I'm not going anywhere.
Another Tag Team Discussion
I know I’m not the only columnist who’s been discussing the tag team division recently. I’ve had a history of recapping the tag teams of yesteryear, as well as looking for any possible way to improve the struggling tag teams of the new millennium. There’s a very good reason that people think of the “heyday “ of tag team wrestling in WWF to be the era of British Bulldogs, Demolition, Strike Force, Killer Bees, Hart Foundation, Brain Busters…etc.
Sure, there was a resurgence with the Hardys, Dudleys, and Edge/Christian. But let’s ne completely honest – outside of the huge gimmick matches, there wasn’t really a tag division, rather than a 3 way feud that lasted almost 2 years. Whenever other tag teams were inserted into the melee, they didn’t match up to the heat of the TLC masters at all. I also question how much these guys would have succeeded without having ladders involved in the first place. I don’t mean to belittle the accomplishments of these men, because those matches and angles definitely led to all 6 of them to succeed in singles as well.
But the WWF era of 86-90 is undoubtedly the best time for the tag team division in WWF. I think a big reason for it was how well the WWF used tag team wrestling in their cards. I know I may be repeating myself, but Vince McMahon depended on tag team wrestling to bring the action to their cards in an era when the main events were mostly involving the entertainment side of sports entertainment. In terms of workrate, it is not hard to see that outside of the tag division, the WWF would have been a complete joke in the shadow of the NWA in terms of actual wrestling content (I know they already were, but it wouldn’t have even been a fair contest).
Consider how often a Saturday Night’s Main Event card was anchored by the tag titles. Or how often house shows were the booked with Bulldogs vs Harts as the longest match of the night. Or how many PPVs were dependent on tag matches in general.
Vince McMahon knew how to use tag teams at one point.
Another piece of the puzzle was how well the teams were presented. Before the British Bulldogs, there were very few teams who won the title that weren’t “Wrestler A and Wrestler B.” Today, we call them “thrown together teams,” but the truth is that they were much more common place before this prime era of tag wrestling. Sure, partners wore matching colored tights, but it was still Tony Garea and Rick Martel. There were exceptions like the Moondogs, and the Wild Samoans, but the truth is that team names weren’t common place in wrestling until the last half of the 80s. And I think it has a big part in why these teams brought the best tag team action in the history of the WWF (if not wrestling altogether). They were viewed as characters in tandem, instead of a tandem of individuals. The Bulldogs had separate ringstyles, but no one at home would distinguish their personalities. They were a true team.
This has been hard to find since… the Attitude Era, I guess. There have been exceptions, but there has always seemed to be something lacking. Other than the Dudleys Boys, I don’t know too many teams who had a true double team finisher, matching outfits, and a team name. Edge and Christian didn’t have any of those things, and I find it difficult to call them a classic tag team because of it. Other than the 5 second pose, they never seemed like a true team to me. When this team is heralded as a classic team in modern times, I think it shows how low modern times have been for tag wrestling.
Honestly, with the current tournament, there’s a lot to be compared to the WWE Tag Titles in 2002. For those who remember, with Stephanie McMahon as GM of Smackdown, she wanted her own set of tag team championships. It was a bit strange, because there wasn’t an abundance of tag teams. The tournament was headlined with thrown together stars near the top of the card. It consisted of former WWE Champions like Kurt Angle, then WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, as well as soon to be WWE champions like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Edge, and John Cena. For the following months, the teams of the Guerreros, Benoit/Angle, and Mysterio/Edge were part of some of the greatest tag team action we’ve ever seen, and were a crucial part to the Smackdown side of the brand split. A Triple Threat between these teams was essentially the blue brand’s main event to the stacked Survivor Series 2002 card.
This didn’t last too long, and soon the tag titles returned a more midcard position around the waists of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, then known as Team Angle. They were another tremendous team, and impressively kept up the quality of wrestling as the Smackdown 6 provided only months earlier, but the early legacy of the titles were starting to drop as the former teams split up and competed in singles action for the most part.
Why is this at all relevant? Because I think this is a great indication of what to expect today.
Now, I know I’m overdoing it these days. I know I’m bound to be disappointed. I know I’m getting ahead of myself.
But I can’t help but be excited to see some extra attention to be spent on the tag team division in 2012. With the immense roster WWE has these days, along with the amount of TV time they have per week, and the deep developmental roster, there’s abso-fucking-lutely no reason for the tag division to be as low as it is. It seems someone (sounds like Levesque) thought the same thing, and is now putting the right foot forward to correct the issue. If that’s the case, then:
“Thank you, HHH. This may be the only time I praise you in this column to such a high regard, but if you’re the reason the tag team division is heating up again, I can’t help but be excited for the other changes you look to implement in the future.”
With the tag titles around the waists of Kofi Kingston and R- Truth, we were thankful to see a decent tag match here and there with other mid-to-low card talent. With Team Hell No as champions, we are seeing the tag titles in a main event position.
Now, before anyone complains about anything concerning this, you should realize how much of a benefit this can be. While no one in the right mind can claim that Kane and Daniel Bryan are the next true tag team innovators, a modern British Bulldogs in a sense, they are still doing more for tag teams than anyone has since the Hart Dynasty won the titles from ShowMiz. There’s something to be said about main event talent teaming up in the midcard as tag team champions. There’s more attention on the champions right now, therefore there is more attention on the tag team championships, and therefore more attention on tag teams in general.
Add to that, but there have been some actual bright potential from tag teams. There’s no denying how well the Prime Time Players have caught on, and anyone who tunes into NXT knows how the Ascension will be no doubt be WWE Tag Team Champions within the next calendar year. There’s also something special about the Rhodes Scholars and the team of Rey Mysterio/Sin Cara (which is my prediction for the finals of the current contendership tournament). It’s hard to really picture these teams lasting past Wrestlemania 29, but the inclusion of these teams still adds a great flavor to the division. Until the time comes for the teams to split up, so that a few of these wrestlers can succeed in singles action, take advantage of their growing popularity and skills in the form of a team. Associating Cody Rhodes with Damian Sandow does wonders for both of them, even if they never win a tag match. Just the fact that they’ve decided to team together has given Cody a direction, something he’s been lacking since losing the Intercontinental Championship. Damian now has his first true storyline, and is getting a rub. They are now being showcased, and therefore viewed, as equals. Meanwhile, the Mexican Luchadore team is no doubt headed for a match between themselves, most likely at Wrestlemania.
But no matter what the future plans are for the individuals involved, the teaming can do wonders in the present. The Prime Time Players have been tremendous since debuting in all regards, be it wrestling, charisma, personality, overness; they are a great team. But, and I’ll admit it may be early to judge, can anyone see singles potential from Titus or Darren? International Airstrike, the combination of Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd, are currently the Young Stallions of the division. They aren’t complete nobodies, but they won’t really excel either. Not while the bigger names are involved. But, if the Usos, PTP, and Airstrike stay together through the current glory, they might be who hold the titles by Wrestlemania season, when the other stars are past the stage of duos. As long as they aren’t completely jobbed out, there’s still potential for the Colons and Santino/Ryder to hold the tag title titles in the future.
I started this chapter telling myself not to get too excited. History is doomed to repeat itself, as the attention spent on the tag division will be transferred to the single careers of the same stars. Will there be follow through in a few months once this current flash is over? I’m doubtful.
But, it doesn’t mean I can’t be excited in the meantime.
There’s also hope that the WWE will continue teaming up guys in the midcard that are lacking an angle. With recent rumors of Vince McMahon souring on Tensai and Brodus Clay, I can’t help but see dollar signs in a tag team between the 2. Big Zeke and Mason Ryan could be a great combo of unstoppable forces. Heath Slater/Drew MacIntyre/Jinder Mahal may have some pull in the tag team future.
It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for the WWE to see how easy a tag division can be to handle. Now, there’s no excuse.
The Main Event – A Review
I’m writing this almost in running diary form. I’ve loaded up the show on youtube, and will comment on things as I go.
I love the start. The idea of the announcers in the ring, giving a true spotlight on the main event performers in a fashion that they don’t seem to manage well on Monday or Friday nights, is a grand one. Sure, we may not need any more attention on either Champion. But if WWE is looking for these stars to take over for John Cena in the future, these are the essential building blocks to making the audience start to care on the same level.
Are we watching mini-DVD documentaries? Awesome. If you want people to care about the performers, this is one of the best ways. Especially with the amount of TV time WWE has to offer.
It’s a true return to the Saturday Night’s Main event, with the primary headline match not ending the card.
Great match. Standard stuff from these guys, and you can tell they were holding back just a tad. Terrific TV quality match, but you know damn well they’d do bettering a big angle on PPV.
Post match interview in the ring? Another nice touch.
Hyping next week’s main event already? Why the hell can’t they do this with Raw or Smackdown too? Followed by a promo from Big Show to hype it? This can’t be the same WWE putting on 3 hour Raws.
Fuck, if the 2006 return of Saturday Night’s Main Event was this well presented, NBC may not have dropped it.
And having the tag team match end the show gave the tournament and these 4 men an amazing spotlight. I understand that with overruns, this isn’t something to realistically expect on Raw (nor on Smackdown). But I think it’s a great touch. I wonder how the ratings break down will be for this show.
Awesome stuff. Thank you WWE, you made Wednesday nights much-watch, for the time being.
And on that note, peace out.
Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
Follow me on Twitter if you wish, though I don't really do much with it.