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The History of the WWF Tag Team Championship: Part 3

by Scrooge McSuck

US Express

Last time in our "History of the WWF Tag Team Championship", we picked up with the dawning of the freshly named WWF and caught up through the early 1980's. It wasn't a golden era for the belts, with a lot of ho-hum reigns with names like Tony Garea, Mr. Fuji, and Jay Strongbow gobbling up the belts, years after their primes. Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas made Federation history as the first African-American TEAM to hold the gold (Sonny King being the first man, period, early in the WWWF lineage), and as we pick things up, we're set in the middle of the reign of the North-South Connection of Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch.

Carrying the belts throughout the remainder of 1984, Adonis and Murdoch survived a long, heated pursuit of the belts from former Champions Afa and Sika, who turned babyface along the way and were betrayed by Captain Lou Albano to give them the crowd support that they would need to justify swapping locker rooms in their chase to regain the gold. After dispatching of the Samoans, who left the WWF immediately after the feud wrapped up, Murdoch and Adonis were challenged by the team of Jerry and Jack Brisco. With the calendar turning over to 1985, there were big plans on the horizon for the World Wrestling Federation, and it was time to go back to what Vince McMahon knew best: build a program around patriotism and evil foreign menaces, and neither the team of Murdoch and Adonis nor the Brisco Brothers fit that bill.

Barry Windham was a talent with all the right stuff to be a star. The son of Blackjack Mulligan, Windham had the height, the ability, and as time went on, the promo skills that would make him an attractive piece to pursue, year after year, even as his personal problems disrupted his career and made him unreliable. With only 5-years of in-ring experience at this point, Windham was brought in and paired up with someone who may not have had the personality or pedigree he came from but had the credentials of a legitimate collegiate grappler. Lettering at the University of Syracuse, Mike Rotunda was another fresh young face in the world of professional wrestling, making his debut in 1981 throughout the various Southern territories. While Rotunda (or Rotundo, because wrestling promoters couldn't bother to spell his name properly on a regular basis) had the right credentials, it would be an understatement to say he wasn't the most charismatic man in the world. Before arriving in the WWF, the duo came together to win Florida's U.S. Tag Team Championship on four occasions, though no reign lasted longer than 4-weeks. (Don't feel too bad for them, only one team in the sporadic history of the title lineage held the belt for more than 100 days.) Years later, the world would find out the two would become brothers-in-law, as Mike Rotunda married Barry's sister, and their two sons, Windham and Taylor, would become long-time WWE Superstars, but they are a story for another day.

Of course, two talented young men looking to break out on a national scale needed a boost... the manager of champions. One of the biggest angles of 1984 was centered around the Rock ‘n' Wrestling Connection between the WWF and MTV. Cyndi Lauper was unquestionably one of the most recognizable up-and-coming stars in the music industry, and after the casting of Lou Albano for her music video "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", the two formed a relationship that brought Lauper into the universe of professional wrestling. As a guest on Piper's Pit, Captain Lou took credit for all of Cyndi's success, leading to the Brawl to Settle it All where Lou's representative, the Fabulous Moolah, took on Lauper's, a freshly turned Wendi Richter, in what would be the end of Moolah's ridiculous stranglehold on the World Women's Title after an alleged 28 YEARS as Champion. Shortly after, Captain Lou's persona started to make a shift towards a warm-hearted man, raising awareness for multiple sclerosis, with the babyface turn capped when Piper interrupted an award ceremony to assault Lou and Lauper. It wasn't long after when Albano was paired with Rotundo and Windham, giving them the experienced mouthpiece for the countless promos they needed to cut for local advertisements. Did the pairing make sense? Not really. At least as a heel, Albano was just chasing titles with his newest combination of goons. As a babyface, it was just throwing something against the wall to see what sticks and wouldn't be the last we see of Albano in a babyface managerial role.

On January 21st, Adonis and Murdoch's reign as the Tag Team Champions ended after 279 days, the longest reign of any Champions since the Valiant Brothers held the gold in the WWWF in 1974. The common location for title changes seemed to be at the tapings for Championship Wrestling, but in this case, it was a token live event (a.k.a. "house show") in Hartford, CT. Believe it or not, that would mark the first time the titles changed hands outside the states of New York and Pennsylvania.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match: Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis (c) vs. Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham:

Taped from the Hartford Civic Center on January 21st and featured on the February 2nd episode of Championship Wrestling. We're Joined in Progress (I've never seen the full match available anywhere). Rotundo pounds away on Murdoch. Adonis comes in to cut off a tag attempt and connects with a slingshot suplex. Vince McMahon's post-production commentary says Rotundo and Windham are now managed by Lou Albano, but I can't see him anywhere. Adonis charges and gets dumped over the top rope. He recovers in time to sweep Windham off the apron to prevent the tag. Murdoch with a scoop slam and turns Rotundo over with a Boston Crab. Rotundo powers out, sending Murdoch into the turnbuckle. Windham hot tags and unloads on Murdoch and Adonis with rights. Whip to the corner and Adonis turns himself inside out. Double Noggin Knocker! Adonis clotheslines Windham to break up the running bulldog. All four men brawl in the ring. Windham clears out Adonis and takes out Murdoch with a sunset flip for three to capture the Tag Team Titles at 3:45 (shown), making them the 14th set of tag teams to be guided to the Tag Team Titles by Lou Albano (again, nowhere to be seen at ringside). Adonis and Murdoch would chase in subsequent rematches, but Murdoch would be gone by the end of February.

Now carrying the Tag Team gold, Windham and Rotundo would start wrapping themselves in the American Flag, commonly referred to as the U.S. Express, although if you watch the weekly television product, the name is rarely ever used by any of the announcers or commentators. I began to question the authenticity of the name, leading me to believe for the longest time it was a team name created later by the online wrestling community, but occasionally, the name was spoken, and they did get a t-shirt, so that would eventually settle the controversy I created in my mind. Not only were they proud representatives of the United States of America, but they were also one of only a few acts to have entrance music; Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA", which if you investigate the lyrics, is hardly the anthem for American pride one would assume based on the name and name alone. With Adonis moving into a singles role thanks to Murdoch's departure, that opened the slot for another team to fill at the top of the tag team division.

With the all-American good guys holding the straps, the obvious rivals would be foreigners who looked down on the USA, and thus was born the team of the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. The Shiek, born in Tehran, Iran, had a long list of amateur accolades before making the switch to professional wrestling, with his biggest claim to fame being the man who ended Bob Backlund's 5+ year reign as WWF Champion in December 1983 and acting as the transitional champion for Hulk Hogan to obliterate a month later, kicking off his own 4-year reign with the gold. Nikolai Volkoff is back, representing the U.S.S.R. and irritating fans by demanding time to sing the Soviet anthem (which often, especially as the years went on, would be interrupted by the babyfaces). While the Sheik was no slouch in demonstrating power, he was the man who held the matches together with crisp wrestling ability while Volkoff would hang out on the apron, come in and do a move or two, and quickly tag back out to mask his limited skills as an in-ring performer. The two could've been absolute dog sh*t in the ring, to be honest, because their ability to draw heat before the bell would ring was more than enough to justify their push.

Though the two teams would battle throughout the first few months of 1985, none of their matches for the belts were featured on television, whether it be syndicated programming or regional broadcasts, setting the stage for March 31st. From the world-famous Madison Square Garden, the WWF was promoting a super-card known as "WrestleMania", headlined by Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, which also involved celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Liberace, and Billy Martin. Cyndi Lauper and Wendi Richter were still a unit, as Richter chased Leilani Kai, the latest protégé of the Fabulous Moolah, in hopes of regaining the hold, and Andre the Giant's career was on the line as he stepped up to the challenge of body slamming nemesis Big John Studd. Though no hot angle was filmed, the Tag Team Title Match was positioned in a respectable position on the card. Unfortunately for Windham and Rotundo, their title reign wouldn't see April Fool's Day.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (c) (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Fred Blassie):

From WrestleMania, held on March 31st from Madison Square Garden. Classic USA vs. Foreign Menace booking. Rotundo and Windham won the titles from Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch on January 21st and were instantly cutting promos on Volkoff and Sheik. Lots of talk about the Iron Sheik winning Blassie his first WWF Championship at MSG, and now he's going to try and do the same with the Tag Team Championship. Before we get to the match, I'd like to say I've skipped around and have yet to find a match where the name U.S. Express is used, and the only shirt I've found says "Windham and Rotundo: USA Express." So far, that's the closest I've come to trying to solve this mystery. Rotundo and Windham come out to Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Rotundo and Sheik start. Sheik with a side headlock and shoulder tackle. Crisscross, Rotundo with a hip toss, dropkick, and a scoop slam. Windham comes off the top with an elbow, followed by a leg across the lower abdomen. Windham gets caught on the wrong side of town, but Sheik's running dropkick accidentally hits Volkoff. Rotundo with an elbow on Volkoff for barely a one count. The Champions take turns working the arm until Rotundo gets rammed into Sheik's pointed boot. Whip to the ropes and Sheik with a back body-drop and elbow for two. Gut-wrench suplex for another two count. Volkoff drops him throat-first across the top rope. Rotundo counters a headlock but gets caught against the ropes. Irish whip and a surprise sunset flip gets two. Sheik with an abdominal stretch. Rotundo would naturally be able to counter it with ease. Windham with the hot tag, unloading on Volkoff with rights. Irish whip and a dropkick. The running bulldog connects, but Sheik breaks the cover. The referee reprimands Rotundo, allowing Sheik to break Blassie's cane across Windham's head, and Volkoff covers for the three count and the Tag Team Titles at 6:56. Slightly rushed, but a solid match, giving us our 1st title change in WrestleMania history. **½.

The common theory for why the title switch took place seems to be they needed a heel to go over in a big match. With Hogan and T obviously going over, Andre not retiring, and Wendi and Cyndi standing tall in victory all a given, that leaves very few options elsewhere in a match with some sort of stakes on the line. The only other option would be putting Greg Valentine decisively over the Junkyard Dog, but for whatever reason, they chose to put JYD over, though in a lame cop-out finish since the money was still in Tito Santana chasing Valentine for the belt. With the two teams switching positions, that also allows the company to juice the house show run for a couple more loops, with Windham and Rotundo often winning their immediate rematches via Disqualification or Count-Out, typically when they were on the verge of winning the belts, only to leave the fans angry that their heroes were robbed in the end. I've heard on multiple occasions that these teams also did a "phantom switch", where the titles changed due to an accidental cover, forcing a match the next day to reset everything and neither change being recognized on television or in any official WWF publication. Unfortunately, my research netted me nothing when it came to any dates for such a scenario to take place, so we'll leave that note as an urban legend unless something comes up. Another gimmick on the house show loop, often done on the B and C-tours but occasional in larger markets, would be to split the teams and run a pair of singles matches, often splitting the match series, and sometimes giving the clean sweep top the babyfaces. That doesn't mean the heels wouldn't pull it off, but it would be an incredibly stupid booking choice with babyfaces either chasing or being presented as underdogs... which leads us to the next bonus...

Mike Rotundo (w/ Captain Lou Albano) vs. The Iron Sheik (w/ Fred Blassie):

From the April 22nd card held at Madison Square Garden, with Gorilla and Mean Gene calling the action. Yes, the WWF ran the Garden THREE TIMES in a 6-week span, and YES, we're going to give a look at the "half vs half" booking of tag teams. Don't worry, we won't give the cold shoulder to Windham and Volkoff. Sheik attacks from behind, but Rotundo quickly fights back, takes the Sheik over with a hip toss and plants him with a slam. Whip to the ropes and Rotundo clotheslines Sheik with a towel. Sheik powders out and the crowd just wants to see him get his. Back inside, Rotundo grabs a side headlock, taking the Sheik to the canvas. Sheik grabs the tights to roll Rotundo into a pinning combination, but Rotundo keeps the hold applied. Crisscross and Rotundo with a sunset flip for two. Sheik cranks on a side headlock but Rotundo counters. Whip to the ropes and Sheik with a back body-drop. HE SPAT ON HIM! TWICE! Whip and Sheik with a double chop to the throat before tossing him out of the ring. Back inside, Sheik with a snap mare into a chin-lock. Sheik lets go and hooks a kimura lock. IN 1985 WWF. He lets go to try and punt Rotundo with the curled boot, but Rotundo counters. Snap mare and Rotundo with an elbow drop for two. Rotundo with some amateur style grappling. I don't know if this is the right crowd for this, as Gene tries to cover it on commentary. Sheik forces a break in the ropes, but he misses a right hand and goes flying over the top rope. Rotundo follows him out, unloading with a pair of forearm uppercuts. Back inside, Rotundo grabs another side headlock. Sheik counters with an inverted atomic drop and lands a series of boots. They take it to the floor again, with Rotundo going face-first into the ringside table. Sheik with the padded chair of doom and the referee is okay with it. I mean, how bad could that have hurt? Sheik gets pelted with trash as he hooks an abdominal stretch. Monsoon makes sure to note he doesn't have the leg properly hooked. Rotundo escapes with the hip toss but misses an elbow drop. Sheik with a gut-wrench suplex for two. Rotundo blocks a standard suplex and counters with a suplex of his own. Crisscross and they smack heads in the middle for a double-down. Sheik goes for a slam but Rotundo lands on top of him for a near-fall. Sheik muscles Rotundo up with another slam, but he misses a diving whatever-the-f*ck from the top rope! Whip to the corner, Sheik misses a knee, and Rotundo rolls him up for three at 14:19. Yep, Sheik did what was practically a clean loss to Mike Rotundo, only a year removed from being the WWF Champion. There was a bit of a rough patch in the middle, but it was technically fine until the ending helped pick things up a bit. **½

Barry Windham (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Nikolai Volkoff (w/ Fred Blassie):

Also, from the April 22nd card held at Madison Square Garden. Volkoff gets to sing the Soviet anthem uninterrupted, but he still yells at the crowd for having no class. Windham's music doesn't start playing until he's practically in the ring. GOT IN A LITTLE HOMETOWN JAM, SO THEY PUT A RIFLE IN MY HAND! SENT ME OFF TO A FOREIGN LAND, TO GO AND KILL THE YELLOW MAN! BORN IN THE USA! What a patriotic anthem. Lockup and Volkoff shoves Windham into the ropes. Volkoff tries it again, so Windham bottoms out and lets Volkoff take his own momentum into the corner. Windham with a dive from the top rope and he starts working the arm. Whip to the ropes and Windham with a rolling cradle for a two-count. Albano and Blassie tease a physical altercation at ringside, which might turn out to be the highlight of this match. Windham reverses a whip, sending Volkoff's shoulder into the turnbuckle. He keeps working the arm of Volkoff, stepping over with an arm bar. Volkoff escapes but is caught off guard with a dropkick. Volkoff rakes the eyes to fight out of another arm bar and hits him off the ropes with an elbow. Whip to the corner and Volkoff with a press slam for two. Gut-wrench suplex barely gets a one-count. Windham ducks a clothesline but gets caught in a bearhug. Windham escapes and grabs a sleeper, but Volkoff hits him questionably low to break free. Windham fights out of another bearhug, this time using the Greco-Roman bite to do the job. Windham with a glancing dropkick that Volkoff is still willing to bump for. Windham goes for a slam but Volkoff lands on top of him for two. Whip and they smack heads... what, did the agent who laid out Rotundo/Sheik just give the same instructions to these guys? Whip and Volkoff hangs back to avoid a dropkick. Volkoff tries rolling Windham into a bridge, but the momentum brings Windham's shoulders off the canvas. Windham unloads with rights but Volkoff backs him into the corner. He misses a charge, smacking his head on the post. Windham with mounted rights, and here's the Iron Sheik to draw the Disqualification at 12:33. Don't worry, Rotundo runs to ringside to help clear the ring in no time. Nikolai Volkoff was atrocious here, but Windham was trying to get something out of him. ½*

After a couple of more loops on the house show circuit (and even working opposite in a Six-Man on the debut episode of Saturday Night's Main Event), with Rotundo and Windham more often than not on the winning side of the ledger, that brings us to the June 17th taping for Championship Wrestling, filmed in everyone's dank gymnasium in Poughkeepsie, NY...

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (c) (w/ Fred Blassie) vs. Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (w/ Capt. Lou Albano):

From the July 13th episode of Championship Wrestling with Vince and Bruno on the call, which turns out to be the LAST week of the taping cycle from June 17th. ARE YOU SERIOUS? Fink notes this is ONE FALL TO A FINISH, though there's something like 9-minutes left in the broadcast, so we can assume it won't take too long to get there. Volkoff with the easy heat of singing the Soviet Anthem, and this Poughkeepsie crowd does their best to drown it out. Windham and Volkoff start. Lockup and Windham with a side headlock. They do a series of counters until Windham surprises Volkoff with a dropkick. Lockup to the ropes and Volkoff with clubbing blows. Rotundo gets the blind tag and rolls Volkoff up for two. Volkoff with a headbutt to the midsection, followed by a series of right hands. Whip to the ropes and Sheik nails Rotundo from the apron. Sheik with a whip and back body-drop, followed by kicks to the body. Whip and a chop to the throat for two. Sheik with a slam for two. He hooks the Camel Clutch, but Windham saves, RISKING DISQUALIFICATION. Rotundo blocks a suplex and counters with a small package, but Volkoff comes in to turn it over. Windham does the same, and THAT gets three at 3:15 to crown Windham and Rotundo for the 2nd time as WWF Tag Team Champions. What a nothing match to switch the titles back. I can't give this a star rating, but trust me, I'm incredibly disappointed.

Rotundo and Windham would continue working primarily with Volkoff and the Sheik in "Texas Tornado" Matches (that's basically where all the men are legal and there's no need for tagging in and out) to give Rotundo and Windham the definitive win as the series of matches were finally wrapping up. Peppered in those defenses is the occasional odd-ball match, though none record for television, like defenses against Bob Orton and Roddy Piper and the earliest days of the Hart Foundation. In early August, Windham and Rotundo would have another set of challengers on their tails, and you could say it's quite the dream team of singles stars put together as the ultimate powerplay to capture the gold.

As we've seen with the Iron Sheik, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was a top-of-the-card singles star who was being positioned lower on the card. After holding the Intercontinental Championship for the better part of a year, his reign came to an end at the hands of Tito Santana in a brutal Steel Cage Match in Baltimore. As that feud spanned most of Valentine's reign (Santana was the man he took the belt from, after all), it would be tired to run it back again, and instead of chasing a 2nd reign, he was shuffled into a tag team with someone who wasn't lighting the world on fire as a singles star and needed a better worker to mask his shortcomings. Ed Leslie has a unique legacy in the world of professional wrestling. He wasn't a very good worker, his charisma often felt forced, and he didn't have the ripped physique of a lot of his contemporaries. What he did have was connections, being the best friend of the golden goose himself, Hulk Hogan. After multiple repackages around the territories, Leslie found his way into the WWF in the Summer of 1984. He was given the name "Brutus Beefcake" and rarely cut promos in his early days, with Johnny Valiant acting as his mouthpiece. He got some token title matches against Hogan during his run but wasn't presented as a serious threat to the gold. Valentine and Beefcake on paper didn't seem like a team that made sense, but with Valentine carrying the workload and Beefcake doing what little he did well in short spurts, they made it work. The duo began working together more regularly in the early Summer, though mostly for TV tapings. Their first attempt at challenging for the belts came on August 10th at Madison Square Garden, which saw Barry Windham shockingly pin Valentine after a 20+ minute battle. “Shocking” because it was rare to see Championship matches decided by pinfall with such high-profile performers on the first trip on the house show loop. Valentine and Beefcake would have another crack for a television audience two weeks later...

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (c) (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (w/ Johnny Valiant):

Televised on PRISM from the Philadelphia Spectrum on August 24th, 1985, with Dick Graham and Gorilla Monsoon on the call. It's the battle of teams who were rarely introduced as their "team names" (U.S. Express and the Dream Team). The challengers attack at the bell and it's a donnybrook to kick things off. Valentine and Beefcake get to meet in the middle, knocking Valentine out of the ring and leaving Beefcake open for some double-teaming before being deposited to the arena floor as well. Back inside, Valentine plants Rotundo with a slam but misses the forearm smash. Rotundo takes Valentine over with a hip toss and nails both men with dropkicks. Windham comes off the top with a sledge and elbow drop for two. Valentine escapes a wristlock, burying a knee into the midsection. Beefcake comes in, misses an elbow drop, and now Windham, works his arm. How many times can Graham say “Wham-o” in one match? Crisscross and Rotundo with a spinning arm drag before going back to the arm bar. Whip and the Champions with a double dropkick on Beefcake for a near-fall. Valentine gets a blind tag, clubbing Rotundo from the top rope. He softens up the legs, dropping down into the hamstrings. Valentine with some vicious forearms across the chest, followed by a series of knees into the left leg. Windham doesn't take kindly to Valentine using the ropes and whacks him from behind. Beefcake in without the tag, planting Rotundo with a slam. Whip and Beefcake with a boot to the chest for two. Valentine and Beefcake whiplash Rotundo into their corner and continue to double-up as Windham distracts the referee.

They keep Rotundo away from his corner, switching off with front face-locks. He fights to his corner but guess what... the referee didn't see the tag. Valentine tosses Rotundo to the floor during the confusion, but this isn't NWA rules, so it's not that big of a deal to me. Back inside, Rotundo nails Valentine coming off the ropes. He fights out of the corner, only for Valentine to hook the ankle, buying Beefcake time to cut him off with another face-lock. Rotundo counters with an inverted atomic drop and we've got ANOTHER distraction to keep him from making the tag. Valentine with a shoulder breaker for two. Whip to the ropes and Rotundo and Beefcake knock heads, with Valentine throwing Beefcake on top of Rotundo for a near-fall. Rotundo rolls away from a series of elbows and FINALLY tags in Windham! He runs wild with right hands and a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER. He nails both men with dropkicks and throws more rights before tossing Beefcake out. He hits Valentine with the bulldog out of the corner, but Valentine kicks out at two! Windham with a second bulldog, this time with Beefcake making the save. Rotundo cuts off Beefcake's interference, but that distracts the referee from seeing Valiant pass along his lit cigar. Beefcake rubs it out in Windham's eye and Valentine drops an elbow for three and the Tag Team Titles at 19:09. This took time to get going, with what felt like a never-ending stream of arm bars, but once the heels took over, this kicked into a new gear. ***

For whatever reason, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo were off the booking sheets for the month of September, and only appearing on TV once in a pre-tape to sell the injury of Windham's eye caused by the lit cigar. When they returned at the October 1st tapings for Championship Wrestling, history was made: They no longer came out to Springsteen's pro-USA "anthem", and instead came out to a new track featured on the WWF produced "Wrestling Album" created by Rick Derringer: "Real American." Curiously, the team of Windham and Rotundo rarely challenged for the belts on the house show loop once they returned to action, either working with Valentine and Beefcake as part of Six-Man Tags or working prelims against the makeshift team of Mike Sharpe and Barry Orton. The return lasted all of two weeks, as Barry Windham packed his gear and left following the October 16th show in Buffalo. Even more curious was that Rotundo was put back on the road with Valentine and Beefcake IMMEDIATELY after Windham's departure, thrown together with names like the Junkyard Dog and Mr. Wrestling II before they settled in on a permanent replacement: "Golden Boy" Danny Spivey, who was instructed to wrestle like Windham including doing a bulldog finish, and if you squint hard enough, could pass off as a knock-off Windham physically.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (c) vs. Mike Rotundo & Dan Spivey:

Presented on NESN from the Boston Garden card held on November 9th, 1985. No entrance music, no Albano, and little fan reaction. Welcome to the "what were we thinking" era of the "U.S. Express." I love the troll job of introducing Beefcake from “San Francisco”, which I guess was the homosexual capital of the world in the 80's (not that there's anything wrong with it. There, a 90's sitcom joke to explain it. Maybe I can work something in from the early 2000's next). Rotundo and Valentine start. Lockup and Valentine's own momentum sends him crashing into the turnbuckle. Rotundo surprises Valentine with a right forearm and sends him across the ring with a dropkick. Valentine hooks the arm and tags in Beefcake, but Rotundo counters with a mule kick, wasting the Champions' advantage. Beefcake with a cheap shot in the corner, but Rotundo quickly turns things around and hooks the arm bar. Beefcake escapes with an elbow and comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. Crisscross, Rotundo with the spinning arm drag and the challengers switch off with an arm bar without making a tag. CHEATERS. Valentine gets the blind tag and nails Not-Windham coming off the ropes... but the referee didn't see the tag and ejects him, only for Valentine to tag in anyway. He takes Spivey over with a snap mare but misses the windmill forearm. Rotundo in with more right forearms and a dropkick, knocking Valentine out of the ring. Rotundo gives chase, slamming Valentine face-first into the apron and ringside table. He brings Valentine back in with a suplex but misses a leaping elbow drop. Rotundo gets tossed to the floor while Spivey gets lured in as a distraction for the referee. Back inside, Beefcake with a snap mare and a series of fist drops for two. Whip and Beefcake with an elbow on the chest. Whiplash into the corner with the Champions making quick tags for boosted damage. Rotundo tries to fight out of the corner, but Valentine hooks the ankle to keep him from getting to his partner. Beefcake hops on Rotundo's back with a sleeper, but Rotundo falls forward to slam him face-first into the turnbuckle. Valentine makes a beeline for Spivey to prevent another tag attempt and hangs Rotundo across the top rope. Rotundo counters a suplex with one of his own and finally tags in Spivey. He runs wild with left hands and a butt-ugly dropkick that Monsoon dead-a$$ calls “a beauty” without the hint of sarcasm. Whip and he hits a slightly less awful diving elbow for two. Whip and Rotundo scoops Valentine up with the AIRPLANE SPIN for a near-fall. Spivey throws more lefts on Beefcake and they meet in the middle with a double clothesline. Spivey ducks a wild right and cradles Beefcake. Valentine runs in to prevent the count, allowing Beefcake to counter with a handful of tights and that gets three at 12:37. Complete carry-job from Rotundo for his team, with Spivey doing about 90-seconds of the match at best, and looking bad for most of it. The rest was perfectly cromulent wrestling. **1/2

Meanwhile, Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine had their own unique circumstance. Instead of being chased by the former Champions for a strong loop or having a steady challenger to fill that spot, they would work against all sorts of teams, no matter the markets. Among the challengers beyond the wacky Rotundo and WHOEVER trick to fill in for Windham, were the recently put together team of B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell, soon to go by the name of "The Killer Bees", various combinations of the Hillbilly Clan of Jim, Elmer and Junior, and even Tito Santana and Pedro Morales. Yes, the Intercontinental Champion had so little to do he was thrown into a makeshift team with a past-his-prime Morales for much of his second reign with the gold. When the dust settled, Beefcake and Valentine would finally get their great challengers, and of course, they'd be managed by Captain Lou Albano, looking to make them his 16th set of Tag Team Champions (number unconfirmed).

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