wrestling / Columns

The Top 7 Tag Teams of the 1980s

August 14, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Hart Foundation

This past Wednesday, AEW presented a Tag Team Appreciation Night. FTR included it as part of their deal to sign with the company, as they wanted to show respect to great tag teams of the past. Little did we know that it was all just part of a plan to beat up Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson.

We probably should have seen that coming.

I’m not here to beat anybody up though. Nah, I just want to continue the theme of appreciating great tag teams. I don’t think there was ever a better decade for tag teams than the 1980s. Jim Crockett’s territory always featured great teams throughout its history and its arrival on TBS was just what tag team fans were hoping for. Not to be out-done, the WWF was stocked with its deepest tag team roster in history.

Who were the best tag teams of the 1980s? That’s what I’m here for!

7. The British Bulldogs

With all due respect to Davey Boy Smith, the announcement earlier this year that The British Bulldog would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame was missing an “s”. Davey Boy went on to a great deal of success in the WWF, but inducting him without including the Dynamite Kid seems like a miss to me. The Bulldogs came to the WWF together and helped change the way people thought about tag team wrestling. They were two of the workhorses that powered the WWF tag team division through the 1980s & made it ok to run a tag team match last on a show.

After all, who was going to follow the Bulldogs & the Foundation?

6. The Fantastics

The Fabulous Ones’ success in Memphis paved the way for a bevy of pretty boy fan favorite tag teams designed to appeal to the young female audience. Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers formed one of these teams in the Mid-South territory, and quickly became a hit feuding with the Midnight Express & the Sheepherders. They would compete in World Class & the NWA, and bounced around the independents & Japan for most of the 1980s & 1990s.

What differentiated the Fantastics from other teams in their genre was their willingness to take part in bloody brawls. Their rivalry with the Sheepherders resulted in some violent moments that only increased the fans’ respect for the Fantastics.

5. The Road Warriors

There hasn’t been a more dominating tag team than Hawk & Animal in their prime. They cut through everybody in their path like a hot knife through butter. Whether it was the NWA, AWA or Japan, whoever was in the Road Warriors’ way was in a heap of trouble. The look of Hawk & Animal influenced every wrestling promoter to find two big dudes, paint them up and have them destroy people. Outside of Demolition, most of them were flashes in the pan. The popularity of the Road Warriors, the Legion of Doom, endures today.

If you’re looking for quick squash matches to fill some time you can’t do much better than these guys.

4. The Hart Foundation

I’ve always liked tag teams that combine a technical wrestling master with a powerhouse. The Foundation was the formula at its finest. Bret Hart was known as the Excellence of Execution for a reason. Few other teams had a member that could hang with him from that perspective. Then when he’d make the tag and Jim Neidhart would come in, opposing teams would have to completely change their gameplan. The Hitman & Anvil brought everything to the table, and you had to be ready for all of it.

Bret later became the breakout star of the team, but his time teaming with the Anvil helped make it all happen. He gained the confidence he needed & got the ring time to earn the respect of the audience. It’s the perfect example of a tag team making a star, though the success Bret & Shawn Michaels found as singles stars in the early 1990s led to pretty much every tag team breaking up before getting to the level of tag teams of the past.

3. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard

Arn & Tully were both previously part of successful tag teams. Arn’s team with his “uncle” Ole dominated Georgia & the Carolinas. Tully’s team with Gino Hernandez was big in the Southwest. It wasn’t surprising to knowledgable fans at the time that a tag team with them together would find similar results.

It was also something that had to happen to keep Horseman dominance rolling. When Ole left the group, that left the tag team scene without proper Horseman representation. Tully was decided to be Arn’s best potential partner, and it worked out pretty well. Arn & Tully made sure all the gold was in the Horseman camp, then they went to the WWF and brought those tag team championships to Bobby Heenan’s Family. Tully leaving the business at the end of 1989 was the only thing keeping these two from continuing their run well into the 1990s.

2. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to plan out a match with Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson. Lots of offense for the good guys early on. The crowd goes wild. Kick the crap out of Ricky Morton forever. Fans feel sorry for Ricky and desperately want him to tag Robert. Ricky makes the tag, fans go crazy. Depending on who has to win, the opponents either step on a banana peel or commit some tomfoolery. Either way, the fans go wild.

Ricky & Robert had a connection with their audience that few people in the history of wrestling can claim to have had. They were like members of the family. When Ricky was getting beat up & selling only the way he could, the fans couldn’t have been more invested. Of all the babyface tag teams around in the 1980s, the R ‘N’ Rs stand the test of time more than any other.

Hell, Ricky’s still getting beat up for a pop here in 2020.

1. The Midnight Express

If y’all think Jim Cornette is getting some Internet heat now, it’s nothing compared to how much he got under the skin of Mid-South wrestling fans back in the day. He used to say all these crazy things on television that really annoyed people, and there was nothing they could do about it. When he moved on to Jim Crockett Promotions, he got to get on TBS and annoy the whole country. Again, nothing that could be done about it.

Why?

Because he managed the best tag team in the business. Whether it was Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey, or Eaton & Stan Lane, the Midnight Express was always a thorn in the sides of the fans’ favorite tag teams. There weren’t many teams out there that could out-wrestle the Midnights, and his team constantly being champions or top contenders for titles meant that Cornette had the forum to out-talk anybody else on the show. In the ring, the Express always had impeccable timing. Always in the right place at the right time. Their match never failed to entertain an audience and get the desired reaction, whether it was hatred for the Express or, on the rare occasions where they were good guys, cheers.

The Midnight Express almost always led their matches, and they always knew where they were going.

There are many more tag teams that should be on this list. Sound off on those in the comment section or hit me up on the Twitter!