The Shield and the 10 Greatest 3-Man Teams in Wrestling History
The Shield has done some impressive work since debuting with a fury at last year's Survivor Series, but it can’t be considered among the greatest three-man teams in wrestling history.
While announcing The Shield's matches, JBL has compared Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to teams like The Four Horsemen. It's too early to crown them when they have been around less than a year. Trios that have won several championships or changed the industry have to be ranked above them, at least for now.
Yes, The Shield has been a part of an impressive number of classic matches already, but let's wait to see what Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose do over the course of a career before we put them in the Hall of Fame.
The following are the three-man teams The Shield should aspire to match and surpass.
These are the best, most entertaining and influential trios from All Japan Pro Wrestling, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, World Class Championship Wrestling, TNA, WCW, WWE and more.
Some quality teams were excluded for not being a three-man team consistently enough. The Dudley Boyz sometimes added Spike Dudley to the mix, but not consistently enough to be considered here. The Von Erichs often fought as a threesome, but the legendary family was more than just Kevin, Kerry and Mike. Lance, Mike and patriarch Fritz Von Erich joined them in battle as well.
Should The Shield's momentum continue, we should see them make their way onto this list and gradually climb it.
Others Worthy of Consideration
The team of Black Warrior, Blue Panther and Dr. Wagner Jr. held the CMLL World Trios Championship for over 1,000 days.
Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera formed The Mexicools, an entertaining trio of luchadors who rode to the ring on lawnmowers. They offered plenty of excitement but didn't stay together long enough or accomplish enough to crack the top 10.
ECW's Triple Threat, which consisted of Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko was one of the company's most powerful teams. Benoit and Malenko held the tag titles while Malenko was still TV champ.
WCW's Kanyon, Diamond Dallas Page and Bam Bam Bigelow formed an intimidating trio which exercised the Freebird Rule to defend their WCW World Tag Team titles.
Honorable Mention: Demolition
Few teams have been as intimidating or stood out so as much as Demolition.
As the duo of Ax and Smash, Demolition ranks mighty high on most lists of great tag teams. They were only a three-man unit with the addition of Crush for the last year of their existence.
The leather-clad rugged bruisers used the routine of switching partners without the referee looking long before The Bella Twins came around. Much of their tenure as WWE tag team champs was without Crush, but he helped them retain the belts on a few occasions.
Crush ended up being a replacement for Ax, shrinking their three-man nucleus back down to two.
10. Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi
These three All Japan Pro Wrestling wrestlers forming a team was a major converging of star power. Jumbo Tsuruta and Akira Taue were multi-time champs, including reigns as the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight champ. Masanaobu Fuchi was the company's Junior Heavyweight champion for impressive stretches at at a time.
The success of this trio together, though, is not marked by championships but by the number of classics it produced. Tsuruta, Taue and Fuchi's rivalry with Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada and Kenta Kobashi in the early '90s led to several critically acclaimed matches.
9. Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors
Pair the greatest tag team in wrestling history with a charismatic former world champ and you have a trio loaded with star power. Had these three men stayed together longer or had they not become a foursome so often with the addition of Nikita Koloff, they would have to be ranked higher.
The Four Horsemen's attacks on Dusty Rhodes led to him finding a couple of partners to help even the numbers advantage. The face-painted, spike-wearing intimidators known as The Road Warriors brought power and toughness to the mix.
It was an odd pairing of sorts with the brooding powerhouse tag team aligned with the smooth-talking charmer, but one that had enormous success. Aside from going toe-to-toe with the Horsemen several times, this trio won the NWA six-man tag team titles twice.
8. The Midnight Express
Eventually, The Midnight Express became a standard tag team, one that saw a variety of partners claim that name. In the beginning, before they had Jim Cornette as their manager, the team was a three-man squad of Randy Rose, Dennis Condrey and Norvell Austin.
Rose, Condrey and Austin invoked the Freebird Rule before it even had a name. They spent much of the early '80s atop Southeastern Championship Wrestling as tag champs. Austin was a former enemy of Rose and Condrey, but after losing the tag team titles to them in '81, decided to join forces with his foes.
Together they were the limousine-riding bad boys of the territory.
As a tag team, one that at one point included everyone from Wayne Farris to Bobby Eaton, The Midnight Express was one of the most influential and successful teams ever. As a trio, they had a great run to open the '80s; championships and momentum were theirs to be had.
7. Triple X
Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper and Low Ki dominated many of TNA's early years. Championships and thrilling matches were the hallmarks of their small faction.
Triple X won and lost the NWA World Tag Team Championship several times and exhilarated fans along the way. Speed, athleticism and jaw-dropping spots were commonplace when Triple X did battle.
The group could have reached even greater heights had it not disbanded following Low Ki's exodus to Japan. Triple X was one of TNA’s first great teams, a major contributor to the company during one of its best stretches.
6. Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi
Three Japanese icons formed a group brimming with star power. Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi are each considered one of the greatest wrestlers in that country's history. Imagine The Undertaker, Steve Austin and The Rock becoming a three-man team in the height of the Attitude Era.
Kawada, Misawa and Kobashi had a longstanding rivalry with Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi against whom they created a stockpile of classic matches. It seemed that each time those two teams clashed in the early '90s, a five-star match was born.
Had they been a trio more consistently, they would rank even higher.
5. Los Villaños
A group of brothers made an enduring mark on Mexican wrestling.
Los Villaños (the villains) wore distinct, colorful masks as they pounded on their opponents. Although there were a total of five brothers, they often fought as a trio.
Villaño III, Villaño IV and Villaño V captured the AAA Americas Trios Championship, IWRG Intercontinental Trios Championship and the WWA World Trios Championship together. Villaño I joined No. 4 and 5 to win the UWA World Trios Championship multiple times.
Whichever combination of brothers joined forces at any given time, they seemed to end up on top.
They defeated groups like Los Brazos and Los Mercenarios Americanos in battles where the losers were forced to unmask.
Los Villaños struck fear in both foes and fans. They were merciless, biting and bloodying their opponents.
4. The Russians
Nikita and Ivan Koloff joined forces with Krusher Khruschev to create one of wrestling's most intimidating three-man teams. Theirs is a legacy of championship gold, fear and villainy.
In the '80s, The Russians battled Dutch Mantell and Bobby Jaggers, The Rock and Roll Express and The Road Warriors, among others.
Khruschev and The Koloffs (they employed the Freebird Rule) twice won the NWA world tag titles. The Russians also added the NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship to their collection twice.
Drawing on the audience's distrust of the Soviets, The Russians became one of wrestling's most despised groups. Chains, clotheslines and bear hugs were among their chief weapons during their dominant run.
3. Los Misioneros De La Muerte
Long before The Shield bullied its way to success, Los Misioneros de la Muerte (The Missionaries of Death) haunted Mexico's fans and victimized their foes.
The original team of Negro Navarro, El Signo and El Texano was so popular that they were asked to tour Japan, and some say made six-man tag team wrestling the popular phenomenon that it is in Mexico today.
Los Misioneros wore black-and-white trunks with drawings of skulls on them. They are said to have been facing a team of Huracán Ramírez, Rayo de Jalisco and the iconic El Santo when El Santo had a heart attack in the ring. Imagine the reaction from fans a team would have gotten had Hulk Hogan nearly died when fighting them.
The aggressive, tough Misioneros were not afraid to use weapons or break the rules on their way to holding the Universal Wrestling Association World Trios Championship six times.
2. New World Order
Even though the group ballooned from three to essentially a small army, the New World Order is the one of the greatest trios in wrestling history because of their dominance and influence during their time as a three-man team.
Wrestling fans are extremely familiar with the story of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash leaving the WWE for WCW to form The Outsiders, with Hulk Hogan joining them in one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history.
The NWO gave WCW an enormous momentum boost. These irreverent bad boys spray-painted rings with their logo, won championships and took over the company.
A long list of wrestlers from Buff Bagwell to Masahiro Chono joined the group, but it was Hogan, Nash and Hall that begin it all. NWO was the central entity in a national company, a key player in the Monday Night Wars and a group promoters can't help but to try to revive or imitate.
1. The Fabulous Freebirds
The Freebirds' contributions to the industry, their longevity and success. as well as how hated they were at their peak make them the greatest three-man team in wrestling history.
The concept of teams of three or more interchanging members to defend a championship—The Freebird Rule—is named after them.
The birth of wrestling entrance music can be attributed to Michael Hayes and gang as well. The Freebirds entered arenas to the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" before Hayes recorded the group's own theme, "Badstreet USA."
They won WCCW's six-man tag titles six times. The flashy, arrogant team also went on to have some success in WCW, capturing the WCW six-man belts once and the standard tag titles as well.
Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts (and Jimmy Garvin later) didn't just do things first, though, they did them masterfully. Few teams have been as hated as The Freebirds were during their feud with The Von Erichs in Dallas. They were simultaneously grating and entertaining, making their every match and promo unmissable.