We continue working our way through teams that may or may not make the Greatest WWE Tag Team list. If you’d like to catch up with past issues you can click here and if you’d like to join the discussion, do so in the Facebook group here.
I promised a theme column and that’s what you’re getting, as this week I decided to take a look at teams that seem to be linked in the minds of the voters in one way or another.
The first example I have is the teams of Mr. Fuji and Professor Toru Tanaka and Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito. I’m not exactly sure why all discussion of one of these teams immediately results in comments comparing them to the other Fuji team, but it sure seems to happen. There are similarities and differences between the two teams and I’ll take a look at them here.
The next set of teams is the Jumping Bomb Angels and the Glamour Girls, who are obviously linked by their famous series of matches against each other, which is likely to drive the candidacy of both teams.
And last, but certainly not least we have The Shield. What the hell do you do with The Shield? That’s a philosophical question that will be important in shaping your list. Their six-man tag matches are legendary and among the best tag matches in company history. If they were one unit and got credit for all the six-man tags and regular tag matches with combinations of all three men, they’d be a #1 contender. However, Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have all paired up and had a run of some duration and quality as a traditional two-man tag team. So, to try to keep things straight, I will outline the initial six-man work (which counts for all combinations, so Rollins-Reigns, Rollins-Ambrose and Reigns-Ambrose), as well as the relative merits of each team. Hopefully, this will make sense after you’ve read the full article.
Here we go.
Mr. Fuji-Professor Tanaka
Years Teamed in WWE: 1972-1974, 1977-1978
Total Matches: 118
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 569
Match Suggestions: vs.Dominic DeNucci-Dino Bravo (shared on Facebook thread), vs. Chief Jay Strongbow-High Chief Peter Maivia (10-24-77 Fuji Collection on WWE Network), vs. Johnny Rivera-Dewey Robertson (All-Star Wrestling 11-12-77), vs. S.D. Jones-Danny Johnson (All-Star Wrestling 2-18-78),
Thoughts: This team has me scratching my head. On one hand the fans of this era sing their praises, particularly Tanaka’s, and seem to prefer this team to the Fuji-Saito team. I’ve watched every match I could find on the Network, YouTube and Daily Motion and asked for additional match recommendations, and I just don’t see it. Especially with Tanaka. I mean, he LOOKS like a giant foreign menace killer heel and has good facial expressions, but in the ring he does…not much of anything. A little kicking, a little “martial arts” thrusts, a lotta nerve holds, rest holds, a titty twister and that’s about it. Their matches tended to top out at Not Bad, and that was mostly for the fiery babyface shtick of a young Dino Bravo (I never thought I’d type that sentence either but check it out, it’s not bad. I’m also open to the possibility that the match took place on Bizarro World.) Everything else tends to be boring squashes on All Star Wrestling where they beat no-names with an elbow drop or some equally lame shit. I would’ve bet good money that Tanaka would be great at squashes killing jobbers for my amusement, but I’d have lost, because it’s stall, kick, nerve hold, repeat. The booking during this time didn’t help with matches ending due to curfew, DQ, blood loss (sometimes more than one in the same match) and other bullshit and nonsense. I’m perplexed by the disconnect of so many people praising this team highly, and not finding any good matches. It could be caused by nostalgia making the team seem better in fans memories, or maybe Fuji and Tanaka have a bunch of good matches that never made tape (one fan replied that their early 1970s run was more well-regarded, and I don’t think I found anything from that time frame.)The one thing I am sure of is that the matches I’ve found aren’t doing anything for me.
Placement Range: Match quality isn’t everything, of course. Some teams have a larger-than-life presence that has to be taken into account or are so over they can’t be ignored. I didn’t see either of those things out of Fuji and Tanaka, but fans of the era make the team out to have that presence and level of overness. But I also take into account longevity and title reigns when ranking these teams. Fuji and Tanaka had a very modest 118 matches, but have a very formidable 569 days of combined tag title reigns. That along with the reputation among fans of the 1970s probably puts the team near the middle of my list, in the 40 to 60 range.
Mr. Fuji-Mr. Saito
Years Teamed in WWE: 1981-1982
Total Matches: 119
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 362
Match Suggestions: vs. Martel-Garea (10/13/81 aired on 10/24/81 All-Star Wrestling), vs. Chief Jay-Jules Strongbow (06-28-82 link in FB thread), vs. Frank Williams-Charlie Brown (All-Star Wrestling 2/6/82), vs. Mac Rivera-Barry Hart (All-Star Wrestling 2/20/82), vs. Jules-Chief Jay Strongbow- 2/3 falls (All-Star Wrestling 7/13/82), vs. Andre the Giant-Rick McGraw(link in FB thread), vs. Curt Henning-Manuel Soto (All-Star Wrestling 12/26/81)
Thoughts: Remember how I said I’d have liked to have seen more out of Fuji and Tanaka in squash matches? Well, the team I lovingly refer to as Mister Mister has no problem killing jobbers and making it look brutal. Seriously, Saito literally tries to rip Charlie Brown’s (not from Outta Town) face off in one squash match. I find the action in the Fuji-Saito matches to be much quicker with almost no resting. The suplexes, flying sentons, head-butts and strikes all look really good from both members. I feel like a lot of the discussion around the two Fuji teams centers around his partner and ignores Fuji himself, which I think is unfair. I’ve seen him referenced as a comedy guy and I can only assume that’s due to his later career as a manager. The matches I’ve seen Fuji more than holds his own (he was much more active than Tanaka in the matches I could find) and his facial expressions and strikes look vicious. The title win against Martel and Garea is an excellent match, and allowed Martel to save some of the oriental salt to add to atomizer of Arrogance that later blinded Jake the Snake. While that match was the best I’ve seen from Fuji and Saito, the team had other good matches, including decent ones with the Strongbows (which is a minor miracle.) I liked the shorter (6/28/82) Strongbows match better than the 2/3 falls match that I found overly long and dull. The match with Andre and McGraw showed the team’s versatility as they sold and stooged like crazy for Andre and controlled McGraw with their offense, ref distractions and cheating.
Placement Range: Put me solidly in the camp of preferring the work of Fuji-Saito to Fuji-Tanaka, and I don’t think it’s close. Their offense looks great, their squashes are great fun and their top matches really deliver. They have 119 matches in the company (1 more than Fuji-Tanaka, if you’re keeping track) and 363 days of combined tag team title reigns (much less than Fuji-Tanaka to be fair.) I’ll always favor a team that’s good in the ring over one I don’t like in the ring, so that’s going to lift Fuji and Saito. They’ll be somewhere between 30 and 45 on my list.
Years Teamed in WWE: 1978-1979, 1985-1988
Total Matches: 99
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 1,157
Match Suggestions: Jumping Bomb Angels- 2/3 falls (Royal Rumble ’88), vs. Jumping Bomb Angels (Prime Time Wrestling- 12/14/87- MSG), vs. Jumping Bomb Angels (Prime Time Wrestling-5/16/88), w/ Dawn Marie-Donna Christanello-Sensational Sheri vs. Jumping Bomb Angels-Velvet McIntyre-Rockin’Robin-Fabulous Moolah (Survivor Series ’87), vs. Penny Mitchell-Candice Pardue (Boston Garden 11/1/86 on Network)
Thoughts: The Glamour Girls had great matches against the Jumping Bomb Angels that were ahead of their time for both women’s and tag team wrestling of the day. It’s easy to give the bulk of the credit to the JBA because of their innovative offense and flashy moves (and they deserve credit for both) but the Glamour Girls served as a base for those moves, were masters of heel chicanery to build heat on the JBA and had pretty damn good technical and power offense of their own when they were in control. The two teams really gelled together to have tag matches that are extremely well-structured and get great crowd heat. One would think that being the heels the GG would be safe from the insulting heel commentary, but Luscious Johnny V would prove you wrong saying the Bomb Angels were sweet and sour chicken and the Glamour Girls were good ol’ BBQ pork and beans, insulting both teams and the audience. The Glamour Girls did face other teams (including some good matches against Mitchell and Pardue), but about two-thirds of their matches as team were against the JBA. Martin and Kai also have the most combined days of tag title reigns of any team by a boatload. Now, this version of the women’s title seemed to be prestigious for exactly the amount of time the GG and JBA were battling for them and not a minute more, so take those long title reigns with a grain of salt (not Fuji & Saito’s salt though.) The Glamour Girls won these prestigious titles at a “house show” in Cairo, Egypt that never happened and regained them from the Jumping Bomb Angels in another “house show” in Japan I can’t find any record of. After that they held them long after anyone remembered the titles existed and they were abandoned, not with a bang but with a whimper in 1989. It’s not uncommon for a team to have more days with the tag titles than matches, but 1,157 to 99 is unheard of and speaks to the rarity of a Women’s Tag Team Title defense.
Placement Range: These matches were historically significant, ahead of their time and I think hold up incredibly well today. That puts them on the lower end of teams buoyed by short runs with great matches (Angle-Benoit, Edge-Mysterio, for example). That puts them in position to fall between 35 and 50 or so on my list.
Jumping Bomb Angels
Years Teamed in WWE: 1987-1988
Total Matches: 65
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 136
Match Suggestions: vs. Glamour Girls- 2/3 falls (Royal Rumble ’88), vs. Glamour Girls (Prime Time Wrestling- 12/14/87- MSG), vs. Glamour Girls (Prime Time Wrestling-5/16/88), vs. Glamour Girls (Prime Time Wrestling- 7/20/87), vs. Glamour Girls (Prime Time Wrestling- 8/10/87), w/Velvet McIntyre-Rockin’Robin-Fabulous Moolah vs. Glamour Girls-Dawn Marie-Donna Christanello-Sensational Sheri (Survivor Series ’87)
Thoughts: The Jumping Bomb Angels had revolutionary matches with the Glamour Girls that featured non-stop action not seen in women’s nor tag team wrestling in WWF at the time. The Royal Rumble match is a classic, top-tier tag match and I included all their matches from Prime Time Wrestling, since they were excellent as well. The Rumble match would probably stand as the best women’s match in WWF for a few decades after it happened. Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki moved so fast the announcers not only couldn’t tell them apart but couldn’t remember their names! It’s unclear whether any of the announcers knew they had names outside of These Japanese Girls, and Lord Alfred was so mesmerized by their speed he thought the team name was Japanese Bomb Angels. But the JBA were more than flashy moves and speed, they were also great sellers and knew how to structure a tag team match. They were great at engaging the crowd and earning sympathy, which really made those matches with the Glamour Girls hot. They didn’t have a long run and it was literally all against one team as far as I can tell, but those matches were quite significant and great, so they’ll be no-doubters on my list.
Placement Range: To me, the Jumping Bomb Angels are so definitively tied to the Glamour Girls that they’ll be very near each other in the middle of my list. The short run the JBA had featured revolutionary matches for women and for tag teams that are remembered fondly 30 years later. Pencil them in for slightly below the Glamour Girls somewhere in the 40s or so.
Total Matches: 208 (as of 10/12/18)
Match Suggestions: vs. Team Hell No-Ryback (TLC ’12), 11-on-3 handicap match (Raw-9/23/13), vs. Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber ’14), vs. Evolution (Extreme Rules ’14), vs. Sheamus-Ryback-Cena- (Elimination Chamber ’13), w/ Real Americans vs. Usos-Mysterio-Cody Rhodes & Goldust (Survivor Series ’13)
Thoughts: Sierra-Hotel-India-Echo-Lima-Delta…The Shield was cool and important and near main-event level from the moment they first came through the crowd. Then they got in the ring, and if there’s a team with a better debut match than the Shield’s TLC match against Hell No and Ryback, I can’t recall it. They continued that streak of matches with a handful of all-time elite six-man matches and tons of good six-man tag matches. The showdown with the Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber flirts with 5 stars and had the fans chanting “This is Awesome” before the teams even touched. The Extreme Rules match with Evolution is very good, as is the match against Cena, Sheamus and Ryback at Elimination Chamber ’13. I broke out the six-man tags, simply so I could address these matches and this gimmick and character work once as opposed to three times. The rules of this project state that all the six-man matches count for all three teams, and I’ll discuss how I will weigh the other tag work for each combination below.
Roman Reigns-Seth Rollins
Years Teamed in WWE: 2012-2018
Total Matches: 317 (111 excluding Shield six-mans)
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 148
Match Suggestions: vs. Team Hell No (Extreme Rules ’13), vs. Goldust-Cody Rhodes (Battleground ’13), vs. Goldust-Cody Rhodes vs. Usos (Hell in a Cell ’13), vs. Goldust-Cody Rhodes (Raw- 10/14/13), vs. Daniel Bryan-Randy Orton (Payback ’13)
Thoughts: The Reigns-Rollins team could make it easily on the basis of their feud with Goldust and Cody Rhodes. The Battleground ’13 match is near the top of two-on-two tag matches in WWE history, simply in match quality. The match where the Rhodes won the tag titles is also very good and the emotion and storyline gives the entire feud even more juice and both teams do a great job of making sure that emotion comes out in the matches. Reigns and Rollins also had very good matches with Team Hell No, winning the tag titles. I think I like the way Reigns and Rollins work as a team best of the three Shield combinations (though I think there is good chemistry in one other combination and less so in the third.)
Placement Range: Add this resume to the previously mentioned six-man teams and the Rollins-Reigns Shield rises to the top-tier of my list. Their elite level matches, cool characters and star quality make Rollins and Reigns a top-10 team on my list. I really don’t think many teams can match their list off matches, and The Shield always felt like bigger stars than all but a handful of tag teams in company history.
Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose
Years Teamed in WWE: 2012-2015, 2017-2018
Total Matches: 294 (88 excluding Shield six-mans)
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 78
Match Suggestions: vs. The Bar (SummerSlam ’17), vs. Dolph Ziggler-Drew McIntyre (Hell in a Cell ’18), vs. The Bar (No Mercy ’17), vs. The Bar (Raw- 12/4/17), w/Kurt Angle vs. Miz-The Bar-Braun Strowman-Kane (TLC ’17)
Thoughts: Rollins and Ambrose reunited in 2017, going on a helluva run through the tag team division, winning the Raw tag team titles and collecting snowflakes in countless matches against The Bar. My initial thoughts were that run put them significantly behind the resume of Rollins and Reigns, but still ahead of most other tag teams and in a prominent place on the list. But a couple things happened to raise Rollins and Ambrose stock in my eyes. For one thing, I enjoyed the series of matches with The Bar even more on a rewatch. More significantly, Ambrose returned and has been teaming with Rollins again, having a near-five-star classic against Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler at Hell in a Cell. It’s not looking like this run will be long as cracks are already showing (and a turn may happen before you read this), but the HIAC match alone boosts their case quite a bit. Add to that they had a match with Kurt Angle against five heels at TLC ’17 that was…I don’t know what the hell that was, but it wasn’t boring. Plus, that match was the main event of a PPV and not a lot of teams can say they’ve closed a major show. I think Ambrose and Rollins work well as a team and have good chemistry. When they started teaming together in 2017, I immediately liked the team better than anything either had done as a singles guy in quite some time.
Placement Range: I expected them to fall short of the Reigns-Rollins combo, but reuniting to have an instant classic on PPV made me rethink that. The two teams have similar resumes and right now I have them back-to-back with both teams in my top 10. Those six-man tags really bolster the case, but Rollins and Ambrose have had their share of great matches with The Bar and McIntyre-Ziggler. It all adds up to a top-10 team for me.
Roman Reigns-Dean Ambrose
Years Teamed in WWE: 2012-2018
Total Matches: 270 (64 excluding Shield six-mans)
Combined Days of Tag Title Reigns: 0
Match Suggestions: vs. Bray Wyatt-Luke Harper (SummerSlam ’15), w/ Jericho vs. Bray-Braun-Harper (Night of Champions ’15)
Thoughts: Ambrose and Reigns are the toughest Shield combo to me, because their placement will be almost entirely on the back of the six-man work. That’s not to say that they didn’t team elsewhere (64 other times) but it always seemed more a pairing of convenience and I never thought they had the best chemistry in the world. They were only teaming because they were both “babyfaces” and in similar places on the card (or if you’re more cynical to try and make fans like Roman because they liked Dean.) They never really pursued the titles or felt like they had much purpose as a team. I also really didn’t like their SummerSlam ’15 match, feeling like they were forcing the narrative of Reigns as the conquering hero overcoming getting taken out of the match for approximately 72 of the 125 minutes the match seemed to last (prompting an early “Roman’s sleeping” chant.) There have been volumes of words written and hours of words spoken about WWE’s struggles to make Roman our beloved hero, and I have nothing new to add, but I do think those struggles hurt the high-profile tag matches of Ambrose and Reigns from 2015.
Placement Range: The six-man work alone probably should place them between 15 and 20, but I really think the team feels off and just never gelled together. It’s hard for me to have a team that I think lacks chemistry and doesn’t have the best teamwork that high. So I’d dock them a bit and will pencil them in from 20 to 35 or so, based on the tremendous six-man tags.
That’s it for this week. I enjoyed this column quite a bit and got to take a look at some of the all-time great tag matches in WWE history, and look forward to covering more in the future. I’ll be back soon looking at more teams. Again, if I missed any matches or other highlights let us know on the Facebook page.