and London: A force that struck like lightning
by Michael Dworkis
What makes two singles stars like Billy Kidman and Paul London such a great tag team? What makes them deserving of the WWE Tag Team Championship? The same thing could be asked about a team that no one should ever forget… Strike Force. Time to take notes.
In 1987, Rick Martel was in the middle of a rivalry with the Hart Foundation when his partner Tom Zenk left WWE. Years before he became “The Model”, Martel, well-versed in mat based methods who never had an issue with leaping off the top rope, wanted a partner that he could mesh well with. Enter Tito Santana, a unique individual who maintained the ability to move fast in the ring with great agility and exhibit the ring resourcefulness to grapple with an opponent on the mat. One minute Santana could level a challenger with a standing dropkick, the next minute he suplexes his foe to the mat and then quickly applies a submission maneuver, keeping the subject uncertain of what he will do next. Santana joined Martel, and the two formed a solid, fluid team. However, many still would show doubt that Strike Force could go “all the way.” As the number of appearances together increased, so did their cult-like following. Eventually, their popularity grew enough to earn national recognition. On October 27, 1987 in Syracuse, New York, they pulled off the upset, defeating the Hart Foundation, recognized as the best tag team of the time, for the World Tag Team Championship. Right then and there the popularity of two individuals who comprised an unlikely tag team soared. Fans everywhere took notice to the amazing flair that Martel and Santana put together.
While in WCW, Kidman held the World Tag Team Championship twice, the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship and to date has a total of seven Cruiserweight Championship reigns (combined number from WCW and WWE). Fast forward to 2004. Already famous as one of the best cruiserweights ever, Kidman decided to turn his focus to a new direction. Billy Kidman is no stranger to tag team competition, but that was WCW, and this is WWE. Kidman hoped to repeat the same success in WWE that he found with Mysterio in WCW. However, with Rey concentrating on the Cruiserweight Championship, Kidman needed to find someone whose skills possessed similarities in style and finesse in the ring.
Enter Paul London. The 24-year-old WWE rookie was anxiously looking to make an impact.
While still relatively new to the WWE scene, London trained at the Shawn Michaels academy in Texas and has participated in many matches in various regional promotions in the United States. Before coming to WWE, London was the winner of the 2003 Super 8 Tournament, defeating the best the independent scene had to offer. After working a few months in Japan, London was recruited to WWE as part of the SmackDown! brand. In the months following their initial team-up, London and Kidman’s matches allowed them the time and place to perfect their skills, nail down their double-team tactics, and finding the right formula to gel their talents together. Already having earned a “cult-like” following among fans, it would be just a matter of time until Kidman and London would make their move to go for the championship. In the weeks prior to their first Tag Team Championship match, they earned singles victories against Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley on Velocity, earning their championship opportunity on SmackDown! Like when Strike Force got their chance, they too refused to walk away empty handed. July 8, 2004 is a day that won’t be forgotten, as Kidman and London put their unique skills to the ultimate test, using every move, hold and trick up their sleeve, which resulted in winning the WWE Tag Team Championship from the Dudleys.
In short, Rick Martel and Tito Santana, two men famous for their singles career, combined their talents to form a championship duo which upset the Hart Foundation, the biggest team of their time. Similarly, with Billy Kidman and Paul London’s skills combined, they formed a cohesive unit that struck with amazing force, defeating the toughest team on WWE’s current roster. Since then, Kidman and London have enjoyed a stardom never thought possible.
There’s your comparison. Well, except Rick Martel never was seen executing a BK Bomb or Shooting Star Pressoff the top, and Tito Santana never used a Dropsault or a 450 Splash.
Clearly, I see some of Rick Martel and Tito Santana in Billy Kidman and Paul London. Do you? How about some other classic WWE teams? Do any of today’s teams remind you of them? There’s the Hart Foundation, Demolition, LOD, Brain Busters. Let me know. Click here to send me your thoughts.