After a resurgence last year, WWE's tag team division has become a thinning patch of ice in need of repair.
A lack of depth, an underuse of available talent and thrown-together title bouts are the biggest issues holding back the company's teams. It won't take overhauls to fix those, either. WWE simply has to add a few new cards and reshuffle its deck.
For much of the second half of 2013, tag teams were regularly the highlight of WWE programming.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust and The Shield delivered an enduring moment at Battleground when the Rhodes boys earned redemption and saved their jobs. The Wyatt Family, The Usos and The Real Americans put up strong performances regularly.
When some combination of foes took on The Shield on Raw each week, it was often a thrilling encounter.
Fast-forward to the present and there has been far less to savor. The Prime Time Players are no more. The Real Americans broke up at WrestleMania 30.
WWE has paid a lot of attention to a feud between 3MB and Los Matadores that is more focused on the animosity between Hornswoggle and El Torito.
Before one shouts at the screen that other teams should be getting that spotlight instead, think about the limited options the company has when it's tag team time.
Lack of Depth
The Shield and The Wyatt Family, two of the most compelling teams in recent memory, are more on the periphery of the division than actually a part of it.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are headed for a collision with the newly reformed Evolution. That feud has taken them away from competing with other teams. And while Randy Orton and Batista stepping into the division would be great for it, one of those men is reportedly set for a hiatus.
According to PWInsider (via Wrestling Inc), "Batista is apparently taking some time off after WWE's Extreme Rules pay-per-view."
Since focusing on John Cena, The Wyatt Family haven't competed much with non-Cena opponents. Bray Wyatt is understandably busy trying to coax a monster out of a hero, but Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have played his sidekick more often than being a bruising tag team lately.
That leaves WWE with five teams:
- Los Matadores
- Ryback and Curtis Axel
- Cody Rhodes and Goldust
- The Usos
There are only so many combinations one can come up with when that's the list of available duos. It's a list that may soon shrink as well.
WWE planted hints that the long-expected Rhodes vs. Goldust feud could be on its way. Rhodes was visibly upset with his brother on the April 21 Raw.
Even if the former champs work things out, there is no way the division can thrive with 40 percent of the teams being comic relief. WWE can't sell a 3MB vs. Rhodes and Goldust rivalry. The company doesn't have nearly enough viable challengers for The Usos as well.
For that reason, we could be headed for a three-month program between RyBaxel and The Usos.
Talk about a downgrade from The Shield's feud with the Rhodes boys last year. Who else are The Usos supposed to face, though? There needs to be added choices for WWE's booking team.
Those additions can come from a variety of sources.
Fix No.1-Add Teams/Use Available Talent
Harper and Rowan have to be put into action more. Those two big savages have had some mighty exciting moments in the ring since their debut.
They had an excellent run going against The Usos not long before the brothers won the tag team titles. Those squads had a lot of chemistry together, athleticism juxtaposing power, backwoods savages tangling with likable warriors.
On top of showcasing The Wyatt Family, WWE has to create new teams from folks on the roster who are not given television time to match their ability.
No one will confuse Evan Bourne with Daniel Bryan, but Bourne is too talented to remain the last guy on the bench. According to F4WOnline, via Wrestling Inc, "Bourne has been cleared to wrestle for a while now." Stick him with a partner and give all the division's teams a high-flyer to work against.
Reuniting Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd is an easy way to get another talented team in the mix.
F4WOnline, via Wrestling Inc, reported back in February that WWE was considering putting Dolph Ziggler and The Miz together as a pair of disgruntled stars. The move would add star power to the division and assure that it had another team who could bring it on the mic.
WWE should also find a partner for Big Show.
The big man still has name recognition, but he has slowed as of late. Solve that with a smaller, younger talent who can do most of the work in the ring before Big Show clears house after tagging in.
The company also has a promising duo waiting to be called up from NXT. The Ascension would bring excitement to the main roster. Having an established gimmick that will grab attention right away is a bonus.
Regardless of what teams WWE decides to bring in, it also needs to do a better job of deciding who are the division's contenders.
Fix No. 2-Make Title Matches Harder to Come By
Are Ryback and Axel the top team in the division other than The Usos? It's hard to tell because WWE has seemingly thrown together title matches without much thought as of late for the tag teams.
At WrestleMania 30, RyBaxel, Los Matadores and The Real Americans all challenged The Usos for the titles.
That's almost the entire division. What did the bullfighters do to deserve it? Had Ryback and Axel really earned enough wins to warrant that chance?
You don't see challengers being so randomly chosen for the world title. Fandango is not going to get a crack at it, you can count on that.
WWE can work on this by emphasizing recent win streaks more. It felt like The Usos essentially got a win over every team in the division other than The Shield before they got their title opportunity at Money in the Bank.
That's what it should take to get that shot. One fluke win here or there is not enough. Otherwise, the championship gets devalued and fans are less engaged in the process of who wins and loses it.
The company is doing a great job in that department with the Intercontinental Championship by way of a three-round tournament to name the No. 1 contender.
By the time Rob Van Dam or Bad News Barrett step into battle with Big E, they will have defeated three other Superstars. Tag team contenders need to follow a route as challenging as that.
Of course, that will be far easier to do when there are more teams.
The division clearly is hitting a valley at the moment. It won't take a miracle to have it trend upward again, just a few tweaks.