One of the best stories coming out of 2017 was the re-emergence of The Usos as wrestlers that people took seriously and wanted to see succeed. Their feud with The New Day certainly illustrated that they were the top team on the Smackdown Live roster, and they ended the year as the Smackdown Live tag team champions. However, as 2017 turned to 2018, it became crucial that the champions were faced with other challengers that fans wanted to see them face, ones that could be taken seriously. This is where the tandem of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin come into the picture. These men had taken a back seat in 2017 as The New Day and The Usos were featured in a longstanding feud with one another. However, over the course of the past few months, Gable and Benjamin have been in hot pursuit of The Usos and the tag team championship, which will culminate this Sunday the Royal Rumble.
What has been interesting about the Gable and Benjamin dynamic is that, essentially, they are a reconceiving of both American Alpha and The World’s Greatest Tag Team. During their push, it also appears as though they have gone from being faces challenging heel champions to be heel challengers chasing the tweener/face champions. It wasn’t something fans had anticipated since Jimmy and Jey were firmly entrenched as heels, defending their titles within the Uso Penitentiary. What has emerged is a bit of controversy around the titles, as Gable and Benjamin have claimed that they did, in fact, win the match between them and The Usos on a recent episode of Smackdown Live, and were robbed of a championship win due to an official’s call.
What we can be assured of is this match will once again remind fans how good tag team wrestling can be. One of the more underrated talents in WWE, both on the microphone and in the ring, is Chad Gable. In fact, Gable appears to be the member of his team that has taken the lead for their tandem. While Benjamin is a former champion multiple times, his role here is different and thus seen differently. What has emerged is a much edgier duo that is pushing the envelope of their characters without having to use underhanded tactics inside the ring.
If one believes punishment is on hand for the Usos due to Jey’s recent DUI arrest, an argument could be made that the consequence of his actions could be that they drop the titles. Another argument is that, since the current trend is to have Gable and Benjamin just come up short, then the narrative writes itself and once again The Usos retain at the Royal Rumble. Or, there could be a change in direction for Gable and Benjamin, and they could capture the Smackdown Live tag team titles in a manner they are not accustomed to but are willing to now. A finish that isn’t clean may somewhat taint the overall match up, but it really shouldn’t. The direction of the Gable and Benjamin characters could be that, out of frustration over how they’ve been treated, they feel they have to bend the rules, if not outright break them, in order to walk away as the champions.
Predicted Winners and NEW Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions: Gable and Benjamin