The (Slow) Ascent of Tag Team Wrestling in WWE

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Photo: WWE

While the WWE has a history of legendary tag teams, from Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito and The Wild Samoans in the 1970s, Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs in the 1980s, Edge & Christian, Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz in the Attitude Era, and several teams in the 2000s, for the most part, tag team wrestling has been an after thought in the WWE Universe, more often an excuse to pair two singles wrestlers that creative has nothing meaningful together than as a means to push legitimate tag teams (although some, like Cesaro & Sheamus in The Bar have worked out quite well). In the past year or so especially, aside from teams like The Usos or the New Day, tag team wrestling has been a running joke on the Raw and Smackdown Live brands. But in recent weeks, there has been a slow shift in the tag team landscape that has seen both sides gain a little more focus in their tag team divisions, once again offering a glimmer of hope that the tag team division will be given a little more love than being fodder for random pairings of Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins or Braun Strowman and a young child.

Here’s a quick glance at the brief re-emergence of tag teams in the WWE – let’s just hope the momentum isn’t killed as soon as its begun.

THE REVIVAL (Dash & Dawson)

Photo: WWE

Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder were the undisputed kings of the tag team division in NXT and many were excited to see the old school workers inserted in the main roster. Sadly injuries wiped most of the first year on Raw, but upon their return, they’ve most been a laughing stock attempting to gain any kind of traction (or relevance) on the main roster, let alone the tag team division. But in the past few weeks, The Revival we’ve seen taking on the impromptu pairing of Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley have more resembled the Revival of old than anything we’ve seen so far on the main roster, including vicious beatdowns the past two weeks on Raw. Still too early to tell if this is the beginning of a legit push for them, but they’ve had a small feud with Anderson & Gallows that brought them back into the picture, and now working with two of the top singles stars on Raw (and coming out victiorious) has given them an air of credibility lacking since their NXT days. Hopefully this leads to challenging for the Raw Tag Team titles following the current program between the Deleters of Worlds (Bray Wyatt & Matt Hardy) and The B-Team (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) runs its course.

AUTHORS OF PAIN (Akam & Rezar)

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Another pair of former NXT Tag Team Champions who were the brand’s most dominant team, Authors of Pain arrived loudly, then quietly slipped to Main Event for the past few weeks. They finally returned to Raw last night and decisively dismantled Titus Worldwide (Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews), hopefully signalling their return to the destruction unit that NXT fans have hoped would run rampant on the main roster.

KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS

Photo: WWE

While New Japan purists will never be satisfied with WWE’s apparent mishandling of the former 3x IWGP Tag Team Champions and enforcers of the Bullet Club, they’ve managed to regain some footing in the past months, starting with a rough (but short) feud with The Revival. They then shocked everyone by winning the #1 Contendership (beating The Usos) and then just falling short of capturing the Smackdown Tag Team titles against the Bludgeon Brothers at Money in the Bank. With the Good Brothers gaining some respectability once again in the tag team division, hopefully the WWE can continue to employ them as consistent challengers, both to the tag team champions and other potential challengers in the division.

THE USOS

Photo: WWE

The Usos are still Smackdown (and probably the WWE’s) top tag team right now, but on camera, they’ve been portrayed as being in a bit of a rut. They lost the #1 Contendership to help elevate Anderson & Gallows last month and are now in a feud to push the debuting SaNitY up the ranks quicker than expected. Luckily, the Usos have built a solid foothold the past few years and won’t lose any stock with the losses, showing their strength in character. They’ll remain perennial contenders on whichever brand they’re on and have been used well of late in helping to strengthen future challengers for the blue brand’s belts.

THE DELETERS OF WORLDS (“Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt)

Photo: WWE

The bizarrely fun pairing of “Woken” Matt Hardy with Bray Wyatt has resulted in the pair working against the B-Team of late, which has greatly increased the credibility of Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel. Ultimately the duo seems destined to split apart and feud again, for now, they’ve created a tag team that at least has a concise storyline and their lunacy has made their feuds at least interesting.

SANITY (Eric Young, Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe)

Photo: WWE

Everyone had pretty much given up on SaNitY being used with any credibility when their long awaited debut on Smackdown Live was continuously pushed aside for weeks on end. Just as everyone had given up on them arriving, they debuted and took out the Usos two weeks in a row (although they lost last week, they still stood strong post match). Hopefully it’s not just a stutter start and they don’t fall to the bottom as quickly as they were pushed out of the gate.

NEW DAY (Big E, Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)

Photo: WWE

New Day continues to be an anchor of the tag team division, even when they don’t compete for the titles. They can be used to elevate or to dominate and continue to be one of the biggest draws in the company. With a potential singles run in store for Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston should conceivably remain the tag team threat for New Day, keeping them in contendership for the foreseeable future.

BLUDGEON BROTHERS (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)

Photo: WWE

It took some time, but the Smackdown Tag Team Champions have finally found their footing at the top of the blue brand. While their pairing isn’t random – they have a storied history as partners from their days in the Wyatt Family – their repackaging at first was met with some disdain. But their brutality in the ring has won the fans over and they’ve become solid threats to all who face them.

THE B-TEAM (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel)

Photo: WWE

They’ve been punchlines for most of their main roster careers, but at least now the comedy is translating into bigger opportunities than ever before. Their recent undefeated streak has endeared them to the WWE Universe and their comedic spots impersonating the Deleters of Worlds have been fun stuff – Bo’s impression of his real life brother Bray Wyatt have been spot on. They’re facing Hardy & Wyatt for the titles at Extreme Rules coming up, and a short run as champions could be in the cards, even if its a transitional run until they face one of the building heel teams like Authors of Pain or Revival.

THE BAR (Cesaro & Sheamus)

Photo: WWE

What started as a random pairing of two singles stars not being utilized, turned into one of the best tag teams in wrestling the past year. The 4x WWE Tag Team Champions shifted from Raw to Smackdown Live and are currently on a TV break, but rest assured their return will add some more punch and competition to the blue brand’s division.

THE REST

As with any division, there needs to be gatekeepers and low card, and right now Heath Slater & Rhyno and Titus Worldwide appear to be the gatekeepers – meaning they’re the midcard tag team that other tag teams seem to have to go through before getting mentioned in the title mix. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) seem to be up and down more than most, and perhaps a turn from within would be best for both involved. The Ascension remains the most baffling misuse of former NXT Tag Team Champions to date, with many questioning if they even still work for the WWE (SPOILER: They do.)

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