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How WWE’s Tag Teams Became Relevant Again

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Cast your mind back to the late 90’s and try to name the best tag team in the WWE. It’s a struggle right ? At the time the division was thriving. The title picture of Edge & Christian, The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boys was incredible, with the 3 teams putting on classics virtually every time they stepped in the ring together and the fans couldn’t get enough of it. On top of that we had some legendary teams like The Hart Foundation, Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, New Age Outlaws, APA, DX, Brothers Of Destruction, Legion Of Doom, Stone Cold with… virtually everybody. I would quite literally be here all day if I were to list every great team from years gone by.

But then over the next decade or so, WWE seemed to treat the division as an afterthought, quite often using teams as a way to push singles stars – a great example being John Cena vs Batista in 2008 where Cena single-handedly squashed the reigning tag champions Cody Rhodes & Ted Dibiase Jr. We started seeing less believable champions such as The Bashams, The Corre and Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov with the latter being nothing more than a comedy act. No offence intended to the guys who held the titles over this period, but the calibre of teams simply didn’t compare.

However, over the last few years the landscape has shifted again, resulting in another thriving tag team division. So how did WWE bring the glory days of tag team wrestling back? And what can be done to ensure we don’t go through another blip?

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We don’t just set the cringey catchphrases…

Greats feuds, not just matches

For the longest time we were given tag team ‘rivalries’ which lacked any sort of intensity and story. We were expected to just blindly go along with it because we sort of liked the guys involved, but didn’t really have a reason to become invested. Over the last few years however we have seen a lot more thought being put into feuds, such as The Shield and then The New Day vs The Wyatt Family, the rivalry and eventual forming of Cesaro & Sheamus, the brilliant build up and eventual success of Team Hell No, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose finally burying the hatchet, teams trying to stop The New Day from becoming the longest reigning champs in history … these were stories we cared about, backed up by fantastic wrestling.

WWE just need to keep going with the flow. We’ve seen in recent months that stories in the division have taken a backseat again while they’ve focused on the champions and challengers themselves, which is a shame because there are some great, charismatic teams on the roster who can sell you a story/rivalry. Imagine the gold WWE could strike by reuniting The Wyatt Family and having them feud with SAnitY once they are called up ? Or now that we have Balor Club together finally why not have a long standing feud with The Shield or Undisputed Era ? The division is full of so much potential right now with even more potential stars coming through the ranks, we just need a reason to care about them.

Stop screwing up great teams

Its all very well and good talking about how great the talent on the roster is, but one thing you can always count on in tag team wrestling is that just as the iron is hot, WWE and Vince will make the decision to split a team up and kill momentum/ruin lots of good build. lets look at some examples:

The Wyatt Family – Constantly fail to pull the trigger on a stable v stable feud, keep resorting to infighting and then let a part time The Rock bury them.

Enzo & Cass – Split them up while they’re hot while never letting them capture the tag titles just to try and make a singles star out of Big Cass despite his lack of ability in ring and on the mic.

Slater & Rhyno – Another case of a team coming from nowhere to suddenly becoming insanely over, moving them to RAW where they barely feature was one of the most ridiculous decisions I’ve ever seen.

Gallows & Anderson – Used as fodder for The New Day to surpass Demolition’s long standing record, never recovered, forced into humiliating matches and WWE Shop adverts.

American Alpha – Split up a great team with great chemistry and ability so we could have one of WWE’s worst storylines of all time, then formed American Beta (great name, you’re welcome) by replacing one athletic black guy (Jordan) with another (Benjamin) rendering the decision pointless.

DIY – To be fair this one was done really well for once, but regardless it was still an exciting partnership that could’ve gone on to achieve great things.

Lets face it, the only way you are gonna stay together as a tag team in WWE is if you can make the company big money from merchandise sales. None of those teams above, with the exception of Enzo & Cass, pulled in the big bucks. There’s a reason WWE have never split up The New Day, Breezango or The Uso’s. Money talks..

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You don’t need a caption here. You’ve already got a bemused Kane in a silly hat. Stop being so greedy and be thankful.

Big Names make big teams

The Hurricane & Rosey, La Resistance, Spirit Squad, The Colons … hardly a list of the all time greats is it ? While entertaining in their own right they simply were not championship material and were lightyears away from the star power of DX, The Hart Foundation and The Brothers of Destruction. The division really suffered for a long time due to this, most teams on the roster couldn’t garner any real interest from the crowd and were treated as afterthoughts. It is a simple fact that we as fans want to see the best in the business hold the top titles.

In recent times WWE have chosen to elevate the tag team championships by having some of their top talent – Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins, Sheamus & Cesaro, Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton, Kane & Daniel Bryan, The New Day, The Uso’s – show just how important the division is. The signing of Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson while they were still hot, the amazing return of The Hardy Boys at WrestleMania 33 and the recent reuniting of The Shield show that WWE have finally realised the importance of the division and the impact that using top names can have. Regardless of the top names involved, RAW is still struggling in terms of how many teams they have at their disposal even with The Revival‘s recent… revival, but i’ll get to that later on. Too many of their teams resemble the teams from those dark days previously mentioned… Titus Worldwide, Heath Slater & Rhyno… whereas SDLive have added yet more big names into their division with the likes of Rusev Day, The Blugeon Brothers, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable all helping to raise the bar in some phenomenal multi team matches in recent months.

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Jimmy & Jey clearly confused as to why this match was on the Summerslam Pre Show. Woods doesn’t care, he’s a certified porn star now !

New Day vs The Uso’s

It’s impossible to talk about the current tag team scene without mentioning these two teams. When The New Day first debuted they were generally hated amongst fans, a very stereotypical black power/exploitation/preaching sort of group who were booed out of the building every night and only became popular thanks to bright colours, funny catchphrases and silly props. A huge amount of credit goes to Xavier Woods for helping to get the group over with his stellar mic work, but there is no denying the group have a natural chemistry together. They’re one of the best example of how to use the Freebird ruling to perfection, using typically heel tactics to gain victories while still remaining face.

The Uso’s have always been a fun team to watch. They’ve always been known for their athleticism, high flying ability and since day one (ish) they engaged well with the crowd and had a distinctive look. Unfortunately for them they happen to be related to Roman Reigns, and suffered a knock on effect from the fans hatred for Reigns’ perceived forced push into becoming the guy. Where most guys would have stagnated and never recovered, The Uso’s used this negative reaction to reinvent themselves as heels, and they’ve arguably never been better. The Samoan tribal entrance and bright facepaint are both long gone, replaced by a thug-ish arrogance, a much more aggressive wrestling style and a new found confidence when it comes to promos.

Down since Day One Sort Of

The two teams clashed countless times on RAW, and while the matches were pretty good it did start to get a bit samey after a while. Fast forward to May 2017 when The New Day made their SDLive debut… I can’t have been the only one thinking ‘oh please god not this again !’. I’m a man of integrity and I will hold my hands up and say I couldn’t have been more wrong. Their SDLive rivalry was far and away the highlight of 2017, with phenomenal matches that have saved poor PPV’s (Battleground), hilarious promos from both teams (Rap Battle) and an incredible rivalry ending match at Hell In A Cell.

The two teams have consistently brought out the absolute best in eachother and after every match they essentially say to the locker room ‘go ahead, top that’. This feud in my eyes was the closest we have come to replicating the quality of the E&C/Dudleyz/Hardys rivalry from the 90’s. I just didn’t want it to end.

See those guys in the middle holding the titles ? They were most recently seen with pumpkins on their heads throwing cream pies at people… yep.

More teams in the mix

This section is sort of both a good point and a bad one. Currently on RAW we have 7 tag teams but for months we’ve only really seen one rivalry taking place – The Bar vs Rollins & Ambrose/Jason Jordan. The Revival came back recently, bringing with them some real optimism as we were led to believe the division had some fresh legs and new competition… NOPE! Winning matches against local talent and being buried by legends at RAW 25 is not how you build interest in your tag division. Now SDLive… boy oh boy do they know how its done! Rusev Day v The New Day v Benjable (great name again, you’re even more welcome) v The Uso’s at Clash of Champions was incredible, one of the best matches of 2017 by far but it didn’t just work because you had 8 guys involved, it worked because they had great chemistry together. I don’t know how many more times I can bare to watch the same match again and again AND AGAIN on RAW regardless of how good the talent involved is.

If it wasn’t for their top titles, RAW wouldn’t even be the C show at this point. The most notable thing that two of their big stars – Gallows & Anderson – have done in recent months was their match against Heath Slater & Rhyno in a car crash of a Halloween match. This is one of the best tag teams in world not even being used on mid card feuds, the same team who have left a path of destruction everywhere they have been and won plenty of championships on the way. WWE have a veeeeery long history of acquiring as much talent as possible to get the upper hand on their competitors, but then wasting them due to not having the time or space for them. It’s difficult to watch such talented guys be underutilized every single week.

Segments so good, they made people care about The Ascension

Breezango have become arguably the most over superstars on in the whole company over the last year thanks to their hilarious Fashion Files segments, but WWE seemed to forget that these guys are actual wrestlers for a very long time. When they did eventually remember, what did they do? They had them lose a couple of squash matches to The Blugeon Brothers. Imagine how fun a feud between them and New Day could have been ? Or Rusev Day? They’ve also had run ins with The Uso’s in the past which were always entertaining. They have huge potential but as long as Vince McMahon is getting a few extra bucks from t-shirt sales they probably wont get an opportunity.

Another concerning thing is that it’s only a matter of time before teams like SAnitY and Authors Of Pain get their main roster call ups. Where exactly are they going to fit in ? WWE either need to make some major budget cuts or involve more teams into both shows title picture. It worked perfectly well at WrestleMania 33 with the Fatal 4 Way Ladder Match and it can work perfectly well again.

Tag Teams

Please help me, I don’t know these men …

The Future

Not only do we have a fantastic tag team division right now but the future is also in very safe hands. Depending on the outcome of their feud with Aj Styles we may well see a proper tag team pairing of Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, we have only scratched the surface of the insanely over Rusev Day, and we also have a wealth of talent ready to step up from NXT. The Undisputed Era, SAnitY, Authors Of Pain, TM 61, Street Profits… a whole host of great teams who can easily transition onto the main roster.

In SAnitY we essentially have a new Wyatt Family, a charismatic leader with loyal members around him ready to do his bidding. In Authors Of Pain we have a real powerhouse of a team who you can easily see dominating the division because while the current teams are fantastic at what they do we don’t really have a team who can manhandle their opponents convincingly. In The Undisputed Era we have one of the hottest talents in the world, Adam Cole, who backs up my earlier point of big names making big teams. Let’s just hope WWE don’t out-WWE themselves… as long as they don’t, the future is looking very bright Bay Bay !


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Is Shinsuke Nakamura Right Where He Belongs In WWE?

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Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the top stars working in the pro wrestling business today. That’s due in large part of course to his proven track record in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But it’s also due to his time in WWE. But some fans are wondering where he stands today.

Nakamura is a born entertainer, there is no denying that. He has the ability to turn on his charisma at the push of a button and it may very well be that he never turns it off. Shinsuke looks and acts like a star because he is one. He has a full understanding of how to play the game and very few play it better than he does. So is he right where he belongs?

Many would argue he’s not and that’s understandable. He was so hot in New Japan that imagining him as anything any less was impossible when he left the company. He was the rockstar of New Japan and he embraced that role like no one before him ever had. It was logical to assume that his success would directly translate to WWE’s main stage.

Of course that assumption was perhaps not rooted in reality. WWE didn’t exactly have the best track record when it came to promoting Japanese Superstars. Then there was the fact that many independent talents were often encouraged to change their gimmicks upon arriving in Vince McMahon’s company. But there was reason to hope for the best.

This is not the same WWE that so many indie stars encountered in the past. This WWE embraced the independent scene and used that fact to its advantage. WWE does not force a guy to change who he is, merely for the sake of trying something new. In fact many Superstars are now extensions of their former selves. WWE allows them to bring what they have to the table so they can expand upon it.

It’s true that WWE’s treatment of Japanese talents has been less than stellar but Shinsuke Nakamura is an exceptionally gifted athlete. There was just no way that WWE, or any other company, could ever look at him and not see him for the star that he is. So if he’s allowed to be himself and if he’s given an opportunity to impress on the main event level, then what would stop him from excelling in WWE?

Shinsuke Nakamura came in like a star and that’s exactly how he was booked. WWE did right by him and much to everyone’s surprise, Shinsuke did get the red carpet treatment. He conquered NXT, just as many knew he would. But he also received an impressive amount of spotlight when he came to the main roster. 

Nakamura was presented as a respected athlete known around the world because that’s exactly what he is. The company knew what it had with him and any doubt as to WWE’s ability to properly book him was gone. This was the Shinsuke Nakamura that everyone wanted. He was the real deal.

But somewhere along the way, things began to go a bit south. Nakamura’s heel turn at WrestleMania 34 was shocking and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it was completely out of character for him. Yes, Nakamura had been a vicious heel in New Japan. He was fully capable of turning on anyone at any time and he would do it with a smile on his face. However, that was The King of Strong Style. 

This Nakamura is The Artist. His canvass is the WWE ring and his artwork is beyond compare. Shinsuke was popular because he was different. He was over because he was unique. His flair for the dramatic set him apart from everyone else and it made him a must-see WWE Superstar. He was indeed an attraction.

But the moment he turned on AJ Styles was the moment he put the WWE Championship above his art. Nakamura was no longer an exceptional character capable of wowing an audience of millions. Now he was just another heel with an agenda. What made him special was overshadowed by what made him typical. Shinsuke was just like everyone else. But is that really the case?

Nakamura has thrived in many respects since WrestleMania 34. He was able to use a different side of his personality and he learned to get over in different ways. Instead of using his crowd-pleasing character to make the fans smile, he now uses it to make them recoil in confusion. What’s wrong with him? Why does he act like this? What happened to the lovable guy we once knew?

Now his character is more enigmatic than ever before. Was The Artist persona merely just a mask he wore to fool everyone and now he’s finally showing the world his true self? Is he now Batman when he previously had everyone believing he was Bruce Wayne? Shinsuke Nakamura is fully immersing himself in this twisted version that WWE fans didn’t even know existed. But most importantly, he’s loving every minute of it.

There’s a reason why Shinsuke Nakamura is the United States champion. That belt could have landed on any number of SmackDown Live Superstars but it currently sits on Nakamura’s waist. Why? Because he can wear it like no one else can and because he’s a Japanese Superstar that came to WWE with dreams of doing great work on the worldwide stage. That’s exactly what he’s doing and he doesn’t need the main event in order to do it. 

Would fans love to see him as WWE champion? Yes. Could he wear that title and add value to it? Absolutely. Does he need it in order for fans to consider him successful? Absolutely not. Shinsuke Nakamura may not be the top guy and he may not be the face of WWE but he is an important piece of the presentation. But is that enough?

The fact is that Nakamura will probably leave WWE one day. He will likely return to New Japan and reclaim his throne as The King of Strong Style. But until then, fans have a chance to enjoy one of the most colorful and capable characters that WWE offers today. He may get a run at the top eventually. If he does, then everything that came before will merely be just another chapter in his story. With any luck, that story is far from over.


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Opinion

Who Is The Villain? Charlotte or Becky?

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Becky Lynch

One of the biggest stories coming out of SummerSlam was the complete disintegration of the friendship between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch after Flair seemingly stole the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Lynch when Lynch seemingly had the match won, but hitting Lynch with Natural Selection for the three count. A furious Lynch knocked out her former friend and left her in a heap. Now, the surface narrative has been Becky turning heel, but the WWE Universe hasn’t been cooperating with that narrative, preferring to cheer Becky as the hero of this tale and boo Charlotte as the villain. Are they right or is this another example of fans hijacking the narrative?

Heel!Becky. This is the WWE narrative: Becky was so outraged by Charlotte stealing her moment again, she turned on Charlotte and has repeatedly attacked her former friend from behind, which is certainly what a heel would do.

The pros of this has been Becky’s new attitude and her more ruthless approach in the ring. The way she turned was very heelish. To hug your best friend and congratulate her and then slap the taste out of her mouth and beat her up is extremely heelish…or it should be.

The problem is that Becky’s reaction is perfectly understandable. Pretty much everyone knows a Charlotte Flair, the favorite that always gets the breaks, whether or not they’ve really earned it. For Becky, who had worked so hard to earn that title shot, to have Charlotte basically get a shot just for showing up and then stealing the title from her, would’ve been hard to swallow, especially knowing that you had the match won and your ‘friend’ not only cost you the title but attacked you and pinned you to win that title.

Heel!Charlotte.  This is the fan narrative: Charlotte is the heel because she didn’t have to work nearly as hard as Becky to get that SummerSlam title shot, all she did was show up for work and win one match, while Becky had to beat every heel in the division. Charlotte also seems to have made the decision to attack and pin Becky rather than Carmella. That’s an extremely shitty thing to do to someone you consider a friend, especially knowing how hard that friend worked to get the opportunity you stole from her.

Charlotte doesn’t help her case by acting like an entitled princess who can’t understand why people  don’t get why she deserves to always be champion, even when she doesn’t. Her derision of Becky as ‘insecure’ and saying that Becky didn’t deserve the title because she didn’t win, even though Becky HAD the match won and basically derided and insulted the person she used to call a friend, shows a level of narcissism that’s just shy of being a serial killer. It shows that in Charlotte’s mind, it’s ALL about her and that she’s the only one who deserves to be champion and if you’re not going to cheer for her and support her, you’re nothing to her. This is a woman who will not tolerate her flaws being pointed out, even when she deserves to be called out. That’s not much of a babyface.

However, Charlotte’s reaction to Becky’s comments isn’t that uncommon with how other babyface champions have reacted to insults, justified or not. John Cena has been infamous for having similar reactions to being called out, and a lot of women would probably have had similar reactions during a fight with a good friend.

If there is a defense for Charlotte’s behavior, it may be that her path to WWE was SO different from Becky’s which makes it hard for her to understand why Becky was so upset, but at the same time, she doesn’t seem to really want to understand or care. To her, Becky is just jealous and insecure, not someone with a legitimate reason to be angry.

So, who is the real heel here? Well, in the words of Obi-Wan-Kenobi, it depends on your own point of view. Both women have a real claim to be the righteous party in this argument, but it’s pretty clear that, at least to most fans, Becky is the hero who struck back at teacher’s pet, Charlotte. It remains to be seen if WWE will get on board or stick with their chosen narrative.


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Opinion

Brock Lesnar Creates the Kind of Chaos WWE Does Not Need

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Here we go again. The main event scene on Monday Night Raw has once again become even more disturbing with the addition of Brock Lesnar.

The former Universal Heavyweight Champion entered the main event at Hell in a Cell, taking down both the current champion Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman in a  sad but predictable ending to a decent pay-per-view.

WWE cannot seem to get out of its own way in deciding what to do with the red brand’s title. Or, maybe it’s Lesnar who is holding the marionette strings of a company that has not moved on from the Beast Incarnate to forge a new identity of main event stars. The Hell in a Cell match between Reigns and Strowman was muddled with the arrival of Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as it was.

Adding Lesnar to the chaos and disorder creates more problems than solutions for the creative team, Reigns and the title he wears around his waist.

The thought was once Reigns beat Lesnar to claim the belt, it would be the end of the line for the WWE and UFC star, who has made no secret he wants to dominate the octagon once again. It also opened the door for Reigns to finally assume his role as Vince McMahon’s master plan of having the current Shield Member and four-time champion to step over Lesnar, John Cena and anyone else in his path as the company’s new face.

I’m sure WWE’s fans have finally succumbed to the notion Reigns isn’t going anywhere. To steal a phrase from Ric Flair, “Whether you like it or don’t like it, learn to love it…”

You get the idea.

So now, WWE has a three-headed monster fighting over the same belt it did only months ago with no end in sight. The notion of McIntyre stepping forward as the next opponent for Reigns looks to be squashed. Lesnar’s contract, demands and lack of airtime while wearing the Universal Title finally pissed the fanbase off. Does putting the strap back around his waist make sense?

Now that Strowman has become an ally of Ziggler and McIntyre, how does this all play out? Does anyone care? Is the best thing to come out of the Hell in a Cell match is the return of Paul Heyman? It’s still a tangled web WWE weaves with no ending point. It’s status quo for poor booking.

It appears to be the norm, not the exception. We all just learn to deal with it, mainly because change does not seem to be a good thing in this promotion.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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