Perhaps tag team wrestling is a dying art but don’t tell any of these five superstars who, during their time with the WWE, made their names as tag team specialists. We look at the five guys with the most combined days run as a tag team champion.
5. Tony Garea 597 days (5 reigns)
Prior to eventually leaving his road agent job with the WWE, Garea had been a mainstay with the company since first joining Vince McMahon Snr’s company back in 1972.
The following year he teamed with Haystacks Calhoun and defeated Mr. Fuji and Professor Toru Tanaka to win his first WWWF World Tag Team Championship. After dropping the gold he found a new partner in Dean Ho and soon that pair would climb the tag team title mountain where they would remain until losing them to Valiant Brothers in May 1974.
A stint in singles wrestling followed before he teamed up with Larry Zbyzsko and the pair would win the gold from The Yukon Lumberjacks (Eric and Pierre) in November 78 but dropped them to the Valiant Brothers the following March.
He would then form a partnership with Rick Martel and they defeated Wild Samoans on 8 November for Garea’s fourth, and Martel’s first, WWF Tag Team title reign. In March 1981 They dropped the titles to Moondogs on edition of 17 March 1981 of Championship Wrestling. On the 21 of July edition of Championship Wrestling, Martel and Garea defeated Moondogs in a rematch to win their second WWF Tag Team Championship as a team, though. This reign ended on 17 October of Championship Wrestling when Garea and Martel were defeated by Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito.
4. Johnny Valiant 600 (2 reigns)
The man that introduced the WWE to Demolition, next on this list, achieved considerable success himself in the squared circle as a member of a tag team.
In all, he would hold the World Tag Team Championship two times during his time with the WWWF/WWF over a combined period of around 20 months. His first run – which lasted over a year – was with his first and most famous storyline brother Jimmy Valiant. The pair would win the titles in May 1974 when the defeated the pairing of Tony Garea & Dean Ho. It would be almost five years until his second title run when, with his second storyline brother Jerry Valiant, they would triumph over Tony Garea again and his new tag team partner Larry Zbyszko in March of 1979.
That title run would last 230 days before they lost the titles to Ivan Putski and Tito Santana at a New York house show in October 1979.
3. Ax & Smash 698 days (3 reigns)
Regular readers of this blog will know I’m quite the fan of Ax and Smash. Growing up watching late 80s/early 90s WWE this was the team for me. Debuting in 1987, the face painted behemoths quickly rose through the tag team ranks.
Initially under the tutelage of the aforementioned Johnny Valiant, he would sell their contracts to Mr. Fuji and it was under his management that they won their first tag team titles – defeating the team of Strike Force at WrestleMania IV, thanks in no small part to Mr. Fuji’s cane.
They soon started feuding with The Powers of Pain and at that year’s Survivor Series they turned babyfaces when Fuji sided with Powers of Pain. Their first reign, lasting well over a year, came to an end in July ’89 when they lost to The Brain Busters before regaining them in November of the same year.
A feud with Bobby Heenan’s Colossal Connection (Haku & Andre the Giant) followed with Heenan’s pair winning the gold on Superstars in December. They held the gold until WrestleMania VI when Demolition “three-peated”. Soon after Mania, they turned heel and added Crush to the line-up with Ax becoming more of a manager to the team as he was phased out. By mid-1991 the team was split up with both superstars becoming singles wrestlers as Repo Man and Crush.
2. Billy Gunn 916 days (11 reigns)
We’ve written about Billy Gunn various times on this blog either his shortlived ‘Rockabilly‘ gimmick or a career retrospective, there is little doubt that he achieved a great deal of success in the WWE’s tag division. Although initially garnering success with Bart Gunn as part of the ‘Smokin’ Gunns’, it was his team with the Road Dogg during the Attitude Era that made him a star.
He would win the tag gold six times with the Road Dogg, including as recently as the 2014 Rumble when The New Age Outlaws defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust to give Gunn his eleventh tag team title with the promotion. The likelihood of another title reign is remote, however, with Gunn being suspended by the WWE after failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs in July 2015.
1. Mr. Fuji 932 days (5 reigns)
To many wrestling fans, Mr. Fuji was a long-term WWE/F manager from the mid 80s for a decade. After managing Demolition to the tag team title, it took him a while to find success after that until 1992 when he brought Yokozuna to the WWE. The giant Samoan would win the 1993 Royal Rumble and go on to be a two time WWE Champion and one time WWE Tag team champion.
However, although Fuji obtained a measure of success as a manager in tag team wrestler, his in-ring exploits far eclipsed that success.
In fact, his tag title reign with Professor Toru Tanaka lasted eleven months, making them the third longest WWWF World Tag Team Champions in history. In total, he and Tanaka would have three reigns as tag champions the last coming in 1977 after the returned to the WWF and defeated then champions Garea and Zbyzsko. During 1981-82, Fuji would have a further two tag team title reigns this time with Mr. Saito before a short career as a singles wrestler before he moved into management.