Tag Team Wrestling has been in decline for years. In the WWE the Tag Team titles are seen as after thoughts and are often used just to do something with big names who they have no real plans for. As for TNA, despite having 2 great teams in Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns the division is stagnant and lacks depth. To find good tag teams and strong tag divisions you need to look to independent promotions like RoH or PWG.
In this article, that Tom and Jim have kindly let me write, I want to highlight 10 top tag teams that you've probably never heard of. These will be teams from Europe and Japan, covering a range of styles and skills. I don't claim that these are the 10 best, but rather that they are all worth having a look at.
1. Aibou - Ikuto Hidaka & Munenori Sawa (Zero-1)
Munenori Sawa has been a bit of a tag team specialist the last couple of years. He has had 3 teams that might have been worth putting on this list. His team with Sanshiro Takagi had a fantastic tag title reign in DDT, defending the belt everywhere, from Malls to Parks. His most recent team with fellow shoot style wrestler Hikaru Sato is a nice, shoot style Jr. tag team. However, it is his team with Ikuto Hidaka, the Zero 1 Jr. ace, that sees him on this list.
Aibou dominated the Jr. tag division in Zero-1 and have put on some good matches in the Heavyweight Tag division as well. They are an entertaining Jr. team mixing Hidaka's skills with Sawa's mix of striking, submissions and oddness. A good example of their hard hitting style is their match against renowned hard strikers Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki.
2. The All Stars – Mikey Whiplash & Robbie Dynamite (IPW:UK)
The guys on the list who best embody the classic heel tag team in the Midnight Express mould: Hate-able heels who have great tag team psychology who can also go in the ring. Whiplash has a sharp tongue and will rip into any hecklers with some choice replies and a love of the word troglodyte, as well as bringing a load of cockiness. Dynamite is the more accomplished in the ring and has a good technical style but he uses it to help work over faces and bring the tension to help the match. They have had a good year or so in IPW:UK and work both as a good under-card team for people to boo and as cocky tag team champions. Their 3 encounters with the LDRS have been great and all 3 have been very different. Their third clash was one of the best mat and technical focussed tag matches that I have seen for a long time.
3. Apollo 55 – Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi (New Japan)
Prince Devitt is the current focus of New Japan's Jr. division. He is the current IWGP Jr. Champion. With Ryusuke Taguchi he forms part of one of the best tag teams out there, Apollo 55 (pronounced Apollo Go Go). They are a mainstay of New Japan's Jr tag matches, firm fan favourites and a team who can put on very good Jr tag matches without going too far into overkill territory (something that many on the Dragon Gate roster are prone to). They have had a good mini feud with the Golden Lovers and they even had a good run in the 2010 G1 Tag League before losing to Bad Intentions in the final. I have included their match against the Golden Lovers from this year.
IWGP Jr Tag Titles: Golden Lovers (c ) vs. Apollo 55 – New Japan, 1/23/2011
4. Bad Intentions – Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson (New Japan)
Take a former WWE heavyweight remembered mostly for his hairy back. Add a PWG guy who some saw as a little bland. Marinade in tours of New Japan and what do you get? Probably the best big man little man tag team around right now. Bernard, formerly known as Albert and A-Train, has evolved into a great heavyweight capable of having good singles matches He is the kind of complete package big man that the WWE should be falling over themselves to sign. He has had multiple tag team partners in New Japan. First it was Tyson Tomko. Then it was Rick Fuller. However, his team with Karl Anderson is arguably his best.
Cocky tweeners capable of going heel or face depending on their opponents, the duo show great charisma as guys who talk trash and back it up in the ring. They also hold their end up in the ring, with Bernard as the unstoppable powerhouse and Anderson as the wily, high flying and fast paced smaller guy. Anderson is on his way to becoming very good, and he should break out big in the next couple of years if he gets the chance.
G1 Tag League: Bad Intentions (c ) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Daniel Puder – New Japan, 10/30/2010
5. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (Big Japan)
Big Japan's “Strong BJ” matches have been one of the biggest hidden gems in wrestling for the last 3 years or so. Its a blend of great hard hitting 4 and 6 man tag matches mixed with emotion, passion, power and the best understanding of the underdog story in wrestling today. Sekimoto is not an underdog. The biggest non death match name in Japan's premier death match company, he has dominated the Tag team division for years, having held the titles with various partners for a combination of over 1500 days. He is the hard hitting German suplex machine, master of the dead-lift German suplex. I could have put his tag team with Yoshihito Sasaki up here but instead I chose his team with his student and protege Yuji Okabayashi, who debuted in 2009.
Yuji is a big unit (well, for a Japanese wrestler). Him and Daisuke are built like Brick outhouses, despite being under 6 foot and are the only pure powerhouse team on the lift. Yuji will clubber you. He will throw you around, and he can get ridiculous height on his diving top rope splash. Him and Daisuke are a very accomplished tandem who know how to build a match and raise the tension. This was shown by them walking into All Japan and putting on some of the best tag matches that company had seen in years with the team of Manabu Soya & Seiya Sanada.
Manabu Soya & Seiya Sanada vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi – All Japan, 2/6/2011
6. Golden Lovers – Kota Ibushi & Kenny Omega (DDT)
These two guys are a perfect match for each other. They have a mix of fast paced, high flying offence and a little bit of an odd streak. DDT is a perfect fit for Kenny Omega's style of wrestling and he and Ibushi have great chemistry. They are an established force, not just in DDT but also in New Japan where their match against Apollo 55 at Destruction 2010 saw them win the prestigious Tokyo Sports Match of the Year award. They have a good set of double teams, including the amazing Golden Shower: Stereo 450 splashes off the same turn-buckle
7. Go Shiozaki & Shuhei Taniguchi (Pro Wrestling NOAH)
This team pits NOAH's youngest heavyweights together, with the desire to show that they are a force to be reckoned with. Shiozaki had a strong tag team run with Mitsuharu Misawa before his untimely passing but this time he is the veteran of his team. Taniguchi is very good with suplexes and power slams and he has even improved his strikes, which used to be his obvious weak point. This is a typical Japanese heavyweight team, relying on striking, power and fighting spirit to succeed, and they have had a strong run in the recent NOAH Tag Tournament.
8. The LDRS of the New School – Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll (IPW:UK/WxW)
A friend of mine who saw these two wrestle in CZW described them as a team you could build a tag team division around. IPW:UK did just that. Zack and Marty are 2 young lads in their early 20's who first noticed each other by using the same classic British wrestling move on the same show. Both guys have classic British influences, but while Zack tempers his with a kicks and arm-bar focussed Japanese Jr style Marty has a more of a DG influence. They have fantastic chemistry in the ring and act and look like a team. Zack bring more fire and technical chops while Marty uses his charisma and character to enhance their matches.
These guys have a host of innovative double teams including the See Ya Later Drop-kick/Michinoku driver combination. On top of that they work fast tags, are fantastic fan favourite baby faces and, a shown in their match against PAC and Mark Haskins in IPW:UK, they can be great dicks when they need to be. Almost every time they wrestle on a show, they steal it. Whether it's matches against UK team like the All Stars or the Thrillers, or encounters with the likes of Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly, you know that you'll get a great match. Speaking of Cole and O'Reilly, their match with the LDRS at WxW's 16 Karat Tournament 2011 was a fantastic match similar to the Motor City Machine Guns vs. Briscoes from RoH's Good Times Great Memories.
9. Yoshihito Sasaki & Shinya Ishikawa (Big Japan)
Daisuke Sekimoto's other main tag team partner is Yoshihito Sasaki. Sasaki is a lariat throwing ball of rage, at his best when he is snapping and trying to destroy his opponents. He probably works hate into matches better than most these days, as his frequent exchanges with the likes of Takashi Sasaki and Shinobu shows. Like Sasaki, he has also been successful with a younger, less experienced partner. Shinya Ishikawa debuted in 2008. His team with Sasaki, formed in 2009, got of to a great start when they proved to be plucky underdogs. Sasaki had returned from injury and Ishikawa wanted to prove himself. Ishikawa is a good underdog and, like most Big Japan students, he has very sound basics and knows how to work the story and build a crowd for hot finishing sequences. He also has a great forearm and one of the most viscous drop-kicks you will ever see. This mixes nicely with the very passionate Sasaki and I look forward to the reformation of their team which has started this year.
10. Zetsurins – Don Fujii & Masaaki Mochizuki (Dragon Gate)
This was my hardest pick. I wanted a Dragon Gate team who weren't part of the usual suspect that are seen at DGUSA shows. I was torn for a long time between these guys and the long term team of Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito. In the end I chose Zetsurins as they are something different to most teams on the list and in Dragon Gate itself.
Zetsurins are a veteran team, made up of current Dream Gate Champion Masaaki Mochizuki and another Dragon Gate mainstay, Don Fujii (a man who once stole an invisible dog). This duo often act as a breath of fresh air from the usual Dragon Gate style, which can often venture into the territories of overkill and lacking in substance in my opinion. These two are basically grizzled veterans who will hit hard and take what they get in return. They also have a much better grasp of psychology and a very engaging deliberate style. I would recommend their match on Infinity 208, which can be found at www.openthedragongate.com , a great encounter between them and Horiguchi & Saito.