Tag team professional wrestling is a variation in which matches are contested between teams of multiple wrestlers. A tag team may comprise two wrestlers who normally wrestle in singles competition, but more commonly are made of established teams who wrestle regularly as a unit and have a team name and identity.
In most team matches, only one competitor per team is allowed in the ring at a time. This status as the active or legal wrestler may be transferred by physical contact, most commonly a palm-to-palm "tag" which resembles a high five.
The team-based match has been a mainstay of professional wrestling since the mid twentieth century, and most promotions have sanctioned a championship division for tag teams.
The term "tag team" has since become used in common parlance to describe two or more people who alternate or cooperate in participation in an activity, and "tag-teaming" to describe the act of alternating with an ally, e.g. a couple tag-teaming in an argument with another person.
n 1901 the first tag team match was held in the United States, in San Francisco. San Francisco promoters introduced tag team wrestling as a way of improving the sport’s entertainment value. While tag team wrestling is now almost traditional in American professional wrestling, the innovation didn't become especially popular outside San Francisco until the 1930s. The first "World" tag team championship was also crowned in San Francisco in the early 1950s.
Tag team match rules
The basic tag team match has two teams of two wrestlers facing off against each other. Only one wrestler from each team, called the "legal man" is allowed in the ring at a time, although heels will often break this rule and gang up on a single opponent. The other(s) wait on the apron outside the ropes in a specified corner adjacent to the other team.
Once a tag is made, the partners have until a five count to switch places or rather the man in the ring which has just been tagged now has until a referee's five count to leave the ring. If a five count is reached by the referee, the referee would then have due course to disqualify the violating team. Therefore it is rather commonplace to see both members of teams, especially heel teams, are in the ring simultaneously with only one member of an ostensibly rule-abiding face team. A "bookend" tag team is a (usually derogatory) term for a tag team where the members look and/or dress alike (e.g., The Killer Bees, the The American Bulldogs, the The Heart Foundation, etc.). Bookends are common in North America, Europe and Mexico, but not at all in Japan since promotion of wrestlers to singles championships is based (in a large part) on tag team results, as no secondary singles championships exist.
Offensive cooperation from a team member can happen as long as they are within the referee's count of five and after an official tag. In a "Tornado" tag match there is no time limit for how long your partner can stay in the ring often making these matches a 2 on 2 battle.
A tag team match involving more than two wrestlers per team is often referred to by the total number of people involved (eg. a six-man tag team match involves two teams of three), while a tag team match involving more than two teams is referred to by normal qualifiers (eg. a triple threat tag team match involves three teams of two).
A wrestler must do the following in order to make a legal tag:
- Both feet of the wrestler on the outside must be flat on the apron.
- The wrestler outside the ring must hold on to the tag rope tied in the corner.
- Tags are legal as long as the two team members touch.
- The referee has to actually see the contact between the two wrestlers in order to make the tag legal.
A referee can be allowed to overlook any of these tag rules at his discretion. All standard match rules apply but the legal man must make a pin or submission on another legal man to win. Only legal men can be counted out but either team can be disqualified regardless if a team member is legal or not.
In lucha libre, the basic tag team match is referred to as Lucha de Parejas (Doubles Fight), a six-man match as a Lucha de Trios, and an eight-man match as a Lucha Atómica (Atomic Fight).
A frequent storyline is former tag team partners turning on each other, which will invariably ignite a feud. This can be used when one member is being called on to develop a new gimmick.
In independent discussion and analysis of matches, certain terms are used to describe specific scenarios involving tag team matches. These are planned and timed to inject drama into a match.
One spot that occurs in practically every tag team match is the hot tag. One member of the face team is in the ring, too weakened to move or otherwise impaired, while his partner watches helplessly, struggling to reach him for a tag. The tension builds as the legal man is unable to tag out until something happens (a second wind, miscommunication between the heel wrestlers, or another stroke of luck) that allows the faces to tag and reverse the momentum of the match in their favor. When done well, this results in a large audience reaction, and was the typical climax of tag matches for decades.
A common variation on the hot tag sees both wrestlers from the heel team attacking a face, while his partner protests to the referee about this bending of the rules (and therefore, unintentionally "distracting" the referee away from the heels). Eventually the weakened face wrestler does make the tag to his partner, who comes in as the fresh man and is able to take on both opponents quite easily. Ricky Morton, of the tag team Rock 'N Roll Express, would often play the "face in peril", who got beaten up in the ring while his partner Robert Gibson, looked on helplessly. Thus, the tag partner in the ring being beaten is often said to "play Ricky Morton".
A blind tag is a legal tag made without the legal opponent's knowledge, usually while his back is turned. This allows the team who uses it an opportunity to confuse the legal opponent, who turns to face what he assumes to be his opponent only to be attacked by the TRUE legal man, often from behind.
A phantom tag is when a legal wrestler is replaced by his partner without making a legal tag, also without the referee's knowledge. Sometimes one wrestler will clap his hands in order to mimmick the sound of the tag. These will, however, be allowed, thus giving this cheating team an advantage. A wrestler will sometimes clap his hands together for a phantom tag, helping him to convince the referee that a legal tag took place.