By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Some of my fondest memories of watching wrestling when I was younger centred around my friend Chris and his small collection of VHS tapes. As I primarily owned Wrestlemania shows and the Year in Review tapes, the opportunity to go around to his house and watch some of the early Survivor Series shows (alongside Royal Rumble events) was manna from heaven for a newly established wrestling fan. We’d re-enact the matches, with a sofa often used as a rudimentary top rope for the Rumble matches in particular.
In watching the first two Survivor Series shows many, many times, it was always the ten man tag contests that stood out to me the most. Before I knew anything about wrestling outside of what I did and didn’t enjoy, these were the matches that felt special to me. Having such a colourful array of characters at ringside in a match that lasted well over half an hour was a perfect way to satiate my wrestling fandom at the time.
Though the first two shows had two five on five tag team contests, this match was largely done away with; in its place, you’d often see two tag teams joining forces to make the requisite four members of a collective that arbitrarily became the way – with the odd deviation – from 1989 onwards. It just wasn’t the same. This, coupled with an increasingly weak tag team division, made these matches little more than another match on the card, rather than a true highlight.
What I seek to consider in this column is simple – what would these matches, had they continued to be booked, look like year on year to the modern day? As a starting point, I will use the tag teams already on the show, split by the face and heel divide of course. After that, I will use the History of WWE website as a means to find out what other teams were on the scene at the time to allow me to create my five on five contests – or four on four if I am limited by the number of tag teams around at the time. In doing so, it’ll give me a chance not only to celebrate the concept, but also to revel in some truly awful tag teams.
A side note – I’m going to ignore whatever else was booked on the show, so may end up using wrestlers who were in other contests within these matches.
The Powers of Pain, The Rougeaus, The Bolsheviks and The Colossal Connection vs The Bushwhackers, The Rockers, Demolition and The Hart Foundation
There is some sweet justice as The Powers of Pain and Demolition get to fight out there grievances still after the turns that occurred the year before. The big additions here are The Hart Foundation, who never found their way onto the original card (Jim Neidhart did, Bret Hart didn’t). The Bushwhackers will become almost ever presents in this contest going forward; testament somewhat to their longevity in the WWF…I guess. Throw in the Bolsheviks too – Boris Zhukov won the dark match against Paul Roma – and you get a match that doesn’t look too bad on paper. Put Demolition over to end their year long run against the Powers of Pain and the match does its job.
Demolition, The Orient Express, Power and Glory and Rhythm and Blues vs Legion of Doom, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers and The Bushwhackers
This would have to be the Crush and Smash version of Demolition at this point, which instantly makes this match less interesting. This is the better version of the Orient Express at least, yet the team are somewhat anchored by Rhythm and Blues that was the official moment that Greg Valentine stopped being a viable contender for anything. The face team is strong if you ignore the Bushwhackers. The Hart Foundation or the Rockers defeating Power and Glory in the final stages (Demolition and Legion of Doom eliminating each other earlier on) would be how this one plays out.
The Nasty Boys, The Beverly Brothers, The Natural Disasters and Money Inc. vs The Legion of Doom, The Rockers, The Bushwhackers and Jim Duggan and Sergeant Slaughter
This is where things begin to get messier – the 90s just weren’t a good decade for WWF tag team wrestling. A team with The Bushwhackers and Duggan/Slaughter wouldn’t be a viable threat even if they did have the LOD and Rockers by their side. The Natural Disasters always worked better as heels, and with Money Inc. and The Nasty Boys before they got awful on their team, this looks like it has the making of a heel squash all day long. The Naturals and Money Inc. to survive.
The Headshrinkers, The Beverly Brothers and Money Inc. vs The Nasty Boys, The Natural Disasters and High Energy
I could have included the Bushwhackers one more time, but it speaks to the paucity of teams (especially heel teams) that I couldn’t work out another duo who could go with the Headshrinkers, Beverly Brothers and Money Inc. The teams of the Nasty Boys and The Natural Disasters have both turned by this time based off of the actions of Money Inc. and Jimmy Hart, so Money Inc. walking out of the match to leave the Boys and the Disasters the survivors seems the best way to go. A really poor year.
The Heavenly Bodies, The Headshrinkers, The Quebecers, Well Dunn, David Heath and the Cuban Assassin vs The Bushwhackers, Men on a Mission, The Rock and Roll Express, The Steiners, The Smoking Gunns
Somehow, things get worse. David Heath and the Cuban Assassin qualify primarily due to being enhancement jobbers on the house show loop at this time, but joining a team with Well Dunn alongside doesn’t exactly smack of quality. The Rock and Roll Express were past their sell-by date yet continued to get booked due to some crossover with SMW, as did The Heavenly Bodies but they were a much better team at this time. With the Steiners, Gunns and Quebecers the main talent on show, a win for the Steiners and the Gunns against a pretty abject heel team seems about right.
The New Headshrinkers, The Heavenly Bodies, Well Dunn, Diesel and Shawn Michaels vs The Bushwhackers, The Smoking Gunns, 1-2-3 Kid and Aldo Montoya, Men on a Mission
It continues to get worse.
It blows my mind that the Bushwhackers are still around at this point, but when they are supplemented by Men on a Mission and the team of 1-2-3 Kid and Aldo Montoya, this is by far the weakest face team so far. The heel team isn’t much better – how are Well Dunn still around? – , though it is bolstered by the inclusion of Shawn Michaels and Diesel. For that alone, Diesel and Michaels survive.
The Smoking Gunns, Diesel and Shawn Michaels, and 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon vs The Public Enemy, Skip and Rad Radford, and Owen Hart and Yokozuna
I always thought 1995 was where I would hit rock bottom, but the issue here isn’t the quality of the teams as much as the lack of them. The face team are perfectly acceptable especially when it comes to star power, with the heels also packing the great team of Owen Hart and Yokozuna. That the Public Enemy qualify on a technicality as they wrestled in the show’s dark match doesn’t help the heels much, neither does the inclusion of Rad Radford and his efforts to impress Skip at this time. A whitewash for the face team.
Doug Furnas and Phillip Lafon and The Godwinns vs any of Fake Diesel and Razor, British Bulldog and Owen Hart, The New Rockers or The Grimm Twins
1996 actually seems to be the death of WWF tag team wrestling. The reason I’ve included all four heel teams is to show you how poor the offerings were, and also because Furnas and Lafon would win this no matter who they were up against. I’m not sure if the Grimm Twins ever made television, but for those who are unsure as to who they might be, it is Ron and Don Harris. Quality action in this one.
Doug Furnas and Phillip Lafon, The Truth Commission, The New Age Outlaws and The Godwinns vs The Disciples of Apocalypse, The New Blackjacks, The Headbangers and The Legion of Doom
Things really haven’t turned the corner yet as we get a contest which has three legitimately good tag teams (Furnas/Lafon, NAO and the Headbangers), one so-so one (The Godwinns) and a lot of dross or teams that are over the hill compared to where they once were (…here’s looking at your, the Legion of Doom). The New Age Outlaws were a shining, charismatic beacon during a time where the promotion couldn’t care less about tag team wrestling, so they’d be winning this match all day long.
The New Age Outlaws, The Headbangers, The Hardy Boys, and Road Warrior Animal and Droz vs Skull and 8-Ball, Mark Henry and D-Lo Brown, Too Much, and Gangrel and Edge
What a crapshoot this year is. I even had to leave off the team of Golga and Kurrgan due to not having enough heel teams to match up to the face quintet. Due to the shades of grey booking during this time period, things are made even more complicated as pretty much all of these teams would meet each other at some point during the months before Survivor Series, with several also contesting triple threat matches. Roughly hewn along the heel/face divide, the New Age Outlaws would have it once more, although a nod to the Hardy Boys, though still relatively new, might not go amiss.
D-Lo Brown and The Godfather, The Headbangers, Al Snow and Mankind, Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boys vs The APA, The Dudley Boyz, Too Cool, The Holly Cousins and The New Age Outlaws
Talk about a rebirth. This match writes itself because the WWF were able, suddenly, to put ten different tag teams into matches at the Survivor Series. All pretty good ones as well. The temptation, considering they were the tag team champions, is to give the New Age Outlaws yet another victory, but Edge, Christian and the Hardy Boys are the future and a win here continues to push them as the guys to beat in the long run. Still, a huge turnaround from the awful stuff on offer in the mid-90s.
T and A, Edge and Christian and The Right to Censor (The Goodfather and Bull Buchannan) vs The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz and The Acolytes
The problem in this era is the lack of heel tag teams. I also had The Holly Cousins (de facto faces it seemed due to a feud with the RTC) and the new team of Road Dogg and K-Kwick waiting in the wings for this match. The face team feels stronger on paper and could even blow out the opposition; have Edge and Christian walk out when the odds are stacked against them to protect the soon to be tag team champions.
The Dudley Boyz, Billy and Chuck, Booker T and Test, and Raven and Justin Credible vs The Hardy Boyz, The Acolytes, Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert and Kane and the Undertaker
With very few teams on the show and the Invasion angle underway, there are slim pickings as very few people seem to team with anyone for a significant length of time. Thus, you end up with a multitude of ‘and’ teams that barely register in the annals of wrestling history. At the pay-per-view, the Dudleys would defeat the Hardys to win both tag team belts, so a victory for the Dudleys seems most apropos here, even with Kane and Undertaker on the face side of things.
The Dudley Boyz, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, Edge and Rey Mysterio Jr., Goldust and the Hurricane, John Cena and Doug Basham vs Three Minute Warning, Lance Storm and William Regal, Los Guerreros, Chris Jericho and Christian, and Billy and Chuck
A real smorgasbord of teams here as we get teams from the show (Dudleyz, Three Minute Warning), teams from the dark match (Storm/Regal, Goldust/Hurrican), members of the Smackdown Six, the Raw champions (Jericho/Christian) and …Basham tagging with Cena. They qualify primarily to even up what was threatening to be a heel heavy match at this time as they were teamed on many house shows around the time. It is hard to look past a team with Benoit, Angle, Edge and Mysterio Jr. on it, but the reigning tag champions of Los Guerreros, Chris Jericho and Christian would lie, cheat and steal their way to victory.
That is it for Part One. Stay tuned for more as I look at the modern era of tag team wrestling. Surely nothing could be as bad as the mid 90s…right?