Over the past 5-6 years WWE has been on a terrible decline. Fans have lost great performers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Eddie Guerrero (RIP), Brock Lesnar and many more. Perhaps the most badly damaged part of WWE though has been tag team wrestling. Where WWE has at least made some decent efforts to replace it’s lost singles stars, by holding onto the likes of Undertaker, Kane, HHH, Chris Jericho and bringing in decent talent like Randy Orton, MVP, Batista, Mr Kennedy and more (and no that does not include John Cena), WWE has failed to maintain an entertaining calibre of tag team competitors.
I’m not going to give a history lesson to readers but 2000-2001 was perhaps the golden year of the millennium for WWE/WWF when it came to tag team wrestling. We were able to see my four favourite tag teams [from when I started watching WWF in 1997], the APA (Faarooq and Bradshaw), The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz and Edge and Christian. While the APA did not reach the phenomenal level of success that the other 3 teams I’ve mentioned did, they did win the Tag Titles 3 times and were an extremely entertaining team. The other 3 teams perhaps had some of the greatest tag team matches of all time, the Summerslam 2000 tables, ladders and chairs (nicknamed TLC) match being a highlight of these tag teams' wars. In addition to these truly phenomenal tag teams, there were The Radicals, consisting of 2 late legends in Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, and 2 Cool, with Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexy. Rikishi was also in a tag team with Haku called The Islanders, who had a great feud with another on and off team, consisting of my 2 favourite wrestlers Kane and The Undertaker. The Brothers of Destruction, as they were named, had 3 great title runs throughout 2001 and an incredible rivalry with the super tag team the “2 Man Power Trip”, Stone Cold and HHH, which had some amazing matches.
So how did WWF/WWE go from providing the most entertaining tag team wrestling to having to resort to use John Cena and Batista, who are embroiled in their own main event rivalry, as the only decent competition for the current tag champs on Raw (Cody Rhodes and Ted Di Biase JR)?
The answer to this question is bad decision making on WWE’s scriptwriters’ parts. Before I start attacking WWE, I’ll say that the Edge/Christian split turned out good for pro-wrestling fans. We now have Edge, an increasingly adept performer, entertainer and wrestler at the top of the totem on Smackdown, with an edge-of-your-seat (no pun intended) rivalry with The Undertaker. Christian meanwhile has been dominating at TNA, whether it is by holding the heavyweight title or with great rivalries. However, the other ideas have not been as successful. Firstly we have The Dudleyz, in my opinion the greatest tag team of all time, holding an extraordinary 20 professional tag titles in their career. For those that don’t know, this duo was not released because of drug abuse like many WWE stars have. They were released after a hiatus so that the WWE could save on money. I ask the WWE “Why were they on a hiatus in the first place?” Why were the greatest tag team of all time treated like Sunday Night Heat frequenters and jobbers by being released from the WWE? The Dudleyz, now called ‘Team 3D’, have enjoyed great success and fan heat in TNA, elevating TNA’s tag team game significantly. The Hardy Boyz meanwhile were split up to continue as singles competitors. This started out quite poorly, Matt Hardy following a cruiserweight title angle that was below his deserved status, while Jeff Hardy had a troubled singles career, eventually taking a 3 year break from WWE from 2003-2006. Now, although we see them both involved in title matches, Team Xtreme fans would ask “Was it worth it?” We see Matt chasing the ECW title, the lesser of all 3 heavyweight titles, while Jeff has been loosing US title matches to Shelton Benjamin and feuding with MVP. Perhaps the record-reigning ex-US champ MVP should have had the opportunity to regain gold, while the two Hardys could be filling WWE’s gaps in tag team competition. During this period, the APA were also split up, while people like Rikishi and Grandmaster Sexy were released by the WWE in a similar way to the Dudleyz.
Now, throughout the years after these great teams were split up, we’ve been through all kinds of tag teams, including a Mafia style tag team of Italians, an attempt at a Mexican team similar to TNA’s successful team L.A.X, even a tag team with a gay gimmick consisting of legend Billy Gunn. These teams have one thing in common: they have all been failures. So at the present we are left with 3 entertaining tag teams, all on different shows. The Miz and Morrrison, a team I personally rate highly, Hawkins and Ryder (the champs on Smackdown) and the sons-of-legends, Ted Di Biase JR and Cody Rhodes (the champs on Raw). The problem is, despite 3 good tag teams, they no longer have any competition. Their opponents continue to be boring tag teams with awful gimmicks, such as Finlay and Hornswoggle or The [boring] Highlanders, while competent opponents, such as Cryme Tyme, are threatened with release rather than given tag title shots. In addition, any other possible entertaining competition have been eliminated over the years. The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) were broken up, with the talented Haas now extremely under-used, Londrick were split up and Cade and Murdoch, yet another talented team, split up.
So what’s the result of this awful decision making by WWE? Well, first of, WWE now has a lifeless tag team division, with insufficient competition. Secondly, TNA has picked up on the spoils, snapping up free agents like The Dudleyz and Chrisitan and Rhyno, coupled with their own talent in L.A.X and the Motor City Machine Guns, and the new Beer Money Inc. (Robert Roode and James Storm), to provide a great tag team division. Will WWE take note? Only time will tell.
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