Although the WWE's tag team division has certainly experienced a renaissance of sorts over the past few months, thanks to Team Hell No, there is no question that things have been going in the wrong direction as of late. With Darren Young of The Prime Time Players potentially on the shelf for a significant amount of time, the WWE's tag team depth will be challenged moving forward.
According to the Wrestling Observer (via TWNPNews.com), Young could be out until October due to a knee injury. The exact nature of the injury and precisely how it happened is unclear, but it may stem from his elimination in the Royal Rumble. Young took a tough bump and personnel acted as if he had been legitimately injured, including one person throwing up the "X" symbol.
Will Darren Young's injury hurt the WWE tag team division?
Young has been seen on WWE programming since then, but The Prime Time Players' exposure has been lessened significantly. Most fans really took notice on the most recent episode of Main Event. Young's partner, Titus O'Neil, faced Justin Gabriel in a singles match, but Young didn't accompany him to the ring and was nowhere to be found.
In one respect, this can be looked at as a positive since it gives O'Neil the chance to shine as an individual. Most believe that O'Neil is the strong link of the team and has a bright future due to his charisma and size. I like O'Neil personally and feel like he could be a factor as a singles wrestler down the line, but there isn't much room for him currently.
The WWE actually happens to have a ton of roster depth at the moment outside of the tag team division, so there isn't much room for Titus to thrive. The fact that he lost to Gabriel tells me that the WWE isn't exactly planning to push him to the moon right now. I realize that O'Neil becoming a singles wrestler is an unfortunate matter of circumstance, but I liken it to what is happening with Team Rhodes Scholars.
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow decided to amicably end their partnership, which made absolutely no sense to me. With Team Hell No on the brink of destruction, Team Rhodes Scholars could have stepped in and won the Tag Team Championships eventually. Rhodes and Sandow are instead floundering in the singles scene at the moment because neither of them fit into the current plans. They are both extremely talented, however, there is so much talent that some guys are going to get left out.
It seems like O'Neil is in a similar situation. He has a lot of upside and could be a big star at some point, but the road to WrestleMania isn't an ideal time for him to be sent off on his own. The Prime Time Players definitely took a backseat in the tag division once Team Hell No won the Tag Team Championships, but they could have been a factor with Team Rhodes Scholars out of the picture and Team Hell No on the verge of breaking up, as well.
Tag team wrestling is suddenly in dire straits in the WWE, particularly once Kane and Daniel Bryan go their separate ways. That will leave the team of Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara on top, I would assume, along with the new pairing of Brodus Clay and Tensai. There is very little when it comes to heel tag teams right now. In fact, Primo and Epico may be at the top in that regard, which is funny when you consider the fact that they have been used as jobbers since dropping the titles a year ago.
Perhaps the only way to preserve the tag team scene at this point is having The Shield pursue the titles. The Shield is a hot commodity at the moment and could certainly reinvigorate the division. It's tough to say whether or not the WWE will make that move, as some consider it a step back for the group as it is coming off a victory over John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus at Elimination Chamber, but it makes the most sense right now.
After surveying the entire WWE tag team landscape, it becomes increasingly clear that The Prime Time Players might have been next in line for the titles, if not for Young's injury. Truth be told, The Prime Time Players have had some bad luck during their stint as a team. They were rising up the ranks several months ago with A.W. as their manager, but he was fired, and it ultimately led to the team falling out of favor to some degree.
This is yet another bad break when you consider how few options the WWE has when it comes to tag teams. The Prime Time Players are actually one of the longest-tenured teams remaining as they honed their craft together on NXT before it became the WWE's developmental territory. They may not have been the best in-ring workers in the company, but they were entertaining and definitely played an important role.
It's tough to say if The Prime Time Players will reform when Young returns, but I personally hope that they do. At the same time, O'Neil could eventually become a singles star if he is built correctly. In terms of the immediate future, however, O'Neil would have been much better off as a member of The Prime Time Players rather than an individual.
"Mr. No Days Off" Darren Young appears as though he will be forced into taking a lengthy vacation, and I hope that for both his sake and the sake of the WWE tag team division that he makes a full and speedy recovery from whatever is ailing him.