In the world of professional wrestling, there are three major divisions, singles men competitors, women competitors, and Tag Teams. While WWE has placed an added importance on its women’s division recently due to the “Divas revolution”, there has been a noticeable lack of attention paid to the Tag wrestlers. For me, one of the most entertaining parts of Tag Team wrestling is the interplay between the two partners. As such, I am fascinated every time I learn of two superstars who I had no idea had been Tag Team partners.
Whether it was before they hit it big, or as a part of an ongoing storyline, these odd couples instantly added another layer to their division. As such, this list will count down the 15 Wrestler Pairs That You Won’t Believe Were Tag Team Partners. To qualify for this list, these partner pairs must be not only shocking, but they must have been partners for a substantial amount of time (as in not a one-time thing).
15. Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels
When you think of these two superstars in regards to Tag Teams you likely do not think of them in conjecture with each other. Nash forever changed the wrestling world as a member of the Outsiders with Scott Hall (a precursor to the NWO) and of course Shawn Michaels was famously paired with Triple H as part of Degeneration-X. However, when Nash first made his debut, it was as the security guard for WWE Champion Shawn Michaels. Nash would eventually break from the heel Michaels on his way to capturing the title for himself, however, this was an important chapter in the careers of both men (though it is one that has largely been forgotten).With Michaels’ spotty history with Tag Team partners, I doubt that this will be the last time you see him on this list.
14. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston
If Big E ever finds himself in the WWE Hall of Fame, it will likely be due to his membership in the New Day stable. Earlier this year him and his cohorts broke the record as the longest reigning “W…W….E….Tag….Team…Champions” (with accompanying pelvic thrust). However, the first Tag Team partner Big E ever had was “the showoff” Dolph Ziggler. As Ziggler’s “heavy”, Big E was pretty much responsible for making sure Ziggler didn’t get his butt whooped. With the group’s breakup (due in large part to AJ Lee), E would go on to have a mildly successful singles run, before joining up with the New Day. It’s hard to believe that the incredibly comic Langston would ever have been such a serious part of another Tag Team.
13. John Cena and Batista
This won’t be the only entry discussing the shocking pairing of two immensely popular stars, but it is the most recent. In the midst of a rivalry in 2010, WWE Creative decided to highlight the Cena–Batista rivalry by having them defeat Tag Team Champions Legacy. Imagine how great this Tag Team could have been (the fictitious nature of professional wrestling aside) if they were allowed to stay together for more than the sake of a storyline. Easily the top-tier stars of WWE at the time, I have always been fascinated by WWE’s interplay of Cena and Batista (the 2005 Royal Rumble is a great example), and this was no different. WWE may have borrowed heavily from the entry near the top of our list, but that didn’t make the Cena-Batista Tag Team any less impressive, and certainly didn’t keep them from making our list at #13.
12. AJ Styles and Tomko
As has likely been apparent, a significant theme of this list is the stark differences between the two partners. However, that’s not always a good thing. An example of this is the #12 entry on this list the Tag Team of AJ Styles and Tomko. While AJ Styles is one of the very best wrestlers in the world, Tomko certainly is not. Therefore, it was shocking to many to see TNA hook Styles to the hundreds of pounds of dead weight that is Tomko. For the past year rumors have been circulating of the demise of TNA, and it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has seen those in charge bumble the management of several hugely talented stars. Styles would eventually leave TNA for Japan before making his debut for WWE. Luckily WWE has allowed him to be the singles wrestler he was meant to be and hasn’t stuck him with such a shocking partner as Tyson Tomko.
11. Umaga and Rosie: 3-minute warning
Perhaps no team has seen its two members take their careers in more different directions upon their breakup than the team of 3 Minute Warning. This team was originally assembled as part of Eric Bischoff’s new management style, in which any matches which had lasted more than 3 minutes (at this point considered boring by Bischoff) were unceremoniously ended by these two thugs. This gimmick was actually kind of entertaining and with the modern jaded WWE Universe it probably would have been more popular, but it’s what occurred after their breakup that is important for this list. It would take a few years, but when Eddie Fatu would resurface, it would be in the form of Umaga, a hugely destructive force who would find himself in several huge spots including the Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania XXIII. Rosie, meanwhile, would go on to become the superhero sidekick of the Hurricane. The way in which these two superstars would go on to respectively legitimate and merely comedic roles within the company certainly makes them one of the most shocking Tag Teams of all time, and the #11 Tag Team on our list.
10. The Rock and Mankind
One of the overlying themes of this list is one of “odd couples” There’s something about two guys who are just fundamentally different but still manage to work together to accomplish great things that inspires the WWE universe. However, before there was a Sheamus and Cesaro, or William Regal and Eugene there was the Rock and Mankind. It is amazing to me that two guys as different as Dwayne Johnson (handsome movie star) and Mick Foley (chubby caveman Santa) could have the crazy amount of chemistry that the Rock and Sock Connection showed on a regular basis. I would guess that both men’s overarching love for the business worked as the glue for this superstar group, but whatever the secret to their success is they are perhaps the most memorable pair to make our list of shocking Tag Teams.
9. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty
The reason Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty (AKA the Rockers) are included on this list, other than to show this picture of them with their colorful outfits and feathered hair, is to show the drastically different directions that two superstars can go upon their group’s breakup. For instance, after the breakup of the Rockers, Shawn Michaels would go on to become one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time, and Jannetty would go on to become……well nobody. I think the most shocking thing about the Rockers was that there was ever a time when people thought Michaels and Jannetty were on equal footing. Thankfully WWE would finally pull the trigger on a breakup and Michaels would shortly transition into an impressive singles wrestler on his way to becoming a storied WWE champion. However, the Rockers Tag Team of “equals” makes it on our list of shocking Tag Teams here at #9.
8. Edge and Raven
One way in which WWE seeks to present new talent is by having them be a lackey to an already established superstar. While this is an effective way to present new talent without asking them to carry a match or promo on their own, it also makes for some strange bedfellows. Nowhere was this more apparent than when the Rated R Superstar Edge made his debut in WWE as part of Raven’s flock. For those of you who don’t remember Raven, at his best he was meant to have a Bray Wyatt/Undertaker eerie feel to him, with a supernatural tinge to his character. It’s obvious from Edge’s own singles character (and evidenced by interviews with him) that this was a pretty strange casting for him. Eventually, Edge would break from the flock with his longtime friend Christian, but during his short time as a member of the Flock, it certainly made for one of the more shocking WWE Tag Teams.
7. Finn Balor and Hideo Itami
This partnership is significant when you look at how far each of these superstars have come in the year since their pairing. Many fans have forgotten (or simply don’t know) that Finn Balor made his debut for the WWE company (at NXT) as the mystery partner of longtime friend Hideo Itami. This will be startling to some, as they will recognize the incredible progress Balor has made to this point in comparison with the stagnated career of Itami. Balor put the wrestling world on its heels this past year by winning the inaugural WWE Universal Championship within a month of his main roster debut. Prior to this, he was also the longest reigning NXT Champion of all time. Itami, meanwhile, has been slowed by injuries and has seen almost no progress made in his wrestling career. Time will only tell if Itami becomes a mere footnote in the ever-blossoming career of his one-time partner Finn Balor.
6. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins
Before you start calling for my head, I am aware that everyone knows Rollins and Reigns were once Tag Team partners. As part of the Shield, they (along with Dean Ambrose) changed the face of WWE before Rollins betrayed his cohorts to join the Authority. The reason Reigns and Rollins make this list, however, is that few people seem to remember that not only were they partners together, they were Tag Team Champions together. To add credibility to the Shield upon their debut, each member won a title within WWE. Ambrose won the U.S. Title (which could be an article within itself) and Reigns and Rollins won the Tag titles. With them starting to team up again recently, I was surprised to hear no mention of their past together at Tag Team Champions. Good for #6 on this list.
5. William Regal and Eugene
Has there ever been a more obvious example of an “odd couple” pairing in WWE? On one side you had the distinguished William Regal, a widely traveled and respected in-ring veteran (with a noble accent to boot). On the other side you have Eugene, a grown man who WWE (in their pre-PG era infinite wisdom) gave the persona of someone who was mentally challenged. Despite the obvious discrepancies between these two superstars, they almost instantly became fan favorites with the WWE Universe. Something about the patriarchal Regal overseeing the juvenile Eugene character seemed to tug on the heartstrings of the WWE fanbase. Despite their incredible crowd connection, the stark differences between these superstars put them on our list at #5
4. Edge and Randy Orton
Unlike the other entries on this list, this pairing enters into the realm of shocking mostly because of the relationship between the superstars themselves (as opposed to their fictional characters). Two of the most accomplished superstars of all time and easily first ballot hall of famers, Edge and Orton achieved instant success. Their group, Rated RKO, even defeated the legendary DX for the Tag Team Championship. However, during a raw taping in 2006, some personal issues between the two manifested themselves in a very real way. They were supposed to main event the show as fictional opponents, however, due to an actual physical confrontation between the two John Cena and Shawn Michaels were forced to wrestle a thrilling match which lasted over an hour. Personal issues significant enough to cause a backstage fistfight certainly made these two a surprising Tag Team.
3. Stone Cold and Triple H
This particular pairing is interesting because it occurred after these two superstars were already huge stars within WWE. Following a Steve Austin heel turn, these two would become the top villains of WWE, and would eventually claim the Tag Team Championship together. The reason this pairing was so shocking is the immense hatred that existed between the Triple H and Stone Cold characters prior to their coming together. Far from being bosom buddies, the tension between these two had been a prominent part of WWE storylines for the two years prior. Despite their previous altercations, the two seemed to mesh pretty well as a team. This could easily be tacked up to the Stone Cold face character growing stale, but I think their ability to work together after being enemies for so long is a true testament to the incredible talent of both Austin and Triple H.
2. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage
Those of you who remember this Tag Team will likely be more familiar with their nickname, the Megapowers. I do not think that before (or since) has a Tag Team included two superstars with the total star power that both Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage had at the time. In the period before WCW’s emergence, this group included unquestioningly WWE’s two biggest names. Of course, this team was created for the whole purpose of having them explode at WrestleMania 5 in “the clash of the Megapowers” and you have to give credit to Vince McMahon for the foresight of planning his main event so far in advance, but along the way it was a heck of a ride. The mere magnitude of the star power here more than earns this team a spot on our list at #2.
1. Sting and the Ultimate Warrior
Of all the superstars listed in this article, these are likely the ones you’re most surprised to learn were once a Tag Team. However, if you think about it, it kind of makes sense right? The face paint, the incredible charisma, and the obvious connection with the fans are just a few characteristics that these two great superstars share. The members of the #1 shocking Tag Team on our list were originally teamed up on the independent circuit, wrestling in front of small crowds in high schools and country barns. However, upon going their separate ways they would each go on to become major players in their respective companies (WCW for Sting and WWE for the Ultimate Warrior). Sting has hinted in interviews that personal differences may have led to their breakup, but you cannot deny that it led to two of the most tremendous singles careers that we have ever seen.