Sometimes, it takes two. In fact, quite often in professional wrestling, it takes two to make truly memorable characters. Not everyone is cut out for singles competition, but this batch of legendary tag teams that spans wrestling history helps to prove that there is no “I” in “team.” So whether it’s Harlem Heat or the Fabulous Freebirds, the territory days or the Attitude Era, we’ve gathered up the most influential tag teams in pro wrestling history.
Join us for a little history lesson on the greatest tag teams in wrestling, and then let us know who we missed!
26. The Blackjacks
Both standing over 6 feet tall, and wearing jet black mustaches and hats, The Blackjacks looked like they were ready to take on John Wayne himself. This pair of rasslin’ Texans went on to hold multiple tag team titles in the WWA, WCCW, AWA and WWF. Both men also had successful singles careers and legacies as superstars such as JBL, Barry Windham, and Bray Wyatt are all members of the real Blackjack family.
25. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
In 1980s wrestling, heels were a dime a dozen. But to put two hugely hated heels together as a tag team and get that over was a rarity. In this case, it worked. Foreigners waving around the flags of their respective countries when they entered an arena drew the fans ire as badly as spitting on an American flag. And to have “Classy” Freddie Blassie as their mouthpiece was the icing on the bad guy cake.
At the time both men were past their prime in the ring, but all you had to do was put them up against anyone who claimed they loved America and you had serious heat on Sheik and Volkoff. They beat the U.S. Express at WrestleMania I for the Tag Team Titles. Boom! Instant heat! They didn’t have to be incredible mat technicians, their characters and mannerisms made them a force in wrestling.
24. Professor Tanaka and Mr. Fuji
Yes, that’s Subzero from Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man, and he was a bad ass wrestler, boxer, and martial artist. And we all know Mr. Fuji as the Charlie Chaplin suited heel manager, but before managing he was a tough guy himself. Managed in the then-WWWF by one of the greatest mouthpieces in the business, The Grand Wizard, Tanaka & Fuji were a brutal team: Tanaka had the strength and Fuji had the in-ring psychology.
This is another of those instances where not being American could help make you a better heel, and when you’re going up against guys like Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko in the 1970s, the crowd’s not going to want to root for you. For their time together, they were WWWF Tag Team Champions three times for over a year combined.
23. The Brain Busters
Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard weren’t always known as “The Brain Busters,” but their legacy starts before the name had been established. After Ole Anderson’s departure from the Four Horsemen, the stable needed a new Tag Team. Blanchard and Arn began teaming in 1987 and by he end of 1988 had held the NWA Tag Team Championship twice. Leaving the NWA in the fall of 1988, the pair appeared in the WWF under the management of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It was then that he named them “The Brain Busters”.
The pair would go on to win the WWF Tag Team Titles once before Blanchard was released. Though cut short, this run in the WWF would be the last campaign of the original Horsemen.
22. The Von Erichs
Though Fritz Von Erich would go on to be one of the most beloved superstars of all time, his career would not start off that way. Teamed with his “brother” Waldo, The Von Erich’s were first portrayed as Nazi sympathizers. This treacherous pair would soon go on to terrorize the territories, and establish both men as huge stars in the industry. Though Fritz’ children would go on to bring even more glory to the Von Erich name, and make heroes of the family, without this devious duo none of that would be possible.
21. Terry and Dory Funk, Jr.
If you’re only familiar with the “Hardcore Legend” Terry Funk, you should go back and watch some old matches of the Terry from the ’70s and ’80s. Both former NWA World Heavyweight Champions, Terry and his older brother Dory, Jr. (we’re not talking about Jimmy Jack Funk here) made names for themselves before ever teaming up together. Sons of the great Dory Funk, The Funks grew up in wrestling and learned from one of the best when they were young. Most notable for their matches against The Briscoe Brothers, who were also tough singles competitors on their own, the Funk brothers teamed on and off for almost four decades. They were inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
20. The Natural Disasters
In 1991, Earthquake was still one of the biggest heels in the WWF. Having feuded with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the 6′ 5” nearly 470 lbs. Earthquake was a proven threat to even the greatest superstars in professional wrestling. Finding a partner for him was a challenge, but it happened. The 6′ 3”, 384 lbs. Tugboat was ready for a change, and joined the villainous Earthquake as Typhoon. The Natural Disasters were born.
Aligned for just under 3 years, the Disasters still remain the essential Super Heavyweight Tag Team. Both would stay active in wrestling for many years, Typhoon’s career would even be somewhat…shocking (sorry).
19. The Wild Samoans
Without getting into the whole family tree of it, here are two more members of the giant wrestling family of Samoans, Afa & Sika. They were managed by Capt. Lou Albano, who spoke for them since we were led to believe that they couldn’t speak English. Having an Islander gimmick gave them a savage persona, and made them scary and unpredictable in the ring.
Their most notable feud was over the WWWF Tag Team Titles against Tito Santana and Ivan Putski. Supposedly holding about 20 Tag Team Championships across different companies, you can’t find that hard to believe with two large, scary men like Afa & Sika. The Wild Samoans were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
18. Dick The Bruiser and The Crusher
Both midwest Favorites on their own, the Bruiser and the Crusher worked on and off as Tag Team partners for nearly 20 years. Renowned for their ability to absorb punishment, the pair was able to garner titles in the WWA, NWA and, most notably, the AWA World Tag Team Titles five times. Both men also held the AWA World Title at different points in their careers. Very much your father’s Tag Team, their gritty personas put them in stark contrast to the increasingly flashy wrestling scene of the ’70s.
17. The Russian Team
Despite being another one of those “you’re gonna hate them automatically because they’re Russian” gimmicks in the 1980s, the Russian Team didn’t need that anti-American crutch to help them be disliked since they were brutes. The core group consisted of “Uncle” Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, and Krusher Khruschev, and was a dominant force in the NWA. Just look at Nikita Koloff, he was a monster of a man, and he hated you.
Going against fan favorites like the Road Warriors and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express didn’t win any fans over, but showed how tough these guys were. They even held a not-so-well-known title, the NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship, for over a year.
16. Minnesota Wrecking Crew
The name Anderson still strikes fear into the heart of any professional wrestler, and the Wrecking Crew is why. Originally comprised of Gene and Lars Anderson in the ’60s, the Crew came to prominence in the ’70s when Lars was replaced with the younger Ole Anderson. From 1969 to 1981 Gene and Ole (occasionally managed by Lars) tore their way through the territories leading them to seven NWA World Tag Team Championships.
Gene would eventually retire and 6 years later Ole would reform the team with his young “nephew.” His name is Arn.
Tough looking wrestlers with facepaint that wear leather and metal gear are usually pretty intimidating. And when those guys are extraordinarily intense in the ring, you have a disastrous force. Ax and Smash were certainly “demolishers” of their opponents. Whether as heels with on again/off again manager Mr. Fuji helping them cheat on occasion, as faces, or even more with the addition of third member Crush, Demolition were a powerhouse team. Good feuds with the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard managed by Bobby Heenan) and the Powers of Pain(managed by former manager Mr. Fuji) gave us fierce matches. Unfortunately they were overshadowed by huge fan favorites Legion of Doom (the Road Warriors). Once they came to the WWF the team wasn’t the same and eventually disbanded.
14. The Brisco Brothers
Brothers Jack and Jerry Brisco were great singles wrestlers amassing dozens of singles titles between them, with Jack even winning the NWA World Heavyweight Title twice. Jack was an amateur wrestler who won the NCAA Wrestling National Championship. He then turned to professional wrestling and trained his brother who he would team with on and off. They didn’t need gimmicks because they were just that good in the ring.
As a tag team, they won 20 tag team championships across many of the territories in the 1970s-80s. One of the most well-known feuds of the 1970s was the Brisco Brothers vs. the Funk Brothers. They were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2008.
13. The British Bulldogs
Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid were great wrestlers in the 1980s. With the powerful Smith and the incredibly technical Dynamite, they worked well together and got over big with the fans because of those styles mixed together. Even though they had some good feuds with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine & Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, their most popular feud was with The Hart Foundation, which spawned some really good scientific matches.
They were three-time tag team champs. Unfortunately Dynamite Kid’s years of injuries and drug use took their toll on his body and he eventually retired while Davey became “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith.
12. Harlem Heat
Often referred to as “the Tag Team of the 90s” in their WCW days, Harlem Heat rocked Tag Team wrestling and ultimately created one of the biggest stars of all time. The real life Huffman brothers, better known as Booker T and Stevie Ray, would hold the WCW World Tag Team titles ten times in just under six years. Harlem Heat became an establishment in WCW’s glory days.
During 1998 and 1999, the pair would be broken up and mixed around many times, effectively ending the team. Both men would go on to hold the US Title, and Booker would become a World Heavyweight Champion. Though actually from Houston, Texas, wrestling fans the world over would be happy to accept Harlem Heat as their own.
11. The Fabulous Freebirds
Already covered in the Top 10 Stables of All Time, the Freebirds were one of the most influential units in wrestling history. While they typically maintained three members, the group innovated what is called the “Freebird Rule.” Though rarely used, this unofficial part of the wrestling rulebooks allows an established unit to rotate in and out a third member of the team when defending a Tag title. Demolition and our #9 pick both utilized this on occasion, and it can be a useful tool for storytelling.
Buddy Roberts, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and later, Jimmy Garvin didn’t need Rock and Roll in their name for you to know what they were about. The Freebirds were a prime example of how to be a success in the territorial era.
10. The Rock n’ Roll Express
Through the years, Rock ‘N’ Roll had various team members, but Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton are the ones deserving the credit here. One of the few teams to compete in most of the major promotions that were around during their heyday, these guys could pop the crowd not only with their babyface looks, but because they also gave the fans energetic, high-flying action in the ring.
Not being extremely muscular or intimidating looking, they didn’t back down from any team that challenged them. Most of the time they might have been considered the underdogs, but you rooted for them because of their fighting spirit, whether it was against The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, Rick Rude and “Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez, or against their polar opposites, The Midnight Express. Their matches with The Midnight Express made for one of the best tag team feuds in history.
9. The Outsiders
Hey yo! When Scott Hall & Kevin Nash went to WCW, instead of portraying new characters with new gimmicks, they became “The Outsiders,” because that’s sort of what they were (due to copyrights that WWF owned, the names Razor Ramon or Diesel couldn’t be mentioned). They did what they wanted, when they wanted, and made being heels cool.
Despite forming the nWo with “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan and being the backbone of the group, the Outsiders worked as a tag team and won the WCW Tag Team Titles six times. Even after losing them, Eric Bischoff, also a member of the nWo and President of WCW, would sometimes reverse the decisions and give Hall & Nash the titles back. Probably equally known for their backstage politicking as for their personas on tv at the time, they were a dominant team in the ring. One more for the bad guys.
8. The New Age Outlaws
Oh, you didn’t know, (it’s TV-14) your ass better call somebody! Before uniting, Billy Gunn and Jesse James weren’t exactly what you would call big stars. Yes, The Roadie had his feud with Double J and yes, Billy was a former Tag Team Champion in the Smoking Gunns, but both were floundering as singles competitors. After uniting, they would be built as the consummate heels, cheating their way to victory and eventually joining the reinvigorated Degeneration X.
What is most amazing about the Outlaws is that the team was only originally together from 1997 until early 2000. If they had been more consistent, or started earlier, they easily could have found a higher spot on this list. They did compete together (yet again, briefly) in TNA until their return to the WWE. In 2014, the New Age Outlaws would win the WWE World Tag Team titles from the Brotherhood. Though their reign was short, it affirmed them as true legends of Tag Team Wrestling.
7. The Hart Foundation
The team of Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart is a great example of what a tag team really needs to be. With both trained by the legendary Stu Hart, they were not only each good technical wrestlers, but together had the chemistry that made them look like they knew exactly what the other was thinking. And that was dangerous for their opponents. No matter how hard they made their opponents try to look good, you knew the Hart Foundation was better. Their feuds with the British Bulldogs and the Rockers upped the level of tag team wrestling in the WWF during the late ‘80s to early ‘90s…and they did it all without having to be big and muscular with some cartoony gimmick.
6. The Steiner Brothers
Here’s the story of two brothers, Rick and Scott. Leaving the ’80s behind and heading into the ’90s with gusto, Rick and Scott Steiner would hold the WCW US & World Tag Team Titles and the IWGP Tag Team Championship simultaneously in 1990. They would win the WCW World Tag Team title 6 more times. Though both brothers were groomed to be singles stars (Scott eventually won the WCW World Title), they are still best remembered as Tag Team competitors.
Though only briefly in the WWF, they would hold their titles in 1993 for three months. Even with these important decorations, the Steiners’ feud with the nWo may have been their most important. The Steiner Brothers stood amongst the few WCW competitors who were portrayed as a true threat to the Outsiders, an affirmation of their popularity and importance to the business.
5. The Hardy Boyz
Two of the best examples of wanting to be wrestlers when they grew up, Matt & Jeff Hardy were signed to WWE contracts when Matt was 20 years old and Jeff was only 17. With their high-flying and fast-paced moves, they sometimes hurt themselves about as much as they were trying to hurt their opponents…and fans loved it.
The Hardy Boyz were almost like a special attraction because of how incredibly hard they worked, and were a staple of Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches at the time. Their feuds with Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz were some of the most risky and acrobatic, and the chances they would take in their matches were some of the highlights of any show they were on. They are 6-time WWE World Tag Team Champions, and even if the titles weren’t always on the line, the safety of their bodies was.
4. Edge & Christian
They could be goofy with their 5 Second Pose routine, but Edge and Christian were all business when it came to tag team matches. Just like the Hardy Boyz, E&C would take major risks to take down their opponents, and to entertain the hell out of us. Not only could they wow us with their talent and dangerous spots in Ladder and TLC matches, but together they had undeniable charisma and character. They didn’t have to talk tough to intimidate you; all you had to do was look at the train wreck (and I mean that in a good way) matches with the Hardyz and the Dudleyz for that. When you’re WWE World Tag Team Champions seven times, you’re not lucky, you do totally reek of awesomeness.
3. The Dudley Boyz
Get the tables. Born from a much larger stable, D’Von and Bubba Ray Dudley eventually broke away from their many brothers and formed one of the greatest tag teams of all time. If you haven’t seen their promos and ringside interactions from their ECW days, find an unedited version right now. It’s downright brutal.
Like much of the top ECW talent, they eventually caught the eye of Vince McMahon and were brought into the WWF. The fans quickly took to the pair as the company entered what was perhaps the finest era of tag team wrestling that the business has ever seen. Whether face or heel, dose damn Dudley’s always got a reaction, leading them to multiple Tag Team championships. After their departure from the WWE in 2005, the Dudleys, now calling themselves Team 3-D would become a huge draw for TNA Wrestling, and would hold their tag titles as well. Though not holding as many titles as some of their ’80s counterparts, the Dudley Boyz can be called the best tag team of the millennium’s turn.
2. The Midnight Express
Initially formed by Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose, the Midnight Expressed terrorized wrestling for nearly a decade, though their membership would often change. In fact, about a year after the teams’ inception, Norvell Austin was added as a third member. Regardless, it was the third incarnation of the team, Condrey and Bobby Eaton, that would truly rise to superstardom.
Under the management of Jim Cornette and feuding with such greats as the Fantastics, the Road Warriors, and perhaps most memorably, the Rock and Roll Express, the duo was easily the most threatening heel team of the period. During this era, Condrey and Eaton would gather an alleged fifty tag team titles, and though difficult to confirm, are considered to be the most decorated tag team of all time. After an abrupt departure from the NWA, Condrey would be replaced by Stan Lane. The combination would prove to be quite popular, and the Midnight Express rolled on.
1. The Road Warriors
Jesse: Whether they were the Road Warriors or the Legion of Doom, just the look of them told you that they weren’t guys you wanted to mess with…and I’m talking about before they even stepped into the ring. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Well, Hawk & Animal should have been plenty flattered by all of the teams who came out after them with facepaint, apocalyptic ring gear, and trying to be the toughest guys in the ring. These guys battled every big team in any company they were in, and were tag team champions almost two dozen times. They were a brute force and the fans loved their style. To be the best tag team ever, copied by so many, and inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame…WHAT A RUSH! Tell ’em Vinny…
Vinny: Welllllllllll, what is left to say about the Road Warriors that hasn’t already been said? Holding the AWA, NWA, and WWF Tag Team titles, Hawk and Animal rose to the heights of international wrestling popularity in the ’80s and continued their dominance well into the ’90s. As flashy as they were mean, the Road Warriors struck the perfect balance between showmanship and genuine toughness. Though starting their journey as heels, the crowd soon began to support the young duo and their manager Paul Ellering.
Few Tag Teams can claim to be as big as any singles competitors, but the Road Warriors often exceeded the World Champion’s popularity. Under the banner of the Legion of Doom, many claimed to be part of Paul Ellering’s dominant force, (Hei-Den-Reich) but none ever matched up to Hawk and Animal. Though this pair was far more brutal than technical, their connection with the fans, long list of accomplishments, and enduring popularity made them the clear choice for the top tag team of all time.