They call themselves the World's Greatest Tag Team, and these days, it's hard to argue. Despite being relative newcomers, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin have carved out names for themselves in WWE. They periodically main event SmackDown!. They're often in the ring with the likes of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, and nobody questions this. Nobody claims that they're too young, or too new for this role. And there is a simple reason why. Because they belong.
While there is no doubt in my mind that Haas and Benjamin are indeed the greatest tag-team in wrestling today, how do they rank in history? I compiled a similar list a few months ago with the top 10 Intercontinental champs, and it sparked a great debate. Hopefully we can do that again. In fact, as we head down the road to Wrestlemania 20, I'm going to do this on a few occasions, regarding a few different topics.
This week, I'm ranking the top 10 WWE tag-teams over the last 20 years. Or, essentially, the top 10 tag-teams since the beginning of the Wrestlemania era.
Just to set a few ground rules, I'm ranking these teams based on what they did while in the WWE. For instance, the Legion of Doom will be looked at based on their contributions to the WWE, not the NWA or WCW. In addition, I'm only considering tag-teams who were paired up on a consistent basis. I'm not including two superstars who were put together on a part-time basis, even if they did hold the belts. In other words, The Rock and Sock Connection, Taker and Kane, and The Mega Powers, are not the kinds of teams we're looking at.
While serving as a tag team champion helps, I'm not ranking the top title holders, rather, the top teams.
All right, with the rules set, let's get this list kicked off at Number 10.
10. Edge and Christian
Both in the ring and on the mic, Edge and Christian are one of the most entertaining tag-teams the WWE has ever seen. Even so, putting them on the list still wasn't easy. It was a neck and neck race with teams like Strike Force, Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda, and the Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutis Beefcake). If you read my top I-C champs list a few months ago, you know I'm a big mark for Greg Valentine, so that was the direction I was leaning. However, then I thought about TLC. I was reminded of the great tag-team ladder matches. Those bouts were some of the most exciting ever. Who can forget the standing ovation for Edge, Christian, Jeff, and Matt Hardy the night after their ladder match. It was one of the great RAW moments.
Along with the Hardys and the Dudleys, Edge and Christian helped raise the bar. They changed the way tag matches were fought, and they left their mark on the tag-team division. They also forced this mark to leave Greg Valentine off.
9. Legion of Doom
We're early in the list, and the controversy as already begun. I'm sure there are those of you out there who are baffled that L.O.D. could find themselves so low on the list. Some of you probably rank them as your number 1. But on the flip side, I'm equally sure there are others who wouldn't even put them on the list. After all, I did specifically say that I was ranking teams based on what they did while in the WWE.
As I began to compile my list I realized it wasn't easy to ignore what L.O.D. did outside of the WWE. They stormed in to the WWF with a vengeance, and with a reputation. They were the baddest tag team around. And while that reputation was built outside of the WWF, it did follow them in to the fed, and it's difficult to make the separation.
So here is my assessment. The tag division was a bit watered down, especially during their LOD 2000 stint. Though they did battle the Nasty Boys, I never felt they had a great feud with any other team.
However, they were strong, vicious and very popular. They held the titles twice, and they dominated during their stay.
All things considered, I'm comfortable placing L.O.D. at number 9.
8. The New Age Outlaws
It's hard to decide exactly what made The New Age Outlaws work. Was it Billy Gunn's look? Was it The Road Dogg's charisma and mic ability? Was it the affiliation with Triple H and Degeneration X? The most likely answer is: all of the above.
During the mid to late 90's, the New Age Outlaws ruled the tag division. They were pounding their opponents inside the ring, and they were entertaining the crowd on the microphone. Their matches were by no means classics, but they were enjoyable at the time, and they helped lend some credibility to a very weak tag division.
Despite being multi-time tag team champions, I think the number 8 slot is the perfect position.
7. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin
I'm sure there are a whole slew of people wondering how these two youngsters worked their way above The Outlaws, Edge and Christian and L.O.D. It's simple. These two kids make up a special tag-team.
Inside the ring, Haas and Benjamin are razor sharp. They put together solid matches, and they make their opponents look good, without sacrificing their own status. They've spent the bulk of the last month main eventing SmackDown! against Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. And they do it without losing a stride. They appear as though they belong in that position, and I can't think of another tag team who has ever done that. Not the Outlaws. Not Edge and Christian. Not even the Legion of Doom. Even teams like the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation never found themselves inside the ring with the World Champion. However, Haas and Benjamin do that on a regular basis. They lend a lot of legitimacy to the titles they wear, and they make me want to watch tag team wrestling.
Furthermore, they are a team. They look like a team. They work like a team. And they are both succeeding as a team. I'd be willing to bet that if I compiled this list one year from now, Haas and Benjamin would be a lot higher on the list. As far as I'm concerned, this team is headed in the right direction if they want to be the world's greatest tag-team.
"Painted destruction: it's all in the name." Their theme song said it all. When Ax and Smash entered the WWF, they were an entirely new beast. While schooled wrestling fans couldn't help but to compare them to the Road Warriors, WWF fans had never seen anything like them. During the early part of their WWF career, Demolition rolled through everyone in their paths. They were scary, they were massive, they were mysterious, and they were winning. Add the devious Mr. Fuji to their squad, and they became the unstoppable team for quite a while.
I don't think I'll ever forget their finishing move. For those who need refreshing, Smash would hit a guy with a backbreaker and hold him over his knee until Ax drilled him with an elbow drop from the middle rope. By today's standards, it may be tame. But at the time, it was a vicious move befitting of a team named Demolition.
5. The Dudley Boys
Plain and simple, they helped transform not just tag-team wrestling, but wrestling in general. In their feud with the Hardys and Edge and Christian, the Dudleys helped to raise the bar. Before they arrived in the WWE, a table was just a table. Afterwards, it became a torture device for opponents of the Dudleys.
The Dudley Boys didn't secure their position on this list the easy way. They fought in TLC matches, plenty of table matches, and lots of hardcore matches. This team truly sacrificed their bodies in order to achieve success.
4. The British Bulldogs
When they first arrived in the WWF, they quickly became a phenomenon. They were smaller then many of the other teams, but that didn't slow them at all. They had a fast-paced offence that showcased their aerial skills while still managing to show some strength.
One of the common moves used in Bulldog matches was the suplex. Davy Boy would deliver the long, slow suplex, while Dynamite Kid hit the wicked snap suplex. The Bulldogs knocked off my beloved Dream Team for the tag titles at Wrestlemania 2. Had injuries not slowed this innovative team, there is no telling how great they could have been.
3. The Hardy Boyz
With the Dudleys and Edge and Christian already on the list, it should come as no surprise that the Hardys are here, too. Along with the other two TLC teams, the Hardys have raised the bar by which tag teams are judged. Their high-flying moves left many audiences in awe, and helped them overcome pre-conceived notions that they couldn't get over because of their size.
Jeff and Matt Hardy both sacrificed their bodies on a regular basis. On more than one occasion, they left me wondering why on earth they would take such a risk. They did it to make their matches memorable. To make them better. And it worked. I'm not sure I'll ever forget the swanton bomb through a table versus the Dudleys at MSG.
Unlike L.O.D. or the New Age Outlaws, the Hardys' were on top of the tag-team division during a period when the division was strong. They were a pair of big fish in a big pond. A very worthy team to sit in my number 3 spot.
2. Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
I'm not sure there has ever been a tag team that was as hated as the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. During the mid 80's, when they battled Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda, there was no team that got the type of heat the Sheik and Volkoff received.
Inside the ring, they worked matches the way heels should. They slowed things down and cut the ring in half. They played the divide and conquer game. They used illegal objects like canes and odd shaped boots. And they won. That drove the fans insane.
To make matters worse, not a match went by that they didn't force you to listen to the Russian anthem. Not to mention the Sheik's declaration: "Iran number one, Russia, number one, U.S.A, ah, puh."
The feud they had with Windham and Rotunda was one of the classics. Two good looking, all-American young kids, against these, let's face it, not so good looking, older guys who hated America. The feud took place during a time when the Cold War was still strong, and it made the hatred stronger. Frequently, the fans would be so angry they'd throw things at them. Once, I recall Classy Freddie being struck in the head and cut by a pop can.
The Sheik and Volkoff also had the intangibles. They were legitimately seen as a threat. Sheik was so good technically, while Volkoff was a powerful bear. They knew how to run good matches inside the ring, and they did it frequently.
1. The Hart Foundation
I struggled before putting the Hart Foundation as number 1. They were too easy of a choice for a Canadian. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find a way not to use the Hart Foundation as my number one selection. They never used the crazy spots that the Hardys and Dudleys did. But they didn't need to. They were that good.
Despite being a cohesive unit, they each brought their own strengths. Bret was the technical one while Anvil provided the strength. They were one of the first tag-teams I ever saw to use both members in their finishing move. While it's a rather simple move by today's standards, back then, it was a pretty fancy spot.
When the Hart Foundation got into the ring, they worked with such precision, that you wondered why every team couldn't work the way they did. Always involved in entertaining matches, it's no wonder they were a tag team champions on numerous occasions.
I don't need to discuss what was in store for Bret Hart's career once the tag-team was broken up, but I think a strong part of the, excuse the pun, foundation, occurred during his stint in the Hart Foundation.
I don't think I realized how tough this list would be to compile. Comparing the wrestlers of 2000 to the guys in the mid 80's is very difficult. Different expectations were held, and the fans enjoyed different styles of matches. In the WWF of the 80's, there was no hardcore. Ladders were ladders, tables were tables, and wrestling was something done primarily inside a ring. But teams like the Hardys and Dudleys came along and changed that. And while it's important to give them credit for putting their bodies on the line, we also shouldn't punish those teams who didn't need to do that, yet still entertained their audiences just as well.
You know my opinion, what's yours?
For TSN.ca/wrestling, I'm J. Palter, the Corporate Columnist.