Welcome to the first edition of brand spanking, new monthly column, THE FIVE COUNT where I countdown the Five Best/Worst peoples, places, and moments in wrestling history. Sometimes, this column will be thought provoking, sometimes it will be zany but hopefully, it’ll be good reading material for when you’re on the can.
My first list is inspired by my recent countdown of the 25 Greatest WCW Wrestler of All Time. Criteria is the same as it was for that, team had to be active in World Championship Wrestling between November 1988 and March of 2001. A few controversial omissions I’d like to make note of. First is The Midnight Express, a legendary tag team that while great in WCW, saw its best years previously. Second is Doom, who were this close to making the list. If I made the list a week from now, half of the list would probably be different. There are numerous teams that I haven’t even mentioned worthy of induction. But right now, in my gut, these are the five teams that first pop to mind when I think about World Championship Wrestling tag teams.
5. The Nasty Boys
(Knobbs and Saggs)
(August to December 1990. July 1993 to January 1997)
The Nasty Boys are one of those tag teams that, as a hardcore wrestling fan, you have to like in spite of yourself. I was talking to someone recently and said The Nasty Boys are probably what someone who hates professional wrestling and never watches it, imagines what a pro wrestler is like. They’re big, ugly dudes with terrible haircuts and fashion sense who yell incomprehensibly a lot. The Nasty Boys couldn’t really wrestle and they couldn’t cut great promos (as you could probably surmise) but as Mick Foley put it succinctly in Have A Nice Day, the Nasty Boys could brawl. In fact, on the right night with the right opponents, The Nasty Boys could put on a clinic for how to do a wild, “out of control” brawl. And another thing is the Nasty Boys had a rare air of unpredictability. Most wrestlers play crazy but the Nasty Boys actually seemed legit bonkers. They were the kind of guys who would knock out Ken Shamrock with a lamp or fart in front of Miss Elizabeth.They were able to parlay those two aspects into a successful ten year career, despite their limited skill set. And isn’t that what WCW was really about, making the most out of as little as possible. Very few made more out of little than Knobbs and Saggs.
4. Harlem Heat
(Booker T and Stevie Ray)
(August 1993 to June 1998. August to December 1999)
Harlem Heat has to be the most quietly dominant tag team of all time. They never put on any match of the year candidates, the era where they were at their peak was probably the weakest era for tag team wrestling in the company’s history to that point. Yet there was a reason that Harlem Heat was consistently one of the top teams in WCW in the mid to late ’90s, they complimented each other perfectly. Booker was the dynamic, ultra athletic and charismatic star of the team while Stevie Ray was the oddly captivating, semi-incomprehensible (fruit booty) powerhouse. I think the fact that they didn’t have any particularly great matches as a tag team was because for whatever reason, they didn’t really have many great opponents. Their biggest kayfabe rivalry was with the Nasty Boys, a team that style-wise they had zero in-ring chemistry with. Despite that, WCW decided to pair the two teams up in dozens and dozens of matches.
It would have been something if Booker and Stevie had arrived in WCW a few years earlier or a few years later. I think they had the talent to succeed in any era of the company and it’s a shame that they didn’t stick together for a few more years so we could have seen them against Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko or Kidman and Rey Mysterio Jr. Or had been around a few years earlier to face Doom or The Steiner Brothers in their prime. Instead, they got stuck with an off prime Nasty Boys and The American Males. Even considering an incredibly lackluster set of opponents, Harlem Heat managed to be one of the most memorable teams in WCW history.
3. The Hollywood Blondes
(Steve Austin and Brian Pillman)
(March 1993 to October 1993)
It’s quite amazing to note that the Hollywood Blondes were only around for seven months. In my memory, it seemed like they were together for years. Austin and Pillman were a great tag team while they were together but I feel like their notoriety as singles stars after the team broke up has retroactively inflated their tag team reputation. People forget that like oh so many things in WCW, the powers that be really didn’t utilize the team to the best of their ability. Both guys were obviously huge stars and it seemed like a natural fit to have their team run roughshod over the tag team division for a long time before splitting up and having a feud that would be a license to print money for Eric Bischoff. But no, we got to give the Tag Team titles to Pretty Wonderful and let’s center Austin and Pillman’s feud around Pillman wanting to force Col. Robert Parker. Looking back at WCW, it’s no surprise that they went out of business but it’s amazing that they stayed in business for as long as they did, constantly botching surefire angles.
I digress. What the Hollywood Blondes did in those seven months was astonishing and as much as some of the other teams on the list. Their matches with Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas rank amongst the best that the WCW Tag Team Division ever produced. It’s hard to say that the Hollywood Blondes made Pillman and Austin stars because they were established singles wrestlers when the team formed but I would say their time as the Blondes is where they showed that they could hang with main event level talent. The team was so good that instead of just facing regular tag teams, they got the chance to go against living legends like Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and they showed that they were every bit as good as those ring greats. For some wrestlers, being a part of a great tag team is as far as their career goes but with The Hollywood Blondes, it was clear that this great team was the precursor to some very good solo runs.
2. The Outsiders
(Scott Hall and Kevin Nash)
(July 1996 to May 1998. January 1999 to December 1999)
The Outsiders were one of the most successful tag teams in WCW history. They absolutely dominated the competition in the mid ’90s and became not just the biggest tag team of the era but two of the biggest stars the company had ever produced period. It’s amazing to think what they would have accomplished if they had actually given shit. But that “devil may care” attitude is what made The Outsiders so great. They were dominant and dismissive of their opponents. In fact, they might have been a little too dominant as fans quickly ignored their heel antics and cheered for them running roughshod over the Faces of Fear and Nasty Boys. It’s almost like how when the Chicago Bulls would visit some lousy NBA team in the mid ’90s, how the fans would cheer the Bulls whooping the home team because the Bulls just made things look so easy and effortless. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall made pro wrestling seem cool and they sure as hell revitalized a tag team division that had gone seriously downhill after what seemed like a gazillion matches featuring some combination of the Nasty Boys, Harlem Heat, and The Blue Bloods. The Outsiders weren’t a team who had a lot of great matches (I feel like I’m burying almost all of these teams) but they didn’t need to because they were great personalities. It’s staggering to think how good they could have been if they cared as much as they did in WWF but they were so cool in ’96/’97 that the fact that they didn’t really care really just added to their appeal. And I just lost all my credibility with everybody who writes about ’80s wrestling for Culture Crossfire.
Please forgive me, guys. The #1 pick is one I’m sure almost everybody will agree on.
1. The Steiner Brothers
(Scott and Rick)
(January 1989 to October 1992. February 1996 to February 1998. Part time from June 1999 to March 2001)
There are very, very few wrestlers that would fit in any era and in any promotion and I’d argue even fewer tag teams but The Steiners are one of them. The Steiner Brothers were a remarkably versatile team. They could brawl with the Nasty Boys, have an epic power match with Sting & Lex Luger. They were as good at solid, fundamental technical wrestling as they were at producing state of the art moves for the era. There was very little that they couldn’t do. They complimented each other perfectly; Scott was the wrestler and Rick was the lunatic. If we’re going to compare pro wrestling to other aspects of pop culture (and if Bret Hart and Mick Foley do it in their books, who is stopping me?), the Steiners were the Beatles of tag team wrestling. They were pretty good solo but they were fantastic together (continuing the analogy, Rick Steiner’s solo career after ’98 is probably Ringo’s later albums). In fact, I think the fact that they were so good together held back Scott Steiner’s career a little bit. Scott Steiner was a World Championship caliber wrestler but only got to hold the big belt in the twilight of his career when physically, he was a shell of his former self.
It’s hard to complain too much though. Whatever lost potential of Scott Steiner’s solo superstardom in the early ’90s was made up for tenfold by The Steiners’ fantastic run as a tag team. Sure, there might have been some lost opportunity for Scotty as a singles but he was in the greatest tag team of the ’90s and one of the best of all time. Complaining about his lack of solo stardom (and let’s not forget, he did become a pretty damn big solo guy) is like a basketball fan complaining about how Scottie Pippen never really got to show what he could do as the #1 player on a team (other than the year or so Jordan took off to
lay low from his bookies play baseball), you might have missed out on something but you got to see one of the GOAT teams. In their prime, the Steiner Brothers could put on a good match with virtually anybody and even after it (hell, probably this day), they were charismatic enough to always makes things interesting. Life as a WCW fan and a pro wrestling fan in general would have been a whole lot less awesome if we never got STEINERIZED!
Next Time on the Five Count: Connor counts down the Five Biggest Busts in WWE History. So bring down the Brakus and marvel at a Who’s Who of Who Cares? Who were the worst of the “best”?