Tag Team Wrestling Appreciation:
Rockers vs Orient Express, Royal Rumble (1/19/91)
God damn was this worth all the hype it gets, tremendous STF match with the Rockers being excellent babyfaces and the Orient Express putting in a damn good methodical and calculating heel performance. Opening babyface stretch has some great heel miscommunication spots and gets the crowd really rabid and behind the Rockers, and they time everything to perfection and slowly build to the transition spot. Spot where Michaels spots the other member of the Express sneaking up behind him and moonsaults into a punch combo was really nifty and a super spot.
Actual transition spot is really well timed by both teams and really adds extra heat to the Orient Express whilst putting over their capabilities as a unit. I'm by no means the biggest Michaels fan on here, but I'll be damned if I ever grow tired of his tag team work. He's a stupendous babyface here, bumping and selling his arse off with every blow and really pulling the crowd into every sequence whilst Jannetty works the apron like a champ. The Orient Express have some really great classic tag team heel spots where they pull the ref around the ring to allow Fuji to hit Michaels with the cane as well as getting in some illegal double team moves behind the referee's back. Hope spot where Michaels looks to make the tag, only for the Express to blinside Jannetty and irish whip Michaels into a belt only for Michaels to dive onto the belt and pull both heels into another and then make the hot tag was the best sequence of the match and beautiful tag team wrestling.
Jannetty off the hot tag is everything you want him to be. Energetic and throwing punches and dropkicks left, right and centre. Actual finish is also extremely creative and well worked, with the Express teasing a screwjob finish when they launch Michaels to the floor and double team Jannetty, only for Michaels to interupt the second double team attempt and allow Jannetty to hit a silky smooth sunset flip counter for the flash pin.
Rockers vs Powers of Pain, WWF MSG (1/15/90)
Holy shit, this only goes 10 minutes but what we get is freaking incredible and should be mandatory viewing for anyone. Rockers run some really excellent cat and mouse spots in the beginning and use their quickness and athleticism to counter-act the power of their opponents and we get some really fun 'almost got 'em' sequences before Jannetty gets a little too cute and ends up being dropped with a big powerbomb.
Jannetty's FIP spell is truly superb. He takes about 5 or 6 lunatic bumps which look disgusting and the POP are really tremendous in brutalising him with power based offence whilst also distracting the ref long enough to illegally choke Jannetty as well as have Fuji assault him with the cane. Crowd are ridiculously loud for everything going on and the hot tag to Shawn is brilliantly timed and the finishing stretch is tons of fun with the Rockers again using their agility to evade and turn the tide on their bigger adversaries. Finish sees Fuji trip Michaels coming off of the ropes and has him eat a flash pin. Really excellent sub 10 minute match with tons of nutty bumps from Jannetty, a breathtaking pace, some really intricate and entertaining Cat and Mouse sequences with the Rockers toying with the POP and some great power offence from the POP.
Rockers vs Brainbusters, WWF MSG (1/23/89)
Oh man, this is the shit right here. Opening babyface stretch is just so much fun with numerous comedy spots at the Brainbusters' expense and a really neat sub story with the Rockers utilising a few tricks the Brainbusters would generally utilise to distract the ref and stop Arn getting tagged into the match. Couple of early standout spots had to be Michaels getting pulled into the Brainbusters' corner and immediately escaping through the ropes to the floor, Blanchard pulling Michaels close to the corner only for Shawn to let go and send Blanchard flying into an unsuspecting Arn on the apron and the brilliant fabled tag team spot where Michaels enters the ring, catches Jannetty as he's double suplexed and brings him onto his feet and allows the Rockers to hit a dual superkick to send the Brainbusters bailing to the floor. Whole extened opening was just incredibly engaging with Arn doing some terrific punch drunk selling off of a Jannetty punch combo, and the sub plot with the Rockers out-thinking the Brainbusters and having their number at every opportunity really helped the flow of the match leading into the transition spot.
Speaking of the transition spot, its fucking tremendous. Blanchard is finally able to create some distance on the floor and baits the inexperienced Michaels into charging after him with Arn waiting around the corner ready to lariat an unsuspecting Michaels. The entire setup however may have been immediately bettered by Tully's AMAZING STRUT, holy shit it was incredible on a scale of utter douchebag and the smug grin fucking sealed it. Michaels playing FIP was naturally the peak of the match and he was more than assisted by Arn and Tully who really excel as the veterans now utilising all their experience to bait Jannetty into the ring and regularly distracting the ref allowing them to double team, choke, switch during abdominal stretches and generally just isolate Michaels from Jannetty for what feels like an eternity. Hope spot where Michaels charges over Arn into the corner and Jannetty almost falls into the ring as he reaches for the tag only to miss by an inch was a peach of a tease, and the way it setup the following Michaels flurry and hot tag was impeccable.
Jannetty again kicks ass off of the hot tag, bringing plenty of fire, energy and passion and the crowd is now amped. Finishing stretch is short but oh so sweet with the Busters trying to exploit their younger counterparts and out-manouevre them, and sadly for the Rockers they succeed as during a distraction Arn is able to sweep the leg of Jannetty from the floor as he attempts a suplex on Tully, and then holds down the leg of Jannetty as Blanchard lands on top of Jannetty for the victory. Really great way to cap off a terrific match chock full of tag team specialities, a terrific story which dominated the beginning, middle and end of the match, the Rockers ultimately being outsmarted by the Busters after dominating them in the beginning through intelligence...just magnificent.
Rockers vs Brainbusters, WWF Boston Garden (3/18/89)
Another sterling effort from both these teams here. Match again features a very similar layout to the 1/23 match with the Rockers controlling the majority of the opening and again showing their intelligence in using Brainbuster tactics to infuriate Blanchard and Anderson and continually prevent them from tagging out to escape the onslaught. Arn has a couple of really comical moments where he begs for a time out as well as nearly tagging in Jannetty by mistake only to bail at the last second and Blanchard's strut after winning the first lockup is just hysterical. Small touch that I really enjoyed came when both the Rockers had figure fours on both the Brainbusters and Arn after being released took the opportunity to rake the eyes of Jannetty who was still getting up from the hold. It didn't set up the control sequence like a similar spot did in the Flair/Arn vs Hogan/Savage tag from Nitro, but I really loved just how aware Arn was to do something like that.
Actual transition spot again pays off from the early story of the Brainbusters being out wrestled and out thought by the Rockers, only for Arn to draw Michaels off the apron and allow them to drop Jannetty throat first off the ropes. The following control sequence might actualy eclipse that of the 1/23 match, with Jannetty really being abused by the Brainbusters who constantly pull the ref aside to set up illegal double teams and a sick spot where Arn chokes Jannetty with the tag rope. Michaels constantly gets drawn in by the Busters who really begin to find their feat in controlling and isolating Jannetty and I loved the teasing of a hot tag to Michaels being broken up by an expectant Blanchard who again draws Michaels and the referee aside long enough for Arn to toss Jannetty to the floor and prolong the misery. Should mention in all of this that Jannetty takes a lunatic missed crossbody bump to the floor via the turnbuckle which really looked frightening.
Hot tag to Michaels is again perfectly timed after an excellent Jannetty FIP section and the finishing stretch is suitably chaotic with Michaels full of piss and vinegar trying to avenge the mugging of Jannetty whilst the Brainbusters seek to take advantage of any opening. Michaels however manages to overcome Arn via a superkick on the floor and then performs a rocket launcher via Jannetty assistance to Blanchard only for Arn to yank the referee out of the ring as he was set to count 3 and force a DQ victory for the Rockers. Finish could be bothersome to a few, but I loved it and it came off as a suitably dick move for Arn to take a DQ loss rather than be fairly beaten by the Rockers. Heat was monumental as well for Arn's scumbaggery.
Shawn Michaels & Diesel vs 1-2-3 Kid & Razor Ramon, WWF Action Zone (10/30/94)
Incredible match. Seriously aside from the Rockers/Orient Express tag and possibly Austin/Michaels vs Owen/Davey I don't think there's been a better tag in WWF/E since 1991. Everyone in this match puts in a hell of a shift and ensures a frantic pace with an incredible crowd marking out for everything they do.
Shawn and Diesel try to jump the faces only for it to backfire with Shawn almost being pinned inside the first minute until Diesel resuces him, and from there they work brief segments revolving around Michaels and Kid getting isolated before Razor becomes the FIP for the majority of the match, though sadly this part of the match is clipped. Michaels and especially Diesel thrive in the control segment including a couple of bossy spots where Michaels halts a potential Razor comeback with a knee to the back from the apron as well as a beautiful hot tag tease where Razor makes a desperate tag only for Diesel to distract the referee and continue the isolation. The long rumoured split between Michaels and Diesel however comes into play once again with Michaels accidentally catching Diesel with SCM and allowing for a really awesome heel in peril segment as Kid and Razor take turns beating the crap out of a defencless Michaels who pleads for Diesel to recover before he loses the match. There's a ton of really convincing nearfalls on Michaels with the crowd continually getting more and more rabid with every kickout. Finish comes when Diesel finally recovers and catches an unsuspecting Kid with a big boot and Michaels hastily makes a frantic cover.
This match is pretty much a staple of why tag team wrestling is so absorbing and scintillating. None of the 4 men are what I'd class as great workers in singles settings, but Michaels is excellent as the bumping machine who's cocky and arrogant when on the attack, Diesel is fucking inspiring as the difference maker in size and power and who constantly keeps Razor on the mat as he's isolated. Razor himself is a really effective and great FIP who really sells every bit of offence he's hit with and Kid really works the apron terrificly and is plenty of fun as the house on fire hot tag exploding with unrivalled offence which Michaels in particular struggles to contain.