Welcome to the penultimate (warrior) edition of the House Afire series. As most of you know, the voting is open and you can vote here. If you’d like to read about all the team’s we’ve already covered you can check out our archives. Or you can join the discussion on the Facebook group here.
Since the last article, the people have spoken and all six-man teams will be considered one tag team. Remember this when you vote. For my ballot, this will shoot The Shield into the top five (I believe I will have them #2) and opened up two extra spots.
Seeing no more old business, let’s get started.
Rising Suns (Prof. Toru Tanaka & Mitsu Arakawa)
Years Teamed in WWE: 1969
Total Matches: 61
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 190 WWWF International Tag Team Titles
Match Suggestions: n/a
Thoughts: Professor Toru Tanaka and Mitsu Arakawa, known collectively as The Rising Suns, were the inaugural WWWF International Tag Team Champions. They won a fictitious tournament, presumably taking place in Rio de Janeiro, to win the straps sometime in June 1969. They would lose those titles to Tony Marino (laces out Tony!) and Victor Rivera in December of the same year. They had more than 60 matches with the company taking on such stars as Bruno Sammartino, Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski and Battman (I’m assuming the second t means it’s not the masked guy that shares a house with Bruce Wayne.) I should probably also add that I was much less impressed with Tanaka’s work with Fuji than many others seem to be, though I’m not sure if that should play a part in my decision here.
Placement Range: You know, for a team with no footage, this is probably about as good a resume as you’re going to get. I mean, I have no idea how big a deal they were, but 60 matches is quite a bit for that time, and they were facing guys like Bruno and Go-Rill-A. The International titles were more or less vanity titles, but the fact that they appear to have been created for the Rising Suns likely means something. Wikipedia had next to nothing on this team, but I may try to dig a bit more, or throw them toward the end of the list if I have a spot.
Tony Garea-Larry Zybzsko
Years Teamed in WWE: 1974, 1977-1979
Total Matches: 240
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 105
Match Suggestions: w/ Dusty Rhodes vs. Johnny & Jerry Valentine w/ Capt. Lou vs. (MSG-3/26/79), vs. Yukon Lumberjacks (11/21/78- Championship Wrestling- link in FB thread), vs. Bull Molino & Johnny Rodz (ASW 1/20/79), vs. Jack Evans & Larry Sharpe (1/28/78)
Thoughts: Garea and Zybzsko were miles ahead of most other teams of their time when it comes to in-ring work. Larry Z. in particular, shows babyface fire you wouldn’t expect if you’ve only watched his later years heel work. He really lays in the punches and both guys do a good job of keeping the action flowing, which wasn’t always the case for 1970s WWWF tag team wrestling. The match where they win the tag team belts from the Yukon Lumberjacks is a good match with incredible heat, and it feels like a huge moment when they win and Zybzsko decks Lou Albano. They had about 240 matches with the company and held the tag teams straps for 105 days. I really enjoy watching this team work, which is not always the case with teams from this era, but I consider Garea and Larry Z. to be a bit of find from this project. I know it’s late in the game, but if you’re looking to fill a spot, or want to check out a team from the 70s that were good workers, take a look at Garea and Larry. There’s a handful of matches on the Network from All-Star Wrestling episodes and a few on YouTube I mentioned above.
Placement Range: As I mentioned, I consider this team a bit of a find. I’ve currently got them in the low 60s, so I’ll call their range 55-70 on my list. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you should and consider them for your list, as well.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1987-1989
Total Matches: 145
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 152
Match Suggestions: vs. Demolition (WM IV), vs. Brain Busters (WM V),vs. Islanders (12/21/87- Prime Time Wrestling), vs. Hart Foundation (10/27/87- aired Prime Time Wrestling 11/12/87), vs. Islanders (Prime Time Wrestling- 5/30/88-⅔ falls), vs. Islanders (10/3/87- Boston Garden), vs. Demolition (Prime Time Wrestling 7/11/88)
Thoughts: Strike Force was one of the definitive white-meat babyface teams during one of the hottest periods in WWF history and one of the “golden ages” for tag-team wrestling. They’ve got big moments at consecutive WrestleManias, when Demolition defeats them for the tag team titles at WM IV and when they break up during a match with the Brain Busters at WM V. The WM V match is most remembered for their break-up angle, but it’s a really good match before Martel walks out on that LOO-SER Tito Santana. But Strike Force may be most remembered for their series of excellent matches with the Islanders. I’ve never seen a Strike Force vs. Islanders match I don’t love, and I hear others praising their match-ups I haven’t seen yet. Those matches are just some of the most fun tag matches you’ll find from 80s WWF. Strike Force gets some grief for their relatively short run, but they had 145 matches with the company and a 152 day title reign. That’s not elite numbers and may keep them out of the top of the list, but certainly nothing to hammer them on. And their ring work is really on point, with both guys being good sellers and great fired-up babyfaces.
Placement Range: They were the pure babyfaces with pretty much all heels of the time, from workrate teams like the Islanders and Hart Foundation to the powerhouses like Demolition. Their run coincided with a hot period for tag wrestling in WWF, and they’ve always been personal favorites of mine. I may have them a bit higher than most, but they’ll be between 25 and 40 for me, a definite top-half team.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1986-1988
Total Matches: 264
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 0
Match Suggestions: vs. Strike Force (12/21/87 Prime Time Wrestling), w/ Bobby Heenan vs. British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware (WM IV), vs. Strike Force (Prime Time Wrestling- 5/30/88-⅔ falls), vs. Can-Am Connection (6/1/87- Prime Time Wrestling), vs. Demolition (TV taping- 5/18/87), vs. Strike Force (10/3/87- Boston Garden), vs. Hart Foundation (March 87- Philadelphia Spectrum)
Thoughts:The Islanders are often lauded as one of the unsung great teams of the 80s and with good reason. They may have been underrated and had fans on some corners of the Internet singing their praises until they became overrated. Though that’s not for their work as I can’t think of an Islanders’ match I don’t like (although their feud with the Bulldogs leaves something to be desired.) Haku and Tama are most known for their series of matches with Strike Force and there are a number of excellent matches out there, and I’m hoping to find a few more I haven’t seen. All the ones I have are great, and I also love the match the Islanders have against the Can-Am Connection where they turned and joined the Weasel. The match with the Hart Foundation I mentioned (which is in the FB thread) is a good example of the Islanders working as faces. And it should count for something that they were able to put on stellar matches as both faces and heels. The only real criticism of the team is that they didn’t seem to have a lot of big matches, with just the WM match with Heenan against the Bulldogs standing out.
Placement Range: The Islanders are sitting between 25 and 40 on my list, so I think they’ll be in the 30s or a bit above. I struggle deciding how to weigh one or two great, high-profile matches compared to consistent excellence in lower profile matches. The Islanders have the latter covered as well as any team, and are just a joy to watch.
Legion of Doom
Years Teamed in WWE: 1990-1992, 1997-1999
Total Matches: 481
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 213
Match Suggestions: vs. Money, Inc. (SummerSlam ‘92), vs. Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels (Raw 6/02/97), w/Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock & Goldust vs. Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman & Jim Niedhart (Canadian Stampede), w/ Ultimate Warrior & Texas Tornado vs. Demolition & Mr. Perfect (Survivor Series ‘90), w/ Ahmed Johnson vs. Crush, Farooq & Savio Vega (WM 13), Tag Team Battle Royal (WM XIV)
Thoughts: Err…What a rush! If we were making a list of the greatest North American tag teams of all time, the Road Warriors would no doubt rank high on that list. Even the watered-down WWF Legion of Doom version of Animal and Hawk had a charisma, presence and star power that few teams could match. They came into the WWF in 1990 and a feud with “Road Warrior rip-offs” Demolition seemed inevitable. The LOD teamed with WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior in six-man tags against Demolition, but the rip-offs were running on fumes. They had decent matches with Money, Inc. at SummerSlam ‘92 and a tag team title reign in their first stint with the company. Upon their return in 1997, they were still near main-event level, as you could see by their involvement in the Hart Foundation feud, teaming with Austin, Goldust and Shamrock at Canadian Stampede. They had one of their best WWF matches at WrestleMania 13, won the tag team battle royal in a great moment at WM XIV and were instrumental in making the New Age Outlaws into stars. They hung around into 1999, but after the NAO feud the juice was gone and LOD didn’t really fit in the Attitude Era. LOD 2000 seemed like a stretch (and we won’t speak of Droz or drunk Hawk), but we’ll always have Sunny in the Road Warriors gear.
Placement Range: The LOD will be between 35 and 45 or so on my list, sitting right at 40 now. They never felt like they hit their ceiling, as they were certainly more over and important elsewhere. But they had better matches than I had remembered, were two-time WWF tag champs and involved in some memorable moments, often sharing the ring with main eventers. All that adds up to upper-mid portion of the list to me.
Years Teamed in WWE: 2002-2005
Total Matches: 98
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 114
Match Suggestions: vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team (2/6/03 SD), vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team (Backlash ’03), vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Angle & Benoit- (Survivor Series ’02 elimination match), vs. Angle & Benoit (Rebellion ‘02), vs. Angle & Benoit (10/17/02 SD), vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio (10/24/02 SD), vs. WGTT vs. Chris Benoit & Rhyno (WM XIX)
Thoughts: They lie, they cheat, they steal! And they would often steal the show as ⅓ of the SmackDown Six when Uncle Eddie would drag Chavito on the hottest run of his career. They weren’t involved in the famous No Mercy tag, but had great matches with Angel & Benoit at Rebellion ‘02 and on SmackDown and Edge & Mysterio on SmackDown, as well. Latino Heat and Chavo also stayed together longer than the other two teams, going on to have excellent matches against the World’s Greatest Tag Team racking up title reigns and adding to their resume. Los Guerreros played great characters, as well, coming to the ring in low-riders and having vignettes where they literally steal from a baby. And that would play out in the ring, when they would play dead and lay a title belt beside them hoping to draw the DQ. But the fans loved them for it. They were super-over and that’s ultimately why the team was somewhat short-lived. Eddie was headed for bigger and better things, and the WWE couldn’t deny that and keep him in the tag team with Chavo any longer. While Eddie would go on to main event fame, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Los Guerreros was a really good tag team during their run.
Placement Range: Los Guerreros is another team between 25 and 35 on my list. It seems like they’re all falling in that range, but I swear I have an actual list (and Los Guerreros are sitting at 30 right now.) I have them just a bit ahead of the other SmackDown Six teams because of their work with TWGTT and a longer resume.
Years Teamed in WWE: 2006-2011
Total Matches: 63
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 72
Match Suggestions: vs. Cena & Michaels (1/29/07-Raw), vs. Hardy Boyz (11/27/06- Raw), vs. Michaels & Triple H (New Year’s Revolution ‘07), Michaels & Triple H (Cyber Sunday ‘06), w/ Johnny Nitro, Mike Knox & Gregory Helms vs. Michaels & Triple H & Hardy Boyz & CM Punk (Survivor Series ‘06)
Thoughts: My slow drift away from watching wrestling escalated quite a bit in 2006. I told myself it was mostly due to real life stuff and other entertainment options, and that’s probably true. But re-watching the Rated RKO- DX feud reminded me there were some wrestling reasons I started losing interest (especially on the Raw side, I rather liked a lot on SD, particularly London & Kendrick). I came into this project expecting Rated RKO to rank in the mid-to-lower part of this list, because they were a super-team with some star power and seemed like an important team. But upon re-watch, I really don’t like many of their matches, and I like their most high-profile matches the least. The Cena-Michaels Raw match is good and I like their match against the Hardys. The matches with DX are probably technically fine, but too often they shoot for epic and ruin an otherwise good match. Their Survivor Series match against the DX team was fun, but Rated RKO was teamed with all the losers and nerds, so they didn’t look great.
Placement Range: As I mentioned, I expected them to be mid-list, but digging into their work may have killed their chances (and DX’s as well.) I’m still giving them some consideration for a back-end placement, but I just really did not enjoy those matches with DX. And at this point I think I can come up with more reasons not to include Rated RKO than to include them.
Goldust & Cody Rhodes
Years Teamed in WWE: 2013-2015
Total Matches: 227
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns:167
Match Suggestions: vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (Battleground ‘13), w/ Usos & Rey Mysterio vs. The Shield & Real Americans (Survivor Series ’13), vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins vs. Usos (Hell in a Cell ’13), vs. Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (Raw-10/14/13), vs. Wyatt Family (Raw-2/10/14), vs. Harper & Rowan (SD 12/20/13), vs. Usos (Night of Champions ‘14)
Thoughts: Goldust and Cody Rhodes were a great team with excellent chemistry that had an all-time classic and several other very good matches. Goldust and Stardust were a freakshow act producing groans, eye rolls and uninspiring matches. And Cody Rhodes is Stardust. This whole situation makes no sense, and creates a dilemma for voters. How strongly do you weigh a short period of outstanding matches? And do you punish the team for crap with the Stardust run? If so, do they fall below short-term teams with less longevity but no bad matches? I tend to give more weight to the positive than punish teams for the negative, and Cody & Goldust have a lot of positives. The Battleground ‘13 match against Rollins & Reigns is an epic match and on the short list of best WWE tag team matches, and they followed it up with good Survivor Series, multi-team matches and TV matches. In fact, Goldust and Cody were on quite a roll until they lost the tag team titles to the Old Age Outlaws at Royal Rumble ‘14. But that would imply that match results and booking matter, which is crazy talk.
Placement Range: I really love that match with Rollins & Reigns and their work until Royal Rumble ‘14. The storyline and emotion of that match were really a rarity and help drive Cody and Goldust up my list. They’re part of a tier of teams I have in the early to mid-30s and they all feel like they’re too high, because all those teams have flaws. But when you make an actual list, you have to fill those slots. So, I expect Cody & Goldust to fall between 30 and 45 or so on my list, probably leaning toward the higher side.
The Real Americans
Years Teamed in WWE: 2013-2014
Total Matches: 96
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 0
Match Suggestions: w/ The Shield vs. Goldust & Cody Rhodes & The Usos & Rey Mysterio (Survivor Series ‘13), vs. Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Big Show & Rey Mysterio vs. RybAxel (TLC ‘13) vs Usos vs. RybAxel & Los Matadores (WM XXX pre-show), vs. Cody Rhodes & Goldust (3/18/14- Main Event)
Thoughts: National treasure Zeb Coulter, in order to form a more perfect tag team, brought together Cesaro and Jack Swagger, for the benefit of (hand over heart) WE…THE PEOPLE! Their characters are even more politically charged today than they were a few years ago, but I appreciated the fact they had characters at a time when few teams did. The Real Americans were really good in-ring workers, with Cesaro being one of the best tag workers in WWE history. Swagger’s no slouch as bah gawd, he collected more pins in a calendar year than any other college rassler, Kang. Anyway, the Real Americans had very good matches anytime they were matched up with other competent teams, like Cody & Goldust or the Usos and less so when they were matched up with comedy teams like Los Matadores and Santino and the Great Khali (although seeing Cesaro swing Khali is quite a sight.) They were getting really over with the crowd chanting “We the People” even when they weren’t in multi-team matches. So, naturally the broke up the team for the long wished for and yet to be executed Cesaro singles push. I’m sure once he turns 55 in 2038 they’ll put the title on him. But I digress, the Real Americans were a really good in-ring team that I wish had a run with the titles and wasn’t broken up just as they were really getting over.
Placement Range: Really good team, with a fairly short run and not a ton of memorable matches is going to put the Real Americans toward the back of the list. They’ll be the lowest of the Cesaro teams, clocking in somewhere in the 65 to 75 range.
Air Boom (Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne)
Years Teamed in WWE: 2008-2012
Total Matches: 79
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 146
Match Suggestions: vs. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger (Vengeance ‘11), vs. Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger (Hell In A Cell ‘11), vs. Miz & R-Truth (Night of Champions ‘11),
Thoughts: Kofi and Bourne made a good high-flying team and had pretty exciting matches at a time when tag team wrestling was…we’ll say Not Good, to be nice. Air Boom was on their way to helping to revitalize the division, but unfortunately Bourne must’ve misplace the prescription for his glaucoma medicine derailing the team. Still, the team was good in the ring with just shy of 80 matches and a decent length tag title reign. There’s not a lot of meat on the bone of their resume, but there’s enough for consideration for a low spot on the list.
Placement Range: I think they’re going to make it, but I’m still considering a few other teams as well. If I had to bet, I would say Air Boom makes my list, in the bottom 10, probably the bottom five. Their case looks a lot better since I’ve soured on Rated RKO and DX, but if I fall in love with a few other teams at the 11th hour Air Boom would be one of the teams I’d consider dropping.
New Age Outlaws
Years Teamed in WWE: 1997-2000, 2012-2015
Total Matches: 326
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 468
Match Suggestions: vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (WM XIV), vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (Raw 3/30/98), vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (Raw 3/30/98), vs. LOD (Raw- 11/24/97), vs. Hardy Boyz (11/25/99 SD-steel cage), vs. Edge & Christian (Unforgiven ‘99)
Thoughts: Oh, you didn’t know? Your ass better CAAAALL SOMEBODY! It would be perfectly understandable if you didn’t know how these two goofs got over, if you weren’t watching in the late 90s. I lived through it and still struggle to figure out how The Road Dogg and the Bad Ass got so over. But they were just the embodiment of 1999 WWF popularity. Most of the time it wasn’t good, but it was this irreverent, sometimes trashy and sleazy era that gave no f’s what anyone thought. And it fit in perfectly with youth (particularly young males) of the time (this was the same time that Jerry Springer, Jackass and the early days of South Park were in their heyday.) The New Age Outlaws got that and tapped into it in a big way. They got over by shaving Hawk’s mohawk, making the fans chant at Deborah to show her puppies and leading a sing-along promo with their entrance for every match. Some attribute their overness and success to their inclusion in DX, but I’d counter that after WM XIV DX needed the Outlaws more than the Outlaws needed DX. Were they good in the ring? No sir (or madame) they were not, particularly in 1999 when no one got any time and every match had run-ins, turns, swerves and other bullshit, bro. But it was called the Attitude Era, not the Good Wrestling Era and the Outlaws helped define the former and I’m sure would roll their eyes and scoff at the later (until they would return as grizzled veterans, which REALLY didn’t work.) But LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES the Outlaws, particularly Road Dogg, could talk and that did help get them over and become the six-time TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD! And if you’re not down with that we’ve got two words for ya.
Placement Range: To me the Outlaws trail only Demolition as the most over team in company history. They were a main event act and a huge part of the company’s popularity during perhaps WWF’s hottest period. That has to buoy them up on my list. It’s a tough balancing act, because good matches are in short supply, to say nothing of great matches, but the Outlaws do have many memorable moments. They’ve gotta be in my top 20 for that, though they can’t be in my top 10 because of the lack of matches.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back soon with the final column looking at more teams. Again, if I missed any matches or other highlights let us know on the Facebook page.