My Mount Rushmore of WWE Tag Teams – by Hank McAllen
A while back I did a column on what I consider to be the Mount Rushmore of WWE wrestlers. Not necessarily my top 4 personal favorites, but guys I thought were the true faces of the company’s history. From time to time I will be writing various columns like these as they are (a) fun to write and (b) usually act as a springboard for some fun, spirited debate. Today, I will be sharing with you my Mount Rushmore of WWE Tag Teams. Unlike my initial Mount Rushmore article, I will be giving you my four favorite tag teams, not necessarily those I think are the faces of the tag team division in the company’s history. Keep in mind this is a WWE listing only, so no Midnight Express, Rock and Roll Express, Freebirds, Road Warriors, Harlem Heat or other teams who had their best days in other companies. That’ll be another column in the future.
To lay down some ground rules here is how I came up with my list. You will notice that none of the teams come from 2 time frames; the first time frame being the pre-WrestleMania era. The Wild Samoans were great as were Mr. Fuji and Tony Garea with their numerous partners, but none of them caught my attention as did the teams that arrived post Mania. The second time frame not represented is the dead era of WWE tag teams from late 2002 (post the Hardyz, Dudleys and Edge & Christian feud) through late 2007/early 2008 when the importance of the tag team title was diminished by the company. You will also not see thrown together teams (Hogan/Savage, RVD/Mysterio, Christian/Jericho, Kane/Undertaker). To me, these aren’t true tag teams. They seem nothing more than a way for the company to get as many guys on the roster in matches as best as they can. That said, let the games begin.
My number 4 favorite WWF/WWE tag team of all time is, The U.S. Express, which consisted of Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham. I know for many of you the words “who?” or “are you kidding me” are probably running through your mind. However, try to realize that they were the first really cool tag team to show up just before WrestleMania took place. The team was comprised of two brother-in-laws, whose family tree in the business started with Blackjack Mulligan and continues today with Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas (Bray’s real name is Windham Rotunda). Both guys were EXCELLENT in the ring.
Rotundo was a pure in ring technician, who had a great amateur wrestling career at the University of Syracuse where he became the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Heavyweight Champion in 1981. Windham was an absolute stud in the ring. He had the size that could match up with the big men in the business, but was quick and agile. The two made for that perfect tall guy, shorter guy combo. What also made them a very cool team was their entrance music. It was still the time when wrestlers came out to established rock songs and theirs was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” The place would explode when they heard the first note of the song and the 2 red, white and blue clad baby face hero’s would make their way to the ring to take on the anti-American duo of Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik.
Even though the team would only have two relatively short title runs, and be together for only one year in the company, they came along at a time when the WWF was beginning its nationwide expansion and crisscrossing over into main stream media. They took part in the first WrestleMania putting their tag team titles on the line against Sheik and Volkoff. Many people may have forgotten this team, but I haven’t. They were two tremendous wrestlers who were the WWF’s first cool team of the new generation of tag teams that would dominate the 1980’s with some of the most famous teams of all time. Their final appearance as a team was in the AWA at WrestleRock ’86 (a VERY underrated PPV). They had an awesome match against The Fabulous Ones (Steve Keirn and Stan Lane). If you have the WWE Network, make sure you check it out.
My number 3 favorite team is the original Hart Foundation. Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart were a great team that came to the WWF courtesy of Stampede Wrestling, once Vince bought out the promotion. Who knew at the time that half of this team would go on to become one the most beloved and best wrestlers of his generation. This team had a great combination of speed and power (there’s a reason why Jim Neidhart was called the Anvil). They were also initially managed by one of the greatest heat generators of all time, Jimmy Hart, which was a natural fit as they all had the common trait of having the word “hart” in their name. Also, let’s not forget that Bret was not the smoothest on the mic when he first showed up, so The Mouth of the South was able to take most of the talking responsibilities in promos.
The combo had two title reigns for a combined 483 days. This was during a time when tag team competition in the WWF was at its peak. Night in and night out they faced the likes of the Killer Bees, Strike Force, Demolition, The Rougeau Brothers, The Rockers and The British Bulldogs to name a few. They were also the only other 2 wrestlers left to take on Andre The Giant in the wrestler/football player battle royal at WrestleMania 2. Here’s another thing to consider about the importance of their championship runs, the 483 days they held the straps is only 5 days less (488 days) than the combined 15 reigns of Edge and Christian and The Dudley Boyz.
The Hart Foundation was also similar to many other tag teams back in the 1980’s where it consisted of one established wrestler, in this case Neidhart teaming up with a new up and comer in Bret. It was seen in teams like the Dream Team where Greg Valentine was the proven guy with Brutus Beefcake making a name for himself. It also happened with the Rockers, as Marty Janetty had already been around the wrestling circuit for a while before hooking up with a young Shawn Michaels. That kind of teaming up has proven to be a great way to help get younger talent exposure while getting over with the crowd. It’s something I wish we saw more of in today’s WWE.
The Pink and Black Attack had, in my opinion, one of the best finishing moves of all time in the “Hart Attack.” I always loved how during the replay of the move on TV, the camera would zoom into Bret’s face as he leaned over the bottom rope counting 1, 2, 3. It was great to see the Revival use their own version of the move, as a tip of the hat to the Hart Foundation, in this past weekend’s NXT Takeover: Toronto show.
After the split up of the original Hart Foundation, Jim teamed with Owen Hart to form the “New Foundation,” which was short lived. We also saw the bigger reconfiguration of the team when Bret, The Anvil and Owen were joined by Davey Boy Smith and Brian Pillman in their anti-American war against the likes of DX and others. But, for me, the best version of the Hart Foundation was the original duo.
Team number 2 on my Mount Rushmore is The Hardy Boyz. I know some of you may be saying, how can you take the Hardyz who held the belt less times and for less days (6 times for 151 days) over the Dudleyz (8 times for 281 days) and Edge and Christian (7 times for 207 days)? Well, two reasons. To start with, as I always say, it’s just my opinion so there is no right and wrong answer. Secondly, I always felt the Hardy Boyz were the team that the Dudleyz and Edge and Christian needed to have the great kind of matches that the trio took part in. They were the perfect babyface team that had the underdog feel about them that you always found yourself rooting for.
Both Jeff and Matt were the smallest dogs in the fight against the taller E&C team and the heavier Dudleyz. Yet, despite their smaller statures, their heart made them fight and seem larger than life. They are also a team that I really believe could have a great match with any team from any generation, which is something I don’t think I could say about the other two teams. I can see them having epic matches against team such as The British Bulldogs, The Midnight Express and The Road Warriors as well as teams from today like American Alpha, Gargano and Ciampa and The Revival. Now, please do not read into this as me not liking the other two teams. I like them all, but I just liked the Hardyz more.
The Hardyz always had a very cool, very different look, which matched their style in the ring. The slicked back long hair, Matt’s signature two tone black and white boots and Jeff’s face paint made the Hardyz stand out more so than others. Their high flying, high impact style helped make the 3 legendary TLC matches against the Dudleyz and Edge and Christian epic. Personally, I think they took the biggest bumps in those matches. Whether we saw Jeff doing a swanton bomb or Matt doing a twist of fate, this combo left you breathless with the way they performed. What also added to their appeal was Lita. A tough, good looking woman who could hang in the ring, while taking unbelievable risks as well.
Both Matt and Jeff went on to have successful solo careers. Matt is currently having a career resurgence in TNA with his Broken Matt Hardy character, although I personally liked his Version 1 gimmick better. Jeff went on to have an amazing singles career. One might argue that Jeff is one of the top 5 most popular singles wrestlers in the last 10 years. While they’ve had numerous reunions and are currently together today in TNA as a team again, I will always think of them at the peak of their career from 2000 – 2002. That two year run for me was as good a run for a tag team in the WWF/E as I had ever seen, with the exception of one team.
Drum roll and trumpets please………
The number 1 team on my WWE Tag Team Mount Rushmore is the British Bulldogs. The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith are not only number one on this Mount Rushmore but, spoiler alert here for a future column, they are my number one team of all time for any era and any federation. Prior to the team forming, the Dynamite Kid had already established himself as one of the greatest pound for pound wrestlers in the world with successful runs in England, Stampede Wrestling in Canada, and New Japan where he had a string of legendary matches against his longtime nemesis, Tiger Mask. He had also captured the now defunct and short lived WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Dynamite’s younger cousin, Davey Boy Smith, also had a successful run in Stampede and Asia where the duo first became known as the British Bulldogs. Along with Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith were brought into the WWF after Vince McMahon bought Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. It was a natural fit to have the two teams work against each other when they initially came to the WWF as they were familiar with each others in ring styles. The matches were unlike anything WWF fans had ever seen – hard hitting action combined with high impact aerial tactics.
After a long series of matches between the two Calgary teams, the Bulldogs went on to feud with the Dream Team of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake. Their feud culminated in the Bulldogs winning their one and only WWF Tag Team Championship. They would hold on to the titles for just under a year, finally losing the titles to the Harts. Many believe that the Bulldogs would have held on to the straps longer, but the Dynamite Kid sustained a serious back injury, which led to the beginning of the end to the team’s dominance in the WWF.
To me, the Bulldogs were the best team during the best era of tag team wrestling. They seemed like legit tough guys both in and out of the ring, which combined with their in ring ability, made them so believable during the days before Vince let the world peak in behind the iron curtain. Their signature suplex’s (Dynamite’s quick snap suplex and Davey Boy’s delayed vertical suplex) were things of pure beauty. As was their finisher of Dynamite performing a flying head butt, while jumping off the shoulders of Davey Boy. The duo also went overseas to have unbelievable matches against the best teams Japan had to offer, including memorable contests versus Stan Hansen and Ted DiBiase, Joe and Dean Malenko, Stan Hansen and Terry Gordy, as well as two of Japan’s all time greatest stars Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu.
That’s my WWF/E Mount Rushmore of Tag Teams. Trust me, it was such a tough list to make. There have been so many teams I really enjoyed watching over the years. Leaving off the Killer Bees, Strike Force, Edge and Christian, and The World’s Greatest Tag Team, to name a few was not easy. Thankfully WWE has reinvigorated the tag team division over the past couple of years (Thanks Triple H). Teams like Gargano and Ciampa, American Alpha and the Revival may make a revisited Mount Rushmore list several years from now. If these teams continue on the path they are currently on, we may actually see a day where tag teams may headline pay per view events.
Who would make your Mount Rushmore of WWE tag teams? It’s a great debate and I look forward to seeing who’d make your list. Please keep the conversation going in the comments section below.