The history of professional wrestling is littered with makeshift tag teams that were created on the whim of a promoter or booker.
War Machine, the pairing of Raymond Rowe and Hanson, is not one of those duos that ended up on the scrapheap of failed ideas. To the contrary, actually. Since being paired by Ring Of Honor two years ago, Rowe and Hanson have traveled the world together while winning both the ROH World Tag Titles and the IWGP Tag Titles in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
"We just got really really lucky in getting formed together and becoming such good friends," Rowe told Fightful.com during an exclusive interview. "I know a lot of people that don't really like some of the people that they have to work with on a day-to-day basis. I'm really blessed that he's become one of my best friends and strictly just because somebody said, 'I think they would go well together.' The rest of it happened kind of organically."
Rowe and Hanson both came to Ring Of Honor at the same time, for the Top Prospect Tournament in 2014. Each wrestled two matches in the tournament at the first event, with Rowe and Hanson advancing to the finals a couple of weeks later in Pittsburgh. Before that night in Pittsburgh, all of their cumulative interaction had consisted of a couple of handshakes. After the TPT finals in Pittsburgh, which Hanson won, the two wrestlers had a lengthy conversation and realized how much they had in common.
"It's crazy to think about how we've really become brothers," Hanson said, adding "We didn't know each other before the Top Prospect Tournament. … Ring of Honor put us together and we just kind of hit it off and realized how similar we are. Similar in our careers, similar in our ideals—we both don't drink, both don't smoke, both straight edge. In this world, especially in the wrestling world, it's hard to find people who are straight edge, in general. And to just randomly be thrown into a team together, it's kind of nuts."
Coming out of the Top Prospect Tournament, ROH decided to try out the duo as a tag team. As Hanson noted, the two wrestlers approached the booking decision with an "all-in" attitude.
"If this was the cards that we're dealt, and we're going to be a tag team, we're going to be the best damn tag team in the world," Hanson said. "We put everything we had into it. I think other teams, makeshift teams in the past, they don't go all-in. They don't dedicate themselves to team, to the idea. Me and Ray, right away, we dedicated ourselves to War Machine and it's paying off right now.”
Both wrestlers said that they feel like their dichotomy in style helps differentiate War Machine from other tag teams. Specifically, Rowe and Hanson flip the typical dynamic labeling wrestlers of their sizes. Rowe is the smaller competitor at 6'2 and about 250 pounds but typically has more of a power wrestler moveset. Meanwhile, Hanson, who tops 300 pounds, is moreso the high flyer of the pair known for his springboards, among other things.
"It's my favorite part of our tag team—our dynamic," Hanson said. "People have seen the Road Warriors before but not with this dynamic, not with one high flyer and one strong guy. … it's always the big guy is the stronger guy throwing guys around and the smaller guy's the high flyer."
Rowe backed up his partner, noting the originality of their pairing.
"Right now we are unique, not only in New Japan but on a global stage," he said. "Nobody is able to do what we do like we do it. They might try to copy it, they might try to steal our moves, they might try to steal our look or steal elements of what we are, but no one is able to bring the reality to what we do like we do.”
Taking the journey together from strangers to friends -- almost brothers -- does not mean Rowe and Hanson do not have their issues of contention. One of the biggest debates between them consists of which man has the better beard.
"We kind of have this joking competition," Rowe said. "He thinks his beard is better because he doesn't trim it; it's just this crazy wild man beard. I think mine is better because mine is very well kept and more aesthetically pleasing. That's a little bit of a rivalry."
Hanson definitely thinks his facial hair is superior.
"It's not really a friendly debate. I have the better beard and that's how we end it," Hanson said. "What it really is, Ray and I have two different beards, ultimately. Ray is very, he wants his nice and well-trimmed, wants it kept real nice, and I don't feel that's in the nature of Hanson. I believe that I need to have wild hair and wild beard and wild chest hair for that matter to really conceive the look that I'm going for, I've never once trimmed my beard but I might have the best smelling beard in all of professional wrestling, and that's very underrated."