Synopsis: A bible on tag team wrestling, outlining the best teams of the past 70 years.
Newspaper reports from the 1920s show that handicap bouts - pitting one wrestler against two - were commonplace. But the first recorded team match in the U.S. did not occur until October 2, 1936 in Houston, Texas, according to the findings of wrestling historian Tom Burke. Long-time Houston promoter Paul Boesch said that the idea struck Morris Siegel, his predecessor as promoter, and wrestler Karl Sarpolis after Siegel's nephew wondered why four-man matches never occurred. "Profound question," Boesch wrote Burke in a 1975 letter. "The card indicates that two wrestlers from India, huge men and tough, Tiger Daula and Fazul Mohammed, were teamed against the fabled Whiskers Savage and strongman Milo Steiborn on October 2, 1936." That match ahd all four men in the ring at the same time, in what today's fans would call a "tornado" match.
While things have definitely improved in the last three or four years, tag team wrestling truly is a lost art. Just watch some of the matches of legendary teams like The Road Warriors, The British Bulldogs (no relation) and The Midnight Express and you will see an era where two partners lived for their roles in a tag team. They dressed similar, wrestled similar and in many cases, were cast as relatives where they were legitimately related or not.
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (part of an excellent series of books that includes "The Canadians", "The Heels" and "Heroes and Icons") takes an in-depth look at tag team wrestling, why it was so popular during wrestling's "golden years" and the people who helped it succeed.
Roughly 100 teams are profiled with a generous biography, and I'm willing to bet that most of you haven't heard of half of them. While you may know of The Fabulous Kangaroos, The Rock 'n' Roll Express and The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, how about The Von Steigers? Or The Mysterious Medics? Or Mr. High and Mr. Low?
As a 30-plus year fan of the wrestling industry who often thinks he "knows it all", this book proved me wrong, many times over. Sure, I wasn't a fan (or even alive) for many of these teams, but it's a fascinating history lesson and an area that WWE doesn't tend to remind us of compared to, say, the reigns of a Bruno Sammartino or Superstar Billy Graham.
In doing their research, Oliver (who runs the SLAM! Wrestling site) and Johnson interviewed tons of wrestling legends for their thoughts on various teams, including Afa, Brian Blair, Nick Bockwinkel, Dennis Condrey, Jim Cornette, Bill "Demolition Ax" Eadie, Bobby Eaton, Mr. Fuji, Ivan Koloff, Blackjack Mulligan, Al Snow and Ricky Steamboat, among others.
Another thing I really enjoy about the book is that it takes relevant excerpts from other books, such as those are written by Bobby Heenan, Dynamite Kid and Freddie Blassie, demonstrating that the authors weren't going to allow "not invented here" to get in the way of good storytelling.
In fact, the only negative I have about the book is that, published almost a decade ago, it's missing some of the better teams that have emerged after the TLC (Hardy Boys/Dudleyz/Edge & Christian) era or wrestling, such as London & Kendrick, The World's Great Tag Team, Beer Money, The Wolves, The Briscoes and The Usos (not to mention trios like The Shield, Evolution and The Wyatt Family). But it's hard to blame them for something that happened years after the book was published.
Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! This was a fun read and definitely taught me a thing or two about tag team wrestling. Reading this made me long for The Crockett Cup, or really any other era where tag team wrestling was celebrated and not shunned.