The Five Count: SummerSlam Tag Team Matches

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Like WrestleMania, SummerSlam began not with a one on one grudge match or a contest for the WWF Championship in the main event, but rather a blockbuster tag team bout as the focal point.

Since the Mega Powers met the Mega Bucks in the main event of the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988, the biggest party of the summer has played host to countless classic tag team matches. Whether you’re talking two out of three fall classics, TLC spectacles or memorable championship encounters, pairings of two pitting their best against one another have always had a place in August.

In this edition of the Five Count, we look at the greatest tag team matches in SummerSlam history.

Ben Morse

5. WWF Tag Team Champions DEMOLITION vs. THE HART FOUNDATION in a 2/3 Falls match (1990)
Demolition had pretty much passed their expiration date before this final Tag Team title loss to the Harts, but the match had enough bells and whistles to make up for it. The 2/3 Falls gimmick seems like it would have worked to the disadvantage of a jacked up team like Crush and Smash, but they toughed it out and hung with no less than Bret Hart. The wildcard element of Ax, the Legion of Doom making their WWF pay-per-view debut, and a feel good title win for the Harts keep this on my list, taking into account I also have fond memories of seeing it live on PPV as an eight-year-old.

4. WWF Tag Team Champions THE STEINER BROTHERS vs. THE HEAVENLY BODIES (1993)
A pretty brutal sub-10-minute tour de force that sums up nicely everything I love about the Steiner Brothers. They don’t completely job out the game Heavenly Bodies, but in their hometown, the time had come for them to be showcased as tag champs, and they seized the moment. On offense, Rick and Scott in their prime could brutalize their victims in such an exciting way that differed from, say, the Road Warriors, because despite working pretty stiff themselves, the suplexes and amateur work thrown in with the brutal clotheslines added at least the pretension of finesse. Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray never backed down and took a wonderful beating, making this a nice hidden gem.

3. THE BRITISH BULLDOGS vs. THE ROUGEAU BROTHERS (1988)
I watched this for the first time only a couple years back, and I’d describe it as 20 of the fastest minutes I’ve ever watched in wrestling. Amazing that these two teams supposedly had such real life animosity—well, probably not fair to lump Davey Boy in there—because when they got to the ring they worked together like total pros. Not a dull minute as the Rougeaus had begun to really gel as heels and the Bulldogs remained incredibly entertaining in spite of Dynamite Kid’s mounting injuries.

Having such a lengthy time limit draw as the opening match of an inaugural event seems counterintuitive to most booking philosophies, but the energy and smoothness of this match dared anything that came next to live up.

2. THE MEGA POWERS vs. THE MEGA BUCKS (1988)
The main event that started SummerSlam, it may not have been a five star classic solely from the standpoint of match quality, but it’s memorable and entertaining on other merits. In addition to four of the best and most enjoyable characters of the 1980’s combining to generate incredible wattage in the ring—that’s Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase for those of you just coming in—Jesse Ventura as the referee added a whole new dynamic, plus Miss Elizabeth got involved like never before and helped usher in a generation of young boys—and maybe some girls—to premature puberty.

Also, the aforementioned match from that in-ring perspective? Not too shabby. Andre may have been limited by 1988 and Hogan certainly had his off nights, but he brought the intensity for the first SummerSlam and the big guy had his working boots on as well, meaning that they sure didn’t drag the “Macho” and “Million Dollar” men down, rather rising up to meet two of the top performers of the era.

1. WWF Tag Team Champions EDGE & CHRISTIAN vs. THE DUDLEY BOYZ vs. THE HARDY BOYZ in a TLC match (2000)
I’ve gone on record saying I prefer the WrestleMania 2000 Ladder match to this one—it came first and stands out more as a novelty to me—but that certainly takes nothing away from the quality of this one on its own.

You look at Edge & Christian, you look at the Hardys and you look at the Dudleys, and they can all wrestle; they don’t need the gimmicks, they can get it done with holds and strikes. However, you add in those extra elements like tables, ladders and chairs, they don’t use them as crutches; they only accentuate the artistry already on display.

We may never again see the kind of sustained chemistry these six performers had against one another on the scale they did—and by that I mean specifically a three-way feud between tag teams. Their matches could hardly have been called on the fly, they just had too much intricacy, but to watch you wouldn’t suspect it. The first ever TLC, besides being historic in of itself for the creation of a venerable gimmick, stands as the high watermark of this trio of teams being able to orchestrate their unique brand of beautiful, violent music and bring the fans in as willing and happy dance partners.

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Jason Greenhouse

5. THE LEGION OF DOOM vs. MONEY, INC. (1992)
The opening tag match from Wembley Stadium gave fans watching at home an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of the 80,000 on hand in London that evening. Oh yeah, it was also a pretty damn good match. LOD riding to the ring on their Harleys, complete with Rocco riding shotgun on the Paul Ellering’s bike. Ted DiBiase and IRS were one the of the best scientific tag teams the WWF had seen in a while. Stories have been told that Hawk and Animal weren’t in the best state of mind coming into this match. Hawk was battling his demons and Animal was upset with Hawk. Looking back, you can never tell. Animal, Hawk, DiBiase and IRS kicked off a memorable night in London with 15 great minutes of tag team wrestling.

4. THE MEGA POWERS vs. THE MEGA BUCKS (1988)
The four biggest names in the company at the time, Jesse Ventura as a special guest referee plus a sold out Madison Square Garden. Oh yeah, and Elizabeth tearing off her skirt to distract Andre and DiBiase. Need I say more?

3. WWF Tag Team Champions EDGE & CHRISTIAN vs. THE DUDLEY BOYZ vs. THE HARDY BOYZ in a TLC match (2000)
The second of three legendary TLC matches between these six men. It was a homecoming for the Hardys and Lita and an opportunity for these teams to steal the show just as they did at WrestleMania 2000 that past April. For 20 minutes, these guys had the fans in Raleigh and those watching at home on the edge (no pun intended) of their seats. Edge and Christian came out victorious but all six men walked out with the respect of their peers and fans.

2. THE BRAIN BUSTERS vs. THE HART FOUNDATION (1989)
Not only the best opening match in SummerSlam history, but also my favorite opening match in WWE PPV history. Arn, Tully, the “Hitman” and the “Anvil” tore the house down for 16:23. If there was a course on tag team wrestling, this classic should be shown on the first day of class.

1. WWF Tag Team Champions DEMOLITION vs. THE HART FOUNDATION in a 2/3 Falls match (1990)
Since I was a kid, this has been my favorite match in SummerSlam history. A two out of three falls masterpiece which saw the Harts walk out of the Philly Spectrum with tag team gold for the second time. Not only was this match phenomenal, but we also got the WWE pay per view debut of the Legion of Doom.

Marc Clair

5. WWF Tag Team Champions KANE & X-PAC vs. THE UNDERTAKER & THE BIG SHOW (1999)
I have always been a mark for tag teams featuring seemingly odd pairings of singles wrestlers, so it’s natural I’d be drawn to this match between two such teams. Evil Undertaker taking Show under his wing was actually a somewhat interesting angle for Show, who had already undergone a few quasi face and heel turns since his WWF debut a mere six months earlier. Meanwhile, Kane and X-Pac were playing the Big Guy-Little Buddy role to perfection, and were crazy over as a team.

For a match featuring three big guys who have all suffered through periods of in-ring stagnation, this match is incredibly fast-paced and athletic. X-Pac was born to be thrown around the ring by dudes three times his size, and he does so a ton here. Kane and X-Pac take turns playing face in peril, before Kane gets the hot tag and cleans house. X-Pac has to tag himself back in to hit the Bronco Buster on Show, but eventually finds himself the victim of a choke slam. The finish plays into the storyline of Undertaker trying to push Big Show to be generally more badass, as Show arrogantly places a boot on X-Pac for the pin, but ‘Pac kicks out! Taker is furious, and tags himself back in to hit a vicious tombstone for the pin and the titles.

This match has largely gone forgotten, understandably so as Team UnderShow would serve as transitional champions to the Rock n’ Sock Connection, and their entire storyline would be dropped soon after as Taker suffered an injury that took him out of competition for some time. But this matchup of odd pairings was entertaining at the time, and holds up on a re-watch.

4. WWF Tag Team Champions DEMOLITION vs. THE HART FOUNDATION in a 2/3 Falls match (1990)
This rematch from the very first SummerSlam two years prior would see the Hart Foundation reunite as a tag team after some brief time in singles competition. This version of Demolition featured Smash and Crush, as Ax was suffering from injuries and was facing the end of his career, and they had gone back to their heelish ways shortly after defeating the Colossal Connection at WrestleMania VI to win the Tag titles back. This also had the added two out of three falls stipulation, as well as the caveat that Ax would be banned from ringside.

There was a ton of energy in this match, as the Harts were on fire and the crowd was really into everything they did. But Demolition would take the first fall clean after the Devastation Decapitation. The match gets a bit sketchy at this point, as the second fall features a sloppy Crush breakup of the Harts pinfall attempt on Smash with him bear hugging the ref, drawing the DQ for the fall. We then get one of the more ridiculous “switcheroos” of all time, as Ax comes down, hides under the ring, and then replaces Smash in the ring with the ref none the wiser. Apparently Demolition paint and gear is enough to make Ax and Smash look the same, despite Ax’s short hair and completely different face and body. The finish is a bit messy as the Legion of Doom appears to right the injustice of Demolition’s using three guys, and the Harts take advantage, rolling up Crush for the win.

I had originally pegged this match a bit higher, but the sloppiness of the second fall and the ridiculous stuff with the Ax and Smash’s switcheroo and schmozz ending knock it down a bit for me. Despite some odd booking that made the Harts look a little bit weak with their two falls coming from a DQ and a distraction rollup, it was a great moment seeing the Foundation finally get the belts for one last run as a team before breaking apart for good.

3. THE BRAIN BUSTERS vs. THE HART FOUNDATION (1989)
Featuring three of the greatest technical wrestlers of the 80’s and 90’s (plus Jim Neidhart!), this match is a wrestling nerd’s dream. This was originally just booked as a one-off tag match, but the Brain Busters defeated Demolition for the Tag Team titles on a recent Saturday Night’s Main Event. This match remained a non-title match, but still took on added significance with the titles around the Busters, as a win by the Hart Foundation would make them the clear #1 contenders for the belts.

First I have to comment on the great job Jesse Ventura did of explaining why it didn’t make sense for the titles to be on the line, as the match was already signed prior to the Brain Busters winning the belts. When Tony Schiavone exclaims that the Busters could have put the titles on the line if they wanted, Jesse calls him out saying “would you, Schiavone??,” to which Tony stumbles with “….I uh, I don’t know…I uh…think maybe I would…” Classic. The match itself is just what you’d expect from these two teams: pure tag team awesomeness. The Harts have extended shine sequences against both Arn and Tully, and were actually in control for the majority of the match. This featured some great chain wrestling between Hart and Arn, along with Neidhart playing his powerhouse role well.

The finish was great, as Arn, the illegal man, hits a double axe handle on Bret while the ref is distracted, and covers his face while getting the pin so the ref doesn’t realize that it’s not Tully making the pin. Arn immediately rolls out of the ring and celebrates with Tully, with the ref none the wiser. Classic match, and rivaled only by Kurt Angle-Rey Mysterio from SummerSlam 2002 in terms of all-time great openers for the show.

2. THE MEGA POWERS vs. THE MEGA BUCKS (1988)
The inaugural edition of SummerSlam holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first PPV I ever attended live (albeit only on closed circuit, as my dad couldn’t get tickets to MSG after we had just moved to the tri-state area). It may be an all-around lackluster card—most of the matches are glorified Superstars matches—but the main event was an epic culmination of a feud 18 months in the making. After Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant conspired to get the title off of Hulk Hogan, their plan backfired and resulted in Randy Savage winning the title with Hogan’s help at WrestleMania IV. This match had a ton of heat behind it, and the crowd was absolutely stoked for it. Toss in a special guest referee in Jesse “The Body” Ventura, and you have a scorching main event for the summer’s biggest show.

Despite being a heel figure, Jesse actually does a fantastic job of playing it down the middle. DiBiase does much of the in-ring work her for the Bucks, as Andre was at the point where he could barely move in the ring anymore. But he was still able to remain effective when he would come in for his head butts or nerve pinches and chokes merely due to his reputation and aura. Andre always had “it,” even when he could no longer physically back it up. Hogan and Savage both take turns playing face in peril, but the Mega Bucks seemingly have control of the match until the iconic moment when Liz rips her skirt off, distracting DiBiase and setting him up for the Savage Elbow/Hogan Leg Drop combo that would spell his doom. It seems tame nowadays, but at the time Liz taking her skirt off was possibly the most scintillating moment ever seen in wrestling at that point (especially to an eight year old!)

Overall, just an epic main event that did everything right and sent the crowd home happy. The only downside is that it essentially saw an end to DiBiase’s time in the main event scene, when he probably could have delivered main event quality matches for another year or two. On the flip side, it planted the seeds for the jealousy between Savage and Hogan over Liz, and lead to one of the greatest slow-burn heel turns of all time, so we’ll take what we can get. Not a technical masterpiece like Harts/Brain Busters, but a fantastic main event.

1. WWF Tag Team Champions EDGE & CHRISTIAN vs. THE DUDLEY BOYZ vs. THE HARDY BOYZ in a TLC match (2000)
There was never any question what match would take the top spot for this Five Count. As great as the other matches in my top five were, the first TLC match is historic in nature, and it’s my personal favorite of the three big matches between these teams, including the ladder match at WrestleMania 2000 and TLC II at WrestleMania X-7.

This is more than just a spot-fest. It’s a fast-paced, brutal encounter between three teams who have really built up a strong rivalry over the Tag belts over the course of the year. They would trade the belts with each other, and with other teams, but it was always come back down to E & C, Hardyz, and Dudleys. There’s not much I can say about this match that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but if anyone reading this hasn’t sat down and watched this, stop reading this right now and log into the WWE Network (which I hear you can get for only $9.99!) and check it out!

The finish featured a great spot with both Jeff and D-Von hanging from the belts, with D-Von eventually falling as the crowd goes insane thinking that Jeff would surely get the belts for the win. But Edge & Christian would return to ruin the party for all the teenage girls in the crowd cheering for the Hardyz, knock a ladder into Jeff to take him out, and grab the belts to reclaim the tag team titles, and the hearts of smarky Internet wrestling nerds everywhere. A Five Star match by any measure, and clearly the greatest tag team match in SummerSlam history.

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Aaron George

SummerSlam has been home to some of the greatest tag team matches of all time. I’m sure I’m going to sound like a broken record with my picks but hey, you just can’t argue with excellence.

5. THE LEGION OF DOOM vs. THE GODWINNS (1997)
In a wrestling world with countless rematches it truly is amazing to see a fresh and exciting matchup at the biggest party of the summer. The Road Warriors were at their prime and the Godwinns were, well, better than their prime and the resulting match was an explosion of bikes and pigs the likes of which had never been seen and has not been seen since. When the bike ran over the pig its carcass was thrown from the road onto its neck which snapped in the most spectacular of fashions. Hawk and Animal attacking Henry Godwinn’s neck is an inspiration to children everywhere as it shows a sense of perseverance which simply isn’t taught any more. The LOD should have used this match as a springboard to all the great and amazing things they would go on to do after this, instead Hawk, full of remorse, jumped to his death about a year later. Was it justice? Was it southern justice? Was it five stars? Yes.

4. GLAMARELLA vs. KOFI KINGSTON & MICKIE JAMES (2008)
In the hallowed halls of tag team wrestling the name of “Glamarella” stands gloriously as the standard by which all other teams are judged. In winner take all matches they remained undefeated for their entire career (I can’t prove that). The way they handled the overmatched Kingston and James had the beleaguered tandem shouting for an S.O.S. that everyone could hear. The speed and agility of Mingston was no match for the power of the two man power trip of Phoenix and Marella. The parting shot of Beth Phoenix lifting a triumphant Santino on his mighty shoulders was merely foreshadowing to the intense sex celebration/frenzy that would follow. If only we had had the WWE Network at the time to witness it and bask in its glory.

3. THE ROCKERS vs. POWER & GLORY (1990)
There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Shawn Michaels get the living shit beaten out of him. When it’s done by a Greek god and a beautiful Adonis of a man, the results shimmer like Icarus right before he fell to his painful and agonizing death. The kicks to the knee grew stronger with each blow until Michael’s knee was a pile of jelly that would make a fat man with a loaf of bread drool and grumble like the Cerberus. Michaels would beg for mercy but none would be given from high Olympus on this day, as his knee was as crushed worse than the Persians at the battle of Thermopylae. Marty Jannetty was a complete afterthought much like Greece was after the defeat of Pyrrhus. I have never been happier after a match and the greased up Paul Roma slithered and slathered his way to a tremendous and amazing victory. The true shame was that Roma was denied entrance to the pantheon of the Greek wrestling stable. I guess Hercules, Zeus, Narcissus and Madusa were enough. Alexander would be proud.

2. THE SMOKING GUNNS vs. THE GODWINNS vs. THE NEW ROCKERS vs. THE BODYDONNAS (1996)
Second appearance on the list for the great Godwinns, I think that may cement them as Mr. and Mrs. SummerSlam. What a collection of talent in this one! The team of the 90’s, the Bodydonnas, chase their coveted titles back from the evil cowboys, and unfortunately this world is devoid of justice as they would fall just a little short in this classic. Rounding out the plethora of talent are the impressive New Rockers. They were new and fresh and new and hot and they came out flying in this one. The action was fast paced and you could clearly see why this was indeed the golden age of the WWF tag team division. The crowd was molten for their favorites and the decision was in question until the final three was counted. The Smoking Gunns stood tall at the end of the day and would continue to be dominant until the deadbeat team of Owen Hart and The British Bulldog would come along and ruin the tag division. We’ll always have the memories.

1. THE UNDERTAKER & KANE vs. DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE & CHRIS KANYON (2001)
Who betta than this match? No one. The hotly contested encounter sizzled in the summer of 2001. The red hot feud between Sarah Undertaker and DDP culminated in this fantastically even cage match which did amazing things for the careers of Page and the Alliance MVP. The best part of the whole thing was how the Undertaker didn’t totally emasculate or diminish Page in any way throughout this feud or this match. I guess where the former WCW guys went wrong was in planning their strategy for the match. Kanyon had the right idea trying to go for the escape, while Page stupidly tried to hold down the fort on his own against the exciting and mobile brothers of destruction. The incredible finale of the match which saw both Undertaker and Kane emerge relatively unscathed will undoubtedly go down as one of the most shocking and memorable moments in Federation history. We are so lucky to live in an age where we can have this classic at our fingertips. I know I will enjoy sharing and explaining the pettiness of this one to my children and my children’s children.

And now, our overall Five Count…

5. THE BRITISH BULLDOGS vs. THE ROUGEAU BROTHERS (1988)
SummerSlam opens up with a bang as a back and forth ballet sets the tone for all August events to come.

4. THE BRAIN BUSTERS vs. THE HART FOUNDATION (1989)
Technical wrestling at its finest with a bit of storyline mixed in as the heels pull one over on the good guys; four of the very best.

3. WWF Tag Team Champions DEMOLITION vs. THE HART FOUNDATION in a 2/3 Falls match (1990)
Demolition goes out with a bang, trying everything to keep their titles but falling to a technically superior Harts team and the red hot debuting Legion of Doom.

2. THE MEGA POWERS vs. THE MEGA BUCKS (1988)
The match that made SummerSlam; the main event that sold that first show. A spectacular display of character and larger than life personas from the four competitors as well as the referee, plus Elizabeth fulfils adolescent male America’s dreams.

1. WWF Tag Team Champions EDGE & CHRISTIAN vs. THE DUDLEY BOYZ vs. THE HARDY BOYZ in a TLC match (2000)
More than just a high spot spectacle, one of the most intricately planned and wildly entertaining showcases in SummerSlam history. Three duos who defined the Attitude Era bring one of the WWF’s tag team golden ages to its pinnacle. A definitive classic.

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.