The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs The Midnight Express.
The British Bulldogs vs The Hart Foundation.
The Lucha Bros vs The Young Bucks.
The Gangstas vs Public Enemy.
The Fabulous Ones vs The Sheepherders.
The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz vs Edge & Christian.
DIY vs The Revival.
The Steiners vs The Outsiders.
The Motor City Machine Guns vs Beer Money.
Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team vs The Kings Of Wrestling.
Off the top of my head, those are some of the greatest tag team rivalries in the history of professional wrestling. They cover different promotions, different styles, different decades, different emotions… covering all bases.
A few years ago, if you were to ask me what I thought was the BEST tag rivalry of all-time, I probably would have said The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs The Midnight Express. It was a feud that spread out over years and years, with different promotions along for the ride. The feud was even able to continue after Dennis Condrey left the NWA, forcing “Sweet” Stan Lane to replace him in The Midnight Express.
A few years ago, if you were to ask me what my FAVORITE tag rivalry of all-time was, I probably would have said the three-way feud between Los Guerreros, Edge & Rey Mysterio, and Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit. Those men would go on to be labeled “The Smackdown Six” and would put on great matches for months on end.
Now, if you were to ask me both of those questions, I think my answers have changed.
I think The New Day vs The Usos is the BEST tag rivalry of all-time, and I also think it is my FAVORITE tag rivalry of all-time.
Let’s take a look back at some stats.
The very first time that the two teams would face each other was on August 22nd, 2014. It was a house show in Stockton, California that saw The Usos defending the WWE Tag Team Titles against Big E & Kofi Kingston, as well as Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, in a three-way tag match.
The first time they were involved in a match against each other on television was the December 1st, 2014 episode of Raw. There’s just one catch, though. It was a Tag Team Turmoil Match that saw E and Kofi eliminated before The Usos even entered the match.
Fast forward to the March 12th, 2015 episode of Smackdown. That night, we saw The Usos team up with Kofi and Xavier Woods to take on Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Los Matadores in an eight-man tag.
The teams would be involved in different types of matches from Survivor Series eliminations to six-man tags with different partners. Their very first pure tag match against each other came on January 3rd, 2016 at a house show in Corpus Christi, Texas, this time with E & Kofi defending the WWE Tag Team Titles.
Eight days later, on the January 11th, 2016 episode of Raw, is when history was made. That was the night of the very first televised two-on-two match between the teams.
Here we are, nearly seven years later. They’ve faced each other a ton through the years.
New Day were formed over eight years ago. Would you like to know how many times New Day and The Usos have faced each other in one way, shape, or form in those eight-plus years?
No? Well, too bad, because I’m going to tell you, anyway.
On television or pay-per-view, they’ve faced each other a grand total of 55 times now. In those 55 matches, we’ve seen ten different singles matches, 21 straight up tag team matches (including three where Big E teamed with non-New Day members after being split from Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods in the WWE Draft), nine six-man tag matches, three eight-man tag matches, two ten-man tag matches, four three-way tag matches, two four-way tag matches, two handicap tag matches, one 20-man Survivor Series elimination tag match, and one 12-man Elimination Chamber elimination tag match.
That’s a lot. New Day is 100 months old, and in those 100 months, they’ve had 55 matches against The Usos in some form or fashion. Some of that, and perhaps more than some, falls at the feet of Vince McMahon and his insane lack of creativity. Every feud in WWE was driven into the ground that way, with matches taking place on television and pay-per-view over and over and over again. Singles feuds, tag feuds, main event feuds, opening match feuds, men’s feuds, women’s feuds… it didn’t matter to Vince. He wanted you and I to see the same people in the ring as many times as physically possible. It does go deeper with these guys, though, because it was something that worked. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened as often as when Vince was in charge, but if anyone else was running WWE during those years, they would’ve seen the chemistry that New Day and The Usos have, as well as the quality of their matches, and they would’ve put them together more often.
Am I crazy for elevating this rivalry to the heights that I have?
Obviously, I don’t think I am. Not for this decision, at least.
What do you look for in a great pro wrestling rivalry? First of all, it boils down to what kind of fan you are. Some fans value the in-ring product higher than anything else, while it’s all about the moments for others. There’s no “wrong” answer, of course. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair had some of the sport’s greatest matches against each other in their legendary rivalry, but I think it’s fair to say that Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant, while nowhere near the match quality that Steamboat and Flair delivered, had bigger moments that will go down in history, having been seen by more people and made bigger shockwaves that set the tone for the years to follow.
I tend to lean more to the “match quality” side of things at this stage of my life and wrestling fandom. Don’t get me wrong. I love me a good promo, segment, or a moment that will live on in highlight reels and video packages for decades to come. I’m just someone that has seen a lot of my formative years as an adult wrestling fan falling in love with promotions like Ring Of Honor, New Japan, and old-school All Japan stuff, where the overwhelming focus there has been the matches.
Does this rivalry deliver when it comes to match quality? You bet. It absolutely does. Some of my favorite WWE matches of the last eight years have featured some sort of combination of these five men. TLC 2015 (also featuring Kalisto and Sin Cara) was a great Ladder Match. Their four pay-per-view stretch in 2017 (Money In The Bank, Battleground, SummerSlam, Hell In A Cell) was a tremendous series of matches, building the story and seeing each match turn out better than the one before it, culminating in, arguably, the best Hell In A Cell match in the post-blood era. Clash Of Champions 2017 (also featuring Rusev & Aiden English and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin) was an enjoyable sprint that packed a ton of action into just under 13 minutes of bell-to-bell time. Their match on Smackdown this past week was one of the best they’ve had together, which is really saying something. It was able to take a team in Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods that haven’t exactly been “red hot” in a while and make them look like the vintage version of the duo from New Day’s prime, all because of the rivalry, the competition, and the desire to own the record for longest Tag Team Title reign in company history.
The chemistry in their matches is off the charts. On one side, you have The Usos, who, as twins, have a bond that many of us will never be able to understand, even if we have siblings of our own. Many of the sport’s greatest teams have been siblings, from the Steiners to the Briscos to the Briscoes to Harlem Heat to the Hardys to the Funks to the Young Bucks and on and on and on, but none of those pairings were twins. Jimmy and Jey are able to know what each other is thinking, and often without verbal cues. There’s a beautiful fluidity to what they do together in the ring because of it. On the other side, though, you have New Day, who aren’t related by blood, but they quickly became inseparable after being grouped together. They have bonded over similar philosophies, as well as the frustration that built with the way they were used before the group was formed. Today, they might as well be brothers, because that’s how close they have become. When you put these teams together, you’re talking about a level of smoothness that has rarely been seen in tag team wrestling before.
Does this rivalry deliver when it comes to those “moments” that were previously discussed? Damn right it does. While it wasn’t the first tag Hell In A Cell, they were able to take things to another level during their Cell match in 2017, finding a wonderful balance between tag team WRESTLING and the type of violence and brutality, albeit without the theatrics of blood, that fans have come to expect from these types of matches. The same can be said about the two teams being front and center for the tag team Elimination Chamber in 2020. Again, it wasn’t the first time a Chamber match involved tag teams, but they helped to make it memorable and found that balance between the sweet science of tag wrestling and the animalistic barbarity of the Elimination Chamber.
Did you enjoy the “rap battle” that the two teams had in 2017? I know it wasn’t for everybody, but I liked it. Well, let me clarify that. I liked what The Usos did there. They came across as completely authentic in that setting, like people who are fans of the battle rap world. Jimmy and Jey really came across well in that segment, specifically to a large portion of the WWE Universe that hadn’t always been catered to by the company through the years. Do I want to see more battles in WWE? Pass. For what it was, though, I really think it worked.
Throughout all of the matches and the battles these men have fought, they have always remained respectful of each other. At times, even when you’re dealing with heels and faces, they would almost border on a tense friendship. My favorite moment of their entire rivalry was deeply rooted in respect, although it is worth noting that both New Day and The Usos were faces at this point. On the March 26th, 2019 episode of Smackdown, Big E and Xavier Woods were forced to compete in a Gauntlet Match, and if they won, Kofi Kingston would be given a WWE Title match at WrestleMania 35. Forget the fact that the “Vince McMahon hates Kofi Kingston for some reason now” story was really stupid. E and Woods defeated Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, then defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev, then defeated Cesaro and Sheamus, followed by being attacked by Cesaro and Sheamus after the match, putting E through a table. At this point, they had been in some sort of action for nearly 30 minutes and were exhausted. Their next opponents? The Usos. Jey and Jimmy could’ve picked the bones of a fallen New Day, but instead, they cut a promo talking about how much everyone, from the men and women in the locker room to the fans around the world, respect Kofi Kingston, saying that nobody deserved a WWE Title shot more than Kofi did. The Usos would forfeit, giving E and Woods the win, advancing them to the next stage of the gauntlet. That was some fun storytelling. It made perfect sense for The Usos to stand up for someone that they fought numerous battles with and earned their respect through the years.
When you think about the five men involved in this rivalry, you can immediately see how much all of them have been elevated directly because of the feud. Kofi Kingston and Big E became WWE Champions. Xavier Woods became a big enough star that he was able to turn that into mainstream success such as appearing on game shows, hosting a television show on G4, and voice acting in video games. Both Usos, but especially Jey, have become top-tier players in the company, and have shown that they can, and have been, people who can be involved in the main event scene. No, it isn’t just because they’re related to Roman Reigns, otherwise Manu and Sean Maluta would still be under WWE employment and would be in The Bloodline right now.
Everything you could ever want or need in a great rivalry is here. The teams have combined for 19 Tag Team Title reigns in WWE. They have the two longest Tag Team Title reigns in the history of the company. Almost every single thing they have accomplished, they did so in spite of Vince McMahon’s admitted hatred of tag team wrestling. If you think about every word I’ve typed in this column, the one thing that needs to be remembered is that we might not be at the end of the rivalry. Sure, Big E’s in-ring future is in question, but as long as the other four men are wrestling for WWE, you know there’s a good chance we’ll see them face each other again. If it happens, you can believe it will have high stakes on the line. It sounds like hyperbole, but almost every time you see these teams face each other, titles are on the line, and if they’re not, it’s because they’re having a match for the right to compete for titles.
I’m always in a weird spot when it comes to whether or not I want to see these teams continue facing each other. They’ll have a couple matches, and then I’ll express my desire to move on to something else, and for a while, that’s what I’ll get. Then, they’ll have another match after a while, and because of how good it is, I’ll want to see more. The cycle will continue ad nauseam and will probably do so until they retire.
Even if we never see them face off again, I want to make sure that all five of these men receive their flowers while they’re still around to smell them. You can call it recency bias if you want, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but the thought of New Day vs Usos being the G.O.A.T. when it comes to tag team rivalries is a thought that I simply cannot get out of my head. Chances are, it won’t stretch out as long as some of the other all-time great tag rivalries did, but the wrestling business is also entirely different today than it was in the territory days, so things can’t be “graded” in the same way when it comes to things like that.
It’s a simple one for you this week, folks. Is The New Day vs The Usos your pick for the best (or even your favorite) tag team rivalry in wrestling history? If not, what is your pick? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
The Usos vs The New Day: It’s amazing what can happen when you treat a match like it’s a big deal, attach important stakes to it, and give the competitors a lot of time to work with.
Bryan Danielson vs Sammy Guevara: Danielson’s interesting AEW career continues. He is now 25-3-1 in non-title singles matches on television and pay-per-view in AEW, while his record in title matches is 0-3-1. Win, win, build to a title match, win, win, lose the title match, win, win, build to a title match, win, lose the title match, and so on. I guess we’ll have to see if that continues now that he’s on a winning streak again.
Austin Theory: While it was still a really stupid idea to have him cash his Money In The Bank shot in on a midcard title, and then failing to win, this was a tremendous bounce back for Theory. He is now completely different than the character he was when Vince McMahon fell in love with him. He started his week by cutting a really good promo that showed an entirely new side to himself than most people have seen from him. His promo was so good that it damn near made a convincing case for why he should’ve cashed in on the United States Champion. From there, he had a really good match with Dolph Ziggler where he, once again, showed a different side of himself. Gone were the goofy smiles and the selfies. In their place was a new, aggressive side of a character that is ready to snap because of how people have been treating him and talking about him. Theory finished the night by attacking Seth Rollins and showing that his goal at the moment is still the United States Title. It was the perfect rebound week after the nonsense that we saw last week.
The Usos: Three days after defeating Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, Jimmy and Jey Uso reached day 484 of their Smackdown Tag Team Title reign, officially making them the longest-reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE history. Next up, the 500-day mark, which they will reach on the last day of this month.
Apollo Crews vs JD McDonagh: Who knew Apollo Crews had this kind of talent in him? The answer to that, of course, is “everybody other than Vince McMahon.” Apollo remains one of the best combinations of size, speed, strength, and athletic ability in all of wrestling, and I’m glad he is getting a chance to show that, even if it’s in NXT and not on Raw or Smackdown in front of bigger audiences. It looks like Crews is finally next-in-line for a shot at the NXT Championship, so even bigger things might very well be in his future.
Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor: A really good match, as you would expect from the people involved in it. My only “issue” with the match is that, as good as it was, it is only going to be remembered for the post-match shenaniganery, which saw Austin Theory attack Rollins and pose with the United States Title belt.
The Acclaimed & FTR vs Swerve In Our Glory & The Gunns: “One of these things is not like the other things/One of these things just doesn’t belong/Can you guess which thing is not like the other things before I finish my song?” It’s like that sometimes. In all seriousness, this was a good match with a hot crowd. The live AEW crowds continue to eat everything up when it comes to The Acclaimed and FTR. For wildly different reasons, it’s amazing to see the reactions that both teams are getting.
Eddie Kingston vs Ethan Page: This isn’t a knock on Ethan Page at all, but… it’s really weird to see him being pushed like he is these days. He has spent most of his time with AEW as someone who wasn’t presented as any sort of top-tier talent. Now, all of a sudden, he’s being treated as a main event type of guy that is one of the favorites to win the World Title Eliminator Tournament and earn a shot at the AEW World Title at Winter Is Coming on December 14th. It’s a great chance for AEW to create some freshness in the title picture, though, that’s for sure.
Saraya: She revealed that she is medically cleared to step back into the ring as a wrestler. That’s great news, both for her and for AEW’s women’s division, who could really use her. It was the logical outcome of her signing with AEW. I’m glad that she wasn’t brought in to play some sort of on-screen authority figure like was rumored if she couldn’t wrestle.
Matt Riddle vs Chad Gable: At some point… maybe… possibly… but probably not… Chad Gable should get a push on the WWE main roster. He could be a great midcard champion, and even though he continues to put in some really good performances, any sort of sustained push continues to be just out of reach for him. One day. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. Although the chances of it happening now are exponentially better than they were when Vince McMahon was in charge, that’s for certain.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Santos Escobar: Technically, it was a surprise to see Escobar defeat Nakamura, even with the way it went down. However, when you think about it, he had to win. Bringing Legado Del Fantasma to Smackdown was a big move, but to turn around and have the group’s leader neutered immediately would make the entire thing pretty pointless. Let’s see how much Escobar can be built up now.
Bron Breakker vs Von Wagner: Is Bron Breakker the greatest wrestler to ever live? I’m not sure, but he was able to bring a match out of Von Fucking Wagner that landed on my Weekly Power Rankings, and that’s a pretty amazing feat. This was easily Wagner’s best match. It was a lot of fun seeing these two beasts beat the hell out of each other, but thank Joe Pesci that Wagner didn’t win the NXT Title here. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to recover from that.
Bandido vs Rush: Although this was a fun match to watch, I was disappointed in it, because I know it could’ve been a lot better. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had my expectations too high. This was only the fourth time these two have faced each other (third singles match), and it was the first time they had been in the ring together in nearly 15 months. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the match having more clunky moments than I expected, but that’s precisely what happened. Bandido has what it takes to be a major star for AEW, though. Don’t be surprised if he’s the AEW World Champion at some point.
Indus Sher: Sure, it was a two-minute squash match, but the important thing is that it was a very impressive two-minute squash match. They looked way better than they did when we last saw them teaming up two-plus years ago. Sanga is worlds better, and seemingly a lot more comfortable, than he was in 2020. Veer Mahaan, after a failed main roster run that will be best known for all the jokes about how long it took him to finally come, seems to have a chip on his shoulder now and is anxious to prove what he can really do in the ring. These two big badasses are on a collision course with The Creed Brothers, and THAT, my friends, has worlds of potential if given the opportunity to show it.
Bret Hart: For 23 years, Bret has carried an intense grudge against Goldberg. Bret feels that Goldberg was careless during their match at Starrcade 1999 and that a sloppy thrust kick from Goldberg gave him a severe concussion that ultimately led to post-concussion syndrome that would lead to an early retirement for “The Hitman.” In those 23 years, Bret has found approximately four million different ways to take verbal shots at Goldberg whenever he sees a chance to do so. You can interview him about any topic in the world, and he will find a way to steer that discussion into shit-talking Goldberg. Like Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris in Training Day is with a shotgun, Bret is surgical with his barbs. Like Bret or not, it really is awe-inspiring to see the hate flow so freely within him like it has.
This Week’s Playlist: “PUNTO 40” by Rauw Alejandro & Baby Rasta… “LEJOS DEL CIELO” by Rauw Alejandro… “LOKERA” by Rauw Alejandro, Lyanno & Brray… “Be So Cruel” by ASTN… “Foregone, Pt. 2” by In Flames… “Faster Than The Flame” by Powerwolf… “Abandon Ship” by Designer Disguise… “Follow The Leader” by Hopes Die Last… “Final Mistake” by As The Structure Fails… “This Ride Is Over” by The Mendenhall Experiment… “Still Loving You” by Scorpions… “bodyache” by Purity Ring… “Digital Animal” by Honey Claws… “If You Must” by Del The Funky Homosapien… “Alphabet Aerobics” by Blackalicious… “Poppa Large” by Kool Keith… “Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde… “Runnin” by The Pharcyde… “Drop” by The Pharcyde… “Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest… “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest… “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest & Leaders Of The New School… “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest & Trugoy The Dove… “Electric Relaxation” by A Tribe Called Quest… “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth