Rank ‘Em Up: The “I’m not Ignoring the Tag Team Titles, even if WWE is” edition
I was hoping to write this one before Mazza unleashed his Raking the Talent column once again. I started doing a ranking column last year, inspired by old PWI articles where they ranked the talent from all 3 major feds, and others, in different categories. I loved that page more than any of the articles, and wanted to bring that into 2012-13 with my own version. I haven’t done one since August, and Mazza has since started his own ranking column. Thankfully, they are different enough that I believe they can be posted side by side.
I want to concentrate on the titles WWE seem to be forgetting about these days, which is especially odd considering how well they used the last half of 2012 to establish them at a higher level. So let’s Rank the Tag Title division.
Tag Team Championship
While lots of attention has been spent on the Kane vs Daniel Bryan feud, very little has been done concerning their tag team championships since the Royal Rumble when they defeated Team Rhodes Scholars. With Wrestlemania coming up, I’m still assuming a multi-team tag match is going to be booked, because the Kane vs Daniel Bryan feud doesn’t need to have their singles match at Mania. There are enough singles matches being booked, and there needs to be a match on the card that can get a few of the deserving midcard talents involved. My guess is that we’ll see a 3-4 team match for the tag titles, be it a ladder match or fatal 4-way.
For shits and giggles, let’s look at how I ranked the tag teams in August of last year (the last time I did a Rank column).
1. Kofi Kingston + R-Truth [champions]
2. Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neil + Darren Young)
3. Epico + Primo
5. Hawkins + Reks
Wow wow, my my, how things have changed. The former champs aren’t really a team anymore. The Usos haven’t been on TV since the 80s. The Colon family have been the jobber team for everyone this side of Mars. Reks quit, while Hawkins is … not sure. Only the Prime Time Players remain, but even they have changed as they had a manager back then.
I have to give credit where credit is due: WWE made a substantial effort to bring some much needed attention to the Tag Team division. I may complain about how they’ve dropped the ball since the new year, but thankfully the pay off from those efforts leave today’s Tag division in better condition than when Truth/Kofi were champions. Let’s take a look at how I’d rank today’s teams in WWE.
1. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan + Kane) [champions]
2. Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes + Damian Sandow)
3. Brodus Clay + Tensai
4. Prime Time Players
5. The Colons
Honorable mentions: New Age Outlaws, The Shield, and 3MB
I have to say, even though WWE have dropped the ball over the last couple of months, I think it’s a well timed decision. The Tag Division is not going to sell Wrestlemania, so I don’t mind them concentrating on the feuds that will. Looking at the teams, they can afford to switch gears. The top 4 teams are all deserving of a Wrestlemania spot in a 4-way match, and don’t NEED an angle to build it up. It should be booked soon (if it’s to happen) but the division is in good enough shape to be a back burner issue. Before I go over all 5 teams here, I would like to suggest that other teams might be put into this suggested match. I wouldn’t be shocked if Truth/Kofi re-unite to be a part of this. And while I think Clay/Tensai are on a role, I think the PTP deserve the spot on the card more. Or, maybe they’ll go with something involving 5 teams, like a Tag Team Turmoil, though I hope not. There’s another rumored team, according to spoilers, but I’ll not mention that until after Friday.
The Tag team division hasn’t been in the spotlight recently, but it doesn’t mean the champions haven’t been in prime positions. Both members of Team Hell No have been featured performers on both weekly shows, most recently with a main event spot for Kane against CM Punk which resulted in a win over the former WWE Champion. The tension between the two has been strong during their entire tag team title reign, resulting in strong support for a singles match between them at Wrestlemania. I have already mentioned how I am hoping against that option. It’s a match that deserves a PPV spot, but it’s not one that deserves a Wrestlemania spot when you consider how many people should be inserted into the card. If the end result is their split, then I say make Wrestlemania the time it happens. Have it cause the loss of the titles if you must. Let’s be fair, after their SummerSlam match last year, it wouldn’t be out of place to have their next singles match be a gimmick match, which would fit right into Extreme Rules in May.
No matter the result, I am very impressed with how well Bryan and Kane have worked as tag team champions. While the division has never returned to the same heights of the era of Dudleys/Hardys/E+C, there have been a couple of times when it’s come damn close, and it’s always with “thrown together” teams of top level singles stars. I really think with HHH in charge, he should look back at how well developed the tag roster was when Edge and Jericho took the titles from the Colons (Carlito and Primo, not including Epico or useless Rosa) in the Summer of 2009. The Tag Titles even main evented a PPV. That’s amazing when you truly sit and think about it. It may not have lasted long, as the ball was once again dropped once the Hart Dynasty took the straps from ShowMiz, but it still showed the potential for the tag titles. And it’s very easy to replicate, as we saw when Team Hell No won the titles last September. None of the top 5 teams reach the same level of overness as JeriShow or Degeneration X, but you don’t need the titles to be on that level all the time. Look at that list again, and see the potential singles stars there. Start with the Champions, because while Kane might not have too many years left in him, the sky is the limit for Daniel Bryan. He is not where he was yet when he was World Champion, or challenging CM Punk for the WWE Title, but it would be extremely ignorant to think he’s been wasted since then. WWE have kept him in focus, and in a spot where he hasn’t been reduced to a low level. He could be the #1 contender to any singles title tomorrow, and would be over enough to make it work. The tag division kept him there, with strong creative writing for Team Hell No. Do they have any really memorable wins? Not really, but that’s not the only way to make a star. WWE have used the Tag Titles and division perfectly to keep the seat warm for Daniel Bryan when they decide they are ready to make a move into singles action again. But, I don’t think that will be happening soon, even if he splits from Kane in the coming weeks. More on that later.
When we saw Team Rhodes Scholars break up on Smackdown a few weeks back, I thought it was a stupid move. They had been the top challengers to the tag tiles for a month or so, and that’s it? Bullshit. Especially before Wrestlemania. Both Rhodes and Sandow are talents that have earned a spot on the Mania card, and wouldn’t find it in singles action without a Money in the Bank match. So, it came as no surprise when they re-united for “one time only,” and then again this week on Raw in a return to permanent teaming as they called themselves the future World Tag Team Champions of the World (thumbs up to those who get this joke). There’s just so much more that can be done with this team. Taking Team Hell No out of the equation, as they are the top team in WWE. Their angle with the New Age Outlaws recently has shown they have a great dynamic, and are natural heels. I could see them holding the belts for most of the spring, and having decent feuds with the Dancing Kings, or a return of Truth/Kofi. There’s a bright future for both men, but the time is not right for them to push singles action with the packed roster. Keep them together, and find their stride as heels together. You can see their true potential when they are over and credible enough to work against Orton/Sheamus on Raw, and look the part. Much like when John Morrison and The Miz were hot enough to earn a shocking title shot against Degeneration X (HHH/HBK version), Team Rhodes Scholars are the type of heel team that can work a midcard level angle against Tensai/Clay, or a match against a hot one-time pairing of singles stars like Cena and Rock on Raw. Don’t waste this, or rush it. These guys gel together.
In a perfect world, the team of Brodus Clay + Tensai would be a heel Demolition. Or maybe that’s just my perfect world. This is the type of team we haven’t seen in WWE for far too long, especially considering Vince McMahon’s long standing fondness for big men, and the heyday of 80s tag team wrestling in both federations involving the Road Warriors, the Powers of Pain, and the aforementioned Demolition. When the current crop of young face tag teams are all somewhat undersized high flyers, there aren’t too many better opponents for them then giants to overcome. Much like we pulled for Strike Force to earn the upset over Ax and Smash, the WWE Universe would love to pull for a modern version of the Rockers to defeat the modern version of the Twin Towers.
But alas, they’ve been teamed in a goofier version of the Natural Disasters. In a way, it makes sense, because barring the champions and the possible return of the Outlaws, there aren’t too many face teams right now. There’s potential for more, but with Evan Bourne out of action, and the current NXT Tag Champions still learning the WWE style, Sweet T and the Funkasaurus are looking to reach the top of the mountain once the champion have their inevitable split. There’s no denying that the Brodus dancing gimmick has connected decently, and warranted a push long ago in singles action. While those dreams made have been derailed by a Big Show WMD, he’s found a new direction in the tag division. I do expect a heel turn for them in the future, as I don’t see the modern Rikishis lasting too long in today’s WWE. Especially since Tensai is such an effective beast of a heel (when booked to not look like a failure). I could be wrong, and WWE might split them up prematurely like they’ve done with so many other teams in the past. In fact, that’s the more likely scenario. But I still will hope against hope for Tensai to be loveable for a few months, and eventually get sick of it and convince Clay to see the dark side. Until then, I expect the smiling dancing doofuses to be tag champions sometime this summer.
When news spread of Abraham Washington being fired, it seemed like doom and gloom for The Prime Time Players. Thankfully, we discovered the Titus and Darren have some charisma of their own, and don’t need a mouth piece as much as we thought. They were on a great roll before the revamping of the tag division with the #1 contenders tournament last fall, but they weren’t wasted. And they’ve recently put themselves back in the tag team spotlight with a win over the Tag Champions. Sure, it was a handicap match with an arm behind D-Bry’s back and a hood on Kane, but it was more than they have done since October when they feuded with the team of Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. The angle was seemingly a subtle move on WWE’s part for the Players to be moved into a Wrestlemania spot for my proposed multi team title challenge. While it’s possible that WWE have moved on from the PTP, I truly don’t think that would be the right move. They are a team that are ever evolving, and shouldn’t have that momentum change just yet. I even see a possible face turn in the future, as they are goofy enough to be fan favorites. I don’t expect these guys to team together for long, as Titus O’Neil is already 35 years old. While I’m not as sure on his potential as a singles stars as Vince is rumored to be, time is running out to find out. Darren, on the other hand, really isn’t too bad at all, but sort of fades into the crowd and would risk being released should they split up too soon. I think Darren is showing his worth in this team, and needs to keep doing that while the brass has their sights on Papa Titus. I also think some more tag team dynamic needs to be included into their game, but these guys aren’t going to be easily ignored.
If The Shield, or even 3MB had a duo that competed in solid tag action, Epico + Primo wouldn’t be in this discussion. If the New Age Outlaws are actually returning to a full time schedule if only for a couple of months, the Colons would be joining the Usos under the category of “needs more personality to match their in ring skills while in NXT.” But, they’ve been around once in a while, and haven’t been completely demoted. I’m sure the Puerto Rican Nightmares would like to have a higher spot on the card, but they have to remember who employs them. While I don’t believe WWE to be racist, I also know they aren’t the most forward thinking humanitarians. These guys aren’t lacking mic skills or charisma, and they can wrestle, so why are they not used more? The answer is as obvious as it is annoying: they are Puerto Rican. I don’t think Vince or HHH has anything against Puerto Rico, but I don’t think they are ready to book a team from there to have anything but a gimmick about being Puerto Rican. It’s the same issue they plagued Eddie and Chavo Guerrero. Eddie overcame it, but was with the “Lying, Cheating, Stealing” gimmick, which was still awful in a racist/ignorant way. Hell, the only time Chavo moved past it was by being Kerwin White.
Can things change for the Colons? There are a few answers to this question:
1 – Sure, but no one will put in the effort to make it happen
2 – No, because of #1
3 – Who cares?
4 – Who?
Now, I included a few honorable mentions, and they deserve to have their stories elaborated upon. The New Age Outlaws should be offered a 3-6 month full time contract to be on air performers. Since they are already under contract as producers/agents/trainers, I get the feeling it cost WWE less money to add to their paychecks for those 6 months then to hire or promote a new team. Use the next few months to get other teams over. Rhodes Scholars vs NAO shouldn’t be a throw away Raw match. That’s something that could be booked for Extreme Rules in a #1 contendership match. Having an established and legendary team like the Outlaws get in the mix with today’s teams would be tremendous. The comparisons have been made several times, but don’t forget who put the Outlaws over in 1997: the returning Legion of Doom. Pay it Forward, Bad ass and Road Dogg. A full year might be too much, but 6 months would be more than enough time for them to put over the Prime Time Players, Team Rhodes Scholars, 3MB, or The Shield.
The Shield have long been discussed to be the successor to the Team Hell No Tag Titles. It made sense in December when they were feuding, but it was never a tag title feud. The Shield hasn’t shown any intention to win WWE gold. Not yet. Eventually, it’ll most likely happen. But unless they invoke the Freebird/Demolition clause of rotating which duo defends the titles (which would be apt for this group), I suspect the stable will soon establish one of the 3 as a singles star, and allow the other 2 to venture into the tag title discussion. Judging by mic skills, I’d imagine Dean Ambrose will be a singles star working the mic, while Reigns and Rollins vie for the gold. Either way, I can’t help but sense that this trio will end up being champions in some form very, very soon. The copper gladiator belts make the most sense.
I’m really enjoying what WWE have been doing with 3MB recently. I know, it’s weird. But when you’re in a team, your losses, even in a squash, aren’t as damaging. This is especially true when you’re given a decent gimmick like these guys have, and have talent on the microphone. It wouldn’t take much effort or time to make these goofs tag champions, and credible ones at that. They are more over than The Usos or Epico and Primo. That makes up for a lot. Will it happen? Probably not. But I think they have more potential than most of the NXT roster who would be promoted in their place should they be dropped from their label (I needed to throw a lame music joke in there).
What to Expect after Wrestlemania 29
It would be foolish of me to imagine all the teams mentioned would be in the mix for the Tag Titles once Team Hell No move on. It would be equally silly if I didn’t expect WWE to split up a couple of other teams in a rush to push a new challenger to a midcard singles title (Damian Sandow would be fitting with either US or IC title).
This will mean new teams that will be launched. I have a few projections I think many of you will find interesting.
Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett are nearly identical in terms of body frame. When they were facing off with R-Truth and Kofi Kingston before the new year, their partnership just seemed to click. Both are European snobs, with solid in ring skills. Barrett should handle the talking more than Cesaro, but Antonio would more than make up for it with his vicious European Uppercuts. All this team would need to form is if/when they lose their singles titles, they meet up backstage in a single segment and share their similar frustrations. It writes itself.
Kofi Kingston and R-Truth would not be a new team, but let’s be honest: what else are they going to do? Neither man is going to be a main eventer, and they’ve played out all options as Intercontinental and United States Champions. On the flipside, they are solid talent that should stay on the roster. A team is a make shift solution to this conundrum. I think Kofi should be looking into a heel turn soon, and I think it would work best with him turning on a partner, and with the history with Truth, it makes the most sense. Now, there are other ways, such as using a returning Evan Bourne to coerce Kofi to tag with him instead of with Truth, or whatever. The point is that Kingston needs to evolve just as bad as Cena does, and just like the Cena problem, it could possibly be solved with a heel turn. Will it work? Who knows? But another year of Kofi floundering like he has for the last couple of years, and I would be suggesting he ask for his release. He’s in a good spot on the WWE roster to warrant a decent push in TNA. Same for Truth, truth be told. And while they might be comfortable in their position with the ‘E, I can only imagine they both wish they could do more. Truth is too old to really consider moving to TNA in an effort to boost his stock in Orlando, before coming back to New York. But Kofi is young enough that he could pull the same stunt Christian took in 2005.
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan… I expect many people reading this one are in shock, but hear me out. CM Punk will be looking for something to do soon, because he won’t be in the WWE title picture post-Mania while Cena or Rock are champion. There’s still money for him to face either in the future, but it would be too soon is it happens mere weeks after his devastating losses to each. The easy answer is to move him over to the World Title, but he’s above that at this point. The World Title is well established as the #2 title in WWE, and it’s become a smart stepping stone for people to move into the WWE Title division. Sheamus was very successful as World Title, and you know it’s inevitable he’ll be working the WWE title sooner rather than later. He’ll need someone to work against, and while CM Punk is an obvious choice, I don’t see Vince and HHH using the Best in the World to put over Sheamus. They know he needs a few wins, and the safest way to do that is to insert him into a tag team. That of course leads to the question of who should be his partner. The CM Punk DVD showed how tight he was with Kofi Kingston, so that could be a decent option if Kofi does turn heel. But, I have to go with Daniel Bryan as the top choice. I know, the super WWE marks are thinking I’m out of my mind, and merely thinking as an IWC fanboy. Bullshit. If WWE didn’t see the chemistry these guys have and their drawing ability, they wouldn’t have had them battle over the WWE title last year at the same time I suspect they’ll be teaming up this year. Daniel Bryan is over and being cheered on a regular basis, but he’s in a tweener position. Consider how he’s been booed when facing Chris Jericho or Rey Mysterio recently on Raw. Both of them have become dependable to have match of the night performances on a regular basis, and no matter how much WWE leans towards the entertainment part of the sport, you can’t deny that Punk and Bryan have had countless opportunities to showcase their talents. That’s because WWE recognizes what they can do, and I expect that to continue with a pairing down the road.
And on that note, Peace out
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