Even though the name of this column was slightly inspired by a certain animated mounted police officer, that is where the similarity ends. Tag team wrestling today is a bit of a lost art. But when we think of historical teams that have achieved success, we think of two performers meshing different styles, or a pair of wrestlers that complement each other very well. Fans really enjoy tag team wrestling when the combination of styles and ability to work in sequence caught their attention. In the WWE, tag team wrestling tends to be circular, with pushes rotating among new or existing teams. Over the past three decades, it is not hard to identify different tag teams that defined their era of tag team wrestling, and made an impact during their matches.
In the 80s, The Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, Islanders, Rougeau Brothers, Demolition, Killer Bees, and Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine were all used and developed. Their styles were distinct, and ability in the ring was evident. Speed, strength, finesse and flamboyance were all styles in the ring that fans recognized in the teams of the era.
In the 90s and the millennium, the Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian and New Age Outlaws were also built up after being given time to develop. Much like the decade prior, these teams were flashy, but added an element of risk, plus they were more cutting-edge and focused on counter culture, bringing a rather extreme outlook to tag team wrestling. However, within the last few years the tag team division has been missing something. The division as a whole hasn’t really been developed. Rather than having feuds or storylines between teams, it became apparent that it was easier to simply focus on the champions and their current challengers, rather than all teams in the division.
It was almost as if there was a flavor of the month as it applied to challenger and champion. To the extent other teams are included, they are merely relegated to being thrown into a multi-team challenge, with little in the way of motive other than a shot at a belt. It’s difficult to really become attached to a team when there really isn’t anything that stands out about them other than a similarity in their tights. Some argue that this isn’t necessarily the fault of the individual teams, and that the issues are all in the booking. A counter to that argument would be if they are allotted time to generate a reaction, it’s the competitors job to generate that reaction.
Regardless of why there hasn’t been a focus on the division, the point remains that there hasn’t been a focus on building the division as a whole. Whether it was Miz and Mizdow, Prime Time Players, Gold and Stardust, Harper and Rowan, or The New Day, the point was that the titles were moved around fairly often outside a couple of exceptions such as The Shield or The Usos. Was something needed to once again push the division to the forefront? What was needed to have fans care as much about it as they do other parts of the card? Much like the Women’s division, the tag team division has lacked having a decent roster of performers who are contending and being built up.
The events of Monday August 24th, caught the WWE fans by surprise, with the return of The Dudley Boyz. The immediate reaction was remarkable, and the outpouring of support for their return was incredible. It was as if the tag team division had once again become worth watching. During the 90s and the new millennium, the Dudley’s had become a formidable tag team. Their Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches are still talked about today. The last time they had appeared as a tag team in the company was back in 2005.
Fans were surprised during the most recent Royal Rumble when Bubba Ray returned as an entrant. But during his time in the match it felt as though something was missing; conspicuous by his absence was Devon. Bubba Ray’s appearance was obviously to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, with the event being in Philadelphia and Bubba’s history in ECW. With the aid of R-Truth he did the signature Dudley spots, with the Wassup diving head butt and calling for the tables, but something just didn’t feel right without Devon being a part of the sequence. This appeared as though it was simply a one and done effort, and that this would be the only time fans would see him back in a WWE ring. As we fast forward seven months later, the Dudleyz made a proper return, set to immediately challenge for the WWE World Tag Team Championships. Fans were both excited and looking forward to the opportunity of having both men not only back, but back and doing something of significance.
The argument for their return is that the addition of the Dudleyz immediately puts the focus on what is happening with the Tag Team Championship. The counter to that argument is that the Dudleyz happen to be challenging for the title when WWE has finally established the most entertaining tag team they’ve had in some time, The New Day, a team that has already revived the division, a least a bit. And, the added question is, is having the Dudleyz as part of the WWE tag team division now, in 2015, as important as it ever was? Do they really offer more to the division, or is it an attempt to recapture what was once valued and highly enjoyed a decade ago instead of doing something new? There is no question that they add is something that most teams within the company can’t: Status. Their status, based on almost twenty years of tremendous accomplishments, is rivaled only by The Road Warriors. Their instant credibility, established through what they did not only in the WWE, but in ECW before that, cannot be ignored. And, despite the WWE not acknowledging TNA, both Bubba Ray and Devon also achieved success while there as well, both as singles and as a tag team.
The cause for concern isn’t what they add to the promotion, but rather what they could be potentially taking away during their time within the WWE. There are a number of talented teams within the company that combined athleticism and ring skill. The problem, however, is the status of those teams following the addition of The Dudleyz. There is much to like in teams like The Lucha Dragons or The Prime Time Players. Darren Young and Titus O’Neal clearly have personality, and when given promo time they are entertaining. Reuniting the team was a great decision by the writers, and provided fans with a team that was over and relatable. The Lucha Dragons offer a very fast-paced, up-tempo style, but have next to no promo time. It’s difficult to develop teams when you don’t give them time. The fact remains, should the Dudleyz be able to jump at the head of the line? Many would say yes, due to nostalgia, or inherent value they see in the characters of the Dudleyz. But in doing so, how does that help the rest of your division?
A number of teams are an afterthought as it relates to the division. One could argue that without the addition of The Dudleyz, the tag team division would remain stagnant, lifted only by The New Day. The counterpoint to that is that developing rivalries within the division doesn’t need to be specific to simply champion and number one contender. For example, The Ascension is now aligned with Stardust and in the process has created a faction. This has brought The Lucha Dragons into the same program as they support Neville and continue their rivalry with The Ascension.
There is no question a nostalgic feel to having The Dudleys back. They, along with the Hardys and Edge & Christian, meant something. However, by immediately contending for the title, does it help other teams, including the champions? Both The Ascension and the Lucha Dragons are former NXT Tag Team champions. One would think that if they merited holding a title previously, it follows that, once moved to the main roster, competing for the world titles would become a possibility? While there are things that need to be considered when it comes to making that decision such as their ability to connect with a larger audience, etc., this should be the way in which each of the teams are moved along.
The Dudleys earned everything they worked for, so to dismiss the status they have been given isn’t fair. Even in today’s WWE, there is clearly a connection that resonates with fans. The issue here is for all they offer to the promotion, what is the plan for them moving forward? Will they be used to help elevate other talent? Will there be long standing programs with other teams within the promotion? At the present time, there isn’t anything that necessarily leads fans to believe that. This is where we are nearly a week removed from Night of Champions. Regardless of whether they are competing for a title or not, the quick ascent to the head of the line only aids one particular feud. While it is interesting to see what the end result may be with the use of The Dudleyz, at the present time, for all that they have done well, they may have very well also done wrong.
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