August 19, 2011
Guest column: WWE tag team division lacks focus
On Monday, the announcing duo of Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler pointed out the blandness of the current WWE tag team division on RAW, as tag team champions David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty squared off against Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston in a non-title match.
Their criticisms are dead on.
From calling events such as heavyweight title changes to scantily-clad Divas' matches, the pair is a Monday night standard on the wrestling program. If the tones of their voices change, viewers across the world hear it immediately. If they show distaste for something occurring on the show, viewers sense it by watching and listening to the program.
"David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty are WWE tag team champions for quite some time and I'm just waiting for these guys to do something big, something special. I mean really excite people," said Lawler. "I know they are champions and you know what ... I mean ... they're just ... I don't know ... it's like the bland leading the bland up there. I want these guys to do something. I want them to excite me."
The commentators, including Michael Cole, went on to give their take on the two participating tag teams.
"I think that Bourne and Kingston could make a very good team if they are regular partners, get some dynamic, chemistry, development," said Ross. "I think that Otunga and McGillicutty could use some stiff competition for the WWE tag team titles and quite frankly I haven't seen that occurring on a regular basis."
"I'd like to see them (Otunga and McGillicutty) put their titles at stake a little more often," Lawler added, which good ol' JR agreed with. Bourne and Kingston would go on to win the match in exciting fashion and JR closed out the segment by saying, "Well maybe business will pick up now in the tag team division. Give Bourne and Kingston a title opportunity; let's heat this tag team division up."
It was almost obvious that JR and Lawler were poking at an idea for the WWE to re-focus some attention on the tag team division; inject some energy and money into the division, make it successful once again.
Of the last ten teams to hold the WWE tag team titles, only one could have actually been billed as a legitimate tag team, built for the sole reason of tag matches. That tag team was the Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith). Since then, the titles have been handed to wrestlers thrown into a tag team because their singles careers were unsuccessful or in a rut (Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes) or because they were not over with the fans (Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater), or to create controversy (John Cena and The Miz, John Cena and David Otunga). The legitimacy of the titles and the division as a whole is dwindling.
The '90s would include the same high energy tag teams with additions to the roster such as Legion of Doom (which already had a major following thanks to their success in the AWA and NWA as the Road Warriors), Steiner Brothers, Smoking Gunns and more.
The early 2000s would include epic feuds between Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boys; feuds that would revolutionize extreme matches in WWE, while The New Age Outlaws took the word "attitude" to a new level with their incredible mic work and involvement with Degeneration X.
During these three decades, wrestlers who were more known as popular singles wrestlers (Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Andre the Giant) all formed tag teams. Hogan and Savage formed the Mega Powers, which increased their popularity and Andre the Giant formed the Colossal Connection with Haku and earned tag team gold in 1989.
Tag team wrestling helped shape the singles careers of wrestlers such as Bret Hart (Hart Foundation), Monty Sopp (Billy Gunn of the Smoking Gunns, Badass Billy Gunn of the New Age Outlaws), Adam Copeland (Edge and Christian), Jeff Hardy (The Hardy Boyz) and so many more.
Could the addition of free agents such as the Young Bucks, or a re-visit of the World's Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas), who are rejuvenating their careers as tag team champions in Ring of Honor wrestling, be really that expensive an endeavour for WWE? Throw the Uso Brothers, the only combination that stands out as an actual tag team in the WWE, into the mix and you've already begun to improve the division leaps and bounds. Team up Ezekiel Jackson with Mason Ryan and you have your power duo, similar to the likes of The Acolytes or Powers of Pain of the past, and I've laid out a successful beginning to the tag team division for the WWE. You have the high-flying duo of The Young Bucks, you have your tactical duo of the World's Greatest Tag Team, you have a heel duo with ties to the famous Samoan wrestling tradition in the Uso Brothers and you have your heel power duo with Jackson and Ryan. The WWE could build around this solid foundation of young and exciting talent which incorporates variety into the division and perhaps create interest in tag team wrestling once again.
It seems like in this day and age the WWE is rushing the singles push for wrestlers. They break up tag teams too early. When a wrestler turns heel on his partner it's far too quick. The team has not even established themselves as a tag team unit and they are already being torn apart. Wouldn't the split be more of a surprise and give more credibility to both parties in their singles pushes if they teamed for a long period of time; a period of time where they owned the titles and had reputable feuds with other tag teams? Similar to the way it was done in the '80s, '90s and 2000s?
Whatever the reason may be, the WWE has lost focus on the tag team division. The energy of years past is lost, the product is dull and boring and it needs to be rejuvenated, similar to the way a broken down automobile needs a new body, fresh paint and a re-charged battery.
Is rejuvenating the tag team division worth looking into for the WWE? Is bringing in new talent and devoting television time and money going to accomplish this? It's not a guarantee, but I think it would be a good start for the WWE. What could they possibly lose by trying? They've certainly had worse ideas in the past (The Boogeyman and Bastion Booger anyone?)
Bryan Mcwilliam is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.