Published on September 6th, 2019 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Tag Team Wrestling: The Division WWE Cares the Least About
We crack the concept of tag team wrestling wide open. The value of a strong, vibrant tag team division should never be taken for granted.
When it comes to wrestling, there are a lot of types of matches, some incredibly specific. It’s amazing how infrequently Kiss My Foot matches come up these days.
But when you break it down, there are two core match types; singles and tag teams. And in both arenas, there are those who specialize and those who transition between the two. While The Rock was a member of a number of factions and tag teams, he’s best known as a singles competitor. Edge and Christian started together in the WWE as a tag team and became one of the most successful tag teams in WWE history. Eventually, they transitioned into successful singles careers. That’s not normally the case as when tag teams break up as one member usually gets left behind. Just ask Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels.
The unfortunate reality is that tag teams in the WWE do not get the love or respect they deserve from management, reputedly Vince McMahon in particular. It’s long been rumored that he doesn’t particularly like tag teams and was particularly against the idea of the Women’s Tag Team Championships. Keep in mind that the key words here are “reputedly” and “rumored.”
Regardless, booking would seem to indicate that the WWE doesn’t put much stock in their tag team division as a general rule, based on its current state.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came to the WWE a few years ago as one of the most celebrated tag teams in the world. After a brief run as the Raw Tag Champions, they quickly found themselves an afterthought in a division that’s an afterthought in the entire company. After the third man in their faction, A.J. Styles, recent heel turn, Gallows and Anderson found themselves as the Raw Tag Champions once again. And they quickly dropped the belts to the impromptu team of Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman.
Keeping in mind that this isn’t about Rollins or Strowman, the tag belts were dropped only to service their WWE Universal Championship storyline.
This was followed up by a Tag Team Turmoil event to determine who would face the newly crowned Raw Tag Champions at the upcoming Clash of Champions pay-per-view. The line up of tag teams was vast. Heavy Machinery. The B Team. The Viking Raiders. Lucha House Party. Gallows and Anderson. The match also included The Revival, arguably one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling. And for some reason, it did not include The Usos, another team that needs to be included in that same conversation. And who won the right to compete for the Raw Tag Team Championship? Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, two singles competitors who may have never tagged together prior to this match.
Again, this is not about Ziggler or Roode. These are two incredible singles competitors who are frequently undervalued by the company they work for, particularly Roode. But the Raw tag team main event at the next pay-per-view is now between two teams that, if you add their collective respective time as teams together, have tagged for less than a month. Unless each team wrestles another tag match at the go home Raw before Clash of Champions, their championship bout at the pay-per-view will be both team’s second match.
At least the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match is between two actual tag teams, The New Day and The Revival.
The problem is not that successful tag teams can’t be built from singles competitors. The New Day is a prime example of this. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E were having lulls in their respective singles careers so they formed a team called The New Day. Now, The New Day is a hugely popular team with multiple tag team reigns. And without The New Day, it’s unlikely Kofi would have made his way to being the current WWE Champion.
But Seth Rollins is the current WWE Universal Champion and Braun Strowman is his opponent at the next pay-per-view. Neither man is in the midst of a lull. Arguably, they’re at a high point of their respective singles careers.
Putting the tag belts on them only served their storyline. Promos for Clash of Champions have been pushing the idea that this will be the first time that competitors for a singles belt have also defended their tag team titles on the same pay-per-view. Much like Asuka’s SmackDown Women’s Championship reign was unceremoniously sacrificed to further a storyline she wasn’t involved in, the entire Raw tag team division was sacrificed to further a Rollins/Strowman storyline they aren’t involved in.
Gallows and Anderson have suffered the brunt of this, shockingly losing the belts to Rollins and Strowman. If it wasn’t for their association with A.J. Styles and his ongoing push, they’d probably be cooling their heels in catering, again.
This is a truly short-sighted play on the part of the WWE. An active, well booked tag team division stacked with talent offers an excellent style of wrestling for fans to enjoy. And the WWE certainly isn’t short on tag team talent.
So, the problem must be the booking.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the Women’s Tag Team Division. The inaugural tag champs were Bayley and Sasha Banks, the most obvious and safest bet for the newly minted belts. Again, this isn’t about two of the most talented singles competitors in the WWE but they were a team put together just to win the belts. And then they lost the belts shortly after to The IIconics at WrestleMania, a move that upset Sasha Banks in particular. There seemed to be little reason for the switch. The IIconics rarely defended the belts over the next few months, potentially due to a feud with The Bella Twins falling through. But the booking for an entire division should not rest on one feud. Nothing happened for months with these belts. Thankfully, The IIconics are incredibly talented both in the ring and on the mic so they made it all work.
Once again, a tag team made up of random singles competitors holds the Women’s belts after The IIcomics lost them. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross make a surprisingly engaging team, and it’s incredible to see someone as talented as Nikki finally get some WWE gold around her waste. But teams like Fire and Desire or The Kabuki Warriors have been iced out. Nothing official has been announced at the point this was written but Fire and Desire should get a title shot on the next pay-per-view.
Well, unless the WWE sandwiches Naomi and Carmella into a team at the last minute and throws them in the mix. Actually, they would make a great tag team.
Tag teams are a staple of the wrestling world. They build careers and stars, both as singles and as duos. The value of a strong, vibrant tag team division should not be taken for granted, especially in an era of increased competition. Who knows what a weekly AEW show is going to look like, but you can’t argue that there is some incredible tag team talent on their roster.
And if AEW books it right, a solid tag team division could be the difference maker.