A betrayal occurs when one partner, friend or family member, turns on the other. In professional wrestling, a tag team betrayal usually commences a storyline between the former partners. The matches are very intense because the wrestlers know each other extremely well. In this article, I would be reflecting on a few memorable betrayals and what prompted them to occur.

In the fall of 1987, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage formed a superteam known as The Mega Powers. There were memorable main event rivalries against the Mega Bucks (Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant) and The Twin Towers (Akeem and the Big Boss Man). Hogan and Savage were victorious in the match at Summerslam, 1988, against the Mega Bucks. But things took a little turn after that year’s Survivor Series. Once the Powers were victorious in their ten-man elimination match, Savage seemed to believe that his partner was becoming extremely friendly, with their manager, Randy’s real-life wife, Miss Elizabeth. That was the impetus for what transpired in early 1989.

On an episode of the Main Event, the Mega Powers battled the Twin Towers. During the match, Akeem threw Savage into Elizabeth, knocking both of them down on the outside of the ring. Seeing this, Hogan jumped into action, and carried Elizabeth to the medical area backstage. Later, Hulk returned to the ring, on Liz’s appeal. When Savage saw Hogan re-enter the ringside area, thoughts were flying around in his head. He accused Hulk of caring more for their manager than the match, so he left Hogan alone in the ring. Somehow, perhaps through divine intervention, Hogan defeated the Twin Towers. He then rushed backstage, where Randy and Liz were. Despite Elizabeth’s pleading, the argument between the Mega Powers escalated, and eventually, Savage attacked Hogan – putting an end to one of the most popular tag teams in WWE history. This led to a few matches between the former partners, most notably at Wrestlemania 5 where Hulk become the WWE Champion by defeating Randy Savage. During that rivalry, Elizabeth chose to be on Hogan’s side, much to Randy’s chagrin. In my opinion, the split of the Mega Powers was caused by jealousy. Despite that, both superstars went on to do big things within the wrestling industry for many years.

Also in 1987, a young and flashy team made their way into the WWE. The Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were a team that relied on speed, agility and teamwork to win their matches. Even though they were immensely popular in their five year run as a tag team, they were never given a shot at being the WWE tag champs. That is a little unfair, I think. But, they had great battles with legendary teams like the Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Brain Busters, and the Orient Express. Unfortunately, all was not well with the Rockers.

In the latter part of 1991, there was a little dissension between the two, which stemmed from a real life issue backstage at a live event. The WWE then decided to use this to begin the breakup of the tag team. On an episode of Brutus Beefcake’s talk show, The Barbershop, which aired in January, 1992, he invited the Rockers on the show to address the “breakup rumours.” They both seemed to deny it, though Shawn was starting to show subtle signs of a heel turn. As the interview progressed, Shawn superkicked his partner. Then, he tossed him into the plexiglass window, causing Jannetty to bleed profusely. That ended the Rockers and began Shawn’s solo ascent into becoming one of the greatest performers of all time.

Andre the Giant and Haku formed one of the most dominant and devastating tag teams in WWE history. The Colossal Connection, as they were dubbed, were managed by Bobby Heenan. They were placed together in late 1989, because Andre’s health was deteriorating, and the company wanted to extend his career. While they were a team, the Giant did not do a lot of the work in the ring – just some power moves. Haku was the dominant wrestler. The combination of skill and power made them a formidable team. They defeated Ax and Smash, Demolition to capture the WWE tag titles in 1989 and went on a successful run for a few months.

I attended Wrestlemania 6, on April 1, 1990, and witnessed a titanic tag title re-match between Demolition and the Colossal Connection. Demolition regained the belts that night to a thunderous response from the fans at the Skydome, but the bigger story occurred afterwards. As the former champs were recovering, Bobby Heenan and Haku began berating Andre. That ended up being a massive mistake, as the Giant attacked his former teammates and left the ring to a huge ovation. Andre made a few appearances in the WWE afterwards, as his health became progressively worse. But, at least he got to hear the cheers and adulation from the fans after years of being a heel. What a memorable character!

Another team that fans thought were going to remain together was Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano – DIY. They made their debut in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. The combination of skill, strength, charisma and determination endeared them to the very vocal and passionate NXT crowd. When they were together, they fought great matches with the Revival and the current NXT tag champs, the Authors of Pain. In fact, on Nov. 19, DIY captured the NXT titles from the Revival in a thrilling two-out-of-three falls match. However, at NXT Takeover Chicago, on May 20, the unexpected occurred.

The main event that night was for the NXT tag titles as the Authors of Pain defended against DIY in a ladder match. The crowd was invested in every aspect of this match and were solidly behind the challengers. After a hard fought match, The Authors won after performing their Supercollider finisher and scaling a ladder to unhook and retain the NXT tag titles. But, what happened after the match was truly bothersome.

While the challengers were in the ring, the crowd gave them a well-deserved ovation. DIY became emotional, and it looked and sounded like they were leaving NXT and moving up to join Raw or Smackdown. The partners left the ring and walked up the ramp. Then, Ciampa did the unthinkable – he grabbed his partner and rammed him into the LED lighting board by the entrance ramp. This stunned the Chicago crowd. Ciampa continued the violent attack and placed his now former partner on the announcer table. Tommaso then suplexed Johnny off the table through two others tables located by the production area. Ciampa then sat on the announcer table and looked down at the carnage he created. The fans left the arena that night completely shocked by what they witnessed – a heel turn that nobody saw coming. We will see what happens in the coming weeks and months. I know these two will have tremendous matches in NXT. I just hope neither one is forgotten, because both wrestlers can play significant roles as single competitors.

Tag teams are meant to have success. Unfortunately, they are also meant to dissolve after spending months, sometimes years as a team. When teams break up, one member goes on to have immense success, while the other usually becomes irrelevant. On the rare occasion, both members of a former team are successful, like Hogan and Savage.

I am sure the WWE has plans for teams to disintegrate in the future. The main thing to watch for in terms of a possible betrayal is the interaction between the teammates. If there is any kind of disagreement or dissension, that likely means a split is imminent. I am almost sure that there is a split in the works for a current tag team on Raw, and it may happen a lot sooner than fans want. I also know that fans will tune in to see what transpires in the coming weeks with this popular tag team.

Azeem Kayum

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