In business, it is suggested that your best chance of success is to surround yourself with people who are on the same mission as you. In professional wrestling, it would seem then that one would have a greater chance at wrestling success by pairing up with a compatible partner and making a run for a WWE contract as a tag team. Though wrestling does include some success stories of duos that came together early in their careers that rose to the top as a unit, there are actually a fair number of teams that didn’t achieve success at the top tier of the sport as a tag team, though both members of the team may have achieved success on their own. In some cases, the paths of the former allies would cross in the WWE or WCW as rivals, or perhaps as partners, but their fates saw each member of the team travel a very different path.
While there are select few partnerships such as the Road Warriors and the Rock ‘n Roll Express whose stories are so critically inter-twined that their story can’t be told without sharing the other’s part on that success, this list explores the tag teams who you may not have known were ever paired up. Their success on their own is what the history books will reflect.
15. The Cobra Corps
Sgt. Slaughter holds a special spot in the history of professional wrestling as one of the most patriotic characters in the history of the sport. He was one of the first wrestlers to have his image cross over into popular culture as an animated character and action figure in the G.I. Joe franchise. While wrestling in the Carolinas, Slaughter formed his own army, the Cobra Corps, which included Terry Daniels and a newcomer named Jim Nelson. Ranking his officers, the Sarge often paired up with Private Nelson in tag team action. While they did generate some notoriety in the Mid-Atlantic states, that partnership wouldn’t ascend to the national spotlight. Slaughter would go on to the WWE World title and feuds with the likes of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. He would meet up again with Private Nelson, as tag team partners at the WWE’s Survivor Series pay per view in 1990 – only by this time, Nelson was known more famously as Boris Zhukov.
14. Badd Company
Managed by “Diamond” Dallas Page, the team of Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond saw the height of their success in the American Wrestling Association where they held the World tag team titles. However, at a time when the AWA was in decline, they watched as many of their peers were jumping ship to the WWE. The Rockers, who they had defeated for the titles had jumped, Curt Hennig jumped, and it seemed like a natural fit that they might also be promoted as a package in the WWE as well. Initially, that was not the case. Pat Tanaka was paired with Akio Sato under manager Mr. Fuji as the Orient Express while Diamond languished in the undercard. However, when Sato departed from the team, the pair was somewhat reunited – not as Badd Company though. Diamond was put under a mask as Kato, partnering with Tanaka to continue the Orient Express team.
13. Beer Money Inc.
At the height of their success as a team in TNA, many wrestling fans may have wished to see the pairing of James Storm and Bobby Roode together in the WWE to ignite the tag team division there as well. However, history would take us down a different path. First, the team would disband and feud against one another in TNA, then James Storm would make a celebrated (though short-lived) jump to NXT on his own. It looks as though, for fans of Bobby Roode, that good things come to those who wait as Roode’s arrival seems to have him poised for greater success and elevation as a singles competitor. He’s only had a handful of appearances and his t-shirt is already available in the WWE Shopzone and his ring music is available as a download from iTunes. What could have been for Beer Money Inc.? Looks like we’ll never know a WWE version of that great partnership.
12. The Kings of Wrestling
The two time Ring of Honor tag team champions Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero certainly generated a strong following for themselves as a duo on the independent circuit. Their ability was too great to be ignored and both would find themselves signed by the WWE and raised to the world’s biggest stage in professional wrestling. However, their paths would not cross once crossing the threshold in Vince McMahon’s territory. Claudio was renamed Cesaro and received opportunities in solo and tag team competition alongside Tyson Kidd. Chris Hero, on the other hand never managed to breach the main roster, delegated to the NXT brand as Kassius Ohno for several months before his eventual release. While the Kings of Wrestling are now travelling separate paths, their run as a championship-winning pair will remain a large part of the story of their journey to wrestling greatness.
11. Kevin Steen & El Generico
For long time fans of both Kevin Steen and El Generico, it may very well feel that you can’t separate the story of either wrestler’s career without including the involvement of the other. Still, the longtime rivals who battled each other numerous times on both sides of the 49th parallel found themselves lined up on the same side of the ball as challengers, and eventual co-holders of the Ring of Honor tag team championship. Generico was the first to arrive in the WWE, re-named Sami Zayn and assigned to the NXT roster where he ascended to capture the championship. It’s somewhat fitting that on the night of Zayn’s crowning achievement, that Steen would arrive to spoil the celebration and renew hostilities. While WWE audiences may not see the mat mastery of these two as a duo, it looks like we will be treated to a textbook display of their heated rivalry in the months and years to come.
10. Jim Neidhart & Crusher Kruschev
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was wrestling in Florida when he got the call to work for the WWE. At the time, he was dominating the tag team division with an equally imposing partner, Crusher Kruschev. The duo held the Championship Wrestling from Florida version of the United States tag team titles, but as Neidhart left for New York, Kruschev was called up to the Carolinas to wrestle for the Crocketts. Of course, Neidhart would see his greatest successes in sport alongside his brother in law Bret Hart as the Hart Foundation, but he would meet up with Kruschev again. In 1987, Neidhart’s former partner was introduced to WWE audience as Demolition Smash. The Hart Foundation and Demolition would exchange hostilities in dozens of matches, often battling over the rights to the WWE World tag team titles. As of yet, neither Neidhart or Kruschev (Barry Darsow) are members of the WWE Hall of Fame, though it seems to be an equally egregious oversight in both cases.
9. Ted DiBiase & Steve Williams
In Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling territory, few tag teams could boast the chemistry of Ted DiBiase and Steve “Dr. Death” Williams. DiBiase provided the smooth, technical skills as a second generation wrestler and Williams, building on his reputation from the football field brought the power game to the team. The pair were team mates when DiBiase got the call to the WWE as a singles act, a decision that he debated and sought counsel on before signing. DiBiase would ascend to become the “Million Dollar Man”, one of the most infamous villains of the generation, while Williams would see his greatest successes in Japan. Williams did eventually arrive in the WWE, but his time was short-lived as an injury during the ill-fated “Brawl for All” competition sidelined what was expected to be an explosive introduction to the roster. The contrast of styles demonstrated by this twosome might have been a great match for the Hart Foundation. The possibilities give us goosebumps.
8. The Super Models
Rick Martel had already cemented his reputation in the sport and with the WWE prior to 1997 with tag team championship success alongside Tony Garea and later Tito Santana. As “The Model,” Martel’s battles with Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Tatanka made him a readily recognized star in the company. So, it was Martel who led the negotiations when he found himself a new tag team partner while wrestling on the independents that he thought would be a surefire hit in the WWE. Teaming with Winnipeg’s Don Callis, under the name Don Casablancas, Martel proposed re-igniting his model persona as a tag team “The Super Models” for one final WWE run. The WWE liked the idea and signed Callis. However, before Martel committed ink to paper, he was lured away with a more lucrative offer from the rival World Championship Wrestling. Callis would instead be best known as a manager during his brief WWE run, first for the Truth Commission, then the Human Oddities.
7. Canadian Glamour Boys
Originally from Ontario Canada, the team of Sean Morley and Shane Sewell had some of their earliest matches on the independent circuit in their home Province before hitting the road. They saw their greatest heights as a team in Puerto Rico for the World Wrestling Council where they held the tag team titles on a few occasions. However, when the WWE came calling, it was only Morley that they were interested in and he was recruited to a preparatory training camp alongside Edge, Tiger Ali Singh and Shawn Stasiak. Of course, he would ascend the ranks as Val Venis. Sewell did get a few tryout opportunities, but has remained as one of the most recognized figures in the Puerto Rican wrestling scene, headlining as a solo star on the island for a number of years. Sewell made rare U.S. appearances as a referee for TNA, but American audiences have had little opportunity to witness his contract-worthy talent.
6. Sex & Violence
While it is true that Edge and Christian were tag team partners and travelling companions on the road during their days on the independents, Edge was paired up with a variety of other wrestlers as well with varying success. During his early years, perhaps his greatest visibility came as the stablemate of Joe Legend as the team “Sex & Violence”. Making appearances on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, this partnership even secured some press for themselves in the American trade media, which was almost unheard of for Canadian wrestlers after the death of the territory system. Of course, Edge would be joined by Christian shortly after his arrival in the WWE. Joe Legend would turn up a short while later, simply dubbed as the unimpressive “Just Joe” for an unmemorable stay in the Federation. Legend has since gone on to have a brilliant career in Europe, making his home base in Germany.
5. Curt Hennig & Scott Hall
Like fellow AWA alumni, Badd Company, Curt Hennig and Scott Hall generated significant visibility as the AWA tag team champions. In fact, during that time it was predicted that Scott Hall was hand-picked to be wrestling’s next great star. AWA play-by-play announcer Eric Bischoff frequently referred to Hall as “the next Hulk Hogan.” However, when opportunities arose to jump to bigger opportunities, Hennig signed as a solo act with the WWE, becoming “Mr. Perfect.” Hall would make it to the WWE as well after stays in Puerto Rico and WCW, billed as Razor Ramon. They most notably crossed paths again in 1993 when they engaged in a series of matches against each other on WWE House shows, but would partner up for select appearances during the remainder of the WWE and WCW careers. Though both are inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, there is little mention of the each other’s involvement in their careers.
4. Second City Saints
While the jury may be out on Ring of Honor between new school and old school fans, there is no denying the value of that promotion for producing top tier talent that has the tools to ascend to the very top of the sport. Such was the case again with the team of the Second City Saints – CM Punk and Colt Cabana. The two time ROH tag team champions would both secure WWE contracts, with Cabana being billed as Scotty Goldman during his all too brief stay in the company. Punk, after some initial resistance from the WWE administration that felt that his style was “too indy” to be successful in their environment, ascended to be one of the most notorious stars of his generation, rising to the WWE World title. Given the opportunity, could the Second City Saints have re-created their ROH success under the WWE banner. It’s unlikely that we will ever know.
3. Sudden Impact
There may be some hardcore wrestling fans out there that remember the Smoky Mountain Wrestling pairing of Chris Jericho and Lance Storm as the Thrillseekers, but their partnership began way earlier than that. Jericho and Storm were actually enrolled in the same class at the Hart Brothers wrestling camp in 1990 and shortly after debuting, they found themselves partnered up for appearances in various Canadian cities and on tours of Japan as Sudden Impact. While they embraced the opportunity to break into the American market with Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, the financial state of the offer created some challenges. Jericho departed for other offers while Lance Storm continued to solidify his position. Both wrestlers would climb to ECW, WCW and to the WWE, though their tag team partnership never factored into the equation in a significant way, nor is it often mentioned when either wrestler is being discussed.
2. The Boulder Brothers
While their friendship is well known in the sport of professional wrestling, their early days as a brother tag team may not be well known. In the summer of 1979, a new tag team debuted in the Memphis wrestling territory – Terry and Eddie Boulder. They were both well-conditioned, though somewhat mechanical in their movements as many bodybuilders were that tried to make the transition to wrestling. However, when promoters got a look at the 6’7”, 300 pound Terry Boulder, they knew they had something on their hands. Before the year was out, he was scouted by Vince McMahon Sr. to appear in the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation, but he needed a new name – Hulk Hogan. Hogan would become the cornerstone of the WWE’s national expansion in 1984 and his influence would open the door for his “brother” Eddie to join him. Eddie, now known as Brutus Beefcake would enjoy a lengthy run in the WWE as well, rejoining Hogan as a tag team partner in 1993.
1. The Blade Runners
One of the most fascinating tag teams to climb parallel ladders to success has to be the Blade Runners – Flash and Justice. Originally trained by Rick Bassman and Red Bastien in California, the Blade Runners got their first break as a team in the Memphis territory for promoter Jerry Jarrett. Given their size, they soon caught the attention of Bill Watts in Mid-South Wrestling and they wrestled their final matches as a team in that circuit. Justice left for an opportunity in Texas for the Von Erich family’s World Class Championship Wrestling, while Flash stayed on in Mid-South, adopting a solo persona as Sting. About the time that Sting was migrating to main event matches against Ric Flair in the NWA, Justice had emerged on WWE television as the Ultimate Warrior. Both wrestlers enjoyed main event billing, world title status and an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, though their partnership would never be re-kindled at wrestling’s top tier.
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