Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart has spoken out about the state of tag team wrestling in the modern day WWE and his belief that Vince McMahon has killed the art.
In the eighties and nineties, the art of doubles action was celebrated in the then World Wrestling Federation with the company lauded for legendary teams such as The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldog, The Rockers, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, Demolition and many many more.
The duos were often the the highlight of cards up and down the country and the depth of the division was never more clear than at the earliest editions of Survivor Series when the company emptied the locker room in a mammoth elimination clash which exhibited every team the company could get onto an apron.
Even when the promotion entered the crazy cartoon era of the early nineties, tag team wrestling was still a beloved part of the product with teams such as Money Inc., The Natural Disasters, The Steiner Brothers, The Beverly Brothers, The Legion of Doom, The Heavenly Bodies and others showing that four men could do it as good as two.
And then it seemed to fall off of a cliff. Matches were shorter and less important. Teams were thrown together without meaning and like several singles championships, tag team gold became less and less meaningful despite the efforts of teams such as The New Age Outlaws.
Now, Bret Hart has taken to his Confessions Of The Hitman Podcast to point the finger at one man for the downfall of the division that made him a star, and reminisce about a time when two vs. two was the most hyped things on a wrestling card:
“I think it’s my understanding that Vince McMahon got sick of tag team wrestling and is no longer a fan of it. And that’s so sad that he kind of singlehandedly killed a part of the wrestling business that was so important.”
Bret Hart went on to state that it’s a sad state of affairs that WWE have allowed the division to die out, because there were so many great teams when he was coming up:
“There were so many great teams. It’s sad if you look at tag team wrestling today, where it [has] gone because they let it die out a little. But it always had its own history and its own style. A tag team wrestling match is so much different than any match on the card. It’s a completely different kind of strategy to the match and building it up. And the matchups – there are four guys in the ring and you team up Andre [The Giant] and Haku, as an example, against me and Jim ‘The Anvil’. It’s like, people go, ‘what’s going to happen in this?’ Me and Jim working over Andre can happen. Two guys on one. It was just fun to play up the psychology of how would The Hart Foundation fare against that team or The Rougeaus? They tag in and out all the time and they have a certain style.”
‘The Excellence of Execution’ would go on to name some of his most favourite teams he came up with and one of the opponents who he believed always have The Hart Foundation a five star match:
“It was also a great time for tag team wrestling. When I look at those days and those teams, all of them, The Hart Foundation, and The Bulldogs, even Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake as an example, were a good combination. Beefcake was never the wrestler that Greg was; Greg was a very solid and credible wrestler. He carried the weight, and Brutus was enough of a character that he could carry his end, and he was a big enough guy, and had enough of a physique. It was an interesting combination. If you look at even Mike Rotunda and [Barry] Windham, they really were a good, polished, skilled wrestling team that could go out there and have a great match with anybody. And then you look at the Rougeau Brothers – they came out of Montreal [Canada] with their dad and wrestling in Montreal, which was a very formidable wrestling territory in its time.
Montreal, nothing but great wrestlers came out of Montreal. The Rougeau Brothers were used to each other, teamed up together for years. Again, a very unique style. They had their own storyline with who they were. Whether it was The Hart Foundation, or whether it was Valentine/Beefcake or whoever they were working with, The Rougeau Brothers, you’re still going to get a five-star match. It’s going to be a really good match.”
Finally, Bret Hart named The Dynamite Kid as arguably the best singles wrestler to ever be a tag team guy and told of how The British Bulldogs were always in a different league to everyone else on the roster:
“I would always tell you that I think Dynamite Kid was better as a singles guy, but they were a great tag team. The Bulldogs were a very special team. And I think it was the matches that The Hart Foundation had with The Bulldogs that launched me and Jim [Neidhart], for starters. But The Bulldogs have their own iconic sort of place in tag team wrestling, and it was just because of the way they worked and they changed the pace of wrestling. I think not just in tag team wrestling, but in the whole card. The Bulldogs really, sort of raised the bar. And I think The Hart Foundation, when we worked with The Bulldogs, we raised that bar even higher.”
Tag team wrestling may have taken a dip in quality in recent years, but in the present it looks to be making a come back across all of WWE’s brands.
The Street Profits and The New Day are doing great work on Raw and SmackDown, NXT is stacked with talented teams from The Undisputed Era to Grizzled Young Veterans and NXT UK hosts its own hidden gems in The Hunt, Gallus, Imperium and Pretty Deadly.
Though we will never recapture the glory days of tag team wrestling, the art is slowly but surely taking center stage once again ready to mold its own legacy in a brand new era.
Credit for the interview: Confessions Of The Hitman
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.