Realistic changes to the tag team division
by, 06-29-2011 at 10:01 PM (3599 Views)
It’s no secret to anyone who has been watching WWE programming for the past 3 years, but the tag team division as it is currently represented is a terrible division. For a company who once showcased the best tag teams, and got behind the tag team belts as a valued prize to be won, the current position they are in is woeful. The tag belts are currently held by a set of joke champions, whose non-appearance week after week on either of the major shows is a testament to how low the division has sunk. To me, the tag division should represent a valuable piece of the mid-card order. Not only is it a good way for a younger wrestler to learn how to work a WWE match (as he has a partner for backup), but it is also an easier way to tell a story.
When a WWE superstar debuts, it is a lot of pressure to handle, especially for someone who is new to being on televised wrestling, and not in the indies. Some of them can adapt instantly, and will immediately showcase themselves greatly, not missing a beat and settling into the role of a WWE superstar well. Others need a bit of assistance, and a bit of guidance to help them not only get used to telling a story in the ring the way the WWE wants you to, but to also work the crowd etc. If a young 23 year old wrestler can debut with someone else who is going through exactly the same thing as they are (ala Christian and Edge), then it can help them feel supported, knowing they have someone else with them to help them get over etc. If a young 24 year old wrestler can debut in a tag team angle with a veteran superstar (ala Jinder Mahal/Great Khali), then not only can the veteran help them succeed, but they can also use their heel heat/babyface cheers to help get them over quicker with the crowd etc. This also works for superstars who have debuted, but are struggling to find a good character. Often, new life can be breathed into someone when paired with someone else, giving them a new character angle (in the case of Kozlov/Marella, a straight man for Santino’s comedy acts).
Not only does the tag division have benefits from a superstar perspective, but also from an entertainment perspective as well. With WWE putting out 4 hours of televised entertainment per week (as well as NXT and Superstars), they can’t just have 5 one on one matches for each show, as the formula would get stale and tiresome for the viewer. They need to keep a fresh mixture of match types going, to keep people interested, and wanting to tune in next week etc. A tag match is a simple variation on the formula of a one on one match up, which to me seems fairly easy to put on, but is often used lazily by the WWE (see multiple ridiculous Divas 6-woman tag matches).
The art and spectacle of the tag team match is one that cannot be replicated by the singles match. Aside from the double team moves that can come out of it that differ, it is also the general in ring story that can be changed and altered when it is two on two, instead of the normal one on one. It can help the heels seem more vicious and underhanded, as it is easier for the old “one distract the ref whilst the other gets a cheap shot in” tactic, and it helps the babyface comeback seem more spectacular, as they are fighting two people, instead of just the one. It helps liven up in ring action, as there is a lot more to pay attention to, giving that feeling of chaos and unpredictability, ever more enhanced the more people added into the match.
Tag wrestling is a valuable part of wrestling in general, especially from a storyline perspective. Although it is sometimes predictable that eventually down the road at some point, most tag teams will split up and feud with one another, but there’s a reason that this is so predictable, and that is that it can be a successful storyline. If people grow accustomed to seeing a certain pairing of superstars together, and grow to love/despise them both, then when they have the inevitable dispute, it makes for a more interesting storyline, as there is that sense of history behind it.
Seeing how important tag team wrestling could be to a wrestling promotion, it always surprises me of how little importance WWE currently seem to value the tag team division as a whole. Its not like they have never focused on tag team wrestling, with them having two separate great periods of tag team wrestling, in the early 90’s and in the early 00’s. Not only did these two periods produce some great wrestling, but they also helped to create some bonafide main eventers, who have headlined WWE events for years to come afterwards.
Currently, WWE has but 6 tag teams to their name. One of these is a Divas tag team (the Bellas), 4 of them are recent pairings together of singles wrestlers (Slater/Gabriel, Otunga/McGillicutty, Mahal/Khali, Kozlov/Marella) and one of them is a pair of twins (The Uso’s). This is not a great tag team division. Out of these 5 male wrestler teams, there’s not many of them that I would trust to put on a good match. As we have seen on the past 2 weeks of Smackdown, Slater/Gabriel and The Uso’s can put on a good match, with high energy together. Aside from that, I have no real interest in seeing Otunga/McGillicutty (who both have had no personalities attributed to them, aside from being CM Punks lackeys), Mahal/Khali (Mahal is fine by himself, and I like the storyline but Khali is one of the worst wrestlers currently on the roster) or Kozlov/Marella (again, Marella is fine by himself, as the man is genuinely funny, but as a tag team, they are fairly pointless).
Considering that this division used to be full of promising, young wrestlers, who were actual tag teams that worked in tandem together, it is now a mere shadow of its former self. To me it seems futile to try and work out why the WWE doesn’t put any emphasis on this division any more, with the belts changing hands under seemingly ridiculous circumstances (see Miz/Cena tag team title reign), and the current holders of the belt (New Nexus) barely being called upon to have a match, let alone defend their titles. I know the WWE doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on a lot of the mid card belts, but at least they are currently featuring feuds around these titles, unlike the tag team belts.
In order to change the division, it feels to me that WWE has a chance with the talent that they currently have, which can lay some groundwork for future teams that they can introduce:
1) Continue on with creating a feud between Uso’s and Slater/Gabriel on Smackdown – I’ve not heard anyone really talk about the last 2 matches that these two teams have had, but I thought that they were both rather good. They contained tag moves that we don’t normally see in the current WWE, as I’m currently struggling to think of a tag team with a finishing move. If the WWE is going to start rebuilding, or at least placing extra emphasis on the tag division, then they will have to start with what they currently have. With only a small amount of TV time and no promo time, the Uso’s have created passable babyface characters as well, a large step away from the “anti-Samoan” characters that they debuted with, but they slot in as babyfaces rather well.
2) Have the champions actually appear on both shows, and actually wrestle as a team – It currently makes no sense to have the “tag champs can appear on both shows” rule, as it is barely used. As Nexus don’t really have any actual challengers on Raw, then why not have them appear on Smackdown every now and then, issuing challenges to people and actually behaving as champions
3) Give the current tag teams a joint name, to provide the sense of unity – Call me old fashioned, but I like my tag teams to have a joint name, to highlight that they are an actual team. The Uso’s and the Bella’s are the only two teams that currently have a name, but why not rebrand Slater/Gabriel with a good, catchy name? It makes them look like a better tag team, rather than just a random pairing of individual superstars and it helps create a tag team identity as well. The Uso’s currently have been given a Samoan identity (recently performing the Haka dance before their matches), which helps create a brand identity for them as a team, which they can base their on-screen personas, and move set around. Giving Slater/Gabriel a name, regardless of how potentially awful it could be (see the utterly meaningless one man rock band “nickname” of Slater), will help them out, and give them some much needed personality.
4) Debut superstars as an actual tag team, rather that instantly as a solo effort – As I mentioned before, sometimes it is easier for a debuting superstar to have someone with them, to not only provide support out in the ring, but who can also help guide them in the ring, and in promos as well.
5) Restore tag-team title matches to 3rd on the PPV undercard – It bugs me that not only do tag titles rarely get defended on a PPV, but even when they are defended on Raw, it is rarely the main event, and usually doesn’t get more than 5 minutes. To give a sense of prestige back to the titles, they need to be given a more premiere slot on your average PPV. Having the logical PPV sequence of 8 matches in the potential order of – US title, Grudge match, Intercontinental Title, Divas match, Grudge Match, Tag team title, World Title and WWE title gives a sense of purpose to the belts, as it will slot just behind the main events.
The division isn’t that difficult to fix and make seem relevant again, but if the WWE and Vince only see tag team matches as filler, and not proper ways to help sell merchandise/get a superstar over, then the division will never be reborn as the exciting, thrilling division that it could be.