The Hulkamania era of WWE was as much of a great period for tag team wrestling as its much-vaunted counterpart over at Jim Crockett Promotions for the NWA. The 1980s was a hotbed of tag team wrestling, and while Crockett in the latter half of the decade had The Road Warriors, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, The Midnight Express and countless others, the WWE was no slouch in the partnership department either.
It might be hard to believe, considering Vince McMahon’s well-known disdain for tag team wrestling, something tangibly seen in the product over the last 15 years or so, but the late 80s/early 90s of the Hulkamania era was a glory era for tag team wrestling in the WWE. Not only was there a stacked division (see the tag team Survivors match at Survivor Series ’88), full of teams made up of regular partners with solid identities, but the tag team titles were treated seriously, with title matches being made to feel like they were important. A golden period, then, in other words.
Here are my top five WWE tag teams from the Hulkamania era (a quick honorary note in favour of Strike Force, the fabulous tag team composed of legends Rick Martel and Tito Santana. I agonised over whether to include them or not and ultimately decided against it, but they do need to be acknowledged as one of the great teams of the era).
1. The Hart Foundation
What is left to say about The Hart Foundation that hasn’t already been said? Not only one of the best WWE tag teams of the Hulkamania era, not only one of the best WWE tag teams of all time, but one of the greatest tag teams of all time—a unit that can most definitely stand up against your Midnight Expresses, your Steiners’ and your FTR’s.
Brothers-in-law Bret Hart and Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart made for a great pairing, a classic combination of brain and brawn, speed and aggression. The pair won two WWF tag team titles throughout their run and they had so many great matches and feuds with the likes of The British Bulldogs, Strike Force, Demolition and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers.
When you think of tag team wrestling in the Hulkamania era, this is the tag team everybody thinks of first.
2. The British Bulldogs
‘The Dynamite Kid’ Tom Billington and ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith are long-remembered as being one of the most innovative tag teams of the 1980s, with The Dynamite Kid, in particular, displaying a level of athleticism and aggression that would see him fit in today’s wrestling climate. Back in the 80s, though, he was a force of nature that left audiences with their jaws dropped all over America.
In tandem with his cousin Davey Boy Smith, The British Bulldogs would dazzle in the ring. Although Davey was the power man, Dynamite had the combination of speed and power, meaning the Bulldogs were extremely well-matched for their biggest rivals The Hart Foundation, as well as any other team that came across their path. Although The Bulldogs only won the WWF tag team titles once, they did so in spectacular fashion against The Dream Team, Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, in a classic encounter that was perhaps the only great match of WrestleMania II.
Dynamite’s physical condition would deteriorate due to a combination of a back injury and his recreational habits, and only a few years after leaving the WWE in 1988 he would, with only an unfortunate reappearance in a Michinoku Pro ring in 1996, be forced to call it a day, seething whilst his cousin Davey Boy made a big name for himself as a singles star. Before that though, the Bulldogs were still able to have classics in All Japan and AWA, in particular with the Malenko brothers and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Still one of the greatest teams of all time.
Here comes the Ax, here comes the Smasher! In the 1980s, the Road Warriors were one of the hottest things in wrestling. However, Vince wouldn’t be able to get his hands on them until 1990, but there was no way he wasn’t going to make some kind of money off the back of the interest in them in the meantime.
Demolition was his answer, and while they were never as good or as over as the Roadies in their prime, they were still a hell of an outfit and were certainly over with audiences of the time, who still remember them fondly today. See, the combination of ‘The Masked Superstar’ Bill Eadie and the former ‘Kruscher Kruschev’ Barry Darsow was not one without talent, but on paper, it didn’t spell anything groundbreaking. Yet, with their distinctive leather, spikes and masks, and their absolute classic ring music by Rick Derringer, plus a combination of talent and the right opponents, Demolition were a winning proposition in actuality.
They were the third team in WWE history to have won the WWF tag titles three times (the other two teams being Mr Fuji & Professor Tanaka & The Wild Samoans. Demolition still holds the record for the longest WWE tag team title reign for the classic titles (1971-2010) with a whopping 478 days of being champions during their first reign. Not bad for a team originally designed to be a Road Warriors rip-off.
4. The Rockers
Without The Rockers, then no Hardys, no Edge & Christian and no Young Bucks. It’s that simple. Like The British Bulldogs before them, The Rockers were innovative and before their time, displaying an athleticism and aerial ability unknown to the WWF before then, whilst the double team manoeuvres were thrilling and fresh in equal measure. Whilst Shawn Michaels was undoubtedly the star and quite rightly ascended into the position of one of the biggest superstars in wrestling, Marty Janetty was no slouch and could have made a lot more of himself had his demons not impacted him as much as they did.
It’s a shocking omission on the WWF/WWE’s part that The Rockers were never tag team champions, as they were over as hell with the WWF audience during the Hulkamania era. And in fact, they did indeed win the titles once but unofficially, beating the Hart Foundation in a controversial 2 out of 3 falls match at a house show where the ropes broke during the contest. Rumour has it this made footage of the title change unusable and so Vince decided to keep the belts on the Harts. Either that or his decision not to fire Jim Neidhart as originally planned made the need to put the belts on The Rockers null and void. It’s a shocking error of judgement in any case. The Rockers were outstanding.
5. The Brain Busters
It might be an odd choice to pick a team more generally associated with the NWA and the Four Horsemen. And in fact, they only spent a period of 13 months in the WWF. But two things twisted my arm here. One, no matter who they wrestled for and for how long, they were the greatest tag team of all time and to not have them on this list would be insulting to that fact.
Secondly, within that 13-month space, the Brain Busters not only won the WWF tag team titles but also had outstanding feuds with The Rockers and Demolition, as well as a solid match with Strike Force and an excellent match with The Hart Foundation, both on PPV. The Brain Buster were also an integral part of the aforementioned Survivor Series ’88 tag team Survivors match, which is not only one of the best tag team matches of the Hulkamania era but is also one of the best WWF tag team matches of all time.
Not bad for just over a year’s work.
Who are your favourite WWF tag teams of the Hulkamania era? Let us know in the comments!