wrestling / Columns

The Top 7 Tag Teams of the 1990s

August 28, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Dudley Boyz

Last time we were here, I decided to join FTR’s celebration of tag teams by honoring the best teams of the 1980s. It went so well that I received requests for a follow-up. I was hoping that would happen, and maybe this one will have a sequel as well.

The 1990s might not have been on the same level as the 1980s as far as number of superior tag teams go, but the decade still saw its fair share of legendary tag teams. Much like the 80s, it’s tough to limit things to seven, but that’s what we do here. Let’s take a look at the Top 7 Tag Teams of the 1990s.

7. Doom

Having Ron Simmons & Butch Reed don masks was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, considering they were the only African-Americans of their size employed by WCW at the time, it’s not like their identities were much of a mystery. It did produce a tag team that was all about the kicking of ass, so one can’t complain too much.

Things got better once they lost the masks anyway. Also when they obtained the services of Teddy Long as manager. Doom upset the Steiner Brothers at Capital Combat and held the WCW Tag Team Championship for two hundred & eighty one days. An impressive reign, especially when you consider that the team that beat them for the straps, the Fabulous Freebirds, would hold them for negative six days. Doom would split up after losing the titles, and Ron Simmons would move on to bigger things. Their run was good while it lasted, though.

6. Owen Hart & the British Bulldog

Davey Boy Smith’s tag team with Dynamite Kid is more fondly remembered. It was more innovative, introducing American wrestling fans to a style & level of tag team wrestling they hadn’t seen before. However, Dynamite wasn’t the only person Davey Boy co-held the WWF Tag Team Championship with. Some thought that Davey & Lex Luger were destined to hold the titles when they briefly formed the Allied Powers. That didn’t happen, but after Davey turned evil and joined Jim Cornette’s camp of bad guys, he found himself a partner that he could find that success with.

Owen Hart had already won the championship with Yokozuna, and once that partnership was dissolved he would turn to his brother-in-law. Owen & Davey formed a perfect combination of speed & power that never failed to impress in the ring and produce good matches with their opponents. Also, they shared a love for practical jokes that never failed to produce comedy in the locker room. A great pair in & out of the ring. They would have periods of disagreement on television, but once Owen’s brother & Davey’s brother-in-law Bret joined their side and learned what they knew about the fans all along, things ran pretty smoothly between them for the rest of their time as a tag team.

5. The Outsiders

Unlike most of the tag teams making these lists, the Outsiders feature two wrestlers that are undeniably known better as singles wrestlers than as tag team wrestlers. Kevin Nash won World championships in WCW and the WWF and was always near the top of the rankings. Scott Hall held secondary championships in both promotions. Both mens’ best matches were in singles competition.

However, their pairing upon their return to WCW in 1996 helped change the course of wrestling. They effectively portrayed a duo from the competition that had arrived to wreak havoc on everybody in their path. And they did. Hall & Nash were the backbone of the New World Order, holding the WCW tag team titles six times while Hollywood Hogan dominated the singles scene.

Eventually, things would fall apart. Nash grew tired of Hogan hogging the spotlight for himself. Hall’s demons kept him from holding up his end of the bargain. Though they had their ups and downs in the dying days of WCW, Hall & Nash would come together time & again in the years after to raise a little hell and remind us of a time where they dominated the tag team world. 

4. The Dudley Boyz

Extreme Championship Wrestling was introduced to the Dudley Brothers in 1995. As the story went, Big Daddy Dudley went from town to town fathering children, some of which ended up being pro wrestlers. Dudley Dudley, Snot Dudley, Big Dick Dudley & Dances With Dudley were among the originals, and they would soon be joined by their stuttering half-brother, Buh Buh Ray Dudley. They were about having fun and entertaining the people, but that changed once D-Von arrived.

D-Von had a bit of a rougher upbringing than his half-brothers. He wanted Buh Buh to get serious, so they could dominate ECW’s tag team division. It took some doing, but eventually D-Von broke through to Buh Buh. They, Big Dick & Sign Guy became the remaining Dudleys, even booting Little Spike out of the group. The new, serious Dudley Boyz, joined by their personal ring announcer Joel Gertner, immediately became forces in the tag team division, running over everybody in their path and becoming eight-time ECW Tag Team Champions.

They also became the most hated heels in the history of ECW. Buh Buh Ray gave up that stuttering thing at some point and took delight in talking smack to fans across the territory. D-Von was similiar in that regard. ECW wasn’t big on censorship either, so things often got real colorful when Buh Buh, D-Von or Gertner were on the microphone. Definitely right in my wheelhouse as a teenager when watching this stuff, but needless to say that the Dudleyz needed to change their game up when they left ECW & signed with the WWF in late 1999. We might be talking more about that in a future column…

3. The New Age Outlaws

Late 1997 saw a feud begin between “The Real Double J” Jesse James & Rockabilly, the new protege of the Honky Tonk Man. Times were tough for the man previously known as Billy Gunn, who had held the WWF Tag Team Championship three times as part of the Smokin’ Gunns. The Rockabilly gimmick was dead on arrival. James’ persona as “the guy that really sung “With My Baby Tonight”” wasn’t doing a whole lot better. They both needed something, and it turned out that joining forces was exactly that.

We immediately saw new sides of the “Road Dogg” Jesse James & “Badd Ass” Billy Gunn. They were brasher, more outspoken and willing to do whatever it took to get ahead. They cheated to defeat the Legion of Doom for the tag titles, and later joined up with Shawn Michaels & Triple H to beat LOD so bad that the freaking Road Warriors had to take time off to freshen up their gimmick. Who could forget the time they trapped Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie in a dumpster & pushed it off the stage? The Outlaws didn’t mess around, at least when it came to humiliating their rivals.

The New Age Outlaws were the perfect example of the WWF’s new Attitude, and became part of Triple H’s new version of D-Generation X. They went on to be five-time WWE Tag Team Champions of the World and part of the foundation that helped the company rise to the top of the Monday Night War.

2. Harlem Heat

Booker T & Stevie Ray first got some national attention in the Global Wrestling Federation, which was airing weekdays on ESPN in the early 1990s. Known as the Ebony Experience, Booker & Stevie held the GWF Tag Team Titles three times before making their way to World Championship Wrestling under their new name of Harlem Heat. They also received new individual ring names: Kane & Kole. Apparently Stevie was Kane & Booker was Kole, but don’t hold me to that. The names didn’t last terribly long anyway.

After some difficulties under the leadership of Col. Robert Parker, Harlem Heat began to find their groove when they replaced him with Sister Sherri. Sherri’s influence was just what Booker & Stevie needed, and she managed them to seven WCW Tag Team Title reigns between 1994 & 1997. They became the standard-bearers of the tag division during this time, always being in the title picture as challengers or top contenders, usually as champions. That came to an end around the arrival of the New World Order, which also led to the team splitting up. Stevie ended up joining the NWO after returning from an ankle injury, while Booker established himself as a singles star loyal to WCW.

Booker eventually convinced Stevie to leave the NWO, and the brothers would win the tag straps three more times, cementing their status as WCW’s most decorated tag team. Harlem Heat would split again over Stevie’s disagreement with a lady named Midnight joining the team. Stevie ended up forming Harlem Heat 2000 with Big T (Ahmed Johnson) while Booker returned to the singles division and finally received his break as a main event competitor. Both men would later become oft-quoted color commentators.

1. The Steiner Brothers

Rick & Scott Steiner were a force of nature that dominated everywhere they went. They started & ended the 1990s in World Championship Wrestling, picking up seven World Tag Team Title reigns along the way. They also took advantage of WCW’s partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 1990s, winning the IWGP tag titles twice and making a habit of dropping Japanese folks on their heads. There was also a WWF stint for Rick & Scott from late 1992 until early 1994 where they won that tag team championship twice.

Rick & Scott did well in the WWF, but for whatever reason they never really fit in there. Scott’s return to the company in the early 2000s wasn’t a good fit either. They just weren’t WWF/E guys. They were asskickers that would run over anybody in their path. Rick was the Dogfaced Gremlin that would Steinerline anybody and suplex people whenever he wanted. They couldn’t do anything about it, he just had that strength. Scott introduced the Frankensteiner/hurricanrana to mainstream US wrestling fans, and could also suplex anybody he wanted to whenever he wanted to. They had that college experience and came off as believable. And if you’re looking for good matches, the Steiners’ tag team run is a darn good place to look. 1991 saw them have the Wrestling Observer Match of the Year with Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki, and the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year with Sting & Lex Luger. Both were badass matches,

They broke up in 1998, when Scott became Big Poppa Pump and began a singles run that promoters had wanted to book earlier. Previously, Scott wasn’t interested because he wanted to team with Rick. Tough to blame him considering how much success they found together. They did well wherever they went, and to me are an easy call for the best tag team of the 1990s.

Who did I miss? Let me know in the comments & on the Twitter!