The Usos are flying toward WWE gold at just the right time.
The company's patience with The Usos' rise has allowed the team's fanbase to grow and the group to morph into compelling warriors before taking center stage. The Usos have been exciting for some time but in the last six months that have shown that they are capable of thriving as kings of the tag team division.
Jimmy and Jey Uso will make 2014 their year, heading a tag team division on the verge of major change.
The Shield is close to imploding. The Real Americans have shown some cracks as well. The rumored plans for Cody Rhodes and Goldust are for them to split and then fight each other at WrestleMania XXX, per F4WOnline (via WrestlingInc.com).
WWE has less to worry about regarding these shifts knowing that The Usos are now ready to be champions.
That wouldn't have been true two years ago. The Usos were a fun team to watch, but their resume lacked any standout matches.
A part of that has to be attributed to lack of opportunity. It's tough for any duo to impress when asked to battle comedy teams like 3MB or Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov.
Team Hell No and then The Shield were the stories of the division from 2012 to 2013. The Usos were but a minor subplot.
The first match that truly had folks raving about Jimmy and Jey was their pre-show bout against The Shield at Money in the Bank 2013.
At the time, The Usos didn't seem like legit threats for the tag team titles. They hadn't put together enough signature wins and were going up against a team that had downed Superstars like John Cena, Undertaker and Chris Jericho.
It felt like The Usos had as much chance to win as Johnny Knoxville has of winning an Academy Award.
Once the bell rang, that changed. Seemingly powered by the fans in attendance and this chance in the spotlight, the brothers dove, darted and flipped their way to excellence.
Had WWE let them win the tag team titles that night, it certainly would have been shocking, but it would have been too early. Fans had yet to truly glom onto The Usos the way they have now.
They have since proved that this match was no fluke.
Their three-team tilt at Hell in a Cell 2013 earned four stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via ProFightDB.com). They followed that with a good showing their Survivor Series elimination match against The Shield and The Real Americans. That bout tied for the night's highest rating (3.5 stars) from Wrestling Observer (via ProFightDB.com).
Performances like these and what the brothers produce on Raw and SmackDown each week have grabbed the audience's attention.
Alice Radley, host of the RWR podcast, summed up much of what is so appealing about The Usos:
I truly find find The Usos are becoming my fave tag team. Classic gimmick, shared move set, great workers, regal heritage.— Alice Radley (@AliceRadley) January 28, 2014
Few people were calling The Usos their favorites a few years ago, even as they prepared to challenge The Shield at Money in the Bank. Their popularity has since bulked up.
Crowd reactions for them are increasing. Sites like WrestleZone.com are offering more praise their way:
It doesnt get much better than the Usos as a TEAM. That I why they are in this main event spot.— WrestleZone.com (@WRESTLEZONEcom) January 14, 2014
That's not surprising after the brothers continue to fatten their in-ring resume. While there was a time not long ago where it would be hard to name five favorite Uso matches, narrowing it down to five is the challenge now.
Their recent battles against The Wyatt Family have to go on that list somewhere.
These matches showcased their versatility, informing fans that The Usos aren't just two dudes with springs in their legs but instead top-notch overall in-ring performers.
The front-page story following their cage match against Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan on Jan. 13 was Bryan breaking away from The Wyatt Family. What was lost in the excitement about that moment was that The Usos looked like a headlining team inside the steel.
These were two gladiators blending athleticism with toughness, flashiness with grit.
Their victory against the former world champ and the man who calls himself "The Eater of Worlds" was one of their biggest wins to date. It also provided the lasting image of Jey leaping from the top of the cage onto Erick Rowan.
A week later, The Usos brawled with Rowan and Luke Harper on Raw, holding their own against the brutes.
This adds to the collection of Uso-centric memories the audience has. When the team challenged The Shield last July, few of those existed in fans' brains.
The Usos are now reportedly penciled in as The New Age Outlaws' next challengers, per F4WOnline (via WrestlingInc.com). Should they win and claim the tag team division's top spot, it will be at just the right time.
Their popularity is trending upward. Their perception has been strengthened 10 times over in the last few months.
They will enter that match not as underdogs but as warriors worth rooting for. WWE has timed the brothers' rise perfectly, waiting until fans were invested in them, until The Usos' swords were sharp enough for this battle.