In honor of Black History Month, I decided to compile a list of the top black tag teams in professional wrestling history. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
10. Jay Lethal & Consequences Creed
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I don’t regularly keep up with TNA/Impact wrestling’s TV shows, much less read their results online, although part of me wants to when you consider they actually have a good roster of wrestlers. I came across “Lethal Consequences” by chance, and they were immediately added as I was having trouble coming up with 10 black tag teams. Which might say something regarding the state of professional wrestling and the black wrestler.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of black tag team wrestlers out there, who have tagged with many a white counterpart, as I previously blogged about in 10 Count: Top Ebony and Ivory Tag Teams, but it’s unfortunate that there haven’t been that many notable all-black tag teams in the 1,000 years of wrestling. Apparently, the former Consequences Creed, Xavier Woods, now recently seen tag-teaming with fellow black wrestler R-Truth, was actually a TNA Tag Team Champion alongside Jay Lethal. They won the belts from Beer Money, Inc. and even remained as a team for a bit after losing the titles back to Beer Money, Inc. Then Creed was let go from his TNA contract and Lethal eventually went back to ROH.
9. Kofi Kingston & R-Truth
Most wrestlers, at least once, are going to be thrown together with another singles wrestler into a makeshift tag team at one point in their career. On the one hand, they usually get to win the tag team title; on the other, they stay a makeshift tag team failing to make any strides towards upward mobility. Kofi Kingston, now stuck with the “one of the most athletic wrestlers” moniker ever since Shelton Benjamin left the WWE, has been in his share of makeshift tag teams. Same can be said for R-Truth.
So, you would think the WWE would just make these guys a real team and give them matching tights, but nope, they could barely even color coordinate their wrestling attire accordingly. They did however manage to be WWE tag team champions, but mostly because the WWE felt that the actual tag teams weren’t good enough to have them, which is usually another reason for makeshift teams existing. Kofi Kingston had previously been teaming with the white, Evan Bourne, but due to injuries or violations of wellness policies, Bourne was replaced with R-Truth. And thankfully, it gave me another team to put on this list.
8. Cryme Tyme
Because there’s only a handful of gimmicks a black wrestler has to choose from, Shad Gaspard and JTG were brought in as Cryme Tyme, a pair of hoodlums from… the hood. And, as we all know, pro wrestling logic dictates that more than one black wrestler usually makes for a gang-type of faction. Of course, there are some exceptions. While the WWE was quick to point out that Cryme Tyme was a “parody of racial stereotypes” and it was an “attempt at Saturday Night Live like humor,” it was clear that they were basically ripping off Keenan Ivory & Damon Wayans’ “Homeboy Shopping Network” sketch from In Living Color.
At first, it didn’t seem so bad as they were babyfaces and were stealing all the heels’ stuff to sell to the crowd. But like most parodies of racial stereotypes and some SNL sketches, it ran its course quick. I had to double check and see if Cryme Tyme had actually won the tag team titles at any point during their time together, since there was only them and Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in the tag division, but according to Wikipedia there was actually more deserving teams that got a run at the belts during that time like, The World’s Greatest Tag Team and The Hart Dynasty. While Shad Gaspard was eventually future endeavored, despite possessing a McMahon-approved physique, the WWE apparently saw something in JTG as a new, more ethnic, Brooklyn Brawler to the stars.
7. Prime Time Players
I was saddened to see that the WWE had decided to break up the Prime Time Players, after being a team for a little over two years. Or seven-hundred-and-something days according Titus O’Neil. There needs to be some sort of clause that keeps tag teams together for at least 5 years before they split off. That’s more than enough time to see which one has Bret Hart potential and which one is Jim Neidhart. As of recently, no one Prime Time Player out-shined the other, together they were gold. Darren had the “Mr. No Days Off” badass nickname, they had an uncle named Rufus “Pancake” Patterson, Darren Young came out of the closet, and in 2013 pro wrestling that was a good a thing! And their catchphrase, the only standard by which you measure a wrestler’s true success, was money. In fact, it was “millions of dollars, millions of dollars…” etc.
Fortunately, the Prime Time Players found themselves in a time when the tag team division was finally rebuilding itself. Unfortunately, they got lost in the shuffle as the tag belts were going to make-shift teams like Team Hell No, and The Rhodes brothers, not to mention the dominating Shield. No regular tag team stood a chance. They should’ve at least given them one title run. Them pinning the New Age Outlaws for the belts wouldn’t have been a bad way to go or at least feuding with the Usos over the belts.
6. Men on a Mission
Mo was definitely the Marty Jannetty of this team. Actually, that might be a bit harsh to Marty Jannetty considering he was a good wrestler and is a former Intercontinental Champion. The same prestigious title that Ezekiel Jackson has worn. Men on a Mission, in all their purple parachute pants glory, probably had one of the worst, least threatening acronyms a team of two big black guys can have, M.O.M. Which actually made sense as they were on a mission to clean up the streets, spread positive messages, and dare to make a change. Like moms do, and like Fatu also tried to do in 1995.
M.O.M. ended up winning the tag team titles from The Quebeccers. It might have only lasted 2 days, and it happened on a house show in London, England, but they went down in history as the second black tag team to win the WWF Tag Team Titles. And it only took 10 years for it to happen. After that, they stopped wrestling in tag team matches, but were still together when Mabel, for some weird reason, went on to win the 1995 King of the Ring and headline SummerSlam ‘95 against Diesel for the WWF World Title. A pay-per-view I actually convinced myself, and my poor mom, to buy. The only good thing to come out of that King Mabel run, was Mo’s renaming of Sir Mo.
5. The Gangstas
The good thing about The Gangstas was that they weren’t trying to be coy or clever with some kind of hokey name that hinted at them being, well, gangsters. And we can take solace in the fact that the name wasn’t given to them by Vince McMahon. These guys are high on the list because they not only ran with this gimmick in the Smoky Mountain Wrestling territory, based out of Tennessee, but did things like win matches on a 2-count because of Affirmative Action. The best thing about The Gangstas was that as soon as they arrived in ECW from SMW, they were embraced by the hardcore fans. You could say that it was because they appealed to those fans due to their knack for using weapons, but let’s not overlook the obvious racial divides in this country. It’s not like they came in as faces, they were still the same Gangstas from SMW.
Mustafa Saed slowly faded away into wrestling obscurity, but New Jack went on to find solo success as a legit-crazy bump artist, who is willing to fall off 15-foot scaffolds, and also willing to almost kill other wrestlers by hurling them off even higher scaffolds. But despite his killer instincts, there’s no doubt a guy like New Jack can be someone like Denzel Washington’s best friend. At least, in a movie.
4. Nation of Domination
Okay, so this is more of a stable than a tag team, but as I’ve mentioned in what has become the running gag of this 10 Count, there hasn’t been a lot of black tag teams. At least not on mainstream wrestling television. Hell, the Nation of Domination should be on this list just for existing as the sole all-black stable in pro wrestling history. Again, on mainstream wrestling television – no disrespect to Black New Japan. And considering the Nation went down the black militant stereotype route instead of the urban thug stereotype, speaks a lot about the WWE’s social progress at the time. Someone on the creative team had apparently shown Vince McMahon Blood In Blood Out: Bound by Honor, as The Nation’s existence brought about the creation of other ethnic-centric stables (read: gangs) like, Puerto Rican group Los Boricuas, and Kurt Sutter’s favorite wrestling group, if he were to watch wrestling and have one, The Disciples of Apocalypse.
But the best feud the Nation had was against DX, which will always be remembered fondly due to the uncomfortable DX blackface skit, in which they parodied the members of N.O.D. Oh, and the Intercontinental Title ladder match between The Rock and Triple H at SummerSlam ’98. While The Rock was the true break-out star of this group, the rest of them fared well as a Sexual Chocolate casanova, a pimp, an underrated mid-card wrestler who shook his head a lot, and as part of another (black & white) tag team in which they drank beer and played cards more than they actually wrestled. Not too shabby.
Too bad Butch Reed and Ron Simmons didn’t enter the WWE as a tag team circa 1990, because that would’ve been bad ass. Hell, I would’ve been cool with Butch Reed in matching bright blue, futuristic gladiator suit (helmet and all), standing next to Faarooq Asad, if it meant they were going to be steamrolling through the tag team division. But Doom was a short-lived WCW tag team that actually had a tag team title run and feuded with the Steiner Brothers, and other credible tag teams of that time period.
While masked, they were managed by Woman. Once unmasked they were managed by tag-team aficionado, Teddy Long. They only held the tag team titles once and ended up losing the belts to the… Confederate flag-loving Fabulous Freebirds. Luckily, they had transitioned out of their Confederate flag attire phase by then. Of course, Doom eventually split and, you guessed it, feuded with each other.
2. Soul Patrol – Rocky Johnson & Tony Atlas
On November 15, 1983, the WWF crowned its first black tag team champions: Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas. That alone places them high on the list. Granted, this is pretty much where each wrestler peaked, unless you count Rocky continuing to father one of the most popular wrestlers of all-time, The Rock. Tony Atlas went on to give us a sad glimpse into his life on MTV’s True Life: I’m a Professional Wrestler. Although, Atlas was quite the Ed McMahon to Abraham Washington’s Johnny Carson on their WWECW talk show.
Luckily, when the Soul Patrol won the belts it wasn’t the late 90’s and, despite given the name Soul Patrol, Johnson & Atlas weren’t paraded out in front of crowds in matching Flash Funk suits. Apparently, there was some real-life animosity between the barrier-breaking team, but since this didn’t happen in the Attitude Era, it didn’t make for a captivating TV storyline. Instead, they ended up dropping the tag belts after holding them for 154 days.
1. Harlem Heat
The most decorated black tag team, and easily one of the top 10 tag teams of the last 30 years. Who knows how their careers would’ve turned out had WCW decided to overlook racial sensitivity and debut Harlem Heat in shackles as inmates who had been won in a card game by white Southern manager, Col. Rob Parker. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but the slavery overtones were definitely there, as Col. Rob Parker, who looked and sounded like he came from a long line of slave owners, still “managed” these dudes for the first part of their careers. But Booker T. and Stevie Ray eventually went on their own and did away with their “slave” names, Kole and Kane, to go on to be one of the best tag teams on the WCW roster. These guys even held their own against two of the best tag teams ever: The Steiner Brothers, before Scott Steiner turned into a human balloon animal; and The Legion of Doom, before they left for the WWF to take a shit on their legacy.
The Dudley Boyz might be the Ric Flair of tag teams seeing as they’ve won a crapload of tag team titles but, as former 10-time tag champs, Harlem Heat has the distinction of winning a single promotion’s tag team titles more times than any other team. Dudley Boyz come close with winning the WWE Tag Team Titles 8 times. Good thing Booker T. hadn’t yet developed that tic of echoing the number of times he’d won a belt, or he would’ve taken up a lot of time referring to themselves as 10-time champions. Like all tag teams on this list, and ever, they eventually split and Booker T. went on to be a World Champion in WCW and WWE, while Stevie Ray joined the nWo B-group. However, we’ll always have their multiple reigns of WCW titles to remember them by and the best promo ever of a wrestler calling out Hulk Hogan.