The Anti-Antagonist: Left Holding the Rope

Adam Gorzelsky

Primo and EpicoCall it a pre-adolescent obsession with all things gross and disgusting, but my first foray into wrestling superstar fandom was none other than the sardine eating…head licking…battering-ramming…arm-swingin’….sons-of-New Zealand…WOOO…The Bushwhackers. That’s right…Although I quickly became a fan of the obvious singles wrestlers of that time, my earliest memory of being enamored with the spectacle consisted of this loveable tandem…In fact, my first piece of WW(censored) memorabilia wasn’t my Bret Hart sunglasses, but a stylish Bushwhacker hat and matching Luke and Butch Hasbro figures.

While it certainly is not hard to understand why a six-year-old boy would be drawn to the comedic antics of the Bushwhackers, the fact remains that a tag-team was the catalyst in forging what has become a lifelong fascination with all things professional wrestling. Along the way, it has been tag teams of all shapes, sizes, and origins that have contributed greatly to my continuing love affair.

Teams like LOD and the Demolition rose together and left each individual member forever imprinted with the seal of the team…Teams like Money Inc. and the New Age Outlaws combined established singles competitors into teams that left an indelible mark…While teams like the Steiner Brothers, Edge & Christian, and the Hardy Boyz rose to prominence together before seeing the individual members establish an existence apart from the team (for better or for worse.)

No matter the composition of the teams or the level of success and excitement being generated by the singles division at the time, a successful tag team division always has been a key ingredient to the success of WWF/E throughout the years. Unfortunately…and brace yourselves because this bold statement may come as a surprise…the tag division has been woefully non-existent for quite some time now.

We’ve seen flashes of rebirth recently with the emergence of Air Boom and Triple H’s promises of a renewed focus. However, this momentum quickly hit a brick wall when Air Boom went up in smoke (see what I did there). Since that time, Primo and Epico have been given little opportunity to shine, with the Tag Titles not even making an appearance at Wrestlemania…Sad times for those clamoring for a return to the glory days of a legitimate tag division…For that matter, sad times for those of us who enjoy seeing Rosa Mendes on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, apart from the disappointment felt by fans like myself who enjoy the tag team division, this competitive lull couldn’t come at a worse time from a developmental perspective. WWE has an abundance of young talent that is underutilized and frankly unprepared to perform on such a large stage. There are no territories and no real competition that is remotely comparable to the size and scale of the WWE. The result? A group of youngsters who get lost in the shuffle due to an inability to connect with the fans.

This is, was, and always will be an unquestionable benefit of a strong tag division. It provides young talent with an avenue for growth…An option for two green individuals to lean on one another both from the perspective of in-ring ability and character development. More importantly, it provides a purpose for a greater portion of the roster. When the tag titles mean something, the audience is interested in each pair that pursues its glory.

Now I certainly understand at this point that I am preaching to the converted. My concern and displeasure regarding the lack of a tag division is nothing new and is shared by many. However, given recent developments, I’ve seen a glimmer of hope that maybe…just maybe…fingers crossed, please don’t let me down….the long-awaited resurgence of the tag division may be upon us.

A few weeks ago, Rosa Mendes forced us once again to wonder whether Twitter is supposed to be seen as a forum for personal thoughts or kayfabe commentary when she expressed displeasure with Epico and Primo’s failure to make the Wrestlemania card. All questions regarding the comment’s status as a work or a shoot were answered on Raw when Abraham Washington referenced this displeasure in his ongoing attempts at recruitment…More importantly though, this ongoing frustration again has thrust the ultimate question into the spotlight…why aren’t the tag titles treated with the respect that they deserve?

By bringing this question to the forefront, I can’t help but think (hope) that WWE is prepared to answer this inquiry with a resounding reboot of the tag division, as much of the groundwork is beginning to be laid. The Usos have been waiting in the wings for months to receive a meaningful opportunity…Darren Young and Titus O’Neil debuted last week on Smackdown, presenting a legitimate heavyweight component to a division often dominated by small to mid-size superstars….Claudio Castagnoli also debuted on Smackdown as Antonio Cesaro, with Chris Hero biding his time in FCW for now. I doubt the Kings of Wrestling will be separate for long, as the prospect of dominating a revamped WWE tag division provides a tailor-made explanation for their presence in the company.

When you couple these up-and-coming teams with the recent announcement that the tag titles will be defended in Carlito’s WWC, I’m left with an overwhelming suspicion/anticipation that something big finally may be on the way for the tag division. Taking the Tag Titles outside of the company assigns a renewed degree of self-worth and recognition to them, while setting the table for a vigorous pursuit amongst the aforementioned teams within WWE.

Maybe this is all wishful thinking as every recent glimmer of hope has been dashed before it’s even had a chance to take root. However, if WWE truly is ready to show the commitment necessary to build a renewed tag division, the foundation for success certainly is in place.

In the end, tag teams have provided me with some of my greatest memories as a wrestling fan.  Whether displaying humor, sound technical wrestling, or pure athleticism, watching two superstars perform as a well-oiled machine is an absolute work of art that simply cannot be matched on an individual level…I miss this…And I fear that an entire generation of fans may not have the opportunity to build some of the same memories that have helped to make me a lifelong fan…If I am reading recent events correctly, I think there is a distinct possibility that this fear will not become a reality….Here’s hoping Mateys!

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @PolishHMR if you have any questions, comments, or random thoughts throughout the week.

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