they had in WCW, where they used the names Tex Slazenger and Shanghai Pierce, and it was a rather interesting character development for them when they shed their jolly personas and became nasty, unsmiling heels. The pig farmer gimmick soon ran its course, as Mark Canterbury (Henry) and Dennis Knight (Phineas) were taken off television early in 1998 for repackaging.
No longer were they sinister pig-farming hillbillies; instead, Canterbury and Knight used their real names as Southern Justice, a pair of suit-wearing thugs for Jeff Jarrett and his then-manager, Tennessee Lee (aka Col. Robert Parker most everywhere else).
The most interesting thing about this gimmick, we'd say, was how it was once mentioned on air that they used to be known as Henry and Phineas Godwinn. Unlike the goofy Godwinns gimmick, Southern Justice was boring and generic, and the tag team soon folded when Canterbury suffered a career-ending injury. Knight, meanwhile, stuck around a few more years and gained even more infamy as Ministry of Darkness member (Naked) Mideon.
11 The Hardy Boyz: The Jynx Brothers
In more than two decades teaming together, Matt and Jeff Hardy have come a long way from their jobber beginnings in the WWE. Now grizzled veterans of the industry, they've been repackaged countless times, yet have almost always used their real names, and that too includes their Broken Hardys stint in Impact – Nero, after all, is Jeff's middle name. But take note that we included the word "always" in the last sentence – for a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in 1996, the Hardyz were wearing green and red masks, and going by the names Ingus and Wildo Jynx.
At this point in The Hardy Boyz's career, Matt and Jeff were a couple years removed from their cameos in singles, with Jeff having just celebrated his 19th birthday. In other words, they were still trying to find their footing and play a more regular role on WWE television, but this gimmick?
It's hard to say what the Jynx Brothers were supposed to be, and it's not like they wrestled anybody of note anyway.
In fact, they did the job to another team we featured in this list, The Grimm Brothers, aka Ron and Don Harris before they became everyone's favorite generic bikers, 8-Ball and Skull of the Disciples of Apocalypse.
The Jynx Brothers were predictably short-lived in the WWE, and it wasn't long before the Hardyz returned to using their real names... and another year or so of job duty.
10 The Outsiders: The Band
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall definitely got a good push in WWE as Diesel and Razor Ramon respectively, but they truly reached iconic status when they stormed WCW using their real names, and being billed collectively as The Outsiders. Even when Hulk Hogan made his big heel turn and formed the New World Order, Nash and Hall were still The Outsiders within the nWo, and their partnership remained memorable even as the nWo went through God knows how many permutations until WCW finally closed shop in 2001.
Close to a decade later, and coincidentally on the 11th anniversary of Nash selling Hogan's Fingerpoke of Doom, the big man announced that "the band was getting back together" on the January 4, 2010 episode of Impact Wrestling.
By that, he meant the latest second-rate rehash of the nWo invasion, as Nash teamed up with Hall and Sean Waltman (now going by Syxx-Pac) with hopes of taking TNA over despite everyone's advance age at the time. Yup, sounds like classic Eric Bischoff/Hulk Hogan-era TNA to us – keep hiring those big names from the past, regardless if they're early-50-somethings like Hall and Nash.
Predictably, The Band flopped big-time, despite holding TNA's Tag Team Championships one time in their nine-month run, albeit with Eric Young having replaced Syxx-Pac as the stable's third member.
9 The Dudley Boyz: Expanded ECW Version
This list has its share of examples where the forgotten tag team gimmick is actually a stable gimmick. Take the example of The Dudley Boyz. As far as the WWE is concerned, it's only D-Von and Bubba Ray Dudley who are in the Hall of Fame. Most fans will probably only recognize D-Von and Bubba Ray for their work in WWE and TNA/Impact Wrestling, with many others also recognizing their "little brother," Spike Dudley/Brother Runt, from both promotions respectively. But if you look back at the Dudleyz's history, you might be surprised to find out that the Dudley brood was much larger back in the glory days of the original ECW.
In fact, it was only later into the Dudley Family's ECW when Bubba Ray and D-Von first appeared, as "Big Daddy Dudley" had a number of other "sons" competing in the ring at first – Dudley (yes, he had the same first name as his last), Snot, Sign Guy, and Dances With Dudley, to name a few. Bubba Ray (then spelled "Buh Buh Ray") debuted late in 1995, and a few months later, D-Von joined ECW as the heelish, angry family member who resented his "brothers'" comedic antics. Even stranger yet, Bubba Ray tagged with Spike before he tagged with D-Von – that only happened in February 1997, in case you're wondering!
8 The New Age Outlaws: Voodoo Kin Mafia
Oh, you didn't know? The New Age Outlaws took their business to TNA after both Road Dogg and Billy Gunn had a falling out with the WWE, with both DX alumni particularly salty about their former stablemate, Triple H. While there, the D-O-G-G took to using his real name, B.G. (Brian Girard) James, while the former Mr. A$$ had the audacity to call himself The New Age Outlaw because let's face it – his birth name of Monty Sopp is not a good wrestling name. Ultimately, he went the "brother from another mother" route and used the ring name Kip James, with the former Outlaws becoming the James Gang. Then came a Vince Russo-approved name change that, at first, sounded like mumbo-jumbo word salad.
Indeed, "Voodoo Kin Mafia" sounds like a pretty nonsense name, but if you look at the name long enough, and consider how B.G. and Kip were reprising a lot of their old DX signatures, you'll realize that it was thinly-veiled shade at Vincent Kennedy McMahon – their former boss. What else can you expect from a creative head who once led a TNA stable called Sports Entertainment Xtreme?
The New Age Outlaws eventually made nice with the WWE (Gunn's 2015 firing notwithstanding), and unless you were a huge TNA fan in the mid-2000s, chances are you've forgotten about the time they trolled Mr. McMahon as the Voodoo Kin Mafia.
7 Harlem Heat: Kane And Kole
Joining WCW in the early 1990s and sticking around till the bitter end, brothers Booker and Lash Huffman were true mainstays of the company, winning an impressive 10 Tag Team Championships for the company as Harlem Heat. But before they became known as Booker T and Stevie Ray, the Huffman brothers were given a rather tone-deaf twist to their gimmick that's mostly forgotten these days.
Although the gist of Harlem Heat's gimmick was always that of an edgy and tough African-American tag team, WCW crossed the line at first when giving them their original ring names and backstory. For starters, they were named Kane (no, not THAT Kane) and Kole, with the latter ring name being an obvious soundalike of "coal," as in "black as coal." Secondly, they were supposed to be prisoners whom their manager, Col. Robert Parker, had won in a card game, and they were also supposed to hit the ring wearing chains and shackles. Didn't WCW remember that they had just recently fired EVP Bill Watts over racially sensitive comments against African-Americans?
Fortunately, someone had enough sense to convince WCW's booking team that presenting Harlem Heat as a pair of black men in chains was a bad idea, though it wasn't until 1994 when their awful original ring names were finally changed.
6 The Harris Twins (WWE): The Grimm Brothers
Ron and Don Harris went through so many gimmick changes through the years that we've decided to include them twice in this list, with one gimmick each for WWE and WCW. Over in the WWE, they first appeared as long-haired, bearded mountain men Jacob and Eli Blu, and were managed by then-Yosemite Sam lookalike Dutch Mantel, aka Uncle Zebekiah, aka Zeb Colter during his most recent WWE run. Years later, they became 8-Ball and Skull of the Disciples of Apocalypse, and were virtually unrecognizable (for those who knew them as The Blu Brothers) with their bald heads and biker gear. In between that, however, they were Jared and Jason Grimm, and I wish I still remembered what their backstory was supposed to be.
Then again, perhaps they didn't have much of a backstory anyway – the Grimms were generic big guy heels, stripped of the unique look that made them at least faintly memorable as The Blu Brothers. As you'll find out elsewhere in this list, they did pick up a win over a disguised, still-unpushed version of The Hardy Boyz, though they also dropped a match against The Godwinns, suggesting that WWE didn't really know what to do with these consummate wrestling journeymen.
5 The American Wolves: The American Pitbulls
It seems like ages ago when many thought that The American Wolves – Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards – had a solid chance of getting hired by the WWE. They were, after all, one of the top tag teams in the independent scene, having won ROH's World Tag Team Championships twice at the time they reported to WWE's Performance Center in November 2013 for a high-profile tryout. They call Edwards "Mr. AIP," as in Anything is Possible – how about him and Richards bolstering a traditionally weak tag team scene in the WWE?
Days after they first reported to the Performance Center, Richards and Edwards wrestled a non-title match on NXT television, facing then-NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension in a losing effort (Remember when The Ascension were unstoppable? Yes, that was once a thing in NXT).
Interestingly, the Wolves were renamed to The American Pitbulls, and perhaps in another canine reference, Richards used the ring name Derek Billington, an obvious reference to Dynamite Kid's real name.
Edwards also used a different ring name, John Cahill, which, to be frank, sounds like something straight out of a random name generator.
Sadly, The American Wolves didn't make a good enough impression in their tryout, and just a few months later, they were picked up by TNA, en route to main event pushes for both men at various points in their runs.
4 The Steiner Brothers: University of Michigan Wrestlers
We're cheating a bit here with the Steiners, as this gimmick of theirs was actually quite successful. But Rick and Scott Steiner are so identifiable with WCW, to say little of Scott being known almost exclusively to present-day fans as some variation of his Big Poppa Pump persona, that it's easy for fans, especially younger ones, to forget that they were both in the WWE in the early 1990s, and were even two-time tag team champions for the company back in the day.
Looking back at how the Steiners were during their WWE run as a tag team, there's not much difference between WWE and WCW Rick – short, squat, and shouty with the thick 'stache and amateur wrestling headgear. Scott, however, looked and sounded really, REALLY different as a young man working for the WWE. He wasn't as jacked as he eventually became, he wore his naturally dark hair in a mullet, and for a man who became known for his barked-out, oftentimes indecipherable promos, he sounded extremely soft-spoken, and let Rick do most of the talking.
Despite their success in WWE's tag team division, the Steiners weren't too happy working for Vince McMahon, and returned to WCW in the mid 1990s, upon which they achieved more success as WCW's top tag team... until, of course, Scott transformed into the ranting, raving "Genetic Freak" we mostly know today.
3 The Road Warriors: The Hell Raisers
In over three decades as a tag team, The Road Warriors/Legion of Doom have undergone multiple incarnations. Of course, most fans recognize the classic duo of Animal and Hawk, though when Hawk's personal demons became a problem in the late '90s, former NFL defensive lineman Darren Drozdov has a slightly memorable run as Puke, before becoming better known under the shortened form of his surname. Then you had the ill-fitting pair of Animal and Heidenreich, which must have made Hawk, who died in 2003, turn in his grave. And how about those managers? Paul Ellering was the most recognizable, but you also had Sunny and Christy Hemme managing the L.O.D.'s 2000 and 2005 iterations respectively.
What often goes unmentioned is how the Hell Raisers tag team is part of Road Warriors canon – if the team was known as the Legion of Doom in the WWE, the Road Warriors went by The Hell Raisers in New Japan, with Hawk teaming up with Kensuke Sasaki, who went by the name Power Warrior and wore a similar ring costume with a green, instead of red theme. Hawk (or "Hawk Warrior") and Power Warrior teamed together from 1992 to 1996, and were even joined by Animal toward the end of their NJPW run, shortly before their eventual WWE return.
2 The Headbangers: The Flying Nuns/Sisters Of Love
Chaz Warrington and Glenn Ruth were a pair of young wrestlers who occasionally appeared on WWE programming in the '90s as enhancement talents, and got their big break later on in the decade as a pair of bald-headed, skirt-wearing heavy metal fans, quite predictably known as Mosh and Thrasher, The Headbangers. We've oftentimes gone in detail about what Mosh did while Thrasher was injured in 1999 – he was, of course, the infamous Beaver Cleavage, and later on the alleged domestic abuser named Chaz. But those weren't the only bad gimmicks Mosh played on WWE television, as he and Thrasher, shortly before becoming the ultimate caricature of '90s nu-metal fans, once wrestled in drag.
Early in 1997, WWE was already experimenting with ways to make its programming edgier, and one of those experiments was Shotgun Saturday Night, which aired from seedy-looking nightclubs and, in its premiere episode, featured Sister Angelica and Mother Smucker, aka The Flying Nuns, emerging victorious over The Godwinns. With Brother Love impressed by these two "nuns" who were obviously men in habits, he renamed them the Sisters of Love, but fast forward a few weeks later and the gimmick was shelved, never to be mentioned again, even as the repackaged Headbangers' penchant for skirts was a key element of their new, and more enduring characters.
1 The Harris Twins (WCW): Creative Control
Yes indeed, Ron and Don Harris were probably the 1990s tag team scene's answer to Ed Leslie in singles. With stints in both major North American promotions at this time, as well as ECW, they worked under a variety of names aside from their own, and there's another example of them on this list where we covered their most forgotten WWE gimmick. Now let's move on to their WCW stint, and that time they became Vince Russo's on-air, creative stooges, with WCW taking a page from the book of Mike "Virgil/Vincent" Jones.
For those unfamiliar with the number one claim to fame of today's loneliest retired wrestler, Jones was asked by both WWE and WCW to troll mainstays of the other company, working as Virgil (as in Virgil "Dusty Rhodes" Runnels) in the former company, and Vincent and Shane (as in McMahon) in the latter. With the long-retired Jerry Brisco and Pat Patterson becoming on-air regulars for WWE in the late '90s, the former 8-Ball and Skull switched sides to WCW in 1999, and were promptly renamed Gerald and Patrick, aka Creative Control. Yep, just like Mr. McMahon's own "stooges" in the WWE.
The "Creative Control" gimmick didn't last long for the Harris twins, who were back to using their real names just a few months later.