10 shocking tag team breakups
Save for The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, sports-entertainment tag teams don’t tend to last very long. From blood brothers to odd couples, the mightiest duos in wrestling have crumbled under the weight of massive egos and singular aspirations.
As Kane & Daniel Bryan face an uncertain future in the wake of their WWE Tag Team Title loss at Extreme Rules, WWEClassics.com looks back at the 10 most devastating fractured bonds in the turbulent history of tandem competition. Team Hell No can use this as a helpful guide of what not to do.
The Steiner Brothers
Collegiate wrestling standouts at the University of Michigan, Rick and Scott Steiner were the pride of tag team wrestling for a decade. Dominating duos from the rings of WWE to Japan, the hard hitters stopped every major tandem thanks to their flawless blend of Rick’s power and Scott’s speed. But at SuperBrawl VIII in 1998, with the nWo running roughshod over the competition, a sports-entertainment institution came to an end.
While defending the WCW Tag Team Championships against The Outsiders, Scott viciously attacked his Dog-Faced Gremlin brother, allowing Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to win the titles. With the tandem split, Scott went through a rebirth and became Big Poppa Pump, a “genetic freak” with a dyed goatee, Lancelot-inspired headgear and massive ego to match his muscles.
The Steiner Brothers later reformed their alliance as a pair of villainous thugs, but their nasty breakup left a bad taste in the mouths of WCW fans right up until the company’s 2001 shuttering.
The Hardy Boyz
Matt and Jeff Hardy were best friends, tag team partners and thrilling innovators of WWE’s most dangerous contests. Still, although they were two of WWE’s most popular performers, the crowd always liked Jeff just a little bit more. That fact gnawed at Matt so much that he turned on his younger sibling not once, but twice.
During summer 2002, with Jeff climbing up the ranks of singles competition, Matt’s jealousy shone through. During Jeff’s match against Rob Van Dam on Raw, Matt hit his younger brother with a Twist of Fate to spoil the match.
One reunion and nearly seven years later, Matt cost Jeff the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble when he nailed the defending champion with a steel chair. Following the shocking betrayal, Matt revealed himself to be the mastermind behind weeks of horrible “accidents” experienced by The Charismatic Enigma. The two brothers faced off in an Extreme Rules Match at The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania with Matt emerging victorious in what many considered an upset. Jeff achieved retribution the following month when he defeated his older brother in an “I Quit” Match at Backlash.
Edge & Christian
Success breeds betrayal. Just ask Edge, who was emerging as a Superstar of the future in 2001. On his way to becoming a WWE Champion, the young Canadian won the King of the Ring Tournament — a victory that filled Edge’s childhood pal, Christian, with intense jealousy.
In the friends’ hometown of Toronto, Christian finally had enough of Edge’s success. The deranged Captain Charisma delivered a skull-shattering Con-Chair-To to his former chum. He then hoisted the WWE Hall of Famer’s Stanley Cup-like King of the Ring trophy above his head before driving it into Edge’s abdomen.
The moment certainly did not reek of awesomeness. The embittered partners battled in a series of brawls — including an intense Ladder Match at No Mercy 2001 — that marked the end of WWE’s most successful alliance. Thankfully, Edge and Christian reformed their friendship in time to celebrate The Rated-R Superstar’s retirement in 2011.
The sight of Shawn Michaels sending Marty Jannetty through the glass window of Brutus Beefcake’s Barber Shop is not only the most iconic tag team breakup in wrestling history, but one of the most indelible images ever seen on a sports-entertainment broadcast.
That night, it was clear that things were not going well between the two longtime partners, but with Beefcake playing moderator, they seemed to make amends. And then a kick from The Heartbreak Kid changed the course of WWE history.
After hurling his helpless partner through a glass window, Shawn puffed out his chest inside his leather jacket and began his solo journey to becoming a WWE Hall of Famer and one of the great Superstars. Jannetty, while talented, never reached the main event. Today, his surname is used to describe the less successful Superstar of a splintered tag team.
The indoctrinated members of The New World Order always claimed to be “nWo 4 life.” For the splinter group’s original two members, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, that mantra seemed to be especially true. Whether competing as Razor Ramon and Diesel in WWE or as The Outsiders in WCW, Nash and Hall maintained an in-ring and locker room bond stronger than any faction … until 1998.
Recognizing the dominant nWo as the epitome of cool, WCW fans had begun to cheer the former baddies — more specifically, the red and black of the nWo Wolfpac. The black and white of nWo remained a firmly villainous faction. During The Outsiders’ WCW Tag Team Championship defense against Sting & The Giant at Slamboree 1998, Hall turned his back on the Wolfpac and longtime friend Nash. Recent nWo recruit, The Giant, scored the victory and Hall joined his opponent by donning a black and white tee. It was a shocking turn of events for WCW, the nWo regimes and what once appeared to be an unbreakable friendship.
Kane & X-Pac
Kane’s partnership with Daniel Bryan isn’t The Big Red Monster’s first rodeo with an unlikely teammate. After both X-Pac and Kane became victims of Mr. McMahon’s Corporation at WrestleMania XV, the smaller grappler took the mute loner under his wing.
Scoring two World Tag Team Championship reigns during the spring and summer 1999, the odd couple became a hugely popular tandem of The Attitude Era. The resilient degenerate was the Felix Ungar to Kane’s Oscar Madison, prompting The Devil’s Favorite Demon to utter his first words in WWE: a certain two-word phrase that had WWE fans cheering.
The night after SummerSlam, X-Pac’s former D-Generation X ally, Triple H, won the WWE Championship. Over the next several months, the former rebels rallied around their leader, reforming DX as a villainous group. In October, Pac finally betrayed his monstrous collaborator with a low blow and even stole his girlfriend, Tori, to boot.
The Rock 'n' Sock Connection
For four months from late 1998 to early 1999, The Rock and Mankind waged some of the most brutal contests ever witnessed for the WWE Championship. Their mutual animosity left each competitor with deep scars and left an impression on the WWE Universe that wasn’t always pleasant.
But in an odd twist during fall 1999, the two former rivals befriended one another. Or, perhaps more accurately, Mankind wanted to be The Great One’s friend. The unique pairing resulted in a wildly popular “This is Your Life” presentation on Raw, added a new dimension to Mick Foley’s burgeoning comedic persona and resulted in three World Tag Team Championship reigns.
Following the dream team’s third title win, The Hardcore Legend presented The Rock with a copy of his recently released autobiography. But after Al Snow informed Mick that he had found the tome in the trash, Foley became livid at The People’s Champion. A crestfallen Foley sat on the ring steps for the duration of the team’s title defense gainst The Holly Cousins, which saw the reign (and the team’s run) come to a close.
When Rick Martel and Tom Zenk ended their tenure as The Can-Am Connection following Zenk’s departure from WWE, Martel joined forces with fan favorite Tito Santana to create the energetic duo known as Strike Force. First, the pair took on the savage team known as The Islanders, but quickly set their sights higher in a rivalry with World Tag Team Champions The Hart Foundation. Rick and Tito’s popularity and grappling skill led them to defeat champions for the titles in October 1987 and their reign lasted until a controversial bout against Demolition at WrestleMania IV.
The following year at WrestleMania V, Strike Force returned to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, N.J., to face off with Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard, known in WWE as The Brain Busters. During the bout, Martel walked away from the ring and left Santana to fend for himself against the tough veterans, betraying both his ally and the fans. The arrogant French-Canadian became “The Model” and traded wins with his former partner — most notably at 1989’s King of the Ring Tournament finals and in an Elimination Match at Survivor Series.
The Road Warriors
Call them The Road Warriors, call them The Legion of Doom, or even call them LOD 2000 — most wrestling fans just call Animal and Hawk the greatest tag team of all time. For more than 15 years, the Chicago natives were dominant in every organization they stepped foot in, winning championships in WWE, AWA, the National Wrestling Alliance and even in Japan. During the turbulent days of The Attitude Era, Hawk and Animal gained a manager in Sunny and rechristened themselves LOD 2000, a Legion of Doom for the new millennium.
But the new-look pairing didn’t last long. When Hawk began battling personal demons, Animal recruited Darren Drozdov to become a new member of LOD 2000. Hawk took exception to being replaced and began bickering with his longtime partner. Eventually, the two powerhouses were at such odds that Animal lost his cool and attacked Hawk. Animal and Droz hit Hawk with LOD’s signature Doomsday Device, marking the shocking end to a nearly two-decade-long partnership.
The Mega Powers
What else could a pairing of the most iconic WWE Champions of the 1980s be referred to as but The Mega Powers? At WrestleMania IV, Hulk Hogan celebrated Randy Savage’s WWE Championship victory in the ring with the lovely Elizabeth and the “Macho Man,” officially beginning a legendary partnership between the two ring titans. Later that year at SummerSlam, The Mega Powers defeated Andre the Giant and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who went by the name The Mega Bucks.
During Hogan and Savage’s rivalry with The Twin Towers — The Big Boss Man and Akeem — things started to break down when “Macho” began questioning The Immortal One’s attention on Miss Elizabeth. At The Main Event in February 1989, The Hulkster carried Elizabeth away from ringside after she had suffered an injury. When Hogan returned to the matchup, the Sarasota, Fla., native became incensed, slapped Hogan and retreated to the locker room. While Elizabeth recovered, Savage confronted his partner and claimed Hulk was in possession of a pair of “jealous eyes.” He brutally attacked Hogan and the two faced off at WrestleMania V when The Mega Powers exploded in one of the most legendary main events in the history of wrestling.