It takes two to tango, and one might expect the same is true for tag team wrestling. In the literal sense, it is indeed a requirement that a tag team has at least two members in order to actually be a tag team, yet there have been countless examples over time proving only one of them necessarily needs to be any good. Alright, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the fact remains there is usually a disparity in tag teams where one wrestler is significantly more talented than the other. And yeah, sometimes, the weaker member of the duo can flat out suck, which bizarrely doesn’t always affect their career prospects.
The great thing about tag team wrestling is that whenever one member of the duo gets tired or worn out, he can tag in the other to refresh the crowd in a new or different way. Unfortunately, not every team has been able to take advantage of this, as certain units are more likely to hear an audible groan when the better partner leaves the ring for a breather. That said, there have nonetheless been a few cases where one member of a tag team was so talented, they overcame all of their partner’s weaknesses and led the duo to the record books all by themselves.
Success is a hard thing to measure in scripted wrestling, and talent can be even more subjective, so there’s sure to be controversy in the following list. It’s not that the lesser half of these teams were entirely worthless, but the fact is, they could never have become stars without someone else doing all the heavy lifting. Keep reading to learn about 15 so-called “great” tag teams everyone forgets really only had one talented member.
15. Too Cool – Scotty II Hotty Carried Grand Master Sexay
From beginning to end, everything about Too Cool was goofy fun, so arguing about which of the two had more in-ring talent is kind of missing the point. Sure, Scotty II Hotty was a much more talented wrestler than Grand Master Sexay ever was, but did anyone really care? The whole point was how fun it was to watch them dance, and Sexay was pretty much equal to Hotty in this regard. Joking aside, Too Cool’s wrestling skills really couldn’t compare to their ability to bust a move. Neither man would achieve a huge deal of success outside of the team, yet Hotty at least has several matches fans point to as classics, not to mention, a short reign as WWE Light Heavyweight Champion. All Sexay has to show for himself is a few dozen USWA Championships, a dubious honor considering his father owned that company.
14. Men On A Mission – Mabel Carried Mo
As already established, what exactly constitutes as talent in pro wrestling is somewhat up for debate. To some contrarians, Men On A Mission may rank as one of the weakest WWE Tag Team Championship-winning duos in company history. The nature in which they won the gold really doesn’t help, as the brief reign lasted a mere two days, starting and ending at house shows. On top of that, calling Mabel the more talented member is probably a bit questionable since his crowning as the 1995 King of the Ring ended probably the most hated tournament WWE has ever put on. That’s not even mentioning Mabel’s bomb of a SummerSlam main event against Diesel. With all that said, Mabel at least got to appear in a Pay-Per-View headlining bout, and then somehow kept his career going a solid ten years after that. Mo, however, was gone the second Mabel was done with him, never to appear again.
13. The Eliminators – Perry Saturn Carried John Kronus
In a world of hardcore chaos and nonstop violence, The Eliminators were known for their incredible synchronicity as a team when it came to flashy and explosive wrestling moves. There’s no denying both John Kronus and Perry Saturn were decent acrobats during their time as a team, but the fact remains that outside of the unique double-team maneuvers, Kronus was pretty much useless in the ring. For some reason, unless he was directly mimicking Saturn, Kronus would almost instantly get lost and forget how to wrestle entirely. This is probably why Kronus never evolved from ECW, while Saturn was able to experience lengthy runs in both WCW and WWE, winning a respectable amount of gold in each organization. Years later, Saturn himself would suggest Kronus had a very poor work ethic and simply wasn’t willing to keep up.
12. The Hart Foundation – Bret Hart Carried Jim Neidhart
When one-half of a tag team later starts calling himself “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be,” it could almost feel like he’s insulting any allies who helped him during the beginning of his career. In the case of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, though, few people would take his comment as an insult to Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Even if someone happens to disagree with Hart’s assertion, chances are, all wrestling fans can accept the fact he was more talented than Neidhart in pretty much every sense of the word. While Bret was the “Excellence of Execution,” performing countless technical wrestling holds with expert skill, Neidhart largely relied on punches, clotheslines, and basically being a big lug for Bret to carry around. Once Neidhart left WWE, Bret was free to spread his wings, soon winning five WWE Championships and proving his catchphrase might actually be true.
11. The Legacy – Cody Rhodes Carried Ted DiBiase, Jr.
Alright, alright—technically speaking, The Legacy was a stable also featuring Randy Orton (and technically Manu and Sim Snuka, though WWE retconned them out of history). That said, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, Jr. were nonetheless a team within a team as a duo, twice winning the WWE Tag Team Championship. While it’s probably fair to guess DiBiase did better than either Manu or Snuka could have in the role, he still didn’t live up to Rhodes in the slightest, let alone to Orton, for that matter. DiBiase wasn’t exactly helpless in the ring, but he was almost entirely lacking in charisma, and more than that, he had almost no passion for the business. In contrast, Cody Rhodes always gave his greatest effort inside and out of the ring, hoping to achieve greatness despite WWE’s refusal to show continued faith in him.
10. Harlem Heat – Booker T Carried Stevie Ray
Looking throughout this list, it would probably be a reasonable question to ask why so many talented wrestlers were willing to team up with comparative total duds. Most of the time, the world may never know the answer, but there’s no real mystery with Harlem Heat—Booker T and Stevie Ray are real-life brothers. Of course, talent is never something that runs in the family, nor is personality or charisma—all areas where Booker strongly excels beyond his older sibling. The one thing Stevie Ray had going for him was intensity, which wears off pretty quickly when a match goes longer than 10 minutes (and all the good ones do). Due to WCW being WCW, or perhaps, the duo’s brotherly bond, Booker nonetheless stuck with Stevie nearly a full decade before going solo, earning a record number of Tag Team Championships in the process. That said, Booker was probably even happier becoming a five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time WCW Champion, a feat that would have been entirely unfathomable for poor Stevie Ray.
9. The Midnight Rockers – Shawn Michaels Carried Marty Jannetty
Before this entry continues any further, let’s point out for a second that Marty Jannetty wasn’t always worse than Shawn Michaels. In fact, when The Midnight Rockers first started teaming together, industry experts predicted Jannetty would become the biggest star, although this was obviously not the case. This was during The Rockers’ stint in the AWA, where they twice reigned as Tag Team Champions. Gold officially eluded The Rockers once they jumped to WWE, ultimately leading to their breakup and launching Michaels into the singles stratosphere. Even as HBK started to surpass his wayward partner, it’s not like Jannetty was lagging far behind, still wrestling good matches on special occasions. However, Jannetty is not even close to being in the same league as Michaels was, Shawn winning the WWE Championship several times en route to the Hall of Fame. This was largely due to Jannetty’s rampant drug use, which prevented him from ever having a chance of catching up with HBK’s level.
8. The Iron Sheik Carried Nikolai Volkoff
Generic foreign heels are hardly scarce in WWE, and the fact is, most of them steal their shtick from The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Both Sheik and Volkoff had long and successful careers as solo wrestlers before teaming up under the guidance of “Classy” Freddie Blassie in the mid-80s, yet it could already be argued Sheik was the better of the two. After all, Volkoff never won the WWE Championship, and Sheik did, even if it was only for a short while to transition from Hulk Hogan to Bob Backlund. More importantly, Sheik was significantly better on the microphone and in the ring than Volkoff was, especially at that point in his career. Granted, the two wrestled in a different era, and the only true point of their teaming up was to get crowds chanting “USA,” so it’s not like WWE was particularly concerned about this issue.
7. Pretty Wonderful – Paul Orndorff Carried Paul Roma
Truth be told, absolutely any team featuring Paul Roma could be on this list, and he’d always be on the weaker side (well, maybe not Power & Glory—Hercules was a pretty lousy wrestler, too). Roma’s team with Paul Orndorff, known as Pretty Wonderful, takes the cake for winning him two WCW Tag Team Champions. Teaming with Arn Anderson would also nab Roma a third taste of gold, but considering absolutely no one bought Roma as a Horseman, it would be hard to pretend anyone considered that team “great.” Not many people used that word to describe Pretty Wonderful either, except for the WCW commentary desk. That said, most of the team’s poor reputation is due entirely to Roma, and Mr. Wonderful, in fact, put in his usual great performances during this era. In short, there’s a reason WCW kept Orndorff around even after he was forced to retire but fired Roma almost immediately after the team broke up.
6. The Fabulous Freebirds (WCW Version) – Michael Hayes Carried Jimmy Garvin
Outlaws in every sense of the word, the original Fabulous Freebirds were amongst the first tag teams to feature more than two members. Consisting of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts, the trio invented the “Freebird Rule” to dictate how six-man teams could win two-man titles, and all three people involved were pretty darn good in the ring at the time. For whatever reason, when it came time for the group to head out of the territorial era and into the ‘90s, only Hayes was willing to go to WCW. Unfortunately, this meant his two talented partners were replaced with someone significantly less skilled at grappling, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin. Quite frankly, Hayes was also starting to slow down in the ring at this point, but he at least still possessed his considerable microphone skills, justifying a Freebird revival and a push. Too bad he was stuck with Garvin when he tried to make it happen.
5. The Smoking Gunns – Billy Gunn Carried Bart Gunn
Largely because of the silly cowboy gimmick and the era they competed in, not everyone is going to agree with the suggestion Billy and Bart Gunn’s smokin’ tag team was necessarily a great one. On the other hand, three reigns as WWE Tag Team Champions can’t be discounted entirely, especially considering the Gunns cumulatively wore the gold for almost an entire year. Though neither Gunn was an innovative technical mastermind, Billy, at the very least, had a strong understanding of what tag team wrestling was supposed to be. Once the Gunns broke up, Billy proved this mastery of dual grappling in later teams with The Road Dogg and Chuck Palumbo, earning no less than 11 total Tag Team Championships throughout his career. Bart, however, pretty much faded away immediately after Billy moved on, his only other noteworthy moment getting knocked out by Butterbean at WrestleMania XIV.
4. The Natural Disasters – Earthquake Carried Typhoon
The concept behind a team like The Natural Disasters was incredibly simple. Take two giant, hulking athletes who like beating people up and make them friends, so they can accomplish this goal with ease. If things go well, turn them into default heroes who use their size for good. In this respect, Earthquake and Typhoon both played their roles perfectly, yet when it came to actually adding substance to the roles, the ground was rumbling a lot more than the wind was blowing. Earthquake has long been praised as one of the greatest “big man” wrestlers WWE has ever seen, thanks to his great charisma and ability to work a crowd. To most people, his partner Typhoon is simply that goof who fell through a wall in WCW. Yep—Typhoon later became The Shockmaster. Not that we’re holding it against him, but this isn’t quite the same as co-main eventing a Pay-Per-View against Hulk Hogan, a feat Quake pulled off at SummerSlam 1990.
3. The Blade Runners – Sting Carried The Ultimate Warrior
With all due respect to Sting and The Ultimate Warrior, it might be a stretch to call their pre-fame team, The Blade Runners, a “great” one. Quite frankly, the Blade Runners were castigated in their time for being highly inexperienced and unprepared for the roles they were given in ‘80s territories like Jerry Jarrett’s CWA or Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling. However, the team has received somewhat of a retroactively legendary status due to the fame both grapplers would later achieve, and they had at least one match together in WCW when both were huge stars (albeit without using the old name). In any event, the true point here isn’t whether or not the Blade Runners were technically proficient; the question is if both of them deserve their reputation, and the answer is no. Sting is indeed one of the greatest wrestlers in WCW history, or perhaps, wrestling history, in general, while Warrior was an unstable, mid-level talent who could barely piece together a match without someone else doing all the heavy lifting.
2. Doom – Ron Simmons Carried Butch Reed
Believe it or not, back when Doom first made their way to a WCW ring, it was Butch Reed doing Ron Simmons the favor. Simmons had just recently made the transition to pro wrestling from football, while Reed was a seasoned vet known for his work in both WCW and WWE. Despite the considerable experience advantage, though, it eventually became apparent that Simmons was always destined for more success than his partner could ever achieve. It was no small feat for Butch Reed to wrestle Ric Flair in a one-hour draw for the NWA Championship, yet this hardly compares to Simmons defeating Vader for the belt after the company switched names to WCW. This made Simmons the first black World Champion a mainstream wrestling company had ever seen, instantly cementing him as a true legend. A few famous matches and an ironic haircut were hardly enough to say Reed lived up to his partner.
1. The Impact Players – Lance Storm Carried Justin Credible
Due to the political nature of pro wrestling, there’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes, less talented wrestlers will achieve more than their obviously superior counterparts. Granted, whether or not this is necessarily the case with The Impact Players is up for debate, as the successes earned by Lance Storm and Justin Credible post-breakup were quite different, to say the least. Storm jumped to WCW and won a number of midcard titles, followed by transitioning to WWE during the Invasion era and continuing on that path. Credible, on the other hand, won the ECW Championship before the team even split, and held on to it for a while after Storm had left him behind. Of course, it’s hard to consider Credible’s title reign a “success,” considering, in many ways, it was the death knell for Paul Heyman’s company. The fact Storm was able to keep getting hired while Credible fell to obscurity despite winning the “more prestigious” title pretty much speaks for itself.
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