Tag team wrestling has forever been a stalwart on any card, and is a fundamental feature of storytelling and variety. Some of the most beloved characters were tag teams, The Road Warriors, The Hart Foundation, and The British Bulldogs. The art of tag team wrestling has been refined to a well-oiled machine by these teams, setting it apart from the average one on one fare. However, this perfection that had been achieved by the innovators of the sport is slowing dissipating. Matching attire, unified theme music, and double team moves are being endangered by the growing trend of haphazardly thrown together teams being put over established teams.
Reminiscing about the teams that inhabited the eighties, foresees progression of major superstars paying their dues in the tag team ranks. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Scott Steiner and JBL, all were part of tag team units who specialized in double team wrestling at its purist. All these stars escaped their tag team roots into the bright lights of the main event and onto bigger and better things. Tag team wrestling is an essential step in the development of a mundane wrestler into a superstar; it’s a lifelong tradition that is still being utilized today. But there’s one distinct feature absent, the idea of team cohesion.
There is an excess of teams that are little more than two guys with nothing to do put together and given a title shot for the straps. Rhyno & Tajiri, Kenzo & Renee, and Benoit & Edge, are being prioritized over well-constructed team entities like the FBI, The Superheroes and even the Basham Brothers. With them, they are forcing people to see both tag team divisions as little more than time fillers and vessels for main event stars to stage feuds. All the while, established teams are being trampled thoughtlessly, or not even having a chance to exist in the first place, by a pair of stars who have done little more than greet each other in the corridor. And of all the divisions in the WWE at the moment, the tag team divisions are in the direst need of repair, before they dilute into being obsolete.
To begin with, there was absolutely no reason for Rhyno and Tajiri to join forces; in fact they were staunch heels while they were on Smackdown! yet when they got to Raw they were instantly baby faces for no apparent reason. It seems to make more sense to pair up Tajiri with Kenzo Suzuki; both play the part of comedy Asian to a tee. Yet we see the American patriot Kenzo paired up with the arch nemesis of every citizen of the U.S.A., Renee Dupree. Fan can’t buy a team who arrive to the ring to one of the individuals themes, fans can’t buy a team whose attire doesn’t match, and most of all, fans can’t buy a team that go about their business individually, until one hits their personal finisher and the match has ended. The science of tag team wrestling is now secondary to showboating by maineventers.
The reason there is an abundance of these odd couples isn’t entirely by choice. The WWE are cutting them short because not only are they ignoring the already established teams but also they aren’t even bringing new teams in. The last team complete with team music and ring attire that was brought in was the Basham Brothers, and they’ve since falling into obscurity. The current bombardment of new single talent being put over is heartening to see, but it’s puzzling that a similar approach isn’t being adopted for the tag team division.
No solid teams can only result in one outcome, cutting off an avenue for an up-and-comer to get his face on the screen. Just like the tag teamers before now, the fans could be missing out on some of tomorrow’s stars, the tag team division isn’t providing a spotlight for them, and if they do, its done so casually that it isn’t taken seriously. Is it really as simple as dressing the same and coming out in tandem? Yes, it is, would fans respect a football team that came out in whatever they woke up in? No they wouldn’t, just as fans won’t respect a team who look like their parents have made them walk to school together begrudgingly. Little subtleties like attire and double team moves all mount up to convince the viewers that the two guys in the ring are a machine in which each part is essential to the operation. After all, the tag team titles aren’t trophies for individual performances, but instead the effectiveness of the stars as a team.
From humble beginnings in Australia, tag team wrestling has fluctuated and been progressively refined and perfected. By picking names out of a hat to decide teams, the WWE are not only hindering future careers, but also putting evolution in rewind and diluting tag team wrestling to make it almost indistinguishable from your common singles fare. Which defeats the whole concept that tag team has built its archives of history on.
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Over and Out
*Be sure to check out my article in the Piledriver magazine UK!*