Welcome back to the fifth installment of the greatest series of articles to look at the PTBN GWWE Tag Team Project in the history of our sport. I’m about halfway through the teams I want to cover (I’ve hit 34 teams with this edition), so it’s both a milestone and a motivation to keep plugging away. You can check out the archives of past articles here. As always, please let me know if you have thoughts on these teams or the articles, or if you just want to join the discussion, you can do so in the Facebook group.
This week I added a couple bonus teams, one that I believe I’ve watched all their existing WWE footage and was an easy call for me, and the other is a team that hasn’t been talked about much, but I think is earning more consideration and discussion. Also, one formatting change, starting with this article the team I want to appear in the preview photo will appear last in the “main event” spot, rather than going in chronological order.
Let’s get started.
Rick Martel-Tony Garea
Years Teamed in WWE: 1980-1982
Total Matches: 261
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 213
Match Suggestions: vs. Mr. Fuji-Mr. Saito (10/31/81), vs. Moondogs (Rex & King 3/17/81 appeared on 4/4/81 ASW), vs. Moondogs (12/29/80- MSG), w/ Pat Patterson vs. Moondogs-Capt. Lou Albano (2/16/81), vs. Wild Samoans (11/8/80, appeared JIP on ASW 11/15/80), vs. Moondogs (7/21/81 appeared on 7/25/81 ASW)
Thoughts: The earliest great babyface team I’ve found so far, Martel and Garea are masters at working a tag team match. Their matches against Fuji-Saito and the Moondogs are all excellent. Both guys are good sellers and Martel is one of the greatest fiery babyfaces of all time. Martel and Garea do an excellent job at gaining the crowd’s sympathy and support leading to hot matches against any opponent other than Baron Mikel Scicluna (they’re only human.) This will surely be my highest ranked Garea team (though I am interested in his team with Larry Z). I originally expected Strike Force to rank higher for me among Martel’s teams, but am starting to reconsider. The Strike Force-Islanders series may have the better matches, but Martel-Garea have more longevity, longer tag reigns and the crowd never turned on them, like they did on Strike Force when they faced Demolition. Regardless, this Martel-Garea team has been impressive. I knew they were good, but discovering how good has been one of the most enjoyable parts of this project. They are also the most follicly gifted team in the history of our sport with manes so luscious they make Sam Malone jealous.
Placement Range: They’ve really shot up my list after watching more of their matches, and the fact that they’re the first great babyface team means something to me. I feel like they carried heel teams of the day to matches they wouldn’t have with anyone else and should get a lot of credit for that. They’ve got good longevity and two decent title reigns and were over as hell. All that puts them in the 15-25 range on my list.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1974–1975
Total Matches: 44
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 86
Match Suggestions: vs. Tony Parisi-Louis Cerdan (11/17/75), vs. Dominic DeNucci-Victor Rivera (1/13/74), vs. Dominic DeNucci-Irish Pat Barrett (1975)
Thoughts: The Blackjacks are a well-regarded team by fans of the era, but that has to be for their work outside the WWWF more than their work in the company. Wrestlingdata has them at 44 matches with WWWF in 1975, which is roughly the same amount as Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle (as a team), but the Blackjacks don’t have the classic matches to their credit. Footage of the Blackjacks is hard to come by, but I found three matches on YouTube, and they all stink. Three matches is a small sample size, but it’s about 7 percent of the matches they had in WWWF. And I find it hard to believe the Blackjacks had really good matches, but the rare ones that survived are the bad matches. I will note that Wrestlingdata had the team only appearing in WWWF in 1975 and one of the matches linked in the Facebook thread is from 1974, so maybe they have a few more matches than Wrestlingdata gives them credit for, but I’d have to hear of several hundred more matches to sway me into consideration.
Placement Range: If there’s a case to be made, I’m not the one to make it. I can’t see any criteria that the Blackjacks would do well in for a WWE list. They don’t have longevity, 44 matches is a very small sample without a top-tier match to supplement. They held the tag titles for just under three months, but that was a pretty short run for the time period compared to the other teams I’ve looked at. And based on the footage we have, their matches weren’t good. Hard pass on the Blackjacks for me.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1993-1996, 2003
Total Matches: 75
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 88
Match Suggestions: vs. Razor Ramon-1-2-3 Kid (Action Zone 10/30/94), vs. Yokozuna-British Bulldog (IYH: Triple Header), vs. Marty Jannetty-Razor Ramon (7/27/93), vs. Bret Hart-Undertaker (March 1996)
Thoughts: Two Dudes with Attitude! That name sounds pretty ridiculous outside the realm of mid-1990s WWF, and Shawn Michaels and Diesel are a tag team that seems very much of that time and place. On the surface, their case is pretty solid, 75 matches is considerably more than I would have guessed, two tag team title reigns and the great Action Zone match with Kid and Razor are great points in their favor. But the case for them just seems a little empty to me. The tag title reigns never amounted to much, with few defenses making tape from the first one and the one from IYH Triple Header was reversed the next night on a Dusty finish. The famous Action Zone tag is great, and there is a pretty good match against Jannetty and Razor, but nothing else I’ve found comes anywhere close to that match. It really seems like 75 matches should have something more interesting. I’d love to see their matches against the Headshrinkers, but I haven’t found any yet. HBK and Big Daddy Cool have a strong enough case to make it, but the harder I looked the more I found the team lacking a bit.
Placement Range: I can’t see a WWE list not including them, and they meet all the criteria I’m looking for. I did hope I might find a few more good matches along the lines of the Action Zone Kliq tag, but no such luck. They’ll be in the lower quarter, probably in the 75-90 range.
Years Teamed in WWE: 2001-2005, 2012
Total Matches: 65
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 62
Match Suggestions: vs. Booker T-Goldust vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Storm-Regal (Armageddon ’02), vs. Kane vs. Bubba & Spike vs. Jeff Hardy & Rob Van Dam (TLC- 10/7/02- RAW), vs. Trish-Lita (Armageddon ’03), vs. Booker T- Goldust (No Mercy ’02)
Thoughts: I love both Jericho and Christian, but I think it’s fair to say that ’02-’03 was a time both guys were a bit aimless, with looks and characters that badly needed freshening up. Both were great at playing cheesy comedy heels, but the act was wearing a bit thin. Too bad, because they were a helluva team. I feared their matches with Booker T and Goldust wouldn’t hold up, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well each team player their role. They were also a crucial part of the four-way TLC match on Raw that was named Best Match Ever on Raw for Some Random WWE List of Self-Promotion that I Don’t Remember. That match is clearly not the best match in Raw history, but is clearly a helluva match. I think Jericho and Christian worked quite well together and had good chemistry, even if something always seemed to go wrong (the ropes broke right before the finish in an otherwise good match with BookDust, for example.) The angle where they broke up with the $1 Canadian bet over Trish and Lita is one of my favorite mid-card angles and it helped set Christian on the path to Peep Show stardom and Jericho to become the Best in the World at What He Does. And the match they had against Trish and Lita at Armageddon ’03 is brilliant storytelling to me. From Jericho not fighting Trish but being a dick heel to Lita to both guys working to the women’s strengths to sell the offense that was believable and still show the strength and power difference, everything really worked in that match. I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it upon rewatch. Longevity is a bit of a weak spot with this team, and while they were good in the ring and quite entertaining in backstage segments, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone of their tag team work.
Placement Range: Where this team ranks is going to vary greatly depending on what you value. If you place a heavy emphasis on longevity, they’re probably going to suffer. I’d like to have one classic match and Jericho and Christian fell just short of that. But they were a very good team that always worked well together in the ring and were really entertaining outside of the ring. I have them right around the middle of my list and that feels right. Pencil them in somewhere between 45-65.
The World’s Greatest Tag Team
Years Teamed in WWE: 2002-2004, 2006-2007, 2009
Total Matches: 223
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 180
Match Suggestions: vs. Kidman-Rey Mysterio (Vengeance ’03), vs. Kidman-Rey Mysterio (8/14/03 SD episode #208), vs. Los Guerreros (2/6/03 – SD), vs. Hardy Boyz- (One Night Stand ’07- Ladder Match), vs. Eddie Guerrero-Tajiri (Judgment Day ’03), vs. Los Guerreros (Backlash ’03), w/Kurt Angle vs. Lesnar-Benoit (No Way Out ’03)
Thoughts: Maybe the biggest challenge with this team was not recommending nearly every match I watched. They really were consistently great during their heyday, continuing the momentum of the blue brand tag division after Benoit-Angle and Edge-Mysterio went onto other things. Los Guerreros were still around, however, and their feud with TWGTT resulted in lots of great matches on SD and PPV. Once Chavo got hurt, things got even better (because Chavo sucks) and TWGTT had a banger of a ladder match against Eddie and Tajiri at Judgment Day ’03. Their matches with Kidman and Mysterio at Vengeance ’03 and on SD were also highlights. The reunion after Shelton’s singles run had diminishing returns, but saw some good matches against the Hardys in 2007. I would’ve told you they had more matches together and longer title reigns if you asked me before this project, so longevity hurts them a bit relative to other top-tier teams. They could’ve been a bit more charismatic and shown more personality, but they also could’ve gotten years out of the no-nonsense wrestling machine team they were as Team Angle and later with Heyman.
Placement Range: The longevity hurts them a bit, but they were just so consistently good. I’ve got a bundle of teams slotted in from about 7-15, and I keep going back and forth on the order of those teams. TWGTT is one of those teams, though I expect they’ll wind up toward the end of that range.
Years Teamed in WWE: 2014-2017
Total Matches: 278
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 152 (NXT and SD)
Match Suggestions: vs. Revival (NXT Takeover Dallas 4/1/16), vs. Revival (NXT Takeover The End), vs. Slater-Rhyno vs. Usos vs. Orton-Harper- (SD 12/27/16), vs. Usos (SD 3/21/17), vs. Revival (7/6/16- NXT- 2/3 falls),
Thoughts: American Alpha had tremendous matches with the Revival, and we’d talk a lot more about those matches if DIY and the Revival didn’t surpass them later in the year. But that shouldn’t diminish the American Alpha-Revival match-ups, which are still better than all but a handful of tag matches in company history. AA also had the most success transitioning from NXT to the main roster. I understand that is like saying they are the tallest midget or the best looking waitress at Denny’s (shout-out to Steve Williams for that quote.) Still, as of this writing they are only the second team to hold tag-team gold in both NXT and on the main roster. In addition to their NXT work, which was tremendous, they had very good matches with the Usos on SmackDown. American Alpha’s in-ring style works quite well, as they’re able to sell and generate sympathy with the crowd, and still have convincing offense. For those that want to be close to the energy and economic opportunity of Suplex City, but want to avoid the crowds and get good value for your home investments and top-notch schools, come to Belly to Belly Park, where Gable and Jordan set up residence. Of course, the team had tons of potential, so naturally the WWE “creative” writer monkeys had to split the team so Jordan could be Kurt Angle’s son. I’m sure this is some kind of rib that makes Vince piss himself with laughter to this day, while making anyone with a brain ask, “Why the fuck did the break up American Alpha for this stupid shit?” Still, the top-notch matches with the Revival and the Usos, success at both NXT and SD and nearly 300 matches with the company make American Alpha a strong candidate for the middle of the list.
Placement Range: American Alpha was one team I didn’t think was getting enough love on their Facebook thread. I get that their main roster run was uninspired, but they did win the SD tag titles and had classic matches in NXT. I saw many voters talking about a place near the bottom of their list, which is better than leaving them off, but I hope they haven’t made a list yet. Because putting a list together, AA is way higher on my list. I can’t find enough teams I think have better resumes, so they’ll be in my top half, somewhere from 30-50, I imagine. Maybe I’m ranking them higher than most, but I just don’t see enough teams that have their number of matches, success and quality of matches to knock them down any lower.
Years Teamed in WWE: 2017-2018
Total Matches: 87 (as of 9/18/18)
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns:
Match Suggestions: vs. Mustache Mountain- (NXT UK Championship 6/26/18), vs. Mustache Mountain (NXT TV 7/11/18), vs. Mustache Mountain (NXT Takeover- Brooklyn IV 8/18/18), vs. Oney Lorcan-Danny Burch (NXT Takeover Chicago II- 6/16/18), vs. Authors of Pain-Roderick Strong vs. Sanity (NXT Takeover WarGames- 11/18/17)
Thoughts: When we started this project, I didn’t think Undisputed Era had a prayer of making my list. I enjoyed Fish and O’Reilly with other companies, but they weren’t setting NXT on fire. Then Roderick Strong joined UE and they were off to the races. Strong has been one of my favorite under-the-radar wrestlers for years, so no surprise his pairing with KOR coincided with me really starting to love UE matches. Since that time, not only do I think they make the top 100, I think their case is much stronger than most are giving them credit for, and they may be much higher on my list than I expected. Their trilogy of matches with Mustache Mountain (6/26, 7/11 and Takeover Brooklyn IV) were all-timers. The only set of three matches that good I can think of are the TLC/ ladder matches between the Dudleys, Hardys and Edge-Christian and the New Day and Usos last year. All five of those teams will be in my top 15, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Mustache Mountain-UE matches put UE toward the lower-middle portion of the list. The Lorcan-Burch match at Takeover Chicago was also tremendous, and they have six-man matches and KOR-Fish matches to supplement their case.
Placement Range: This is another team where what you value will dictate their placement on the list. But if you value great matches, then the Undisputed Era should make your list. I would argue their recent run has yielded more great matches than many teams that will make this list produced in years. I think a good comparison to UE are the SD Six teams, which had great matches in a short run. I have UE just below Angle-Benoit and Edge-Mysterio, comfortably in the middle of the list from 40-60.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1985-1991, 1997
Total Matches: 724
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 479
Match Suggestions: vs. Brain Busters (SummerSlam ’89), vs. British Bulldogs (1/18/86-Capitol Center), British Bulldogs (SNME aired 5/2/87- 2/3 falls), vs. Rockers (SNME aired 4/28/90), VS. Demolition (SummerSlam ’90, 2/3 falls), vs. Demolition (SummerSlam ’88), vs. Nasty Boys (WrestleMania VII)
Thoughts: With more than 700 matches the Hart Foundation has almost unparalleled longevity, lengthy title reigns and is one of the first teams that comes to mind when you think of WWE tag teams. As for their in-ring work…deep breath…I think they are a good, not great team that has many good and few great matches. I think their match with the Brain Busters at SS ’89 is their best, which I have right around 4 stars. I consider that match my “gatekeeper” match to elite level WWE tag team matches, meaning anything I like better makes the cut, anything I think is worse doesn’t and the Harts-Brain Busters is the dividing line. So, I do like that match and I do think the team is good, but I am not nearly as high on their work as many. I don’t like the Demolition SummerSlam matches as much as many do, and I just never felt much connection to the Harts or excitement from their matches. The matches are all technically fine or good, but just lack a little sizzle for me. Their longevity, title reigns and solid work earn them a high spot on my list, but I’m not their biggest fan.
Placement Range: I’ve heard them touted as a number one contender, but to me they don’t have the matches to make that claim. Other than their Brain Busters match I mentioned there’s nothing I’d call better than pretty good. Fans tout their many “classics” but whenever I find the matches they’re referring to, I’m almost always disappointed, and don’t feel like their matches with the British Bulldogs, Killer Bees and others are the classics they’re made out to be. Still, longevity, title reigns, reputation and good matches put them in a tier somewhere between 7-14, so the Hart Foundation is either in my top 10 or just outside it. And it does speak volumes that someone who is not a huge fan has to give credit where it’s due, possibly with a top 10 ranking.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back soon with a theme column looking at more teams. As always thanks for reading and if I missed any matches or other highlights let us know on the Facebook page.