The Street Profits and Viking Raiders Are Putting Entertainment Back in WWE
At a time when variety is desperately needed in a wrestling world without crowds, The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders are doing an exceptional job of putting entertainment back into the WWE product.
The tandems have had great chemistry in the ring since their early wars over the NXT Tag Team Championship. However, it was going to take more than a strong series of matches to get fans invested in their rivalry again under the current circumstances.
Raw has hosted its fair share of excellent action as of late, but fans can only watch so many matches in an empty arena before it gets tiresome. That's why it was imperative for Street Profits and Viking Raiders to take their feud outside of the squared circle and put their skills to the test in various forms of competition.
From ax throwing to games of golf and basketball, they have been among the best parts of the program in recent weeks. They have also been given the chance to showcase previously unknown sides to their characters.
As crucial as wrestling is to the product, this rivalry has proved getting creative with the entertainment aspect of things is of equal importance, especially in terms of keeping things fun and fresh for fans.
In addition to featuring insight from Raw tag team champion Montez Ford via a phone interview conducted Friday, this list will look at the five ways WWE has nailed the sports-entertainment approach to this rivalry ahead of the teams' bowling battle on Monday's Raw.
Ultimate Escape from Reality
With everything going on in the world, it's more important than ever before for WWE and other wrestling promotions to serve as an escape from reality.
The company prides itself on its ability to put smiles on people's smiles. As cheesy as that may sound, it applies perfectly to the rivalry between The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders.
Wrestling should be fun, and these segments—from the basketball court to the golf course—have been hugely entertaining. Their matches could also be a blast, but they won't make the masses laugh in the way Montez Ford executing a picture-perfect ax throw would.
Not every piece of television WWE produces is meant to be realistic. Nor does it have to be. It's also isn't for everyone, but the chance to be a beacon of light during these times isn't lost on the performers, specifically Ford.
"It's important to us because there's a lot of things going on in the world right now," he said. "It's also a privilege and a blessing that I'm able to give the world a positive light at this time. It's good that I'm in that position to do that right now. I'm privileged and blessed I can give the world a type of light of comfort with the situation that's going on."
Even if you aren't enjoying their segments, you can at least appreciate their effort in trying something new.
Giving Fans Another Reason to Care About the Characters
It's rare in today's WWE that fans are given the chance to care about the characters beyond knowing what they are capable of in the ring. And that isn't always possible, either. It's one of the issues the company runs into by having so many talented performers under contract at once, making it that much harder to give each of them the creative attention they deserve.
The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders are in an enviable position on Raw in that they have been prominently featured on the show over the past month, and not because the former are Raw tag team champions. Rather, it has everything to do with how their competition segments have brought the best out of both teams.
Viewers may not be getting an extensive look at their upbringings and backgrounds prior to arriving in WWE, but they are finding out what their hidden talents are. They have benefited from showing the world what they are like outside of the ring, which Montez Ford feels is giving them the character development they have long needed.
"When you see people on TV or on social media, you see them or interact with people for a short period, a fragmented time of the day, and you don't really know what they're doing for the rest of the 23 hours of the day," he said.
He added that, no matter what form of entertainment or storytelling it is, more Superstars should be seen for who they are and let the crowd connect with them on a personal level.
"I think everyone can possibly benefit from it, whether it is bowling, ax throwing, basketball, Street Talk or Monday after Weekend Update," he said. "I think everyone can benefit from showing themselves in another light. I think it's great to let fans see us as individuals on a different level because we're humans just like everybody else."
It wasn't uncommon during the Attitude Era for an angle to open the show, carry on throughout the episode and then culminate before it went off air.
Most of these storylines featured top talent, and while The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders aren't competing in many main events, that doesn't make their rivalry any less compelling.
Look no further than their ax throwing contest on May 18, when viewers were given updates over the course of that night's Raw as to who was in the lead. Each installment of the segment told a story, finishing with Street Profits scoring the decisive victory after Viking Raiders admitted to "letting them win."
Montez Ford remembers a time when long-form storytelling was the norm in WWE, specifically during the Attitude Era. It shaped his wrestling fandom, and he's adamant about bringing it back.
"They used to have tidbits throughout the show of something happening continuously," he said. "I remember one thing right off the top of my head from 2000 when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin first came back to SmackDown, and I remember throughout the episode, they'd have a rattlesnake here or something here. It just kept teasing about Austin finally returning.
"So when Austin finally returned, it was the big reveal at the end of the night. My point is that back in the Attitude Era or coming up, these are most of the ideas I saw. It also helps to not just have matches inside the Performance Center. You get to see some of these personalities outside of the Performance Center."
Street Profits and Viking Raiders have done just that, something that isn't always achievable with wrestling matches that have an allotted time and don't provide viewers with any incentive to stay tuned in once they are over.
Learning from the Past to Better the Present
If The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders waging war in various forms of competition sounds familiar, it's because Matt Hardy and MVP did something similar with their riveting rivalry over the United States Championship in 2007.
Hardy and MVP trading wins for the prize would have been acceptable, albeit uninspiring. WWE was smart to branch out and get people buzzing about their feud by having them face off in basketball games and arm-wrestling contests, among other things.
People remember their rivalry because of those competitions, and now Street Profits and Viking Raiders are no different. Much like MVP and Hardy, their matches are always entertaining, but their skits outside of the ring have been even better.
Another example was when Ryback and Mark Henry clashed in a bench-press competition in March 2013, which Montez Ford cites as his inspiration for what he and Angelo Dawkins have been doing lately with the Raiders.
"One of the things we took as inspiration from seeing all those things growing up is doing something completely different to ensure that each event we do is completely different," he said. "When you see the Fast & Furious movies or the Saw movies or any sort of franchise that has four or more movies, you want to see the characters, but you also want to see the different setting when it comes to whatever they're trying to accomplish. That's pretty much what we tried to do with all of these skits."
Like Ford stated, each segment has been unique and enjoyable in its own way. It isn't copying so much as it is taking it something that worked well in the past and putting their spin on it to enhance their storyline.
With these types of skits, the possibilities are endless. The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders are three competitions in, and with a fourth scheduled to take place at a bowling alley Monday, there's no telling how much more they have in store.
Better yet, each of their segments has been more entertaining than the last, meaning there's no rush for the rivalry to end. Granted, they will have to collide for the Raw Tag Team Championship again eventually, but WWE could easily get another few weeks out of these skits if it can keep up the creativity.
Another factor in what makes the storyline such a blast is that The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders have little in common beyond being terrific tag teams. They have different strengths, which is what has allowed them to go outside of their comfort zones and continue to come up with activities to compete against each other in.
"We can have a barbecue cookout, we can do swimming, we can have a bodybuilding pose-down. I would definitely love to have a candy contest myself—I love candy," Ford said about what could be coming down the road. "We have so many different types of events that we can explore with so many different personalities involved in it.
"Dawkins and I were talking about some of the other things we can possibly do, but we do have bowling coming up, and aside from ax throwing, that's another thing that's out of our element. But they said what they said, and we have to make sure they eat their words."
Regardless of which team reigns supreme in this rivalry, the success of their skits should hopefully pave the way for more Superstars to follow in their footsteps and express creative freedom to better the show and further their careers.
Don't miss The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders squaring off in a game of bowling during tonight's episode of WWE Raw on USA Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.