2014 Favorites: Tag Team Matches

2014 was not exactly a banner year for tag team wrestling, but there were quality matches to be found even if they cropped up in some unusual places.

Reviews linked where applicable and if there was none, I’ve written some brief thoughts.  Star ratings added.  For the sake of reference, I consider ** 1/2 to be an average match and the vast majority of matches fall within that range.  Anything at *** or above is a good match.  **** 1/2 is a true MOTYC and anything above that would be a classic match.

  1. La Sombra & Rush vs. Negro Casas & Shocker for the CMLL World Tag Team Championship (CMLL – 07/18) **** ¼
  1. Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Matt & Jeff Hardy (OMEGA – 04/26) *** ¾
  1. Devastation Corporation vs. The Throwbacks (Chikara – 12/6) *** ½

In a lot of ways, this was more of a throwback, southern style tag match than the Briscoes/Hardy match. They used the 2 out of 3 falls format to their advantage rather than an obstacle to work around. First fall was worked somewhat even and definitely fast-paced. They had a hot crowd going into the match and took full advantage of that with the way they worked the first fall. DC got the pin with their protected (and good looking) finisher.

Mr. Touchdown was isolated for most the lengthy (but not overly long) second fall. DC has improved leaps and bounds. A year ago there was no way they could have stayed on offense for this long of a 2nd fall without at least a few rough patches. I Thought their offense in the 2nd fall was the highlight of the match. 3rd fall was an extended stretch run. Dasher kicked out of the death blow, which I think was a first, but it was well done and worked in giving The Throwbacks a little something to build on in defeat. I liked the interference ending as it got the desired reaction from the crowd without making the DC’s win look like a fluke.

A basic, well-structured 2/3 falls tag match with a clear opening, long heel offensive segment, and heated ending. Even with the 3 falls format, I thought this felt more like one match than the Hardys/Briscoes and the heat wasn’t too far behind. I rate the OMEGA match slightly higher because the work was a little tighter and everything was on a slightly higher level, although not by a wide margin.

  1. Delta & Guerrero Maya, Jr. vs. Hechicero & Cavernario (CMLL – 12/15) *** ½

Hechicero and Cavernario make for such a great team. Their double teams here were really good. It was kind of neat because you could tell they were figuring stuff out on the spot but it in no way held back the match. Delta looked good. Guerrero Maya looked fine, but not as good as he sometimes look. First two falls were really great. I thought the match waned a bit towards the end and the ending felt a bit flat (in part because the Arena Mexico fans wanted the rudos to take the titles). Good match and they have an even better one in them.

  1. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma (NJPW – 06/21) *** ½

This was a deceptively fun tag match. Honma had a great 2014 and was the star here. It felt like Goto & Shibata were much better as a team than in singles in 2014, even if they didn’t produce that one really great tag match. The problem with their team – particularly when they are booked as baby faces – is that both Shibata and Goto are not ideal for the lengthy beat down role. This match worked because opposite Nagata and Honma, they controlled more of the match. Nagata was fired up here and at this stage in his career, is much better suited for tags. My favorite NJPW tag of 2014, which admittedly isn’t saying a ton given the lack of competition.

  1. Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan (WWE – 07/20) *** ½

The least memorable of several good 2 of of 3 falls tags match from the past year. The match felt rushed but that was a layout issue more than a time constraint issue. 19 minutes should have been plenty time for a 2 out of 3 falls WWE tag match, but they still managed to make the first two falls feel rushed. That aside, all of the work was good and they got good heat during the 3rd fall. This work in this one was a bit more refined than in the Chikara 12/6 tag match, but that match used the 2 out of 3 falls format to its advantage while this match felt unnecessarily hamstrung by the format. Obviously still a strong, worthwhile match but it felt like it underachieved a bit due to the format, which is why I have it slightly lower than some comparable matches.

  1. Yoshinari Ogawa & Zach Sabre Jr. vs. Shiori Asahi & Hiro Tonai (NOAH – 05/03) *** ½
  1. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley (ROH – 12/7) *** ¼

A very fun quick paced match. KUSHIDA is awesome and was the star of the match, taking a beating and keeping a LONG stretch run entertaining. Liked this more than the reDRagon/Young Bucks matches because it was a bit more focused and KUSHIDA is a class above either of the Jacksons.

  1. Young Bucks vs. Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA (NJPW – 06/21) *** ¼
  1. Time Splitters vs. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly (NJPW – 11/8) ***

See #8.

  1. Matt & Jeff Hardy vs. Young Bucks (NEW – 08/02) ***

 The flashiness of the Briscoes/Hardys match came from the booking (Jeff being taken out, Matt fighting on his own, Willow the Whisp appearing, and Jeff reappearing at the end). Against the Bucks, the Hardys ditched the high concept layout ideas and worked a match that attempted to be flashy through the wrestling alone. It was a good match but lacked that extra something. I also thought it outstayed its welcome by a few minutes or so. The wrestling was crisp enough and Jeff took some insane bumps which elevated it above being “just” an average match for me.

  1. Yukio Sakaguchi & Takahisa Matsumoto vs. HARASHIMA & Masaharu Tsuchihashi (HARD HIT – 12/21) ***

 Shoot-style tags are not the easiest matches to work yet my two favorite matches from the last two HARD HIT shows have been tags. This match was further hamstrung (at least potentially) with the “grapping only” rules. They made it work rather well, however. HARASHIMA was the star here but Sakaguchi also looked good. They mixed basic mat work in with a handful of neat spots. They also stayed in constant motion and made frequent, logical tags to keep things moving along. I overrated this a bit on initial view but its still a fun match.

  1. The Young Bucks vs. Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA (NJPW – 02/11) ***
  2. Matt Hardy & Michael Bennett vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe (ROH – 06/22) ***Jun Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Dream Team Futures (Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie) (DDT – 4/29) ***
  3. Young Bucks vs. Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (ROH – 05/17) ***
  4. Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards (TNA – 07/31) ***

 Very solid match and almost definitely my favorite American Wolves match ever. Richards toned down his more annoying tendencies, which might have been a dual function of the time constraints and the Hardys reeling him in. Nice, solid TV match.

  1. Cesaro & Swagger vs. Sheamus & Christian (WWE – 02/10) ***
  2. Cesaro & Jack Swagger vs. Goldust & Cody Rhodes (WWE – 03/18) ***
  3. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe (NJPW – 05/25) ***

Solid tag. Like in the June match versus Nagata & Honma, Goto & Shibata controlled more of the match and worked more as heels, which plays to their strengths.

  1. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe vs. Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson (NJPW – 06/21) ***
  2. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Young Bucks (ROH – 09/06) ***
  3. Manabu Hara & Kosei Kubota vs. Mitsuhisa Sunabe & Shuichiro Katsumura (HARD HIT – 10/12) ***

 The grapping tag match at the December Hard Hit show was about mat work. This match felt more like a BattlArts tag with big throws, striking, and a lot of intensity. The hardest part about working a tag in this style is to fit the usual tag conventions (hot tags, sustained periods of control) within the confines of the style. They did so very well, I thought.

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