25. Rock ‘n Sock Connection
One of the WWE’s favorite tropes during the Attitude Era was taking two main even talents and forcing them to work as reluctant partners. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin — a notorious lone wolf (or rather, lone rattlesnake) — won the WWF World Tag Team Championships with not one but four different top-of-the-card partners.
The most special pairing from that period has to be the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection. Coming off a bitter rivalry, Mick Foley came to the defense of The Rock as he challenged yet another top level pairing of The Undertaker and The Big Show. While the Rock never quite reciprocated his partner’s love and admiration, this odd couple would go on to win the Tag Titles three times — and even run it back in a WrestleMania match against Evolution in 2004. The Connection were also responsible for one of the highest rated segments in the history of Raw is War, when Foley presented The Rock with his very own “This is Your Life.”
A short lived pairing between two massive stars that left an unforgettable impression on everyone.
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24. Rob Van Dam & Sabu
There are two things defining the RVD/Sabu pairing throughout their short run in ECW: jealousy and chaos. After an intense rivalry, RVD and Sabu were aligned under the management of Bill Alfonso. When RVD won the ECW Television Championship — a belt Sabu had been gunning for — tension between them began to simmer again. Even after they won the ECW Tag Team Titles for the first time, neither man could help himself from trying to one up the other.
This not-so-friendly rivalry, combined with both men’s unusual styles, made them a wholly unique tag team. Reckless dives, flashy rolls and springboards, nonstop posing and mugging for the crowd. Sabu in particular would throw his body around in a way that blurred the line between an offense that’s purposefully sloppy or entirely botch-filled. The team didn’t last last, but every match stole the show (for better or worse).
They would run the team back years later in both WWE’s ECW and Impact Wrestling, yet they never recaptured that feeling of controlled chaos that defined this bizarre pairing.
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23. The Rockers
What other tag team is this good bell to bell — and yet still most famous for breaking up?
The Midnight Rockers — Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels — started teaming in 1985, working the AWA and other territories before arriving in the World Wrestling Federation in 1988. Now simply The Rockers, these young heartthrobs captured the imaginations of fans with their fast-paced offense and beautiful flowing mullets. They had standout matches with The Twin Towers and the Brain Busters among others, though were never able to capture the WWF World Tag Team Championships (their one actual title win was erased from canon when the title match was deemed un-airable due to a ring malfunction).
Things would end for this electric team in 1991 when the cowardly Jannetty dove through a barbershop window (hey, that’s what Bobby Heenan told me!). Famously, Michaels would flourish while Jannetty would flounder. It’s become parlance among wrestling fans to call the less successful member of a disbanded tag team “the Jannetty” (but that’s completely unfair). Were it not for his demons, the supremely talented Marty Jannetty might have had an equally impressive career. We’ll never know for sure
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22. The Brain Busters
Apologies to Ole Anderson and his version of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, but Arn Anderson’s best tag team partner has to be Tully Blanchard. Two of the original members of the Four Horseman, Tully and Arn successfully captured the NWA World Tag Team Championships twice before leaving for the WWF in 1988.
Upon arrival to their new promotion, the team was rechristened “The Brain Busters” — and put under the management of Bobby Heenan. Why “The Brain Busters’ when neither man used a brainbuster in his offense? Your guess is as good as mine. Regardless of the name, Arn and Tully were fantastic heels who stood out simply because they didn’t fit in with the rest of WWF’s rock ‘n’ wrestling aesthetic. Though their run was brief, they managed to win the WWF Tag Team Titles and have classic matches with teams like The Rockers and The Hart Foundation.
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21. Motor City Machine Guns
Just as the Young Bucks are inspiring an entire generation of young tag team wrestlers today, so too were the Bucks inspired by the Motor City Machine Guns. Though they were already accomplished singles wrestlers, as a team Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin truly flourished in TNA, ROH, PWG and New Japan. Their fast paced, high-flying matches in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s helped define what would eventually become the house style of modern Ring of Honor — and then later All Elite Wrestling’s tag team division.
While they may not have the popular name recognition of some of the other tag teams on this list, the Motor City Machine Guns are arguably one of the most important tag teams of the modern era. Recently reunited on Impact Wrestling, the Motor City Machine Guns are as good as ever.
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20. Harlem Heat
Booker T and Stevie Ray were arguably the backbone of WCW’s entire tag team division in the mid ’90’s. Beginning with their first championship win in late 1994 (airing in early 1995), Harlem Heat would go on to win the tag team titles a record ten times before they disbanded for a second and final time in 2000.
With back-to-back Pro Wrestling Illustrated Tag Team of the Year awards (in 1995 and 1996), induction into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2019, and owners of one of the greatest entrance themes in the history of wrestling, Harlem Heat’s resume is undeniable
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19. The Usos
All the credit to Jimmy and Jey for their amazing longevity in the modern WWE. Whether in bright Cena-esque colors, greyscale streetwear or repping The Bloodline, The Usos have managed to stay relevant as a tag team for over a decade while working in a company that has placed little to no value in tag team wrestling. It is wild that, despite having had dozens of superlative matches, it’s hard to pin down a standout feud or set of rivals. Their best is likely their feud for the Smackdown Tag Titles with the New Day that carried them through the back half of 2017 and into 2018. Though, the repetitive booking did not do anyone any favors and the five men succeeded in spite of that.
The Usos are almost victims of their own success — wildly over delivering on matches with an underwhelming build. Thankfully, the Bloodline story from the last few years has added new life to Jimmy and Jey. We still need to see how it all plays out, but with the right conclusion and another reinvention for the Uso’s post-Bloodline, the brothers could vault up this list.
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There are some wrestling fans, particularly those that preferred the NWA to the WWF in the 1980’s, who will write off Demolition as blatant Road Warrior knock-offs. That’s not unfair criticism, especially when the team was first put together.
Dressed like Lord Humongous cosplayers, Ax (Bill Eadie) and Smash (Barry Darsow) wrestled a dominant, power-based style not unlike Hawk and Animal. Quickly, though, Demolition would develop an identity of their own. Their entrance theme is an all-timer, and their 478 day run as WWF Tag Team Champions was so successful that they actually turned babyface in the middle of it. They may have started as knock-offs, but they developed into a classic ’80’s WWF Tag Team.
Unfortunately, the chemistry between Ax and Smash was also easily thrown off. When Crush (Brian Adams) was added to the group, things went downhill quickly
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17. The British Bulldogs
Dynamite Kid was already a successful singles wrestler prior to his pairing with Davey Boy Smith. He redefined Junior Heavyweight wrestling in the early ’80’s with an incredible series of matches against Tiger Mask.
After a brief rivalry of their own, Smith and Dynamite were paired together in Stampede Wrestling/in Japan before coming to the WWF in 1984. There, the British Bulldogs wowed fans with a combination of Dynamite’s precise technical wrestling and Davey Boy’s raw power. Superlative feuds with The Dream Team and The Hart Foundation made them one of the hottest teams of the ’80’s in the WWF.
Unfortunately, Dynamite’s body was already failing him following the Bulldog’s first and only run with the WWF Tag Team Titles. By 1990, Davey would take the British Bulldog moniker as his own in a singles run that put him near the top of the card in WWF. Still, you can’t talk about ’80’s tag team wrestling without mentioning The British Bulldogs.
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16. The New Age Outlaws
“Oh you didn’t know?” Well then you should probably keep reading because you should know about the New Age Outlaws.
Prior to their pairing in late 1997, both men had been drifting. Road Dogg Jesse James was still trying to shake off the stink that was his “The Real Double J” gimmick. Billy Gunn was embarrassing himself on episodes of Shotgun Saturday Night as “Rockabilly.” No one could have guessed that a few short weeks after they were paired up they’d be tag team champions and a top heel act in the WWF.
Their meteoric rise continued when they joined the second iteration of D-Generation X. They were arguably the most over part of the stable, with tens of thousands of fans following along with every word of The New Ago Outlaws signature mic routine. The Outlaws were never going to put on a five star classic, but there are few teams who could have the audience hanging on their every word. Road Dogg and Billy were so successful that 20 years later, The Acclaimed in AEW are getting over with crowds by shamelessly copying their routine.
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15. The Hart Foundation
Another all-time classic team from the 1980’s. Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart were perfectly suited for one another. Bret was the quiet and cerebral technician, while Jim the maniacal bruiser. Clad in pink and black and famously accompanied to the ring by the megaphone-toting Jimmy Hart (no relation), the half of fame brothers-in-law managed to win the top prize in WWF tag team wrestling twice before Bret turned to singles action. He then began his steady climb to the top of the card.
While Bret is often (rightfully) heralded as the obvious standout of the original Hart Foundation, The Anvil was no slouch. While his in-ring work was nothing special, he was always in the right place at the right time. His promo work was the kind of substance-enhanced ’80’s insanity that was required of the era (that Bret couldn’t provide). The two perfectly complemented one another.
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14. The Briscoes
The standard bearers of Ring of Honor tag team wrestling. Jay and Mark Briscoe won their first ROH Tag Team Titles in November of 2003. Additionally, they won their record 12th in December of 2021. Sure, they’ve had success in other promotions like GCW, Impact Wrestling, New Japan, CZW and NOAH. However, ROH is truly their home. Few teams can claim the kind of sustained excellence in a single promotion like the Briscoes. Wild brawls, technical wrestling contests…these wild boys have done it all.
They’ve had classics for two decades against teams like Steen & El Generico, The Motor City Machine Guns, The Young Bucks, ReDRagonThe Kings of Wrestling, and most recently FTR. With the state of Ring of Honor currently up in the air, who knows where The Briscoes will ultimately end up. Wherever it is, though, you can be sure that they will bring action and violence.
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13. The New Day
The modern day kings of making chicken salad out of chicken (well, you know the saying). Originally debuting with the kind of broad stereotypical gospel gimmick that only Vince McMahon could enjoy, Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods transformed The New Day into one of the greatest acts in all of modern WWE with pure charisma and the power of positivity.
These guys can get anything over — where it be trombones, cereal, unicorns, pancakes, wrestling boots with pointy curled toes… and most importantly, themselves. Building off of their success as a Freebird-style tag team, Kofi and Big E have both had standout singles runs as Champions. Xavier Woods also managed to achieve his dream in becoming King of the Ring.
Let’s all send some positivity out to Big E who, after an enjoyable run as WWE Champion, is still recovering from a serious neck injury. There’s still a chance we can get a full New Day reunion down the road.
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12. The Outsiders
There’s already been an ocean of digital ink spent talking up the impact that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had on the wrestling industry when they left the WWF in the mid-’90’s to return to World Championship Wrestling. They kicked off one of the most popular and lucrative angles in the history of the industry.
But did you know that in-between promos paid for by the New World Order — and show-closing beatdowns of Sting, Diamond Dallas Page and Bill Goldberg — that Nash and Hall were also a highly decorated tag team? It’s true. The Outsiders had six reigns as WCW World Tag Team Champions.
Also, because stablemate Hulk Hogan was often hogging the World Title/Hall and Nash wanted gold of their own, The Outsiders’ inadvertently elevated the entire tag division — further raising the profile of teams like Harlem Heat, the Faces of Fear and the Steiner Brothers.
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11. The Von Erichs
Let’s just lump the whole darn family together: Kevin, David, Mike and Kerry. Not technically a formal tag team. Fritz’s progeny wrestled together often enough in normal tag and trios matches that they had to be included on the list. During World Class Championship Wrestling’s boom period in the 1980’s, the Von Erich’s were some of the most popular wrestlers in the world. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they were practically gods.
Their intense, bloody feud with the Fabulous Freebirds was a sensation — and is considered one of the greatest rivalries in the history of our sport. Today, the Von Erichs are often only remembered for their numerous tragedies, yet few groups have reached the stupendous highs that they did.
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10. Edge and Christian
Or is it Christian and Edge?
This “brother” tag team first broke out in 1998 following an incredible ladder match against their perennial rivals The Hardy Boyz. While it took them a bit longer to shake off their uninteresting goth-adjacent routine and become the uber-dork heels that would make them stars, they got in the title mix and would rack up a whopping seven reigns as WWF Tag Team Champions. There were few teams as naturally funny as Edge and Christian. Even as despicable heels, the fans were always excited for a Five Second Pose (especially those with the benefit of flash photography).
Along with The Hardys and the Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian helped define tag team wrestling in the 2000’s. They also helped in changing fans’ expectations of high concept gimmick matches forever.
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9. Fabulous Freebirds
Michael “P.S.” Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, and Buddy “Jack” Rogers were innovators in tag team wrestling. They weren’t the first to have an entrance theme, but their custom-made song “Badstreet USA” helped make them a requirement for stars in the ’80’s. The famous “Freebird Rule” may not have been their idea (Hayes has said in later interviews it came from the mind of Ole Anderson), but they popularized the concept of the rotating three man unit in wrestling — a trope so clever and useful that it persists in tag team wrestling to this day.
Their long-time feud with the Von Erich family in World Class Championship Wrestling is legendary, with nuclear heat and more twists and turns than most daytime soaps. The fact that Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy were so young when they found all of this success is even more remarkable. They figured out an act that worked for them…and hit the ground running
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8. The Hardy Boyz
It’s a shame what was supposed to be the final run of the Hardys as a team was cut short by some truly terrible decision-making away from the ring on the part of Jeff Hardy. However, that shouldn’t take away from everything else that Matt and Jeff have accomplished together in the squared circle.
Putting aside how they helped innovate the ladder match and tag team wrestling as a whole in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, the most amazing thing about the Hardys is their longevity. In spite of their punishing, death-defying style, Matt and Jeff have been active in tag and singles competition for almost twenty years.
Credit to the creative minds of Matt and Jeff for finding ways of reimagining their characters. While the Broken Universe isn’t for everyone, it has become a sensation with a certain subsection of wrestling fans. The crown jewel of this era of the Hardys — The Final Deletion — is either a brilliant take on cinematic pro wrestling, or a hilariously absurd piece of content ala The Room or Fateful Findings.
Regardless, let’s hope that we haven’t truly seen the last of the Hardys. It would be a shame for it all to end this way.
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7. Steiner Brothers
Explosive. A rarely seen combination of speed, strength, and agility. When the Steiner Brothers burst onto the scene, first in World Championship Wrestling in the late ’80’s and then the World Wrestling Federation in the early ’90’s, wrestling fans hadn’t encountered anything quite like Rick and Scott. At first glance, with their University of Michigan jackets over standard singlets and Rick in his signature amateur headgear, you’d expect some grounded matwork or pure technical wrestling.
Then, Scott would pull out the Frankenstiener. The Steiner Screwdriver. An insane overhead belly to belly suplex. Their offense was brutal, sudden, and dangerous. And a heck of a lot of fun to watch. They’re the rare team where the squash matches are as exciting as their marquee bouts (as long as you don’t care about the well being of the wrestlers being squashed).
While both men enjoyed some success as singles wrestlers (and Scott completely reinvented himself as to be unrecognizable), neither was as compelling as when he was paired off with his brother.
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First as The Mechanics, then as The Revival and now finally just FTR, Dax Hardwood and Cash Wheeler are among the most technically proficient tag teams in all of professional wrestling. Heavily inspired by the likes of The Brain Busters, The Hart Foundation and the Midnight Express, FTR are raising the bar for match quality every time they step into the ring.
Their workmanlike approach to their craft and their impassioned, relatable promos have made them one of the most popular teams in all of All Elite Wrestling. They’ve held (or hold) tag team gold in nearly every major promotion in the world of pro wrestling, and are currently on the run of a lifetime in regards to star ratings.
Enjoy them while you can, because what FTR is doing right now is special. And in wrestling good things don’t last forever.
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5. Midnight Express
The number five spot on this list goes to two different versions of the Midnight Express, both of which are among the best tag teams of all-time.
The first version of the tag team, managed by a young Jim Cornette, featured “Loverboy” Dennis Condry and “Beautiful Bobby” Eaton. They packed venues in Mid-South Wrestling and for Jim Crockett Promotions off their hot feuds with the likes of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and the Road Warriors. Five years of big business from an incredible heel act.
Later, Condry was replaced by “Sweet” Stan Lane and the team continued their success. While this version didn’t see the highs the original did, they were still a top heel team in their promotion. Whichever combination you prefer, both versions were innovative heel teams and masters of ring psychology. The act was rounded out by Cornette, one of the most naturally hateable figures in all of pro wrestling.
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4. The Dudley Boyz
Eight time ECW Tag Team Champions. Three time tag champions in TNA/Impact Wrestling. Two reigns as IWGP Tag Team Champions. Ten tag titles won in WWE. TNA Hall of Fame, WWE Hall of Fame and Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Tag Team of the Decade (2000-2009).
The Dudley Boyz aka Team 3D are among the most highly decorated duos in the history of the sport. Along with the Hardys and Edge and Christian, the Dudley’s helped innovate the modern car crash spot-fest ladder match (and then TLC match). They also helped establish tables as the second-most important household objects in pro wrestling (next to the chair).
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3. Rock ‘n Roll Express
The platonic ideal of the babyface tag team. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were perfectly suited for one another. Morton is one of the greatest sellers in the history of the business, drawing massive sympathy from the crowd and making his opponents look like world beaters. Gibson, on the other hand, might be the greatest hot tag ever. When Ricky would finally break free from the clutches of his dastardly opponents and bring in his partner, the roof would blow off the place.
When they were in the ring with the Midnight Express, they created magic. Some of their matches together should be put in museums as examples of perfect tag team wrestling. In the ’80’s, Ricky and Robert were rockstars, heartthrobs, and sports icons. Incredibly, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are still active today. They even mixed it up on a few episodes of AEW Dynamite in 2019, though they did not compete in any official matches.
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2. The Young Bucks
This will probably be controversial, but here it is. While some of the criticisms of their early career are valid, their work from 2016 on has been unimpeachable. First in Ring of Honor, PWG, New Japan Pro Wrestling and now All Elite Wrestling, the Young Bucks consistently put on fast-paced, action-packed and story-driven matches that wow fans and draw high praise from the critics.
As an “indie” team prior to 2019 they managed to create a merchandise empire — getting their stuff in mainstream stores like Hot Topic despite not being on national television. Their ability to lay out long, complex multi-man tag matches is unparalleled. They changed the way wrestlers promote their own work with the popularity of their YouTube show Being The Elite.
Oh, and they helped start the most successful North American wrestling promotion not owned by a McMahon in over twenty years. It was entirely built on their and their Elite stablemates’ successes on the independents and in Japan.
Anyone who tells you they “don’t tell stories” are not paying attention. I’d implore you to seek out their match against the Golden Lovers from 2018 — or their match against Kenny Omega and Adam Page at AEW Revolution 2020.
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1. Road Warriors
Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal. The two former bodybuilders first teamed up in 1983 for Georgia Championship Wrestling. In the process, the duo quickly became the prototypical tag team of the decade. They were hulking brutes in face paint and spiked shoulder pads. The two looked straight out of Mad Max. They dominated opponents with stiff offense, only sold when they felt like it, and cut maniacal screaming promos that would be hilarious if they weren’t so wildly intimidating. They told you they were world eaters and you believed them.
The ’90’s were not as kind for the Road Warriors, even after seeing early success in the World Wrestling Federation as the Legion of Doom. Like many of their era, there wasn’t a happy ending for the Road Warriors. Still, at their peak they were a phenomenon. There will never be another tag team like the Road Warriors.
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