A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
There aren’t many things that old-school wrestling fans and modern fans agree on, but tag team wrestling is one exception. There’s little denying that tag team wrestling is at one of its lowest points in history.
Old school fans will argue one part of the problem is the lack of tag team units — the majority of teams today are two random stars thrown together and put into title matches, a problem that has been happening with increasing regularity. There has also been an increase in two wrestlers with no direction being thrown together and put in the tag division, which does not play into tag team wrestling’s strengths.
That being said, makeshift teams can work, and have had its fair share of legendary pairings throughout the years. Here are some of the best.
Rick Rude and Manny Fernandez
In a career filled with memorable moments and championships, this part of Rude’s career is often overlooked. This is unsurprising, given his team with Fernandez could not even come up with their own name — they were referred to as “The Real RNR Express” and “The Awesome Twosome”, among other names.
Fernandez always served in a plug-and-play role in the NWA. He had previously won the tag titles in another makeshift team with Dusty Rhodes. This championship reign with the young Rude was much better. The matches were hotter and the “Ragin’ Bull” was better as a heel. After losing the NWA tag straps back to Ricky and Robert (kinda), the duo would disband.
Tully Blanchard and Wahoo McDaniel
The first and more awesome Awesome Twosome. Tully is known for his long stint in the Four Horsemen, while McDaniel is one of the most beloved faces in Mid-Atlantic history. In 1984, the two teamed up as heels to terrorize babyface NWA World Champion Ric Flair. Things get even stranger from there — the constant attacks led to the “Nature Boy” turning to longtime nemesis Dusty Rhodes for help. It is a surreal part of wrestling history that ended abruptly due to politics.
Barry Windham and Ron Garvin
Both men have interesting histories with the NWA title: Garvin had some of the best matches of the 1980s while chasing Flair for the belt. When he finally won it in 1987, it ruined his career. Windham’s matches against the Nature Boy are some of the best of all time. The son of Blackjack Mulligan would not win the title until it had lost most much prestige in the wrestling world. The two were great as a team, defeating Ivan Koloff and Krusher Kruschev for the U.S Tag belts and making it to the finals of a tournament to crown new champs when the belts were vacated later.
Eddie Gilbert and Ron Simmons
Apparently, there was something about the US Tag Team Championship and makeshift tag teams. Simmons and Gilbert got all the way to the finals of the 1988 US Tag Title tournament. The two never held the belts, but an interesting dynamic always played out. At this point in his career, Simmons had never been heel. Gilbert, on the other, had fluctuated between face and heel multiple times. This led to “Hot Stuff” being tempted to do evil things but convincing himself not to for the better of the team. In a strange twist, Gilbert would leave the NWA months later without ever having turned. Meanwhile, Simmons would win the world tag belts with Butch Reed after a heel turn.
Lance Von Erich and Dingo Warrior
The territories were a hotbed for makeshift tag teams. In many cases, they made up the entire division. Still, a fake Von Erich and a future WWE legend stand out. Dingo was turned on by heel tag team champions Matt Borne and Buzz Sawyer, but there was no real storyline reason for him to team with Lance. How successful were they? The two ended up capturing the World Class tag titles and holding them for two weeks. Dingo would ultimately go onto greater fame in the WWF while Lance was exposed as a fabulous fraud and cash grab.
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