In professional wrestling and e-wrestling, a tag team consists of two wrestlers who are working together as a team (more than two is called a stable). Often, they are close partners and backstage friends who team with each other almost exclusively, while other times they are singles competitors who are booked together for just one match. They usually wrestle against a like number of opponents on the other team or teams, however in the occasional "handicap match" there may be an unequal number of competitors on the different teams.
According to the rules of profesional wrestling, only one competitor per team is allowed in the ring at a time, and the only way that a wrestler can change places with a partner is for the competitor in the ring to "tag" him or touch him on some part of his body (usually the hand).
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.
Given the nature of pro wrestling, the "rules" are seldom adhered to and exist as part of kayfabe, the suspension of disbelief required for wrestlers to work as entertainment. This means that often both members of teams, especially heel teams, are in the ring simultaneously with only one member of an ostensibly rule-abiding face. A "bookend" tag team is a term for a tag team where the members look and dress alike. Due to the nature of e-wrestling, bookend tag teams often promo in a similar writing style, such as the MWA with idiotic adventures.
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 (e.g. a six-man tag team match involves two teams of three). In Lords of Pain Wrestling's flagship pay-per-view, Altered Reality, teams often face each other in tag team elimination matches in which all members of a team must be defeated. A tag team match involving more than two teams is referred to by normal qualifiers (e.g. 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.
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 is a typical climax of tag matches.
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 referee's knowledge. This typically results in the legal man being forced to leave the ring once the referee sees him inside—thus giving the audience cause to feel injustice. The word blind tag is sometimes used when the outside wrestler makes the tag without a request from his partner. For example, he can pat on his partner's shoulder when he bounces into the ropes or has his back turned. Usually, the opponent will not see it either, so typically, he will either be attacked from behind by the newly legal wrestler, or try a pin on the inside wrestler, but it will not count since he is no longer legal. This is actually a self tag.
A phantom tag is when a legal wrestler is replaced by his partner without making a legal tag, also without the referee's knowledge. These will, however, be allowed, thus giving this cheating team an advantage; another source of injustice. A wrestler will sometimes clap his hands together for a phantom tag, helping him to convince the referee that a legal tag took place.