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It is the common belief that Vince McMahon does not believe tag teams can draw as main event acts. These days most teams are wither afterthoughts or two random single wrestlers thrown together. In the Hulkamania Era of the mid-’80s to early-’90s, however, the WWF proudly featured a plethora of unforgettable tag teams. Those of us watching wrestling during that time period remember it as being a golden age of tag team wrestling in the company. They had a large division of teams that were established for years throughout the territories. In the past two decades, we have seen the deterioration of the WWE Tag Team Division to the point where even the championship match barely makes the main card.
I just finished listening to Bruce Prichard’s excellent “Something to Wrestle” podcast episode on Demolition, and I felt inspired to take a trip back in time to celebrate the top ten tag teams of the Hulkamania years. Although some of these teams enjoyed greater success elsewhere, this list will feature the accomplishments of these teams in the WWF.
10. The Mega Powers
This is cheating a bit because Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were not a traditional tag team, but they were featured in numerous main event matches, and they were the stars of the best storyline in the history of the company. When Hulkamania and Macho Madness teamed up, they had incredible chemistry in the ring, and seeing them together was like watching two superheroes uniting.
9. The Killer Bees
The Killer Bees featured two spectacular athletes in “Jumping” Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair, and they would come to the ring in their yellow and black trunks. Brunzell could fly like a bee, and he had the best dropkick I have ever seen. Their trademark was when they would wear masks to the ring and randomly switch in the middle of the match to confuse the opponents and the referees. Most fans from that time period fondly recall the high-flying acrobatics of the Bees. These two shared a fabulous chemistry in the ring, and they matched up well with monster teams like Demolition.
8. The Twin Towers
Speaking of monster teams, there were no bigger behemoths than the Twin Towers. Managed by the Doctor of Styles Slick, these two beasts not only had size but were solid in the ring. Akeem and the Big Bossman played off each other well, and they would ground their opponents with their mammoth size and strength. In one of the most infamous moments in wrestling history, Akeem had made a transformation from One Man Gang after traveling to deepest, darkest Africa. Any of you that want some unintentional comedy should look up the skits on YouTube. The Towers played a large role, literally, in the biggest storyline of the era when they feuded with the Mega Powers and took part in their explosion. Go back and watch some of their promos and matches because they epitomized WWF of the cartoon era.
7. The Legion of Doom
The Road Warriors may have been most popular team of the ’80s, if not all time, but it took them a long time to come to wrestling’s top brand. The WWF had numerous tag teams inspired by the unparalleled duo of Animal & Hawk, most notably the Powers of Pain. The Warriors finally came to the WWF as the Legion of Doom near the end of the Hulkamania era and they made an immediate impact. We saw the dream match against Demolition, and we saw them rise to the top of the division. I don’t think they had the same magic in the WWF as they had in the AWA, but for those of us who did not watch the other territories, it was awe-inspiring to see this legendary team finally arrive to the grand stage.
6. The Brain Busters
Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard had already teamed for years and been champions in the NWA, and they were two of the founding members of the Four Horsemen. They were both respected as strong workers, and it was the case of the whole being greater than the sum of their parts. Neither was flashy, but despite their shiny jackets, they stood in contrast to the other cartoonish characters in the division.
Pairing them with Bobby Heenan and giving them the Brain Busters moniker was a brilliant move, and they enjoyed great success in the company. It is rumored that NBC executive Dick Ebersol was a huge fan of their work and requested McMahon to put the team on all Saturday Night’s Main Events, a huge show at the time. Their run was short, but their impact was large during the golden age of WWF tag teams.
5. Can-Am Connection/ Strike Force
I am cheating a little again, and I am admittedly showing some bias here, but this entry makes the list more for what might have been than what was. If the Busters run was small, the Can-Am Connection was tragically short. The combination of the Canadian Rick Martel and American Tom Zenk was originally formed in Montreal before making their way to the WWF. Many saw them as their answer to the Rock & Roll Express, but this duo had a magic all their own. They were both extremely handsome to attract the ladies, but their incredible athleticism made them cool to the men. Watch some of their old vignettes and matches on YouTube because they were a spectacular team, and they were my first favorite act when I started watching wrestling.
Unfortunately, Zenk left the company over contractual issues, and they tried to recapture the chemistry by teaming Tito Santana with Martel. They were largely successful, and as Strike Force, they became champions and were also a very memorable team. I remember being in a bowling league as a kid and being upset that another team had taken the name Strike Force. Before he became “The Model,” Martel was a centerpiece of the WWF Tag Team Division in these two incredible incarnations.
4. The Rockers
It is sad that for the past two decades, whenever we see a tag team with one partner with star potential and the other that lacks the same spark, we call the weaker link the Marty Jannetty of the group. In actuality, for those of us who watched the Rockers in their prime, we know that both Shawn Michaels and Jannetty were spectacular performers. They were the most athletic team of the division, and I remember Gorilla Monsoon always calling them “tag team specialists.” It was an apt description because, more than their counterparts, they had a large arsenal of amazing maneuvers they performed in unison including top rope dropkicks and fist drops.
Coming off an equally excellent run in AWA, they had showcase feuds with Demolition, The Hart Foundation, and The Brain Busters, but they never won the gold in the WWF. Of course, we all know that Michaels would go on to become the greatest worker in the his tory of the company, and their breakup on the Barber Shop was one of the great heel turns in wrestling history. Although HBK’s solo accomplishments overshadowed his accomplishments in a team, the Rockers deserve to be recognized as one of the greatest teams of all time.
3. The British Bulldogs
Dynamite Kid had already established himself as one of the great workers in wrestling in his work in Calgary and Japan, but his years teaming with Davey Boy Smith in the WWF was also a legendary run. For years, the Bulldogs were showcased as a semi-main event act and often had the best match on the show in classics against the Dream Team and Hart Foundation. The jaw-dropping athleticism of Dynamite and the raw power of Smith created a devastating dynamic that electrified audiences. The fact that they had an actual bulldog in Matilda made for some campy stories that even us kids laughed at. Anybody remember the Islanders stealing Matilda and the WWF launching a letter campaign to save him? Nobody laughed, however, when this brilliant British duo took center stage.
2. The Hart Foundation
The Hart Foundation enjoyed the longest run of all of the top tag teams of the golden era. Managed by Jimmy Hart, the technical acumen of Bret Hart and the brute strength of Jim Neidhart made for a compelling package. The Anvil was arguably the better promo with his wild delivery, but the Hitman had star power written all over him as he oozed charisma and cool factor. Monsoon called him the Excellence of Execution, and it was obvious WWF was grooming him for bigger things in the future, although they probably could not have imagined that he would eventually become the biggest star in the company.
They enjoyed a long run as Tag Team Champions while Honky Tonk Man, also managed by Hart, was simultaneously the Intercontinental Champion. They feuded with nearly all the other top teams of the era including The Rockers, The Brain Busters, The Bulldogs, etc. Like Michaels and the Rockers, Hart’s individual accomplishments overshadowed his work on the team, but the Foundation deserves recognition for their incredible run.
When Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow were teamed together as Axe and Smash in Demolition, many looked at them as being Road Warrior rip-offs. For those of us who grew up watching the WWF, Demolition was the most memorable tag team of the era. Their look rivaled Ultimate Warrior in iconic gimmickry. The black leather outfits and masks combined with the face paint made them look like comic book heroes and seeing them come to the ring to the unforgettable Rick Derringer theme was an imposing spectacle. They had the longest running championship run in history at a time when the division actually meant something, not the mockery it is now.
Axe and Smash had a lengthy run as heels with Mr. Fuji before being turned because fans saw them as such a cool act. If anybody wants to see a true Warriors clone, look back at the Powers of Pain. Watching the two larger than life teams face off as a kid was awe-inspiring. Like the Foundation, they feuded with nearly all the other teams on this list, and the visceral impact of their matches made them semi main events. Their flying elbow off the ropes was one of the most deadly finishers of all teams, but just watching them hammer opponents with double axe handles sent the crowd into frenzies. One of the most memorable moments of the era was when the duo came out as the first two entries of the Royal Rumble and battered each other. Eventually they had to split because of Axe’s health problems, and the addition of Crush never really replicated the original glory. Their legacy stands strong as the greatest tag team of WWF’s golden age.
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