Once again, the "Road Dogg" Jesse James and the "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn will be working house shows for WWE as their Attitude Era tag team, the New Age Outlaws. The duo have made several cameos on episodes of Raw over the last year for specialty programs. Right now is the perfect time for them to come back full time, for a short run.
During the WWE's European tour this year, the New Age Outlaws battled The Shield in what turned out to be the show's main event. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn still draw huge pops from the crowd, and their schtick is once again fresh, having been off the air for so long.
Without an obvious challenger to The Shield's tag team gold, the Outlaws should return to fill the void until viable contenders can develop.
It should be noted that as a general rule I'm opposed to "legends" eating into TV time and storylines that could otherwise go to younger talent. The company is in a new era and should stop relying on stars made 15 years ago to draw fan interest.
That rule can be broken, though, when the legends are being used to put over the young talent and fill a natural gap.
It's a no-lose situation for the WWE right now. Once Kane and Bryan split, which will likely occur after they lose a presumed rematch at Payback, The Shield will be without a challenger. The tag titles are strong around their waist due to their credibility, but they would be stronger with effective feuds and pay-per-view title defenses.
The WWE hasn't established a babyface tag team other than Team Hell No in the past six months and need another few months to get to that point. The Outlaws can fill that gap.
In the Attitude Era, fans tuned in to see Road Dogg and Billy Gunn just as much as they did any other stars of the era. Their pre-match rituals, dances and catchphrases saturated mainstream culture. WWE loves to sell DX merchandise, and we haven't seen new Outlaws apparel in a decade. It would shoot to the top of their sales within weeks of debut.
The Outlaws and The Shield could main event an episode of Raw as a tag team. The Outlaws could add a third man, even sticking with Daniel Bryan, to run six-man tags. As The Shield becomes more popular with the crowd, the presence of the Outlaws will keep them heel as no audience will pop louder for them than the goofball team from the Attitude Era.
The key, though, is to know from the start that the Outlaws' involvement is meant solely to make The Shield more impressive. The feud would help draw back old-school fans who want to see their favorites from yesteryear. They would see and like The Shield and stick around.
More money from merchandise. More fans watching to see old stars. More fans seeing The Shield. No young guys are hurt long term by jobbing out to The Shield. Finally, The Shield rolls on through the summer to stay strong and develop into a greater draw.
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