Tuesday 1 September 2015

The WWE Tag Team Division's Battle Against Fate

WWE's tag team division hasn't had an easy time of it this year. This is a shame. There's clearly been effort put into making it worthwhile and a worthwhile tag division would be most welcome. It would help WWE's TV product to feel more interesting and lively. It would also give the many lower cards wrestlers who currently have nothing going on something to do.

The Usos disappeared after WrestleMania because Jey suffered a shoulder injury. Their status as the company's longest-standing, most reliable unit likely altered plans for the division. It's all too easy to imagine that they were pegged to work with New Day, who would officially go heel within a month of 'Mania. To an extent their unexpected hiatus was probably a good thing. It's all too easy to imagine that, had the Usos been available, we wouldn't have seen as much of the various other units on the roster.

Sadly the main team I (and probably most other people) would have wanted to see featured also disappeared due to an injury. Tyson Kidd suffered what has apparently been described as a freak neck and spinal injury in a dark match against the newly signed Samoa Joe in early June, ending his run alongside Cesaro. Weeks later Erick Rowan tore his bicep at a house show (or, if you prefer, live event). He'd reunited with his Wyatt Family partner Luke Harper in May and it seems likely, now that SummerSlam's been and gone, that the three original Wyatt Family members were to be put back together for a six man tag against Ambrose, Reigns and someone else (Sting, according to the rumour mill) at 'The Hottest Event of the Summer'.

These losses were in addition to the unfocused use of The Ascension and the Lucha Dragons. Konor and Viktor were never going to amount to a great deal in WWE but had they been used with more care earlier in the year they could have been a far more over act by now. The Dragons, on the other hand, should have been given far more to do and received some protection from the writing team. They're an exciting team with obvious merchandise potential. Kalisto is very clearly a singles act waiting to happen who could be that Top Latin Star™ role we're always hearing WWE want. He may not have the name value or status of Rey Mysterio but he's ten times the worker Mysterio is these days. And he wears a cooler mask! What more do they want?

The tag division had mostly been left to the Prime Time Players and New Day. Focusing on two teams is nothing new. It's been the standard approach from WWE for years now. But it's disappointing because they seemed to be setting up a positively thriving division with the Usos, Cesaro and Kidd, the Wyatts, New Day, and the Lucha Dragons. New Day and the PTPs are very engaging teams who connect with audiences well in their respective roles and it would have been nice for them to have had a deeper roster to work with, even though the PTPs wouldn't have been receiving as much attention as they have been.

The good news is that despite all of these injuries and scuppered plans WWE is forging ahead with making doubles ranks worthwhile. The post-SummerSlam August 24 episode of Monday Night RAW saw a return and a debut that should and could impact on the division. 

These lads know how to win belts.
The returnees were the Dudley Boyz. Which may not mean anything to some people because it's actually been ten years since they were last employed by WWE and allowed to use that name. For the last decade they've been Team 3D in TNA. They're former twenty-four time world tag team champions, having held the WWE tag team titles once, the WWE world tag team titles eight times, the ECW tag team titles eight times, the WCW tag team titles once (although that was when the belts were under WWF ownership), the TNA tag team titles (a surprisingly low) two times, the NWA tag team titles once, the HUSTLE super tag team championship once, and the IWGP tag team titles two times. How many of these reigns are recognised by WWE is anybody's guess. I'd assume they'd count the WWE, WCW and ECW reigns but they could surprise us and acknowledge others.

In addition to being the most decorated double act to ever hit the wrestling biz the Dudleys are twenty year veterans and were a significant part of the Attitude Era. That Maggle Cole said that the tag scene had gotten more interesting when the Duds hit the ring to attack New Day and have a staredown with the Prime Time Players indicates that their return will be a permanent one, or at least not something that's over after a few weeks.

I'm interested to see what's done with Bubba and Devon. Matches against New Day and the Prime Time Players seem likely and both could be good. I'm be particularly interested in seeing them tackle heat magnets New Day which, judging by the last week of television, seems like a match we'll get at Night of Champions. A match with the Usos could also be fruitful considering the big bumps Jimmy and Jey frequently take. It's just a pity The Ascension weren't afforded better booking. If they had they'd probably be ideal opponents for the Dudleys right now.

The Wyatt Lads.
Monday's debut was Braun Strowman. He's a developmental guy who's been under contract since May 2013. Naturally he's been based at the Performance Center for the last year. Although he never appeared in a match on NXT he did feature regularly for a while as the large Spartan in Adam Rose's Exotic Express entourage. That he never got an official debut on the developmental programme likely means that WWE are still willing to have guys bypass a period of televised learning if the right spot presents itself on the main roster. This is a good thing. It means they're in a better position to surprise us.

Strowman joined Wyatt and Harper in attacking and ultimately laying out Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Presumably the Shield lads will recruit a third man to help them in their battle against the Wyatt Family. Cesaro would be a nice addition, but I'd take Dolph Ziggler or anyone vaguely talented with not much to do right now. Once that feud's done it seems reasonable to assume that the Wyatts will stay together and two members will form a regular tag team. As much as I love Luke Harper he deserves to be the number two singles guy of that group. Strowman and Rowan would be a good pairing. Rowan is painfully bland and Strowman seems green around the edges. Pairing them would help cover these failings and give the tag division more bodies.

The summer of 2015 could have featured a great tag division without the spate of injuries we saw. But there's nothing to stop WWE getting their plans back on track and factoring in the Dudleys and an altered Wyatt line-up. A division with New Day, the Dudleys, and the Usos on top and the Wyatt Family, the Lucha Dragons, The Ascension, and the Prime Time Players in supporting roles sounds pretty good to me.

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