This has been a rough year for so many of us WWE fans. While there has been a lot of angst surrounding the main event scene in particular, one of the biggest disappointments of 2018 has been the seemingly systematic stripping of the main roster tag team division’s relevance. A year can be a long time in wrestling but even so it is hard to believe just how far the WWE’s main roster tag team divisions have fallen since the peaks they began to reach in the lead up to Summer Slam last year.
Just twelve months ago on Smackdown, The Usos and The New Day had begun their epic series that saw each team fighting for their in-ring legacies, putting a series of classics that had some commentators on this very site calling their rivalry the 2017 feud of the year. After heating things up with a fantastic Independence Day rap battle and a series of back and forth matches, at Summer Slam the two teams would put on the sleeper match of the night despite being on the pre-show, and go on to have a match of the year contender at Hell in a Cell.
On the red brand a surprisingly fun series between The Bar and The Hardys after Mania led the unlikely duo of Sheamus and Cesaro right into the red hot reunion of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. For me, this reunion story was the height of the creative product for 2017 and the Summer Slam match would kick off a rivalry that would last in various guises until Royal Rumble in January.
These four teams could not sustain two whole divisions though and unfortunately it was when fresh ideas and new rivalries had to be introduced that the wheels started to fall off.
The Usos started a series with Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin that never reached the heights it could have, before the entire division ran into the domination of The Bludgeon Brothers at Wrestlemania. While Harper and Rowan’s inclusion in the division could have been a nice change of pace from the ultra-athletic Uso/New Day formula, their uber dominance quashed fan interest in their matches and programs, even against the reunionited Team Hell No.
For Raw’s part, while the Hardy/Wyatt combo seemed like an interesting opportunity for the division to do something unique, the creative team simply did not know how to write anything compelling for the unorthodox duo. On top of that, the broken Hardy Universe never really gelled with any of the other teams in a believable way. Without a natural opponent the broken schtick has been reduced to a catchphrase and bad comedy act. The division has been left as bad filler, as teams like Titus Worldwide engage in food fights with The B-Team.
One of the more disheartening things to hit the rumor mill after Mania was a report that WWE management had lost interest in tag team wrestling even after such a great 2017. I couldn’t help but hope the same management would take a glance in the mirror and look at what they themselves had sewn when searching for who to blame for this lack of interest.
Make no mistake, a thriving tag team scene has been a hallmark of just about every boom period for the WWE, be it the 80’s, the peak of New Gen, the Attitude Era or even the recent NXT boom. Tag teams are regularly able to provide crowd pleasing back and forth matches and the multi-man aspect of them opens up extra storytelling options for writers to play with. Having just one or two good tag team matches on cards like Extreme Rules or Backlash could have completely changed the balance of the PPVs as they entered the somewhat tedious second and third hours. Instead the lack of any tag team division and change in focus for the women’s division has seemingly left the opening midcard hours of each PPV up to Seth Rollins alone to carry. Rollins is great but no one can ever carry that load all by themselves.
Thankfully though, for all the damage the WWE has done to tag team wrestling this year, the talent on their roster is so strong that even now they are barely a hop, skip and jump away from resurrecting it.
Raw has already taken a few steps in the right direction as they have started to move beyond the Hardy and Wyatt partnership and the absurdity that accompanied it. The B-Team may have been little more than a comedy grouping that were able to draw the most laughs in the vacuum of creative disinterest after Wrestlemania. However they could be the perfect team to transition the division back to something a little more serious and competitive. The WWE has to be willing to tone down the slapstick comedy aspect of the team a tad but putting them up against the serious wrestling buzzsaws of The Revival or The Authors of Pain would immediately change the tone and scope of the division.
While they aren’t DIY, if they ditch the food fight segments, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel are good enough in the ring to play the plucky underdogs against the self-proclaimed Top Guys or pure power of AOP. Both teams have been kept away from the Wyatt/Hardy reign and even the B-Team up until this point, so a showdown against these two is a natural progression for the former Miztourage on their quest to prove themselves. Both AOP and The Revival really turned the stronger/smarter team v underdog faces formula into something special in NXT and I see no reason why they can’t help the B-Team harness the small amount of support they have and turn it into something special.
Even from an ‘in universe’ perspective you can imagine The Revival pragmatically choosing to bide their time while the unconventional Deleters of Worlds slowly ran out of steam. Not knowing what to really make of such an oddball team, they may have just chosen to focus on other goals such as taking Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley down a peg while waiting for a team with a few less tricks up their sleeves to come to the top.
Apart from a few squash matches AOP have also been mysteriously absent from Raw but you can only imagine them licking their lips at the prospect at getting their hands on the massively outgunned B-Team. It is simple but effective booking and the WWE simply has to ditch the comedy and get our of their own way as they transition the B-Team over to these two potentially great programs. If the B-Team can’t get the job done as the top face team then the WWE can just bring back Jason Jordan, reunite the AA-Team and party like it’s NXT in 2016.
On the other side of the ledger on Smackdown the roster is perhaps a few steps behind Raw, still suffering under the hammer of the Bludgeon Brothers, but there are still signs of hope with the return of The Bar.
While The Usos, The New Day and even Team Hell No were game and refused to take a back step in their matches, when push came to shove they simply lacked the ability to match it physically with Harper and Rowan. That is not a problem The Bar will have. Sheamus and Cesaro are both physical beasts, capable of strength beyond their size and both possess the temperament to use it to their advantage in the ring. If they are finally matched up with a team that can keep up with their pure power, we might finally get to see the athleticism of the Bludgeon Brothers come back to the fore. While they look like a traditional WWE hosses, both men, Harper in particular, are complete wrestlers and in the past have shown they are capable of so much more than the beatdowns they have been confined to since Wrestlemania.
Once again it is just simple, competitive booking that could reanimate a division with so much potential. Even if The New Day were sent off to chase singles titles, The Usos have only just scratched the surface in their two Survivor Series face offs with The Bar and I’m sure The Club would love to have a throw down of significance with another smash mouth team.
The WWE don’t need to come up with random teams of singles wrestlers or even trade people across rosters, a simple dedication to competitive programs that work with the characters already on the rosters is all they need.
Really the WWE only needs to look at their own brand, NXT, to see how they could do it well. Despite having teams constantly stripped away from them and moved to the main roster, through those simple booking decisions that work with the natural reaction of each teams characters are getting, NXT has consistently constructed red hot tag divisions. Their own version of the B-Team, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch had a fantastically evocative match with current champs the Undisputed Era just before Money In The Bank and earlier this month on the weekly show Moustache Mountain and Undisputed Era put on the best tag team match in the WWE since at least The Revival v DIY in 2016.
There are few things in wrestling more immediately exciting than great tag team wrestling and I really hope the WWE can get their tag team divisions back on track. They have the rosters, God knows they have the time on each show and as I’ve shown it is only a few small changes away from making it great again.
Thanks for reading, let me know how you would make tag team wrestling great again in the comments below, on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or you can let me know on the LOP Forums. We are also currently recruiting new writers with the opportunity of posting here on the Lords of Pain main page, So if you have ever wanted to write up here then why no sign up here and get started today!
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