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A Mark's Eye View: The lost art of tag team wrestling

A Mark's Eye View

A Mark’s Eye View: The lost art of tag team wrestling

In the territories, tag team wrestling was different.

A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly wrestling podcast, PTW!

I have been a WWE Network subscriber since day one. It was an easy decision since I love professional wrestling, but there was one major selling point for me: all the classic content. Since it began airing in 2014, the amount of old school wrestling hasn’t quite lived up to my admittedly lofty expectations, but when they get it right, they really get it right.

The recent addition of the 1986 Crockett Cup is a great example. The Last Battle of Atlanta was cool to see, and Bret Hart against some never-was is an interesting choice, but the Crockett Cup was on another level.

Back in 1986, tag team wrestling was different. Promotions had the strange idea of having a number of strong tag teams make up a competitive division. How strong? Then inaugural Survivor Series in 1987 featured a Survivor Series match with two teams of five tag teams. Yes, the WWF’s tag division was so strong it ran ten teams deep. 

These weren’t teams just thrown together for the event, either. The British Bulldogs, Demolition, and the Rogeaus were just some of the legendary teams in the bout. Though to be fair, they weren’t all winners — the Young Stallions were jobbers to the stars while the Conquistadors weren’t even that high up the totem pole. Still, eight teams is impressive. 

A Mark's Eye View: The lost art of tag team wrestling

The Crockett Cup was an ambitious event. A two day card featuring 24 teams from around the world competed for one million dollars. The idea was difficult then, and would be downright laughable now.

The best part was the few teams that were not a regular pairing fell into one of two categories. There were the midcarders who had come together to win the prestigious event. They were quickly dispatched. Then there were the two main eventers who came together to win the Cup. They fared much better. 

Whichever group they fell into, the message was the same. The Crockett Cup was important. And it was for the best tag team. This was not Triple H and Shawn Michaels running through the tag division on Raw then laughing about it afterwards. This was an important prize awarded to the best team in the world.

A Mark's Eye View: The lost art of tag team wrestling

The lack of a strong tag team division is not exclusively a WWE or an American wrestling problem. The indies and New Japan are just as guilty of putting two stars together and calling them a team. An entire generation of wrestling fans are more familiar with stables than they are with teams. A viable style of wrestling has essentially been eliminated.

This is a shame since tag team wrestling has such a rich history. Teams like the Midnight Express, the Miracle Violence Connection, and the Rockers participated in some of the most fondly remembered matches of all time. The Midnights/Rock ‘n’ Roll Express feud is one of the best ever. 

A match between two superb tag teams cannot be replicated. The psychology, the tandem moves, the way two people work together like one was beautiful to watch. Even straight brawlers like the Sheepherders had a fluidity to what they did. 

A Mark's Eye View: The lost art of tag team wrestling

People could also be hidden in tag teams. Bobby Eaton is one of the best workers of all time. Dynamite Kid is considered by many to be the best pound for pound wrestler ever. Still, the two of them seemed destined to be lost in the shuffle. (Dynamite may have done well internationally. He was a legend in Japan where he and Tiger Mask basically invented the high flying style that still dominates wrestling today.) Placing them in a tag team secured their places in wrestling lore.

The New Day and the Young Bucks have done an admirable job, but tag team wrestling is nowhere near as exciting as it used to be. Tag team matches used to be genuine attractions that could draw fans to arenas. Today, they are pre show filler and excuses to get more people on the card.

Next week: Trading up.

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