WWE: Past, Present and Speculation on the Future of the Tag Team Championship
Hi all in the Bleachers!
Wrestling - when you get down to it - is an individual sport.
Though tag matches are featured on occasion, the main event at any Pay-Per-View is invariably a one-on-one grudge match between two grapplers.
Yet if we go back and look at the history of the Tag Team Championships, we see that it has a rich history and contributed greatly to the WWE and many of her premiere stars. Some of the greatest singles champions had their start in a tag team. As well, tag team wrestling has always been a great way to fill the mid card with fantastic action and a way to showcase some very talented wrestlers.
The Tag Team Championship gave some of these wrestlers who might not have picked up a Heavyweight Championship a place to shine.
This article will take a look back at the Tag Team Championship and the division itself. It will also look at the current state of the Tag Team Division (such as it is) and make the case for a renaissance in this once vital part of the spectacle that is WWE.
First, a bit of History.
Like many things in WWE, we must go back to the days of the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation). Vince McMahon Sr. named his Tag Team championship the World Wide Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship.
Quite the mouthful.
The inaugural champions at the title's inception in 1971, were Crazy Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler.
Those names alone suggest the colorful nature of their tag team and of the division that would grow out of the championship.
When the WWWF became the WWF it dropped the word 'wide' but was otherwise unchanged for the most part. For a short time in the 1990s - to the delight of ring announcers everywhere - the title was named the WWF Tag Team Championships for short.
Much like everything else WWE - then WWF - the Tag Team Championship changed in March of 2001. After a war of attrition that brought out the best and worst of an industry, Vince McMahon bought out WCW hence winning the Monday Night Wars.
Subsequently, WWF had two of most every championship. Like the rest of the championships, the WWF Tag Team Championships and the WCW Tag Team Championship were unified. In this case the belts were unified in a Steel Cage Match between the Hardy Boz and the Dudley Boyz with the Dudley Boyz becoming the now unified WWF Tag Team Champions.
In 2002, WWF got pinned by a panda so to speak and lost a legal battle with the World Wildlife Fund over the use of the letters WWF. Now the WWE (the E standing for Entertainment), the Tag Team Championship was now the WWE Tag Team Championship.
In order to try to re-create the competition that drove wrestling to new heights during the Monday Night Wars, WWE ushered in the age of brand expansion. WWE was now Raw and Smackdown. In order to have a Tag Team Championship for both brands, the new World Tag Team Championship was commissioned.
This was the state of affairs till WrestleMania XXV when both championship teams (The Colons and Miz and Morrison) went head to head. The Colons emerged victorious and were the first Unified WWE Tag Team Champions.
WWE made one final change in August of 2010 - dropping the 'Unified' - and the belts were now the WWE Tag Team Championship. These are the belts currently defended today.
Get all that?
With a history so colorful and full of name changes one would think that the Tag Team Title - regardless of what it was called - had an equally colorful history.
You would think that, but over time the division would fade compared to the greatness of what it once was.
Tag team wrestling had some colorful characters and future greats in the beginning. These included Mr. Fuji, Professor Tanaka, Chief Jay Strongbow (RIP), Haystacks Calhoun, Larry Zybyszko, Johnny Valiant, Dino Bravo, Black Jack Mulligan, Ivan Putski, Tito Santana and more. Many of these names are recognizable by most wrestling fans, and represent some amazing talent. Wrestlers that formed the backbone of the early WWE.
Many of these such as Mr. Fuji, Chief Jay Strongbow, Larry Zybyszko, Ivan Putski, Tito Santana, Dino Bravo and Haystacks Calhoun would also grace the ranks of singles competition. Many of these would hold singles titles.
But in my opinion, the greatest era of tag team action was the 80's and 90's. It was a time when the tag teams were not just two individuals thrown together (much as they are today). They were units that had their own gimmick and personality every bit as colorful and entertaining as those in singles competition.
The 80's started off with the Championship reign of Afa and Skia, the Wild Samoans. These two wild men would rarely speak, pick their nose and were known to eat raw fish during interviews. In a match, if their opponents could not provide enough competition, they would begin head-butting and beating on each other.
The next group to hold the belts was the team of Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales. Both were World Heavyweight Champions in their time.
Another great Tag team was the Moondogs. This group with alternating members had the gimmick of crazy mountain men. They wore frayed jeans, had wild hair and beards and carried around animal bones that they would chew on and even brandish as weapons.
Want a group with a more modern connection? How about Tag Team Champions Soul Patrol, the team of Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson? Tony Atlas was a professional body builder who went on to have a successful singles career. And Rocky Johnson? If the name sounds familiar, in addition to being a great wrestler, he fathered someone you might have heard of - Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
Then there was the U.S. Express, the team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. These two had great singles careers and Mike Rotundo would go on to create one of the more memorable characters in Irwin R Schyster - IRS.
Then of course there was the arthropod inspired group known as the Killer Bees and the British Imports known as the British Bulldogs. That team featured the great Davey Boy Smith who would go on to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Former WWE Heavyweight Champion Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkov - two great heels from the 80's - also teamed and would hold Tag Team Gold.
There were the Rockers, an ill fated team of big hair-band wannabes that featured future champion and legend Shawn Michaels.
There was Strikeforce who loved girls in cars and featured Tito Santana who was an all time great Intercontinental Champion and Rick Martell another great singles performer.
The Heart Foundation was famous for its pink garb and sunglasses. It featured the goateed strong man Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhardt and future Heavy Weight Champion and Hall-of-Famer Bret Hart.
Post Apocalyptic nightmare Demolition, Ax and Smash.
Denziens of Nastyville, the Nasty Boys.
A team with legions of fans, Legion of Doom - Hawk and Animal - tore through everyone in their path and were themselves the inspiration for the previously mentioned Demolition.
Future Champions Jeff and Matt Hardy would wow the crowd with high-flying moves - as a tag team and in singles competition.
The list could go on and on and does and I am sure someone out there will get mad at me for leaving out their favorites.
What should be obvious is that the Tag Team Division and the Championship that represents its pinnacle has featured some of the greatest competitors and singles champions to ever grace the squared circle. The teams were as colorful as any singles wrestler and represented the pinnacle of wrestling skill.
But that was then.
What do you think of the Tag Team Division as it stands today?
What about now?
Typifying the state of tag team wrestling today is the fact that at WrestleMania 28, the Tag Team Championship was defended in a dark match.
An 18 second squash match and a Diva's match however, made it to air.
There was once a good dozen tag teams. There are currently only two legitimate dedicated tag teams - The Colons and the Usos.
This underutilizing of Tag Team Wrestling is a travesty and a waste of underutilized and undiscovered talent.
And let me say - I like these two teams. We had Air-Boom a while back. This was a good tag team that worked because of two complimentary wrestling styles with two different looks. But the Bourne had to get himself suspended and that ended that.
WWE knows how to make good tag teams. But the fact is, tag matches are now a way for multiple wrestlers with heat on each other to have the issued played out all in one match. Essentially tag teams are used as a time-saving device. Couple this with the dark match snub at WrestleMania and that says it all about how WWE views its tag team division, such as it is.
When looking back at the history I believe the case can easily be made as to the value of Tag Team Wrestling.
But what about the future?
I believe in the old maxim of if it works, don't fix it. Going forward, the Tag Team Division should be used to find undiscovered superstars and utilize the wrestlers WWE already has. This could be especially important considering WWE stubbornly has decided not to re-instate the Cruiserweight Championship.
And there are a lot of different tag teams that could be formed. Think about the team of Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes, two guys who got beat by big guys at WrestleMania. They could call themselves the Giant-Killers. Or what about a reprisal of a Goldust and Booker T tag team, two old warhorses with gas left in the tank looking for one more run at the gold?
Or maybe Heath Slater and Brodus Clay. Heath is the One-Man-Rock-Band, Brodus is the Funkasaurus, together they could be the Rock-n-Funk connection.
Or maybe Kofi Kingston and Mason Ryan, what a study in contrasts that would be!
I could go on and on. WWE has a great track record of creating great tag teams but as of late, a lousy record for using them.
What tag teams have I missed?
What Tag teams would you create?
I welcome your thoughts!
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