Friday 10 October 2014

Family Ties

Judging by videos we’ve seen over the last two weeks it looks as though Luke Harper and Erick Rowan may be getting split from Bray Wyatt and slotted into singles roles in the not-too-distant future. This is something WWE do pretty frequently, and it almost never works out. The reason for the all too consistent failure is simple: they don’t plan anything for the guys beyond the initial breakup of the team.

Nothing that’s been shown indicates that things will be different for Wyatt’s henchmen. Admittedly the story’s closer to its beginning than its end but the track record speaks for itself. For the most part WWE doesn’t do this particular wrestling plot well.

Look back at The Prime Time Players. They were not going to become the hottest thing in wrestling. They weren’t even going to become the hottest team in the promotion. But they’d gelled. They had a routine that people liked. A chant, a dance, and a whistle, nothing revolutionary but it was popular. They had a following and a regular spot on the card. They’d made the best of what they were given and did good work.

When they were split it became apparent that there were no plans in place for either man to do anything interesting as a singles performer. Titus revealed a nasty streak, violently attacking Darren Young after he’d lost them a tag match. The betrayal led to a match between the pair at Elimination Chamber. Titus won that and then… did nothing. He worked as a generic mid-card heel for a few months before settling into a fresh tag team with Heath Slater. D-Young was injured a couple of months into his time as a solo face, but nothing in that time indicated that WWE was about to initiate some master plan to turn him into a star.

Basically WWE took a very successful-by-modern-standards team and split them to get one match extra on to a pay-per-view. Then put one who’d been pushed harder after the breakup into a new team. So he’d have to start from scratch making his new unit work.

Nobody gained anything from this sequence. The profiles of both men dipped and a fun little double act was needlessly retired. It’s all too easy to find similar examples of pairings being prematurely disbanded for no reason throughout company history. It even happened to the New Age Outlaws at the height of their popularity.

What a good-looking pair of dudes.
Splitting the Wyatt clan now seems too early. It’s not that I think Bray Wyatt needs Harper and Rowan, or that Harper and Rowan particularly need him. Wyatt himself will survive a split whenever it comes. But Harper and Rowan need each other. In singles roles Harper and (particularly) Rowan would almost certainly become generically booked big lads drifting from one pointless match to the next, no hope of capturing a singles title or entering into a meaningful feud. Wyatt can survive lengthy periods of being obsolete because he has demonstrated what he’s capable of and his character is over. But Harper and Rowan can’t. They don’t have the same standing or presence.

The pair are best served as a tag team. That way they’re likelier to be included on shows and remain relevant. They can contribute more and Rowan can continue to benefit from teaming with a more capable, experienced partner. It’s also worth noting that being in a tag team doesn’t preclude Harper from being placed in singles matches. If WWE are desperate to trial him as a solo artist they could simply do so with big Erick at ringside. If Harper flourished in the role they could always have Rowan turn on him or him drop Rowan as a partner.

Without a plan a split is not going to work for anyone. And there’s no reason to believe WWE has one.

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