Written for and published by What Culture June 2015
The design of tag team wrestling is to increase the amount of action and drama in a particular match. Four wrestlers can pull off certain moves and tell certain stories that two wrestlers alone could never do, such as blind tags and double team maneuvers. ECW revolutionized the wrestling business in the ’90s with hardcore action, mature storylines, and highly technical and competitive matches showcasing different styles.
Their tag team division was not only a pivotal part of the show, but they exuded the essence of the art by increasing the excitement in a promotion that was already extreme. The ECW Tag Team titles were originally introduced in 1992 under the promotional moniker of Eastern Championship Wrestling and an affiliate of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
Seven tag teams held that incarnation of the championship until the promotion left the NWA in September 1994, when the company and the belts were rechristened Extreme Championship Wrestling. Three physical versions of the belts were fought over and defended until 2001, when the company’s original incarnation closed its doors.
Taz pupils Danny Doring and Roadkill were the final team to hold the titles and even defended them on the independent scene post-mortem. Thirty-one teams over eleven years produced many popular feuds and memorable matches with a mixture of uniformed duos and makeshift pairs that often stole the show. Some teams stood out and brought more to the table (literally) than others.
Let’s look at the 10 Greatest ECW Tag Team Champions.
#10. Raven & Stevie Richards
The cult-like relationship between Raven and Stevie Richards propelled them to the top of the tag team mountain in the land of extreme. Richards, the lackey, would do most of the dirty work at the behest of Raven. The duo found multiple ways to cheat and successfully retain the titles while getting loads of heat in the process.
This was hard to accomplish, considering ECW was a promotion with no rules. Richards’ braggadocios antics, along with Raven’s poetic rhetoric, added fuel to an already hot fire.
Fans desperately wanted to see them lose, and it finally happened on 9/16/95 when The Pitbulls dethroned them. Raven and Richards would recapture the belts on 10/7/95, only to lose them the very same night in a 3-Way Dance to The Public Enemy. While they are not the first team that comes to mind when considering ECW, their impact is undeniable.
#9. Chris Candido & Lance Storm
The pairing of Chris Candido and Lance Storm was considered a horse of a different color and paid off in creative dividends. Candido recruited Storm as a junior member of the Triple Threat faction helmed by Shane Douglas, making sense considering Candido was an established star in the company while Storm was relatively new. Their dynamic changed over time as Storm’s association was kept at arm’s length.
In January of 1998, Candido and Douglas turned on Storm, not only revealing that Bam Bam Bigelow was the real third member of the group but that Storm’s membership was never considered. The Storm vs. Candido feud heated up as ECW forced them to fulfill their obligation as tag team champions.
They even headlined the company’s third pay-per-view, Living Dangerously, on opposing sides of a dream partner tag team match. Storm would attempt to use Candido’s longtime girlfriend, Tammy Sytch as his partner until she turned on him.
Chris Candido and Lance Storm would drop the titles three months later and continue their feud into the summer of 1998, where a role reversal of sorts took place with Storm turning heel. Despite the drama that encapsulated their pairing, they’re the longest-reigning tag team champions under the banner of extreme.
#8 The Impact Players
Justin Credible and Lance Storm were two of the up-and-coming heels in ECW whose talents were hard to ignore. It seemed unnatural that two egomaniacs could co-exist, much less thrive as a tag team. However, their personal connection of Strom training Credible at the Hart Bros Wrestling School made them a dangerous pair.
Less than a year after forming the Impact Players, Storm and Credible won their first of two tag team titles at Guilty as Charged 2000 when they defeated Tommy Dreamer and Raven. While they lost the titles a little over a month later, they quickly regained the titles at Living Dangerously 2000 when they won a 3-Way Dance over Mike Awesome & Raven and Tommy Dreamer & Masato Tanaka.
One of the team’s most memorable matches occurred at the ECW Arena on 3/17/00 against the Japanese team representing FMW, Gedo & Jado. They had a lot of hype coming in, but they were having bad matches with everyone for some reason. Credible and Storm changed that by delivering a great match with them and gained an untouchable reputation in the locker room for being elite workers.
The Impact Players run as champions and as a team, came to a screeching halt at Cyberslam 2000. After Tommy Dreamer won the ECW world title, Justin Credible hit the ring and goaded Dreamer into an immediate title shot. He did this while throwing the tag title belt to the ground while shouting, “This isn’t good enough for me anymore.” Credible won the title, thus forfeiting the tag belts in the process. Weeks later, Credible would defeat Storm, sending him off to WCW.
#7 The Full Blooded Italians
In the dying days of ECW, Little Guido would embark on his second-go-round as one-half of the tag team champions. This time, instead of being a comedy act with Tracey Smothers, the F.B.I was a serious and well-oiled unit with Brooklyn, New York’s Tony Mamaluke as the second lead.
ECW’s two-night event in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom highlighted a tag team tournament for the vacant titles. Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshiro Tajiri won the tournament to capture the belts and lost them the next night to the newly formed F.B.I. Guido and Mamaluke went on a tear consisting of action-packed matches that turned laughs into genuine applause.
Whipwreck and Tajiri, York and Matthews (J&J Security’s Joey Mercury), Roadkill and Danny Doring, and Super Crazy with various partners fell victim to the Italian express. The F.B.I’s. one hundred-day reign ended when they dropped the belts to Doring and Roadkill in December of 2000. While the writing was on the wall regarding ECW’s demise, Guido and Mamaluke will always be one of the underrated but well-respected acts in the final days of extreme.
#6 The Gangstas
New Jack and Mustafa’s reputation from Smokey Mountain Wrestling preceded them when they jumped The Public Enemy in their ECW debut. After their lengthy feud between the two teams, the two hardened street thugs bested the Eliminators to capture tag team gold.
The Dudley Boyz also fell victim to The Gangstas, which capped off their second, yet short-lived run as champions. Sadly, this was the team’s final run in ECW as Mustafa left the promotion in the summer of 1997.
When the ultra-violent lyrics of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube’s Natural Born Killaz invaded the auditory senses of every ECW fan, an assortment of weaponized household objects were all the technical expertise the Gangstas needed to become one of the most popular teams in ECW.
In fact, they were so over that they really didn’t even need to have the belts.
#5 The Public Enemy
Flyboy Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge weren’t the most technically sound team to grace the squared circle. That didn’t matter, though. The former opponents paired together by Paul Heyman in 1993 quickly became one of the most heralded acts in ECW.
The two hoodie-clad street thugs from South Philly used tables regularly long before the Dudley Boyz made it a thing. Despite their lack of rapping ability and dance skills, they were tough as nails and competed in the most hardcore matches.
Public Enemy held the titles on four separate occasions, which is more than any team in ECW history, and for a combined total of 369 days.
Whether it was their longest title reign at the expense of the Tazmaniac and Kevin Sullivan or the infamous 3-Way Dance against the pairings of Benoit/Malenko and Rick Steiner/Taz, PE was highly entertaining no matter who stood across the ring.
#4 Cactus Jack & Mikey Whipwreck
Question: what happens when the king of the death matches forms an impromptu tag team with an insecure underdog? Answer: two memorable reigns as tag team champions that were highly entertaining.
In the summer of 1994, Cactus Jack and Terry Funk were scheduled to wrestle Public Enemy. However, Funk no-showed the event. With the threat of forfeiture looming, Cactus went backstage and literally dragged out the unwilling plucky underdog in Mikey Whipwreck to be his partner.
The match’s closing moments saw Cactus throw Whipwreck onto a down-and-out Rocco Rock for the pin to kick off the first of their two reigns as tag team champions.
While their matches had a unique flair to them, their Odd Couple dynamic added to the allure of their pairing. Cactus would fight anyone at the drop of a hat, while Whipwreck was scared, insecure, and just wanted to be left alone. Their opposite personalities shined through in their matches and especially their promos.
Their second reign as champions came when Mike Whipwreck bested Too Cold Scorpio in a winner takes all match to become ECW Television and Tag Team Champion. Cactus Jack came out after the match and declared himself as Whipwreck’s partner and new champion.
This time, things were different as Cactus was now a heel and a member of Raven’s Nest. Meanwhile, Whipwreck was coming off a stint as the most unlikely ECW World Heavyweight Champion, which endeared him to fans even more.
Thirty days later, they dropped the tag titles to the Eliminators, and after the match, Cactus Jack turned on Whipwreck, blaming him for the loss and the end of an odd pairing that old school ECW fans will never forget.
#3 Sabu & Rob Van Dam
What started as a bitter feud for respect derived from both men’s link to The Sheik conceived one of the most extreme and creative tag teams of all time. Manager Bill Alfonso fused the pairing of Rob Van Dam and Sabu in 1997. They were quite the dynamic duo considering they found a plethora of success while always trying to top one another.
Their first run as tag team champions came at the expense of the Triple Threat contingent of Lance Storm and Chris Candido. Despite their inner turmoil at times, they took on all challengers, presenting an air of dominance with every match.
What is considered one of the greatest matches in ECW history took place at Heatwave 1998 when Van Dam and Sabu defended the titles against Jinsei Shinzaki and Hayabusa. This was a dream match for hardcore fans as they had visions of highspots dancing in their heads.
Rob Van Dam and Sabu defeated The Dudley Boyz in Japan to win their second and final tag team championship. Three months later, they would return the favor in a unique situation as Van Dam lost the tag titles in a singles match to D-Von since Sabu wasn’t available. Rob Van Dam and Sabu were a team that took on all challengers and often had great matches.
There was an energy about them. Ultimately, what ended their relationship was Sabu’s jealously of Rob Van Dam’s Television Championship during their run as a team.
#2 The Eliminators
Many teams specialized in brawling, high-flying, or power moves, but John Kronus and Perry Saturn could do it all. They flew through the air with the grace of a phoenix, their mat game worked the canvas like Rembrandt, and the pièce de résistance was their devastating head kick, leg sweep double team finisher, Total Elimination.
The Eliminators made their ECW debut in 1995, and while they weren’t the strongest on the microphone, they improved to the point where their message of being the best tag team in the world was loud and clear. Kronus had a zany persona, while Saturn was the straight man who did most of the talking.
Their first run with the belts in 1996 was successful, but it was the chase and capturing of their second tag team championship where the hardcore faithful truly believed they were watching wrestling’s best tag team. The matches against The Gangstas, The Pitbulls, The Bruise Brothers, Sabu & Rob Van Dam, and others were a diversified portfolio of outstanding performances.
Perhaps their most significant contribution as champions was when they put over The Dudley Boyz for the titles in March 1997. The Dudleys were primarily a comedy act that seemingly had no business near the top of the tag team food chain. A 3-D later followed by a one, two, three, and the shroud of humor was replaced with a mantle of violence.
They traded the belts back-and-forth, with the Dudley’s ultimately winning the feud when The Eliminators broke up, and Saturn left for WCW. This program legitimatized Buh Buh Ray and Devon and put them on the path to be the legendary tag team they’ve become.
Saturn and Kronus reportedly couldn’t stand each other behind the curtain, but time together in front of the camera produced championship magic that the ECW faithful will never forget.
#1 The Dudley Boyz
There is no other duo that defines tag team wrestling in ECW more than The Dudley Boyz. Bubba Ray and D-Von started as a comedy act but quickly carved a path of destruction like no other team. They were instant heat magnets, which only amplified when they were the ECW Tag Team Champions.
Their first tag team title win over the Eliminators made them a serious act in ECW, and they were able to build on that momentum and become the company’s definitive tag team. The Dudley’s were so over and had so much heat as champions that they transitioned into a feud with the company’s top babyfaces: Sandman and Tommy Dreamer, when they lost the belts for the third time.
The Dudley’s had a unique way of bending the rules in a promotion with few restrictions. Two of their tag team title reigns resulted from handicap matches when John Kronus and Rob Van Dam were contractually obligated to defend the belts without partners when Perry Saturn was injured and Sabu couldn’t enter the United States.
The natives of Dudleyville found themselves in a violent feud near the end of their ECW run. Spike Dudley and Balls Mahoney beat the Dudleys for the titles at Heatwave 1999, but both men were power bombed through a flaming table for their troubles.
On the second episode of ECW’s national television show on TNN, The Dudley Boyz beat Spike and Balls Mahoney for their eighth and final tag team championship.
This was also their last night in the company as they were heading to WWE with the gold. However, the impromptu tag team of Tommy Dreamer and Raven prevented the Dudley’s from taking the belts to McMahon Land.
It was a fitting finale to Bubba Ray and Devon’s time in ECW as they were the tag team champions while doing what they do best: being ultra-heels until the very end.