If you read my first (and only) article, you know I was a kid in the late 80s that got hooked on wrestling. Again, I am still a fan and I frequently see similarities between the present and the past. I guess that's a given since “history repeats itself.” Some of the similarities are good and remind me of the days when I sat in awe of what I was watching. Some of the similarities are not so good and they have me asking why they didn't learn their lesson the first time. Regardless, the 80s had colorful characters in colorful ring gear that simply seemed larger than life. One of my favorite matches was the tag team match.
Tag teams in the 80s (and early 90s) were special to me. You had two “best friends” that were taking on the world together. All that mattered to them was the championship and that their partner was taken care of. Nothing else mattered. These teams wore the same ring gear, some had the same face paint (remember face paint?), and they came out to the SAME music. Everyone had a team logo that was plastered on the screen when they made their entrance and some even had shirts you could buy. Each team was, clearly, their own brand, their own identity.
We had The Hart Foundation, Demolition, Money Inc., The Road Warriors (LOD), Natural Disasters, Mega Powers, Bushwhackers, The Steiner Brothers, The Nasty Boys, The Rockers, High Energy and many many more. Whew... Just out of those listed, how many would you be able to match to a picture? How many did you instantly remember when you read their name? Which ones did you forget about until just now? This golden era of tag teams is my absolute favorite. Each team was immediately known seconds into their entrance music. The faces were loved by young and old and the heels were hated by everyone, period. There were no tweeners.
You didn't need high definition programming to tell the teams apart. They wore definitive ring gear that clearly identified who they were. The only teams I remember being close were Demolition and the Legion of Doom. Back then, LOD accused then WWF of creating a Road Warrior wannabe team. That was until they came to the WWF and LOD's entrance and ring presence was well beyond what Demolition could pull off. The Legion of Doom... wow, what a tag team. Who comes out to the ring wearing football shoulder pads with giant spikes on them? Hawk came out with his head shaved like a ram and Animal had a mohawk (and a mullet we won't talk about). If they would do that to themselves, what would these huge powerhouses do to their opponents? The 80s also left their mark with the choices in colors. Who could forget the bright HOT pink of the Hart Foundation, the neon tassels worn by the Rockers, or the near blinding parachute pants of High Energy? The Nasty Boys looked like the paint department of ACE hardware exploded (they also had mohawks with mullets we won't talk about). Who stood out in your mind? What team was the team back then for you?
As much as I LOVED the Attitude Era, its tag team division seemed to take a back seat to the larger factions that emerged. Sure, you could kind of call them tag teams, but they were really just a large group of individuals that might have had a true tag team as members. Some of the teams seemed to be thrown together and they used each individual's music as they came out separately. Call me crazy, but coming out separately is strike one regarding being a team. While there may have been great teams I am simply forgetting about, the factions really stand out. All the bright colors were gone too. WWE had gone to drab colors that reflected the grunge / hardcore times of the late 90s. To me several of the Superstars visually blended together. It doesn't help that a couple guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, Mankind, Kane and Undertaker took my attention away from the tag division.
Toward the end of the Attitude Era, we started seeing some real tag teams again. The standouts were The Dudleys, Hardy Boyz, and, of course, Edge and Christian. Even though their ring gear was still leaning toward drab colors that blended together, their personalities separated them. You knew two things were going to be awesome when the Hardys came out. One, Jeff was going to do something simply amazing (read: insane) and two, sorry Matt, but Lita was coming out wearing something simply amazing. I was just out of high school then, what do you expect? Besides the matches, Edge and Christian put on some of the most memorable segments on RAW. When the Dudleys came out you just KNEW someone was going through a table. Then there was Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. I can't believe those six guys (seven if you count Spike) are still able to walk. These three teams put on matches that defined the tag team division and, in my opinion, set a bar that has yet to be reached since.
A few years ago we saw the division begin to rise, only to fall to the backseat again. We even got new belts (shiny pennies), well, the Hart Dynasty got new belts. Anyhow, something was still missing though. Recently, we started to see a revitalization of the WWE tag team division. We have New Day, Los Matadores, The Ascension, Lucha Dragons, Kidd and Cesaro (they need a name), Prime Time Players, Harper and Rowan (Wyatts?), Usos, and until a few months ago Gold and Stardust. I have said all of the above to say today's teams remind be of the golden era of the 80s. All the mentioned teams have the same ring gear, same entrance music, and own their personas. While there are some teams I am not a fan of among those I listed, they all represent a greater whole that is the tag team division. These Superstars have taken pride in their respective teams and pushed the division to levels that haven't really been achieved in a decade. Personally, I think they deserve new belts. Who in the world wants to fight tooth and nail for the copper?! No, they want to fight for the gold. Give them GOLD belts again and please don't put a giant WWE logo on them, the guys deserve better than that. If there is any doubt in the division's achievement lately, imagine being back in 2010 and ask yourself if you would have ever seen a tag team Elimination Chamber match. Hopefully, this division continues to thrive and they'll raise the bar beyond what the Dudleys, Hardys, or Edge and Christian could have imagined.
Feel free to share your thoughts below and talk about your favorite past team or the team you think about when you hear “Tag Team Wrestlers.” Who was your tag team when you were younger? Who was the best and is the best now? Who emerged from those tag teams as the greatest singles wrestler?