The WWE is riding pretty high on the success of their invitational tournaments on the WWE Network. From last summer’s Cruiserweight Classic to this summer’s Mae Young Classic, both have garnered the company praise from around the world. Even if some of the competitors didn’t work out or get showcased as well after (like CWC and 205 Live), the initial tournaments themselves have been huge successes (even without the Mae Young Classic airing yet). For those who don’t go on to sign with the WWE (50% of the CWC never signed with the WWE and as of this writing, more than that are still independent following the Mae Young Classic), the exposure on the WWE Network and to the WWE Universe creates opportunities and awareness to casual fans of local promotions that will only benefit them in the long run. For those that sign, the potential to become a WWE Superstar is at their fingertips. But last week, Dave Meltzer hinted in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, that the WWE may be planning on launching an invitational tag team tournament next summer in 2018, more akin to the CWC and Mae Young Classic than the already existing Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic airing during NXT. Chances are, the NXT tourney (which is still planned to be a part of NXT this year as well) could be removed from NXT programming and it would become it’s own separate tournament brand, thus keeping the Dusty Rhodes tribute in its name.
With that being said, we thought we’d jump the gun by a year and start speculating which 32 tag teams that the WWE could bring in for this tournament. If it was to run in the summer, it would most likely tape in the spring (thus leaving the summer to tape the 2018 Mae Young Classic), so there is obviously some rigid criteria for these 32 selections:
They have to be available. I’m sure that most people will read this list and say it’s garbage because the Young Bucks aren’t listed (SPOILER: The Young Bucks aren’t listed). But there’s a very good reason why they aren’t list. Because they simply would not be contractually able to appear. They just signed a two year deal with Ring of Honor that would take them through to the spring of 2019. So we’re not going to waste a choice on a tag team we know for certain is simply contractually unavailable to appear on WWE programming – it’s also why teams like Guerillas of Destiny, LAX, The Briscoes, Killer Elite Squad or American Wolves aren’t listed. If they’re signed long term with Global Force Wrestling (formerly TNA/Impact), NJPW, Ring of Honor, or any of their affiliates (such as AAA, NOAH, CMLL, etc.), then there’s virtually no chance they will be legally permitted to appear on WWE programming like a televised tournament.
They have to be proper tag teams. The independents are just as guilty as the WWE for pairing two top singles wrestlers together to form a tag team. And while sometimes they end up becoming strong tag teams (such as reDRagon), a lot of times they are infrequent tandems that only pair up in short runs, often with one or two promotions. In order to give more spotlight to proper tag teams from the indie scene, we are not including any of these teams that are more “two singles guys as showcases” (even if they’ve won tag team gold together). For this reason, teams like The Unbreakable F**king Machines (Michael Elgin & Brian Cage) and The Chosen Bros (Matt Riddle & Jeff Cobb) are not listed.
So we took to the streets (or rather the internet forums and groups, such as Kult of Kayfabe) and asked the fans which indie tag teams they felt would be ideal candidates for a potential WWE invitational tag team team tournament next year. After whittling down the suggestions (and removing those who missed the criteria) – and adding a few surprises of our own – we present our 32 tag teams for the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on the WWE Network (listed alphabetically). SPOILER: We actually listed 35 – after all, they usually bring in a few more as alternates in case of injury.
THE 32 TEAMS FOR THE 2018 DUSTY RHODES TAG TEAM CLASSIC (Plus 3 as Alternates)
#1 American Bulldogs (Jon West & Maddog McDowell), USA
Not to be confused the ECW Originals, The Pitbulls, who used a similar name in their latter career…Also known as Union in some promotions…Have been tagging together since 2011…3x 3XW Tag Team Champions
#2 The Besties In The World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett), USA
Have been tagging together since 2011…Also known as Sex Bob-ombs and Kobra Kai Dojo…Current Glory Tag Team Champions for Glory Pro
#3 The Bhangra Knights (Darrell Allen & RJ Singh), India (via England)
Have been tagging since 2012…Former IPW:UK Tag Team Champions…Have also worked frequently with PROGRESS and RevPro
#4 Boys from Jollyville (Russ Myers & T-Money), USA
Tag team since 2013, when they began as The Jolly Jeepers…Also known as The Jolly Fuck-Its in more non-PG promotions…Former AIW Tag Team Champions in their hometown promotion AIW, as well as performing for Glory Pro and Smash Wrestling.
#5 The Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lance Bravado), USA
Veterans of the indie circuit, been tagging together since 2008…Former 2x PWX Tag Team Champions as well as FIP Tag Team Champions and Dragon Gate USA Open The United Gate Champions…Have appeared for many top promotions, including Ring of Honor (ROH), EVOLVE, wXW and CHIKARA, as well as appearing as one of the tag teams in last year’s Broken Hardys special, Tag Team Apocalypto on Impact Wrestling.
#6 The Carnies (Kerry Awful & Nick Iggy), USA
Began tagging in 2013 as Team IOU before switching to The Carnies a year ago, working for multiple promotions such as ROH, PWX, AIW, CWF, ACW, FIP, and many more…Former AWE Tag Team Champions.
#7 Catch Point (Fred Yehi & Tracey Williams), USA
Catch Point as a faction was the ruling elite in EVOLVE, featuring Drew Gulak, TJ Perkins, Tracey Williams, Fred Yehi and later Chris Dickinson, Jaka and Matt Riddle…Yehi and Williams are former 2x EVOLVE Tag Team Champions…Both stand out singles wrestlers as well.
#8 CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos), England
The original CCK (Commonwealth Catch Kings) featured Chris Brookes and Travis Banks, but Banks has moved on to South Pacific Power Trip, with Kid Lykos now Brookes’ main partner…Current reigning Tag Team Champions with ATTACK! in the UK and CZW in the United States and former PROGRESS Tag Team Champions.
#9 Ealy Brothers (Gabriel & Uriel Ealy), USA
Real life twin brothers currently working NXT Live Events as well as enhancement appearances on NXT television. They could either be first round fodder for other teams or use the tournament to create momentum into their own push.
#10 Extra Talented (Aaron Solow & Ricky Starks), USA
Only been a team for a year, but their picking up momentum around the world, as regular stars for WrestleCircus as well as touring the UK with England’s Southside Wrestling Entertainment (SWE) and Ireland’s Over The Top (OTT)…Aaron Solow was an alternate for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and has some enhancement matches on NXT and 205 Live. He’s also the real life boyfriend of WWE Superstar Bayley.
#11 The Fella Twins (Eddie McQueen & Rick Cataldo), USA
With Stephanie McMahon revealing in recent interviews that the WWE hopes to integrate LGBTQ+ characters and storylines over the coming years, why not start with one of the pro wrestling’s most popular openly gay duos?…Have been wrestling together since 2015, appearing for such promotions as CZW and New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC)…Also frequently compete on all-women promotions, such as Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU), where they had a 455 day reign as WSU Tag Team Champions.
#12 Kings of the North (Damien Corvin & Bonesaw), Ireland
A unit since 2015, they are the current and 2x OTT Tag Team Champions…Made their debuts in PROGRESS, WCPW and IPW:UK this year.
#13 The London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis), England
Arguably England’s best tag team right now and have been nearly since they debuted in 2012…3x IPW:UK Tag Team Champions as well as Tag Team champions in PROGRESS and SWE.
#14 The Lucha Brothers (Penta 0M & Rey Fenix), Mexico
Although both are solidifying themselves as top singles stars internationally the past year, these two real life brothers have been tag teaming for years, going back to their early days in AAA…Both highly decorated singles wrestlers, this spring they ended the Young Bucks 600+ day reign as PWG World Tag Team Champions…Recently left both AAA and Lucha Underground, so they’ll be free to sign with a major promotion 90-days after Season Three ends. While GFW, NJPW and ROH are options more likely for their style, they may be enticed to at least test the waters in this tournament next summer to explore their options.
#15 Metro Brothers (Chris & JC Metro), USA
One of the newest teams in the list, the Metro Brothers are fast becoming stars, primarily with ACW…they’ve recently begun working NXT tapings in enhancement roles.
#16 Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley), USA
Although they’re currently under contract with Ring of Honor, their deals are thought to be short ones and they could very well be back on the free agent market by the time this tournament would tape next summer. Although the may not stick around for a run in NXT, a brief stint in the tourney, similar to what Zack Sabre Jr. or Ibushi did in last year’s CWC, could be in the cards between moves. Former TNA World Tag Team Champions, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and AAW Tag Team Champions.
#17 Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven), England
One of the easiest ones to assemble for the tourney, as both are working as singles competitors for the WWE’s UK division…Have been teaming since 2015 and have made a huge impact in Europe, from their birthplace in Seven’s Fight Club Pro promotion to PROGRESS, WCPW, wXw, OTT and CHIKARA, where they’re former Campeonatos de Parejas Champions.
#18 OI4K (Dave & Jake Crist), USA
Real life Crist brothers also work as a trio with indie icon Sami Callihan and have been wrestling together since 2003…Also known as The Irish Airborne and The Ring Rydas…7x Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) Tag Team Champions, 5x AAW Tag Team Champions, 5x JCW Tag Team Champions, plus reigns in CZW and AIW…Jeremy Borash recently announced they would debut with Impact Wrestling soon, so depending on the nature of their deals and how well they work out, they may very well be ineligible by this time next year.
#19 Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey), Scotland
While Joe Coffey captures all the Scottish indie headlines as one of Scotland’s finest singles competitors, his brother Mark is one half of arguably Scotland’s best tag team, Polo Promotions…3x ICW Tag Team Champions.
#20 PPRay (Peter Avalon & Ray Rosas), USA
Two West Coast stars from Championship Wrestling From Hollywood (CWFH), they’ve been pairing up since 2012 and having been winning gold ever since…2x CWFH Heritage Tag Champs and 2x AWS Tag Team Champions
#21 reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish), USA
With Bobby Fish making his NXT debut last week on television and the news that his tag partner Kyle O’Reilly debuted at the last set of tapings, it’s seems odd that at some point these two are going to be put back together…NXT’s tag team division is now it’s glaring weakness beyond Authors of Pain and Heavy Machinery and they would give it instant credibility again…3x ROH World Tag Team Champions, 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
#22 Ricochet & Evan Bourne, USA
The likelihood of this happening is slim but follow me for a minute. Yes, Matt Sydal is currently working dates with GFW, but there have been no reports he’s signed a full time deal – after all, he’s still appearing for ROH as well. He could very well return to the WWE – particularly to bolster NXT or 205 Live – by early 2018. But next spring, Ricochet will be clear of his 90 day no-compete clause from his Lucha Underground exit (it kicks in after Season 3 ends). He could work a few NJPW dates and then spend his summer tagging with his former NJPW tag team partner in the tournament. It would give Sydal (or rather, Evan Bourne) a great thrust back into the WWE Universe and allow Ricochet to slide back to the indies for a spell (he’s most rumoured to be leaning towards a ROH deal when he’s free). And if he ever does return, he’s got an instant starting feud with the man he tagged with at the WWE tag team tournament…together they’re 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and 2/3 of the trios that won the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team titles (with Satoshi Kojima).
#23 Ringkampf (Axel Dieter Jr. & WALTER), Germany
A feared duo from Germany’s wXw promotion, they were also two of the companies top singles stars – Dieter Jr. is a former wXw Unified Champion and WALTER himself is a 3x Unified Champion. They had their farewell match for Deiter at PROGRESS earlier this year, as Dieter Jr. has now begun work at the WWE Performance Center as his journey with NXT begins. WALTER is making his own North American debut this year as well. Even if WALTER is only brought in to help Deiter in the tournament, there’s a good chance this could happen.
#24 South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks), New Zealand
WWE is definitely hot for Australasia of late, with a slew of Aussie or Kiwi wrestlers entering the fold like Emma, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, TM61 and Dakota Kai (Evie) leading the charge. The Pacific Power Trip, alongside their valet, women’s wrestler Dahlia Black, have become one of the world’s hottest tag factions outside of North America – they’ve been stars in PROGRESS and across their home continent. They even caught the WWE’s eye and were part of the PROGRESS/WWE showcase at WrestleMania Axxess this year, facing off against 205 Live‘s Rich Swann and Mustafa Ali. They’re definitely on the WWE’s radar.
#25 The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins), USA
Another developmental team that’s finally starting to show up on NXT, they may become eligible next year simply because they’re already over. While many are reacting online with disgust that they’re another stereotypical gangbanger gimmick, think more like Hype Bros. They’re here for a good time and get hyped, not steal your car.
#26 Super Smash Brothers (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson), Canada
A tag team of cult proportions, they’ve become a legend on the indie circuit… Originally both masked wrestlers, Player Uno and Stupefied, they debuted in 2006 (briefly calling themselves Triforce as well). Stupefied unmasked and went by his name, Stu Grayson, while Player Uno became Evil Uno…Have equal success in the US, where they’re former PWG World Tag Team Champions and CHIKARA Campeonatos de Parejas Champions, as well as top stars across their home country Canada with Smash Wrestling, A1 Wrestling (where they’re 2x Tag Team Champions) and the current Royal Canadian Tag Team Champions for Lucha Toronto.
#27 le Tabernak De Team (Mathieu St-Jacques & Thomas Dubois), Canada
A hard hitting, tough as nails, and rugged French-Canadian team that is starting to make waves in the indie circuit…Picture if the Quebecers were more like the Briscoes and portrayed by War Machine. Sorta like that… Had a barnburner of a match-up recently with The London Riots at Smash Wrestling… 2x C4 Tag Team Champions, 3x Tag Team Champions for Combat Revolution Wrestling (CRW) in Montreal… Stars across the Canadian indie circuit, they’re emerging in the US following appearances with CZW, Beyond and CHIKARA.
#28 Team Friendship (Scotty Slade & Mark Shurman)
One of the top tag teams out of the New England indie circuits, they’re two of the most popular stars for Massachusetts’ Chaotic Wrestling and New England Wrestling (NEW), where they’ve captured each promotion’s Tag Team titles.
#29 Team Tremendous (Dan Barry & Ken Scampi)
Tough team out of NYWC, they’ve honed their team together since 2013, working for CZW, AAW, EVOLVE, PWG, and House of Hardcore (HOH). 2x NYWC Tag Team Champions, plus gold in CZW.
#30 Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss, USA
These guys have been working the NXT Live Events for months now together, occasionally cracking TV as an enhancement team. They could be another team that would either be used as first round fodder or begin their NXT story.
#31 TM61 (Shane Thorne & Nick Miller), Australia
As The Mighty Don’t Kneel, these two were one of the world’s most exciting tag teams, dominating Japan (2x GHC Tag Team Champions in Pro Wrestling NOAH) for years and showcasing in the US with Ring of Honor, CWFH and Explosive Pro Wrestling (EPW) in their homeland. But after arriving with a buzz in NXT, they’ve had some rough luck with timing and injuries (which is the reason for the current lengthy hiatus) – they’re the tag team equivalent of Hideo Itami. They won last year’s Dusty Rhodes Classic ready for a huge push and then injury struck, sidelining them almost a year now. Hopefully they’re back on TV and moving long before they start this tournament, but if not, this could be the redemption story of the event.
#32 To Infinity And Beyond (Colin Delaney & Cheech), USA
Why yes, that is former WWE Superstar Colin Delaney. The meek person who had one of the most remarkable underdog stories in WWE history. He was one part Daniel Bryan and one part James Elsworth. Since returning to the indies, he’s had a Brian Kendrickian story of redemption and emerged as part of one of the top indie tag teams of the Northern US…3x AIW Tag Team Champions
#33 Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy), USA
If the Wyatts were their own Rosebuds, they would be the Ugly Ducklings. Fun and fierce, the usual pairing of Lude & Killjoy are sometimes joined as a trio with Colby Corino. Former PWX Tag Team Champions, they’ve been battling for years in CWF, branching out to such promotions as Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, CZW and EVOLVE.
#34 The UK Hooligans (Roy & Zak Knight), England
It’s clear that the Bevis clan – the wrestling family of WWE Superstar Paige – want Paige to clean up and get back to work in the WWE for her own health and safety. If things can work out, her brothers could make a great addition of Bevis’ to work for the company. These rowdy roughnecks are as tough as they act and creating a new family to build tradition of would be good for the WWE history books, as the Samoans, Harts and others aren’t going to produce gold forever…They’ve tag team gold in their family’s promotion, World Association of Wrestling (WAW) and various other UK indies such as Preston City Wrestling (PCW), and made appearances with ICW, RevPro, IPW:UK and Liverpool’s All Star Wrestling (ASW).
#35 War Machine (Raymond “Death” Rowe & Hanson), Norway (via USA)
They’re perhaps the most hotly drooled over tag team free agents in a long time. Recently departed from Ring of Honor (where they won ROH World Tag Team titles) after a solid run with the company…Working NJPW as free agents, picking up two IWGP Tag Team titles in the process…Reports indicate that every major promotion is trying to secure their services long term, from NJPW to WWE…Most rumours point to NXT (Raymond Rowe’s real life girlfriend is NXT’s Sarah Logan, aka Crazy Mary Dobson).
Who else would you pick? Let us know in the comments below!