Wednesday 21 September 2011

Seeing Doubles

For years WWE’s tag team division (and I use that word very loosely) has been unflinchingly dreadful. For much of the last few years the doubles gold has been used as a way of giving two singles guys something to do rather than as a way of introducing and elevating younger talent or two singles guys who clearly aren’t going to make the promotion any money by themselves.

In the last two months the tag ranks have received a boost, and it coincides with ‘The Game’s’ new on-screen role. With Triple H a noted advocate of tag team wrestling this is unlikely to be a coincidence. He may not have really replaced Vince McMahon behind the scenes but Triple H is clearly getting some input into what makes it to our screens.

The two men who have benefitted most from this renewed focus are Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. I was sceptical when they were first put together as a team: it seemed WWE had thrown two guys together as a unit based on their size and smiley babyface personalities solely to take the belts from David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty (whom they were clearly unhappy with). The company’s record with tag teams indicated that Kingston and Bourne would win a non-title match over the champions and then capture the belts in a rematch and go on to have a meaningless reign until another new tandem was booked to defeat them a few months later.

Half of that did happen. Kingston and Bourne beat Otunga and McGillicutty in a non-title match and followed up with a title victory in a rematch a week later. Thankfully the pattern broke after that as the new champs have continued their winning ways... and have actually been defending the titles. Instead of disappearing off our screens Kingston and Bourne have had an increased presence on RAW and become regulars on SmackDown. They even received attention from WWE’s website in the form of a poll allowing fans to decide on their new team name. That the voters went with the disappointing Air Boom as opposed to Flight Club or The Legion of Boom is irrelevant (although those names are both clearly far better), what’s important is that fans were given the opportunity to show support for Bourne and Kingston and took it. Yes, WWE actually listened to the audience for once!

It looks as though the plan is to give guys on the undercard a chance to make an impression on audiences by pairing them up as tag teams. The Usos are still hanging in there on SmackDown while Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks recently announced they will become a regular combo on RAW (though I imagine they’ll be getting most of their air time on Superstars). While they seem to be heading more towards a feud right now it’s possible that Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali will reunite as a team in the near future and we could even see Swagger and Ziggler being used as a team soon too.

Meanwhile Otunga and McGillicutty, the former tag team champions, are involved in a feud with Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler over their alleged lack of personality. Bringing attention to the fact that neither man is especially charismatic and pitting them against a 61-year-old may not seem like the best way to get the team over, but it’s giving them something to do and ensures they’re on TV every week. Had they lost the tag team championship a few months earlier they probably would have disappeared from television all together. Now they’ve at least been granted a follow-up storyline.

Although Air Boom have benefitted the most from the rejuvenation attempt the stars of the divison over the last few weeks have undoubtedly been R-Truth and The Miz. Since losing the WWE championship to John Cena in May The Miz has been given little to do besides a brief feud with former apprentice Alex Riley. R-Truth’s had even less to work with. He was built up as a challenger for John Cena at Capitol Punishment in June and has done nothing since losing unceremoniously to ‘The Champ’. Both are talented all-rounders capable of wrestling at a main event level for WWE (Miz in particular). It’s great that WWE recognised it had had them treading water for too long and put them together as a unit. The Awesome Truth (as they’re calling themselves) have a unique entrance that sets them apart as an act and guarantees them heel heat too. They’ve been a highlight not just of the tag scene but RAW in general since they announced their partnership so hopefully they will be kept together for a few months when they make their inevitable return to TV.

The company has lots of options for the future of its tag team division. Hawkins and Reks and the Usos may not mean much to anyone now but if they use the air time they’re given either team (or both teams) could work their way into a meaningful spot. There are guys like Tyson Kidd, Trent Barreta, Heath Slater, Mason Ryan, Drew McIntyre, Yoshi Tatsu, Broadus Clay, Santino Marella, and Zack Ryder not doing much on the main roster too, all of whom could make a worthwhile contribution to the tag scene.

It’s a good way of using developmental wrestlers too. Seth Rollins and Richie Steamboat have worked as a team in FCW in the past and new signing Antonio Cesaro, better known as Claudio Castagnoli, would be a natural fit on RAW pr SmackDown alongside long time partner Chris Hero (if he ever signs a contract that is). WWE are said to have their eyes on TNA’s Beer Money Inc. too and if that’s the case then they’re clearly serious about reenergising the doubles division. If it means more on-screen pairings such as Air Boom and The Awesome Truth it’s hard to argue against it.

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