Unity as a Profession: The Study of Tag Teams in Professional Wrestling
"A final word, wait it's not a call to action
We ain't no sect, no, this ain't no fucking faction.
Unity, unity, unity you've heard it all before.
This time it's not exclusive - we want to stop a war." - "Unity", Operation Ivy
There is a certain beauty to teamwork and, more importantly, there is an even more powerful radiance to what happens when two people come together as one in the spirit of excellence. We see it most often in marriages of a man and a woman, or a man and a man or a woman and a woman if you are not a conservative hatemonger, but there is another type of unity that is beyond beautiful and that is when two souls, two distinct beings with their own likes, dislikes, preferences, beliefs, and experiences come together to form a unitary team. This is the birth of any good tag team and this is what defines excellence in the tag team division. A partnership between equals, no man is carried yet both still prop up the other. This is the most spectacular form of alliance one can see in the business of professional wrestling and this essay is an attempt to analyze what exactly makes that work. To do this, I would like to examine a number of the supposed “greatest” tag teams to have come through the company of Lords of Pain Wrestling, as well as its predecessor the Psychotic Wrestling Alliance, as well as the most recent team planning to challenge for the LPW Unified Tag Team Titles, the partnership of the love scorned Jeffrey Watson and the evolutionary Bobino.
First, we are going to look at the team historically looked at as the greatest tag team in Lords of Pain Wrestling, the Bad Mamma Jammas team of the Welsh Sheepster and the Australian giant Styxx. The two recorded two reigns as the PWA World Tag Team Champions and are considered to be two of the biggest stars in LPW history and the single biggest tag team. They are the model that all others have aspired to and shall aspire to for years to come. The two BMJs came from very different, distinct backgrounds; Sheepster is a fun-loving superstar from Wales while Styxx is a pyromaniac from Australia who once owned a blowtorch named Polly. The two seemed to have absolutely nothing in common yet, under the direction of the American wizard cYnical, the two obtained the tag titles on two different occasions even once defeating three men at one time to obtain their second set of titles. They held the titles the first time for a record amount of time and were considered the best of their time and are still considered one of the best teams to ever lace up the boots due to one thing…their unity. Despite their obvious external and internal differences, the Bad Mamma Jammas were able to find common ground in their friendship and thus unified together to defeat all possible enemies who lined up against them. The unity between the two defined them as a team and led to their continued and varied success.
Second, I would like to look at the team that is often called the major foil to the Bad Mamma Jammas dominance, at the very least by one of the very egotistical members of said team, the Significant Others of Travis “SFS” Fusion and Vincent “Showstoppa” Piccolo. The Significant Others featured the self-proclaimed legend that is Vincent, this time slowing beginning his metamorphosis from egotistical stereotype of a flamboyant gay man to the fucking Joker years before Heath Ledger made it cool, and Travis, a young man who truly seemed to believe himself to be a follower of the order of the Jedi. These extremely different and unique individuals worked together due again to the fact they were united in a mission; this time one that drove them to focus all of their effort on annihilating the Bad Mamma Jammas from the face of the company. As time progressed, a true friendship blossomed and the two Significant Others traveled together from one company to another to compete together once again but that is a story for another place and another time.
Next, we are going to look at one of the teams who were competing on the opposite brand at the time, Schizophrenia’s own Witnesses to the LORD Almighty. White Falcon and his acolyte Sick Fixx were brought together by a love of the LORD and Japhy’s need to repent for his drug filled past and make good on his promises to himself and his fans. Japhy Sullivan’s passion for competition, some may say he was perhaps even over passionate about competing to the point of seeming like he was more than one person in the ring at a time, tied in closely with the pure drive and talent Celio possessed in order rise to the top of the company and become recognized as possibly the best tag team since the Bad Mamma Jammas, if not of all time when one considers their level of dominance and the general attitude most had towards these two superstars. They were closer than brothers, their souls intertwined as one until the breaking of their unity as a team due to Japhy’s descent back into narcotics, again due to that over passionate nature of his, cost them their future as a team and Japhy his career. It was the loss of unity as a team that cost The Witnesses their run at the top, a run many felt may have never ended and could have seen both men continue to not only hold their Psychotic Wrestling Alliance United States Tag Team titles but also capture the PWA World Heavyweight title and the PWA Cleansed title in a coup of the PWA Schizophrenia brand. However, the loss of common ground and the loss of unity destroyed them as a team proving, alongside the Bad Mamma Jammas and Significant Others examples, that unity is an extremely important factor in tag team wrestling.
On the inverse side, some teams have been successful without much actual unity existing within their ranks through sheer force of talent though, as one will see after we examine these teams, none spent much time at the top of the industry as tag team champions on either brand and often fell to a more unified threat. The first such tag team we are going to look at is the Prime Time Players of Joey Hollywood and Spectre. The Prime Time Players seemed at times to be a unified force, working together to win the Psychotic Wrestling Alliance Tag Team titles twice. However, this is not a good sign of their unity as a team but instead the pure talent that both men possessed. Spectre and Joey both showed in their PWA/LPW careers that they were extremely talented singles competitors and able to defeat almost anyone in the company on any given night; with Spectre defeating SoL in a huge match before taking some time off and Joey holding various singles titles in his short career and being pegged by many to be the next Psychotic Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion. Instead, the team quickly fell apart not once but twice to the point that when Spectre took over Lords of Pain Wrestling temporarily as first a general manager on the Inferno brand and then as LPW President, he banned any type of mention of Joey’s name on air and Hollywood was only mentioned in the back in hushed whispers due to a fear that Spectre’s legendary temper would flare and the backlash would be extremely severe. The unity was not there for this team and instead of being remembered as one of the greatest teams of all time, they are instead remembered for their hatred and malice towards each other.
Another more recent example would be the former Lords of Pain Wrestling Unified Tag Team Champions Krimson Mask and D. Hammond Samuels. The two had never even been in the same ring together before their fateful pairing against the MWA so many weeks ago and through sheer force of talent and violent tenacity the two were able to overcome the Madcore Wrestling Alliance and win the tag titles. However, this proves nothing of their unity as a team and in fact one is left wondering if there is or ever was even any type of unity there between the two “partners” when you look at the fact that their alliance was negotiated not between the two competitors but between D. Hammond Samuels and Little Red Riding Hood, Krimson Mask’s manager and constant companion. While one has to assume that Little Red speaks for Mask, since he cannot do so himself and there is no person closer to Mask than anyone, no one can be completely sure what he is thinking any time he lines up in the ring alongside Hammond. There is not even an attempt to display unity between the two sides of this equation, they are simply distinct individuals who found their way into the tag titles due not to the dedication they had to each other as partners like we saw in teams like the Bad Mamma Jammas or the Witnesses but instead due to their dedication to spreading fear and terror in the lives of the employees of this company and now one can see exactly what this lack of unity has brought upon these two men as they lost their tag team titles to another pairing who display more in common with the previous teams we mentioned before the Prime Time Players and that team is the Madcore Misfits of Tromboner Man and Drew Michaels.
Really, in an examination of tag team wrestling in Lords of Pain Wrestling, particularly when looking at the idea of unity in a tag team, one must actually take a real close at the career of Tromboner Man, the man who has held two LPW Unified Tag Team titles with two very different partners. Tromboner Man began his career as a partner of one Paper Bag Man, a successor to a superstar called the Paradox Prince who had been teaming with N’itomniskittel (or Tommy Skittles if you are feeling a bit foolish and, dare I say it…madcore). The trio had very limited success and much of that can be blamed on a lack of unity between Tommy Skittles, PBM, and TBM to the point that Tromboner Man often wonders today about whether his partner, be it Drew or RaTo, will hold up their end of the bargain in a tag team after how Paper Bag Man failed him as a friend and as a partner so often. And of course, you do not have to look much further than the fact that N’itomniskittel wanted to murder Tromboner Man at one point to see the dysfunction and distrust there, two things that completely annihilate any hope for unity to develop in the partnership.
So, Tromboner Man continued his search for a partner and then, by sheer luck, he stumbled on to something marvelous. Tromboner Man met a man many would call his hetero lifemate, the greatest single person to ever enter his life. His name was RaTo and his world, like Tromboner Man’s, was madcore. They formed the Madcore Wrestling Alliance and rose to the top of the tag team ranks threw happiness, joy, and balloon parties. They defeated public enemies, psych wards, dark brotherhoods, heroes, next ones, and anyone else put in their way…at least until the strain caught up with them. The Madcore Wrestling Alliance fell apart not because of a loss of unity but because of the pure evil that is Krimson Mask and D. Hammond Samuels when they shattered the ankle of RaTo. It was a move so vile and despicable that I shudder even as a I write about it now, he was so young and full of promise, struck down without a care. This left Tromboner Man broken and without a partner, he knew how to be successful in the tag team ranks but was left without someone he truly felt united with…
Until Drew Michaels came along. A former tag team expert in another company I have participated in with my cousin, I know exactly what it takes to form a successful and bonded tag team. The Madcore Misfits may seem thrown together, they may seem to be just two of the biggest stars of all time teaming up in a random pairing but it is not. No, I truly care about Tromboner Man, about Ben, and I would do anything to prove that and that, that is the definition of tag team unity. Honestly, holding these tag team titles only means so much to me not because I once again have gold but because I have it with someone I can truly call friend. I would give my life to make sure these titles stay on Ben’s waist and I know that he would not think a second about doing the same for me. We are a united front, we are one.
Meanwhile, let us look at the challengers for the Lords of Pain Wrestling Unified Tag Team Titles this week, a pairing of Jeffrey Watson and Bobino. This team earned a shot by defeating my brothers Trey Spruance and Sean Jensen at the last Inferno pay-per-view due to an honestly weak tag team division. However, since then neither man have been exactly united in a common effort; losing as a team with NPD as their partner to myself, my other brother Mass Chaos, and the turncoat UltraMarcus and then seemed very…disjointed last week. It seems that success is rushing to the heads of Watson and Bobino, winning a few matches seems to be making them cocky and overconfident; they are relying less on each other and more on what they believe to be superior skill. That is not the case. I have defeated Watson in singles combat before, easily I might add, and Bobino has never come never his talent level due to a lack of dedication to his craft and that lack of dedication shall kill them. The question I ask is simple, after examining tag teams past, you have to wonder Jeffrey…where would you and Bobino fit in? Are you like the Bad Mamma Jammas, the Significant Others, or the Witnesses? Are you united in every action, in every moment, in every breath? You better think hard about because, having seen both of you in the ring; you have no hope of getting by on talent alone like the other teams. No, you need unity as does every great team. Jeffrey, look deep into your heart and think about it...I would give my life for the Tromboner Man and he would give his for me…
Would Bobino do the same for you? When you have your answer, you will know EXACTLY where you shall end up at the end of this night.