With the success of this year’s Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, WWE looks to be including more tournaments of the same ilk to it’s programming, such as the long rumoured women’s equivalent sometime in early 2017. But tonight they welcome the second instalment of a tournament that began last year in NXT, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which pairs NXT stars together in an ‘invitational’ tag team tournament.
While many were upset with the seemingly random pairings last year, it actually helped establish or start some characters and storylines for the next year – the entire Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor rivalry started out of this tournament, American Alpha was solidified as a legitimate tag team following weeks of Chad Gable hounding Jason Jordan, the formation of the Hype Bros (Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley) as well as the WWE Universe introduction of Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa.
This past week, WWE has been slowly unveiling all 16 pairings for the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic via their website, and with the tournament kicking off tonight, we finally have a complete picture of the teams vying for the Golden Boots this year.
NOTE: While some information has been leaked due to some early tapings of the first round, you will only find links to those in this article as appropriate. No spoilers will be found in this piece.
HIDEO ITAMI & KOTA IBUSHI
Perhaps the most exciting combination in the bracket, the pairing of Japanese Superstars Itami and Ibushi is a logical one. Both are friends and have history together in Japan, notably NOAH. Itami was robbed of his time to shine with a year long injury, so he needs a solid program to re-introduce himself. Pairing with fellow countryman Ibushi – who was one of the unquestionable highlights of the CWC – should hopefully help him refocus his craft and show the WWE Universe the stuff that made KENTA such a star before Itami was born. While Ibushi still maintains he won’t sign a full time WWE deal anytime soon, a solid showing again here could go a long way to enticing the Japanese icon to at least make more frequent appearances across the pond.
Who or what is Sanity? When the vignettes began appearing, the rumours were flying over who it could be associated with. At tapings, the reveal was ultimately leaked, but for now, we will just have to sit back and wait to see who will be bringing the madness…
THE REVIVAL: DASH WILDER & SCOTT DAWSON
The current and 2-time NXT Tag Team Champions, The Revival (Dash & Dawson), are once again in the tournament. They are arguably the best tag team in the WWE right now. Though not as over as New Day or Enzo & Cass, these guys are rock solid to a tee as evidenced by their show stealing match against American Alpha at both TakeOver: Dallas and TakeOver: The End. Chances are that the winning team will be to launch new stars or storylines, so expect Revival to bow out due to some kind of swerve. They’ve got plenty on their plate so despite being the champs, they need the rub from this tournament the least right now.
DIY: JOHNNY GARGANO & TOMASSA CIAMPA
These two debuted a year ago in the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and have become bright stars in NXT ever since. Gargano is as charismatic as they come and is as good as wrestler as you’ll find. Ciampa has become one of the company’s most reliable workers and his chemistry with Gargano is undeniable, especially following their match-up in the CWC. A feud between the two almost seems inevitable, but for now, these guys could be poised to take home the Golden Boots before setting eyes on the Revival’s titles.
THE GLORIOUS 10: TYE DILLINGER & BOBBY ROODE
Strange pairing, as Dillinger seemed to be on a path as a face, while Roode is clearly positioning as NXT’s next main event heel (despite having the greatest intro music in the biz right now). Styles and personalities would mesh well, but a more likely scenario is Tye somehow costing Roode a match down the line of the tournament. Roode is well known for his tag team prowess, with solid tag team runs in TNA with James Storm (in Beer Money), Austin Aries (The Dirty Heels) and Eric Young (Team Canada), but his greatest gift to NXT would be to continue his singles run. Don’t expect this team to last the tournament – best case scenario, Dillinger gets a short feud against Roode out of their demise.
AUTHORS OF PAIN: AKAM & REZAR w/ PAUL ELLERING
Ever since WWE Hall of Famer “Precious” Paul Ellering (The Road Warriors) debuted the Authors of Pain at TakeOver: The End, these two legitimate international bad-asses have been devastating everything in their path. Aligning with Ellering means they have big plans in store and it’s safe to assume these two should continue their destruction with a good showing in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
TEAM ARIES: AUSTIN ARIES & ?
Apart from the great unveiling of Sanity, the biggest mystery of the tournament is who is Austin Aries going to be bringing in as his partner. The internet is already pretty sure they know who it is, but, for the sake of those who avoid dirt sheets, we’ll wait for the reveal when it happens. Either way, Aries has continued his usual bravado and excellence in NXT that he showed in TNA and ROH and this tournament will likely continue his feud in some way with Hideo Itami.
NO WAY JOSE & RICH SWANN
Another logical pairing, as both guys have dancing based gimmicks and are both super charismatic. No Way Jose is becoming the Santino Marella of NXT, the comedic wrestler who is over more than most. Rich Swann is an absolute dynamo in the ring, as evidenced by his work in the CWC and Raw Cruiserweight Division. These guys could be a fun pairing to watch if they make it out the first round, but hopefully the alliance isn’t long term. Swann needs to fly solo first and get himself over and not become reduced to being Jose’s sidekick.
ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS & CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Another unexpected pairing, and really, a tale of two very different journeys. Almas was handpicked to become an NXT main eventer when he was competing as La Sombra, but his run so far has felt unconvincing and raised more questions than excitement. WWE is well known to curb some indie stars’ offences, but people from AJ Styles to Johnny Gargano to Gran Metalik have proven that it’s still possible to show your skills under modification. Meanwhile, Cedric Alexander went from being simply a CWC participant to winning over the WWE Universe with arguably the match of the CWC against Ibushi, which resulted in his emotional moment with the Full Sail crowd (and Triple H) that probably sped up his involvement with Raw‘s Cruiserweight division. If they’re eliminated early, a potential feud between the two could benefit everyone. Almas still hasn’t found someone to click with to really showcase himself. Add in the recent comments from Alberto Del Rio that Almas is unhappy in NXT and wants out, this could be make or break time for both Almas and NXT to see if both sides are going to keep working together.
TM61: NICK MILLER & SHANE THORNE
The internet was a buzz when Australian indie darlings The Mighty Don’t Kneel were announced as leaving Japan for NXT last year, but so far their new incarnation as TM61 hasn’t garnered the same attention. No doubt these guys are talented and the NXT Tag Division can use their abilities right now after losing so many top teams to Raw and Smackdown. Hopefully they get a proper showing with opponents that can bring out their best.
BIN WANG & HO HO LUN
The true wild card of the team. Wang is WWE’s first ever Chinese Superstar, but he’s not as green as many claim. He was part of WWE Hall of Famer and NJPW founder Antonio Inoki‘s Inoki Genome Federation, his MMA and wrestling hybrid promotion. Ho Ho Lun was one of the most polarizing entrants in the CWC – his unorthodox Hong Kong style had people either loving him or hating him.
BOLLYWOOD BOYZ: GURV & HARV SIHIRA
While both participated in the CWC individually, it’s together as a tag team that these two Canadian Superstars shine. Real life brothers, they captured Tag Team gold in Jeff Jarrett‘s GFW before coming to NXT this year. Another solid addition to NXT’s tag team division, although it may be too early for them to get a lengthy opportunity in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
‘BROTHER THICK’ NIKO BOGOJEVIC & TUCKER KNIGHT
Another intriguing match-up. Too soon to tell if they’ll remain paired up or if the tournament is just a one-off pairing, but much like Authors of Pain, these two are legitimate real life threats. Both are real life standout amateur wrestlers in the heavyweight division and #BrotherThick is crushing weightlifting records at the WWE Performance Center.
TONY NESE & DREW GULAK
While neither has signed WWE exclusive despite working Raw‘s Cruiserweight division after impressive showings in CWC, WWN‘s working agreement with WWE is allowing these Evolve wrestlers to appear for WWE simultaneously. Nese impressed the world on Monday night in his shocking win over Rich Swann on Raw, and Gulak is as solid as they come. Regardless the outcome of their run in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, expect nothing but spectacular from these two.
MUSTAFA ALI & LINCE DORADO
Two guys who really shone in their opening round matches in the CWC as well as their NXT appearances, it will be interesting to see how they fair post tournament. Both have the experience and ability, but it’s not sure if they’ll remain a team or venture into singles territory. Dorado has a chance at moving up to the Raw Cruiserweight Division.
TINO SABBATELLI & RIDDICK MOSS
Probably the biggest unknown factor of the tournament, as Moss has mostly been enhancement talent in NXT and Sabbatelli is best known for his appearance on Breaking Ground for getting injured early in his NXT career. Not much chance of advancing in the tournament, but it will get them some exposure to further their characters in NXT’s grand scheme.
Looking at the brackets, it features a solid, if somewhat predictable, first round. Second round and forward should be more fiercely contested than last years. Personal prediction, expect Itami/Ibushi to face Team Aries and Authors of Pain versus Gargano/Ciampa in the final four, with Gargano/Ciampa taking the tournament this year.
Who do you think will win this year’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic?
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