WWE Tag Team Division: How It Could Have Been Much Better with No Effort
If you're anything like me, tag teams were a big part of why you watched wrestling in the first place. Sure, everybody loves to hear the Rock break someone down, or watch Kane or the Undertaker do something spooky, but the rest of the time, there's not much better than seeing some good old "tag team action!"
Maybe you grew up with The Hart Foundation and The Legion of Doom, but I got into wrestling right around the turn of the millennium, so for me the pedestal carries the Hardy Boyz, Dudleys and Edge and Christian. But it wasn't just those three teams doing it all. There was actually a bevy of other teams going at that time.
APA, T&A, Kaientai, Too Cool, the New Age Outlaws, not to mention bigger stables like DX and Right to Censor, plus all the shorter-lived or occasional teams like the Holly "cousins" and the Brothers of Destruction—and of course, the many teams of "any two guys."
These were the glory days of tag teams in my mind. You had power, speed, high risk, style, humor, ruthlessness, danger and all of that wrapped up mostly in what would otherwise be largely forgettable individuals.
At that time, nobody would have imagined Edge, Jeff Hardy or Christian as World Champion material.
But they didn't need to be.
The "big three" of TLC fame were each establishing a style in-ring, a look, an attitude and making themselves synonymous with a particular weapon. Each team had its supporters. There wasn't a straight-up "heel" team everyone had to boo. You just liked who you liked.
Too Cool were out there making everyone see something through those glasses and dancing after every match. Scotty 2 Hotty managed to do something more ridiculous than the People's Elbow, and people ate it up.
Test and Albert had only three things in common—size, unfortunate names and Trish Stratus—and that was more than enough to legitimize them for a while.
APA were getting backstage segments that had no bearing on anything in the ring, giving people Clotheslines From Hell, and working for the highest bidder.
They weren't just the day's main eventers thrown together for a night, or the Big Show and some small heel staying together as long as they have the belts.
They had specialized styles of wrestling, they had combination moves that took actual creativity, cooperation, and practice to make look good, but they were good. Some of them even became legendary. Table or no table, a 3D is a memorable move. It sticks with you.
Now, it was inevitable that things would end, and all these teams would break up. And the WWE may never have three teams as good or as popular at the same time again, let alone such a deep and varied division.
But they never will if they don't have at least three full-time teams running concurrently. And they could have had much more than that, and with practically zero effort.
Cryme Tyme was a fun tag team with style and swagger.
They'd been around for a while and never amounted to much in a competitive sense, never winning the titles after just one No. 1 contender opportunity.
On the other hand, they were fun, exciting, and different from the rest of the roster. They had a gimmick and a nice mix of size in Shad Gaspard and speed and agility in JTG.
They had their fair share of backstage promos, notably their Word Up segment, which gave regular appearances to Eve, and gift-wrapped an entire gimmick to Slam Master J, who was a wannabe/wangsta who bothered them for a while before finally getting over with them and becoming an unofficial third wheel.
Sadly the team broke up shortly thereafter, with Shad and JTG feuding when Shad wanted some "me time."
That was pretty much all she wrote for Shad, while JTG lingers on in obscurity.
I'm not sure why Shad was sent to FCW and then released, but if he could have stayed around or come back, we could have some Cryme Tyme right now instead of JTG on Superstars.
The Hart Dynasty
The son of the British Bulldog. The daughter of Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart. The "last graduate" of the famed Hart Dungeon.
The Hart Dynasty had quite a pedigree.
And they were pretty good, too - they had a great look in borrowing the pink-and-black ring gear, the combination of spark plug/technical specialist Tyson Kidd with the (relatively) bigger David Hart Smith was a good one, and their combo move, the Hart Attack, had a great name to go with a cool look.
They even won the tag team belts once.
They only broke up last year, and now Smith is on the independent circuit, and Kidd might as well be, as the last thing of note he did was wrestle a then-afterthought Daniel Bryan after an "argument" over whose trainer was better, Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart. It was very rabbit season/duck season. Maybe if they'd ended with that punchline...
Anyway, it would have taken less than no effort to keep these guys together and relevant (even with Natalya spending all her, um, limited time with Beth Phoenix.
One thing the WWE has gotten right with the Usos is their entrance. The brothers do the Siva Tau, the Samoan war dance, which is totally unique in wrestling entrances, and other than a little drum flourish to start, is entirely their voices and actions for about 30 seconds. Only once they've finished does their modern entrance theme begin.
One thing the WWE got wrong was to refer to it as the Haka, the more familiar (thanks to the New Zealand All Blacks) Maori dance.
Though looking back, they didn't start off this way. Their early promo on RAW had them dressed like preppy college kids, which I liked. They cut an OK promo for being the new kids. Nothing special, but they can talk.
Personally, I'd like to see them keep their tribal ring entrance and celebrate their roots in that way, but play the more modern, dressed-up look backstage and in promo work. I think the contrast would help make them deeper, more involving characters.
But the most important thing is to simply make them relevant in the title hunt.
Epico and Primo
So, Primo (which means cousin) was the first ever Unified Tag Team Champion with brother Carlito. The Puerto Rican brothers were sons of Carlos Colon and wrestled as the Colons.
Carlito left the WWE because someone was uncool, and Primo's claim to fame of last year was occasionally appearing in Z! True Long Island Story.
Then the WWE struck out with Mexican superstar Mistico (Sin Cara), who was injured after a short, rocky beginning to his WWE career, and they had just unmasked Hunico (also Sin Cara), who they felt needed a tag partner, so they grabbed the nearest unused Latin superstar (Primo) and also called up another in Primo's primo (cousin), Epico.
That lasted all of one show, and now Primo and Epico are tagging together and being accompanied by Rosa Mendes for some reason. (Apparently she's at least part Puerto Rican, so I guess that's something).
This is not a bad team to have, and I'm for the safe, low-impact use of a diva as a valet over the misuse of a diva in squash matches or not at all. Plus, it always opens up the potential for mixed tag action.
I feel like these guys need a tag team name. As legit and kayfabe cousins, they should do better than to come out to their ring names with the "and" in the middle, which makes them seem less a real team than, say, Air Boom, who actually are just two guys put together.
I would also like them to get a new theme song, as I prefer Primo's old individual entrance theme, which mentioned Puerto Rico in the lyrics and sounded better.
Also, the team should cut promos about being Puerto Rican, including making the point that they are U.S. citizens, and take a position on whether they like that or not. They should make a point that they are not Mexican like many of the other Latin superstars are.
So, initially, Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne were what I dislike about tag teams in the WWE: Two seemingly random guys thrown together. No theme, no gimmick.
What they had going for them was their similarity, in that both were agile, high-energy, popular faces.
They also were both going nowhere individually.
Compare that to throwing Big Show together with Jericho or Miz, and it's much more acceptable.
Better yet, they actually became something of a team. They created a name that was (barely) more than just their names smashed together like they were some kind of Hollywood power couple. (Seriously, why didn't Show and Miz or Jericho adopt some third world babies, walk the red carpet together, and cheat on each other?)
Of course, Bourne had to get popped and now both men have faded into the background, which would be acceptable IF THEY WEREN'T THE DAMN CHAMPIONS. If you want to slow someone's push, have them lose some matches and drop their titles.
But then they'd need a legitimate field to compete in and credible opponents to lose to. As of today, the only ones who are really established are the Usos, and I don't get the impression that WWE Creative is ready to roll with the brothers.
Whatever happens, Air Boom needs to defend their titles against someone. Preferably not two guys thrown together for the purpose. Maybe if it's Santino and Jinder Mahal. (Miss you, Kozlov.)
They should also get a new entrance theme, as their team song is worse than either competitor's individual song. Nice try, though.
Still, if they hadn't split the two older teams up, you'd have a division that looked like this:
- Air Boom
- Hart Dynasty
- Cryme Tyme
- Primos (Primo & Epico Colon)
Five teams isn't much, but it's enough to have one team out for injury, one in the doghouse, and still two different teams vying to contend with the champs at any given time.
That's what you could have with just what is already established or had been and was broken up. No effort. But with just a little effort, things could be even better.
Hunico & Camacho
It's only been about a month since Camacho and the low rider bike debuted on WWE television.
But if Camacho can wrestle as well as Mason Ryan, why not get these two involved in tag team matches sooner rather than later? They can lag near the bottom of the ranks until they get some in-ring experience, a name, and an entrance.
Whereas the Colons are Puerto Rican and the Usos are Samoan, this team would be Mexican by virtue of the higher-profile Hunico. (Camacho's dad, Haku, is from Tonga.)
We haven't had a Latin-power or gang-style gimmick stable in a while, so adding a third player here could open up that avenue.
Alternatively, we could get the bike involved. I think it could have taken Head and Moppy.
This slide is basically about Justin Gabriel plus any one man (or two or three).
The name I came up with, NXTC, which WWE can have, free, enjoy, is supposed to be a nod to NXT (obviously), but also to INXS and NSYNC and similar band names. It's pronounced "In Ecstasy" and the general idea (beyond using NXT washouts, flameouts, and other disappointments) would be a stylish, rock and roll, good-looking group that is (theoretically) a hit with the ladies.
Heath Slater could make the group if he cut his hair and closed his mouth. Darren Young could maybe make the group. Alex Riley with a bit of a re-tool. Percy Watson with a little tweak to tone down the energy on his "Showtime" gimmick could work, or even Byron Saxton or Johnny Curtis. Alternatively, you could throw in a diva or two. Kaitlyn might fit well, and it would give her something to do on TV that was low-pressure.
If this idea is only good in my head, putting Gabriel together with any other rarely-used but competent wrestler would be good. Particularly someone mat-based or good on the mic, but possibly also someone like Yoshi Tatsu.
The Freebird Rule, Divas, and Competition
So now we have a fairly deep roster of real teams and/or stables:
- Air Boom
- The Hart Dynasty
- Cryme Tyme
- Hunico and Camacho
Add one more (I saw a good idea out there for Ted DiBiase and one of the other second-generation superstars, but I didn't want to steal it) and you have four per show, or three per show plus the champions.
Which is a start, but I still feel that with only the one pair of belts and seven or eight full-time teams (the odd temporary combo of convenience is OK with me, but not as long-term champs), the teams should all be able to compete on any show, any time: RAW, Smackdown!, even NXT or Superstars for non-title matches.
I know the WWE is getting away from brand division with their "Super"shows, but I want this to be a permanent rule. Let the stars have their own show as singles wrestlers, but appear on either show for tag competition.
Second, the Freebird rule should be an understood permanent fixture to tag competition. General Managers can "punish" teams by letting their opponents pick the competitors, or heels can eliminate the best wrestler pre-match, and force the weaker guys to defend.
But it also opens up possibilities with the female tag partners and mixed-tag title defenses.
In fact, with Divas tag belts discussed but turned down (wisely) by the WWE recently, this could be an alternative.
- Air Boom (two men) lose to the Hart Dynasty (two men with female manager)
- The Hart Dynasty lose to Cryme Tyme in a mixed tag match with male managers
- Cryme Tyme lose to the Bella twins and Ricardo Montalban, I mean Ricky Ricardo, I mean Ricardo Rodriguez in a mixed tag match with male & female manager, respectively (and a classic Bella switcheroo.)
- The Bella twins lose to the (ugh) "Chickbusters" AJ & Kaitlyn
- AJ & Kaitlyn lose to the Divas of Doom, I mean Pin-Up Strong
Looks complicated, but it's simple. If more than half the teams have at least one guy and one girl, moving the belt onto and off of divas shouldn't be complicated.
So there you have it.
The WWE tag team division is currently in bad shape but looking up just a little bit compared to recent history.
However, with almost no real effort, it could have been a lot better. Not a renaissance like in the years leading up to the first couple of TLC matches, but much better than what we have now.
Several colorful, long-term tag teams with a varied level of experience and longevity realistically and regularly competing for the tag team belts in a division with depth and legitimate competition.
Well, we can dream.
And WWE can call up Shad Gaspard and David Hart Smith, maybe see what they're doing.
While they're at it, they can call up Brodus Clay's momma, maybe she wants to start a tag team.