WWE Loses Sight of Tag Team Division in Push to WrestleMania XXX

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WWE Loses Sight of Tag Team Division in Push to WrestleMania XXX
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One of the greatest highlights of the last two years has been the reemergence of the tag team division in the WWE.

After years of forgettable jobber tag teams or Big Show and his partner of the month carrying the WWE tag gold, we witnessed the formation of numerous legitimate, committed tag teams which brought fans to the edge of their seats. 

Let's rattle off some of the teams in no particular order: Team Hell No, The Shield, The Wyatt Family, The Rhodes Brothers, the Real Americans and the reigning-champion Usos. It's fair to say that the latter pair wouldn't be as celebrated by the crowd if Rikishi's didn't put on great matches with all of the names preceding them on the list. 

Prior to Daniel Bryan and Kane winning the belts in September 2012, the previous 30 months were horrendous. Remember when David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty (Curtis Axel) held the belts for three months? How about the two-time champs Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel of The Corre? Then there was that indomitable tandem of Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. 

Prior to Team Hell No's title win and dominant 245-day reign, Kofi Kingston and R-Truth held the belts for 139 days. Epico and Primo (Los Matadores) broke the 100-day mark, and Air Boom held the belts for 146 days. Don't ask anyone to name a significant feud from this time period, though, because there wasn't one. The tag belts were an afterthought, simply there to remind people that tag team wresting existed beyond John Cena and a friend against two bad guys.

Bryan and Kane, who for all we know were intended to just be another goofball, hamster wheel of a tag team, made it work because they are two of the most naturally gifted entertainers in the company.

They were followed by Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, the return of Goldust to join his brother, the stunningly brilliant pairing of Cesaro and Jack Swagger with Zeb Colter and the emergence of Jimmy and Jey Uso, who had toiled in mediocrity for years before developing into the closest pairing we've seen to the Hardy Boys since Matt and Jeff went back to promoting OMEGA shows. 

The WWE tag team division was cooking. Then Bray Wyatt and his Family arrived, bringing a whole new dimension of scary power to the core of tag team savants. We were barreling toward a WrestleMania that sported the best-built division since the Attitude Era. 

Unfortunately, somewhere around the New Year WWE changed its mind about booking a strong tag division into their biggest show of the year. Cody and Goldy dropped the belts to semi-retired New Age Outlaws and then weren't booked consistently since January. The Shield is on the brink of collapse. The Wyatt Family hasn't shown any interest in the tag belts. The Real Americans are headed toward singles action.

And now the Usos have the belts without a legitimate challenger under the age of 40. And no, Ryback and Curtis Axel, Los Matadores and 3MB don't count.

With the Rhodes Brothers likely getting lost in The Andre Classic, it looks like the Usos will be forced to carry two old, broken-down part-timers in a pre-show-worthy rematch to defend the titles at WrestleMania. The match will probably get seven-to-eight minutes and be over before it started. Then maybe after Wyatt jobs to Cena, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will go after the belts.

Sure, the Usos have looked great the last few months and are finally beginning to receive the babyface pops they deserve. They have developed a series of signature spots that the crowd has grown to anticipate and celebrate. The finishing combination of a plancha while tagging in a partner, leading to a Superfly splash off the top rope is exciting to watch. 

However, the complaint with the lack of foresight in the tag division isn't the champs. It's the challengers. The New Age Outlaws were too old for a serious comeback five years ago. They arrived as babyfaces, wrestled in some exhibition matches, and then suddenly turned heel on CM Punk. This heel turn was ignored after Punk walked out on the company, and Road Dogg was back to hyping the crowd before the match. 

Finally, they stopped ramping up the crowd, and went full heel. Unfortunately, WWE needs to remember that the Outlaws are from the Attitude Era and remain a nostalgia act that leads to them both being welcomed by long time fans and also not being taken seriously as full-time challengers to younger, more athletic competition. 

The Usos have already won the belts and received a great reaction in Chicago. Now, the Outlaws have done nothing but sit at the announce booth for the last few weeks, talking about how they'll get their belts back. WWE doesn't want to over expose them with too many matches because they clearly can't go in the ring the way they once did. There is also the present danger of an injury to either aging star at any point during a match. If WWE were to lose either of them to a sudden torn quad or injured shoulder, they'd be forced to rush the Rhodes brothers in off the scrap heap after booking them poorly for three months. 

Personally, I would have preferred a well-booked feud between the Usos and the Real Americans with Colter's boys carrying the belts into WrestleMania, running down the Usos as foreigners until they hit a big splash and pin Swagger and capture the titles. The Cesaro-Swagger conflict is premature and easily lost in WrestleMania season. Especially since I don't see how they justify giving Swagger a singles match at Mania for the second year in a row, even if it is just to put over another more talented wrestler. Cesaro doesn't need to beat Swagger to prove to everyone he's better than him. 

Tag team and trios wrestling has carried WWE weekly programming for the last 18 months. Combinations of all of the teams named, along with guest appearances by Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio, Kofi and others helped fill the swollen six hours of weekly programming that WWE produces domestically in the United States, not counting others distributing internationally. 

I hope the WWE doesn't abandon the division, as it went a long way toward establishing some great talents and provided great moments for its fans. 

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