Saturday 14 May 2011

Double Trouble

Tag team wrestling, according to WWE management is dead. Despite the tag ranks being the proving ground for men such as Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Edge and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin the company feels promoting a competitive tag team division is more trouble than it’s worth. This has been the feeling within WWE for several years now.

The belief within the promotion is that their audience aren’t interested in watching tag team wrestling. Why they think this has never really been made clear, but the fact that no tag team has gotten over in a big way in a long time is almost certainly a strong contributing factor. The last teams that truly became name acts for the company were Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boyz, and that was over ten years ago. Before them it was the New Age Outlaws, and that was fourteen years ago.

To say WWE fans don’t want to watch tag team wrestling isn’t true, they just don’t want to watch the tag team wrestling the company currently offers. It’s an area of the business that can be highly entertaining in its own right. You need look no further than Ring of Honor to see how easy it is to construct an entertaining tag team division. All that’s required is care and attention.

Being part of a tag team is the ideal way to put inexperienced wrestlers to use. In a tag team they get just as much time on TV as they would in a singles match, but only spend half of it competing. It alleviates some of the pressure and ensures that there’s always someone spurring an underachieving wrestler to improve. Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel are the perfect example: Slater is destined for a career in the mid-card while Gabriel isn’t ready to become a singles star yet. Putting them together gives them both something to do and allows them to mature as performers at a natural pace.

WWE currently has a large number of guys on its main roster that aren’t being used for anything worthwhile. Placing them in a team would not only give them something to do, it would give the tag team ranks a boost, provide more options when it comes to filling television time and, if everyone involved is lucky, create a fresh act that the audience are eager to see more of. Not every draw in wrestling has to be a singles star: look at the Road Warriors, the Dudley Boyz, the Freebirds, America’s Most Wanted, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (to name a few off the top of my head) to the duos I listed above.

WWE aren’t alone in their mismanagement of doubles acts. TNA has recently begun nonsensically breaking up some of their most promising and useful tag teams. They’re nowhere near the dangerously low levels WWE seems content to operate on but they’re not heading in the direction either.

Going back to what I said about Ring of Honor, they saw that gap in the market and decided to fill it. It’s paid off for them. Rhett Titus and Kenny King have benefitted from the exposure granted to them as a tag team, going from lower card comedy heels to popular babyfaces on the verge of championship success. Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero have stepped up to fill the void left by the departures of Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson to become main event draws for the company, and have used their success to solidify their international reputations in the business, which also benefits RoH. The Briscoes, a team that have been with RoH for a long time, have benefitted from the influx of new tandems to face, reenergising their act. It’s even provided a chance for Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, men who had previously achieved the greatest success of their career as a team in WWE, to be a relevant part of the business again.

Those are just four teams, but the promotion’s tag division is one of its biggest selling points. At a time when WWE are desperate for new stars and ways to make money, a strong tag team division would be ideal. In my opinion they cannot do this quickly enough. In fact you could say they need to do it on the double.

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