Several breakups this year left the WWE tag team division with a number of large holes that the company has only recently begun to patch up.
WWE has transformed an old duo and put together a number of pairings that will add depth to the tag team scene. Goldust and Stardust, Big E and Kofi Kingston, and Heath Slater and Titus O'Neil will all better the division.
It seems that every few months, tag team wrestling in WWE experiences a renaissance, then a decline and the process must begin anew.
The Prime Time Players, The Shield, 3MB and The Real Americans have all parted ways in 2014. The resurgence that those groups had created when together soon gave way to staleness. The division felt like a two-team show, with The Usos and The Wyatt Family being the only focus for so long.
WWE has now begun to piece together some intriguing squads. Squabbling allies and frustrated midcarders highlight the division's additions.
There's suddenly promise in the tag team realm.
The Dust Brothers
Cody Rhodes' metamorphosis into the wide-eyed, face-painted Stardust has been fun to watch. His acting skills are on display each time he wonders aloud about the cosmic key or babbles on about what it means to be bizarre.
WWE has spent much of his time in this persona building up the character part, regularly featuring the two strange brothers in backstage segments.
The Rhodes brothers hadn't grown stale, but this character shift has given fans something new to grab on to. Once they step out from backstage and begin to do battle, things are going to get even more entertaining.
Stardust and Goldust have a lengthy resume of excellent tag team matches.
Dave Meltzer's star ratings in Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t The Internet Wrestling Database) for their 2013 pay-per-view bouts bear that out:
|Cody Rhodes and Goldust Pay-Per-View Matches in 2013|
|Event||Opponent||Star Rating (out of 5)|
|Battleground||Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins||3.5|
|Hell in a Cell||The Usos, Roman Reign and Seth Rollins||4|
|Survivor Series||(with The Usos and Rey Mysterio) vs. The Real Americans and The Shield||3.5|
|TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs||Rey Mysterio and Big Show, The Real Americans, RybAxel||3.5|
|Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t The Internet Wrestling Database)|
WWE knows it can depend on Stardust and Goldust going forward. They'd make interesting opponents for The Usos with the athleticism that would be involved, create a compelling juxtaposition opposite The Wyatt Family and be a good choice for some of the division's new pairings.
At first, Slater and O'Neil seemed like just two guys randomly aligned.
However, their bickering-spouse dynamic has allowed them to stand out in their brief time together. Flustered, loud and energetic, Slater has been funnier alongside O'Neil than he was at any other point in his career.
In the ring, they offer a good athlete and excellent seller in Slater alongside an explosive powerhouse in O'Neil. No one is going to mistake them for Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard in terms of in-ring ability, but what they have produced so far has been solid.
Much like Team Hell No, their dysfunction will add a narrative layer to their bouts.
Infighting and miscommunication can lead to their failures and make their victories exciting surprises. The latter was true in their win together as a team, as the men were unable to get along after knocking off Tyson Kidd and Zack Ryder.
It's not likely that these two will be top-tier material, but having them around brings depth that the division lacked. The Wyatt Family, The Usos, and Stardust and Goldust all need new opponents, and Slater Gator can provide that—complete with memorable antics.
It's not clear what Xavier Woods' intentions are in forming a group with Kingston and Big E. Still, it's already created intrigue to have them working together, lurking around the ring during other people's matches and hinting at some larger purpose.
Kingston and Big E have been angry and focused since Woods slipped into a suit and stepped into their corner.
Against Slater Gator on July 22, Kingston had something extra behind his chops. Big E charged at O'Neil like an enraged bull.
This is an exciting new version of both men. Suddenly, two midcarders who were floating around now have direction.
They make for a formidable team that will be powered by this still-unfolding narrative involving Woods. The duo brings both power and high-flying acrobatics as a thunder-and-lightning team with scores of potential.
Picking up Kingston and Big E from the bench is a smart move. They fill out the division and, should their chemistry and momentum develop, could form one of its top squads.
Whether they end up as heels or faces, WWE now moves forward with more booking options in the tag team division. A feud against The Usos, The Wyatt Family or some duo made up of members of The Authority would made for exciting rivals.
A recent hint suggests that RybAxel will be seeking to hire a manager. In an interview on the WWE app, Curtis Axel and Ryback told Tom Phillips that they are looking for someone to put in their corner and help keep an eye on what goes on in the ring.
The segment then turned strange, as Hornswoggle kept slapping Ryback's torso.
Having him join this team would turn it into a joke. Instead, choosing a viable manager would elevate a team that has been solid but not spectacular during its time together.
Having someone to assist with Axel and Ryback's interviews would better them—so would having someone interfere with matches on their behalf.
To find a manager for them, WWE could look to the past and bring back someone like Jimmy Hart. It could also mine NXT for magnetic personalities, possibly calling up Enzo Amore for the role.
In addition, WWE would be smart to find someone for Ryder to tag with regularly.
He's teamed with Kidd and Sin Cara recently, but getting him a full-time partner would allow him to be a steady contributor. His energy and athletic skill will be a fun addition to the division, as we've seen in blips with his temporary pairings.
That would be one entertaining way to bring Big Show back.
WWE also has a powerful, popular team at NXT in The Ascension that would change the complexion of the division in a major way. Viktor and Konnor have been riling fans up with their ominous entrance, hard-hitting in-ring style and unique look down in WWE's developmental territory.
The balance of power would shift should they come to the big stage, making the WWE's tag team division must-watch again.
Even without the proposed changes, it appears that things are trending upward in the unending up-and-down journey of WWE's tag team sector. Gladiators are finding fighting partners, allowing the company to showcase a growing variety of personalities and battles.