Tag Team Specialist: The Darkest Days of the WWE Tag Division
Welcome one and all to the first installment of a series I’ve dubbed ‘Tag Team Specialist’. Once a month, I’ll be looking at tag team wrestling from the past, both the distant and more recent. It would seem that the tag teams are experiencing something of a resurgence in WWE, so now is as good a time as any to look into the history of the art. In future there will be some non-WWE articles as well, but for the time being the focus will be on the Big E. No, not that Big E. I hope you enjoy them.
As mentioned above, tag team wrestling in WWE has entered something of a renaissance. After years of false starts, the division now has some real focus, with legitimate teams vying for a pair of belts, which, despite still looking like big copper pennies, are held by a team with legitimate credibility and respect. Current champions Goldust and Cody Rhodes have held the straps for 95 days and counting, The team they deposed, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield, held them for 148 days. Despite Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) clocking a 245-day tenure before them, I’d say that it was during the reign of The Shield that the tag division was truly reinvigorated.
Disagree? Well, during their long reign Bryan and Kane only defended the belts realy against two teams, Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes) and The Shield. Every other tag team was meant to look beneath them. The Primetime Players are the best example of this. During Team Hell No’s bickering, they seemingly spent a few weeks defeating Titus O’Neill and Darren Young in a variety of handicap matches, making them look incredibly weak in the process. Fast forward to Night of Champions 2013, and you have The PTPs putting in a competitive showing in a loss to Rollins and Reigns. The same sort of credibility increase can be seen in the other teams during The Shield’s reign, with the exception of 3MB of course.
As it stands, we have a tag division full of genuine teams. Cody and Goldie, The Usos, The Real Americans, the PTPs, Los Matadores, 3MB, Harper and Rowen and others, this division is stacked. As much as nostalgia makes me feel all tingly inside, it wasn’t always like this. That’s why this week I want to look at what most of will call the ‘Dark Ages of Tag Team Wrestling’. I’m talking, of course, about the years between 2004-07.
(Before we begin, it is important to note that there were two sets of belts at the time, one for Raw and one for Smackdown.)
Maybe it’s unfair to put 2004 in this bracket, but the gloomy years truly began when Billy Kidman and Paul London lost the titles to Renee Dupree and Kenzo Suzuki in September 2004. It was all part of an angle to capitalize on Kidman botching his Shooting Star Press of course, but still. Dupree and Suzuki were the definition of a thrown together team, two singles guys with nothing to do thrown together and producing a whole lot of nothing. They had a three-month reign too, before another makeshift team, Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam, ended that.
For the next few years, it wasn’t the titleholders who were so much the problem. MNM, the team of Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro (John Morrison), were one of the best teams WWE has had in the last 15 years for my money. It was during this time that London and Brian Kendrick had their record breaking reign as champions as well, lasting a whole 331 days. There were also many occasions when two main-event playas (hey Brodus!) took the belts, or they were used as props to further a middle of the card beef. With two sets of belts available, they can be used as props now and then. After all, that’s all the truly are. Props.
It was the rest of the division that was the problem. For the years between 2005 and 2008 it seemed that not a few months would pass without a new team making their debut, beating jobbers on Velocity and Heat for a few weeks before disappearing deep into the ether. It began in April 2005, when the Heart Throbs made their debut on RAW. They’d been spoken of for a while, but their tenure was memorable in that they weren’t memorable in the slightest. They lost pretty much every match they took part in. Their gimmick, which amounted to being popular with the ladies, was given no chance to develop. Heck, we were given no reason as to why they thought they were popular with the ladies until the end of their run, when they brought ladies into the ring to dance with them. It was too little too late however, as they were released less than a year after their debut. Inevitably, they had a blink and you’ll miss it run in TNA a year later.
Worse was to come.
In October 2005 over on Smackdown, another team appeared on WWE TV who might have believed they were favorites of the ladies. The Mexicools had just defeated MNM, Legion of Doom and Regal/Burchill, when a new tag team attacked them. They made quite the impact actually, hitting Psicosis and Super Crazy with a couple of really high-impact moves. They made their official debut soon after, and were christened The Dicks. Their gimmick? Chippendales my friend, Chippendales. Still, things boded well for them when they defeated Road Warrior Animal and Heidenreich on their Smackdown debut, all be it thanks to the help of some body lotion.
That was as good as it got for Chad and James Dick. They didn’t even last as long as the Heart Throbs. After a loss to The Boogeyman in a handicap match in February 2006, they were gone. They lasted just over four months. The Dicks were done.
A month prior to the departure of the Dicks however, another team would debut on Smackdown. Led to the ring by their manager Simon Dean, The Gymini were more physically imposing than any of the new teams that came before them during this bleak time. They even won some matches against actual teams, such as London and Kendrick. The name, well that came from the fact they were twins and they went to the gym. That’s it. Seriously. I’d have loved to have sat in on that creative meeting. In defense of The Gymini, they seemed to have some support from the booking team before one half of them got injured. They never returned to WWE TV afterwards though, and were released just under a year after their first appearance. Before any sympathy pours forth for them however, just remember their TNA run in 2004. They were The Johnsons, and wore latex bodysuits. They basically looked like dicks. Actual dicks.
Some of the champions weren’t much better. Deuce n’ Domino, with their 50’s Greaser gimmick turned up, ended Paul London and Brian Kendrick’s record run as champions and proceeded to do nothing. The greaser gimmick might have worked well in the early 90s, but in 2007 on two still fairly green performers it fell flat. The one team who sum up this bleak time however, is without doubt the 2005 version of the Legion of Doom. One half of this team was made up of LOD original, Animal. The other half? Heidenreich. Goddamn freakin’ Heidenreich.
For those who aren’t aware, Heidenreich was an almost seven foot tall former American football player who the WWE attempted to push in various ways in the early 2000s. First, he had a split personality. Then, he had Paul Heyman at his side. After that, he dabbled in poetry. His WWE career really was a train wreck and is memorable for two things. One of these was his abuse of Michael Cole, and the other is for being a part of sullying the Legion of Doom legacy. It was almost the last throw of the dice for Heidenreich, as he partnered a hilariously-overweight Animal to the tag titles. Even that story was borderline sexual, as Animal claimed he didn’t want someone to replace former partner Hawk, just a partner. Animal then shaved Heidenreich’s hair into a Mohawk, painted his face in the Road Warrior style and presented him with his LOD spikes. Awful. Their three months as champions mercifully came to an end when MNM reclaimed their titles, but the damage had already been done.
I could go on. The Highlanders? The Spirit Squad? Snitsky and whoever he was with, Teachers Pets, Scotty 2 Hotty and Funaki, oh sweet lord it was bleak. That first hour of Smackdown used to be such a struggle. So over the next few weeks, when we see a 15 minute beaut between The Real Americans and The Rhodes Boys, take a moment to appreciate what we have. The tag division at the moment is a wonderful thing, and it is all the better when you look at the bleak years of 2004-07.
That’ll do for now. Do you remember any of the teams particularly fondly? Was this period really that bad? Who thought The Dicks were a good idea? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or we’ll duke it out in the twitter world (@pingvinorkestra) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Have a fantastic weekend.