Two Can Play That Game: WWE Tag Team Division's Recent Resurgence | Smark Out Moment

Two Can Play That Game: WWE Tag Team Division's Recent Resurgence

Posted by Donald Freeman Thursday, February 26, 2015
Remember when the tag team championship was the third most important title after the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships? Do you recall a time when the tag team division was full of exciting, evolving talent? Neither do I. It's been that long. Sure, there have been interesting teams and champions like Team Hell No and The Shield (Rollins and Reigns) but the overall division has been consistently unremarkable the past few years. If you need proof, look no further than the recent list of champions.

The last six tag teams to hold the title (in no particular order) were the New Age Outlaws, The Miz and Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes/Stardust and Goldust, and The Usos. The New Age Outlaws are ancient and had no right to hold the championship. The Miz and Sandow's month long reign is hardly worth noting. That leaves the Rhodes brothers and The Usos. Since 2013, these teams have held the titles two times each, for a combined 424 days. This dominance and the overall weak competition has made the tag team division stale and predictable.

WWE Tag Team Championship belt

It seems, however, that this is coming to an end. The New Age Outlaws are gone until the next time Triple H needs a favor. The Miz and Damien Sandow are moving closer to a break up. Goldust and Stardust are in the midst of a full blown rivalry. This void is the best thing that can happen to the division. Now, WWE can push new and/or improved tag team talent to the forefront and hopefully revitalize the tag team landscape.

First, the revamping of the tag team division began when The Ascension were called up to the main roster in late December of last year. Viktor and Konnor ran roughshod through the NXT competition, holding the titles for one day shy of a full year. The move to the main roster was welcomed by fans who knew what The Ascension could bring to the table. Konnor is the smash mouth heavy of the group, delivering high impact maneuvers to opponents. Viktor is more cerebral and controls the pace of the of the team. It's a recipe for tag team success. Too bad that was not enough for WWE booking. They decided to turn The Ascension into Legion of Doom knockoffs who ironically mock legendary tag teams (including the very one they resemble). After weeks of horrific booking, the duo teetered on the brink of being a bust. Enter a rushed beef with the New Age Outlaws at the Royal Rumble.

As they did for The Usos, the Attitude Era antiques lost in order to legitimize a younger tag team. It seems to be working. No longer do the announcers speak ill of the rookies. JBL in particular has done a total 180 and now bolsters Konnor and Viktor's reputation as genuine contenders in the division. Its the right move. These guys are solid. All they need is a good rivalry with another credible tag team who need a boost. Currently, The Ascension are doing just that. They are in the beginning stages of a feud with the surprisingly reunited Prime Time Players.

Some time ago, the Prime Time Players were a formidable team with a decent gimmick. Darren Young and Titus O'Neil possessed a brash bravado which suits them quite well. The powerhouse O'Neil with his gator bark and "Mr. No Days Off" Darren Young came across as a natural pair. Their "millions of dollars" chant caught on and the duo experienced quite the run. In 2012 and 2013, the Prime Time Players were one of the standout tag teams, contending heavily against Kofi Kingston and R-Truth, The Real Americans, and The Usos. During this time, they competed in two pay-per-view championship matches.

Two years ago, however, is an eternity in wrestling years and the Prime Time Players became anything but. The group suffered consecutive losses and any luster they may have still had. The frustration became too much for Titus O'Neil. He finally snapped and betrayed Darren Young on the January 31, 2014 episode of SmackDown. An injured Young would spend the rest of the year recuperating from ACL surgery. O'Neil for some reason, would jump back into a tag team with (of all people) Heath Slater. The duo served as jobbers and jesters on the roster, losing any sense of credibility in the division and with fans.

Hopefully, this second time around, the Prime Time Players can make some headway in a division begging for a fresh start. Matching up with The Ascension makes sense. The teams almost mirror each other in style. It could very well be advantageous for both teams to put on the best show possible. Either can become the third best team in the division behind The Usos and the most significant and productive addition to the tag team roster: Tyson Kidd and Cesaro.

Without a doubt, the teaming of Tyson Kidd and Cesaro is the best decision WWE's creative team has made in a long time. They finally understand that sound wrestling is the foundation of success for anyone or team and when it comes to mat skills, few can parallel that of Kidd and Cesaro. As single competitors, the two men fought a uphill battle to receive the attention they deserve.

Granted, the two experienced success in the past. Kidd is an ex-champion in the tag team division. In 2010, the Hart Dynasty (Kidd and David Hart Smith) won the tag titles. They remained on the top of the division for 146 days. Since then, only The Shield, Team Hell No and The Usos boast longer records. After losing the titles, Kidd split from Smith and allied with Justin Gabriel. This team had some success, until Kidd tore his meniscus and was forced to miss much of 2013.

Upon his return in October 2013, Tyson Kidd suffered numerous losses and sank in the WWE ranks. Two months back on the main roster, Kidd was relegated to NXT. It was the best move of his career. In the developmental branch of WWE, Kidd worked hard and became one of the top talents on the roster. His matches with Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, and Adrian Neville proved that Kidd not only regained his in-ring skills since the injury, but vastly improved his character.

During his time on NXT, Tyson Kidd was also on WWE's reality show, Total Divas. Once again, this was a great move for him. His personalities on both shows melded to create a heel that the crowd can believe. NXT and Total Divas focused on the marital troubles between Kidd and Natalya. His frustration with his injury turned to jealousy and even resentment toward his wife, who was progressively succeeding in the company. Kidd became a domineering husband. His confidence grew as he belittled and manipulated his wife. If he lost, Kidd would blame Natalya for not interfering. If he won, he would accuse her of trying to steal his spotlight. He became consumed with becoming his own person and not just "Nattie's husband."

Certainly, Kidd has accomplished that. After a successful NXT run, he was once again called up to the main roster. Since his return in September 2014, Kidd (with Natalya in his corner) racked up wins against Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, and Sheamus. In just a few weeks, he competed for the Intercontinental title. His resurgence was near complete. All he needed was to return to the area where he excels—the tag team division.

No doubt, Tyson Kidd has the ability to be a top singles competitor. He could easily vie for the United States and Intercontinental Championships. The problem is that WWE is stacked with single competitors who are also clamoring for these titles. Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Bad News Barrett, The Miz, Rusev, and now even John Cena are too much for Kidd to compete against, whereas the tag team division is sorely in need of high level talent. Kidd can help bring relevance back to tag team wrestling in WWE. Besides, who knows what the future holds? His time in a tag team can boost his stock and elevate him to singles success as it has for Shawn Michaels, The Miz, and Daniel Bryan. In the meantime, Tyson Kidd has found the perfect partner who matches his persona outside the ring and his prowess inside the ring.

Similar to Tyson Kidd, Cesaro experienced success quite early in his tenure with WWE. The Swiss Superman debuted in April 2012. In four months, he was United States Champion. The egotistical European touted his wrestling skills and ability to speak multiple languages. The former is what really stuck with fans. Cesaro is a throwback; an innovative grappler with a brutality and aggressiveness few can match. After a 239-day reign as US Champion, Cesaro allied with Jack Swagger to form the Real Americans.

The first go-round in the tag division served Cesaro well. Jack Swagger is another aggressive grappler who can match Cesaro's style. Zeb Colter was the perfect manager and mouthpiece for two men who don't excel on the mic. The complete package went over well with fans. The "We the people" chant was simple and fun to take part in. Equally as enjoyable was the Cesaro Swing. Fans were awed by the incomprehensible strength of Cesaro. For some time, the Real Americans were an entertaining tag team. What wasn't fun, however, was their track record. They failed in every attempt at the tag titles. Worse still, they lost in a feud with Los Matadores. I know that's minor in their overall work, but it says everything to me. Losses to what is quite possibly the lamest tag team in recent history spells disaster. Indeed, after nine months together, the Real Americans split up.

Again, like his current cohort, Cesaro boosted his status in NXT. As he was teaming with Jack Swagger, Cesaro competed regularly in the developmental brand. His battles with Sami Zayn produced some of the best contests of 2014. The 2-out-of-3-falls match at NXT Arrival in particular proved that Cesaro could be the next big thing. WWE capitalized on his sudden popularity. Cesaro won the inaugural Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30. The next day, he joined forces with Paul Heyman, the master manager behind some of the most successful megastars in the company. Cesaro's career should have been assured. Three months later, however, Cesaro and Paul Heyman parted ways. Once again, Cesaro found himself on the outside looking in. That's no longer the case, as he and Tyson Kidd have become the premier tag team in WWE.

Finally, it seems that Kidd and Cesaro are on the track to a high profile career in the WWE. All the uncertainty, successes and setbacks have culminated in two men who are improved and comfortable in their skin as overall performers. They have played heels for so long now that it just seems right. Even Natlaya has become comfortable in her role as a valet. Their chemistry has grown rapidly in their two short months together. Kidd and Cesaro proved they are the next major force in the division by defeating The Usos for the WWE Tag Team Championships last week at Fastlane. The rivalry will continue to benefit the new champs. They will go back and forth alternating positions with The Usos as the top tag team. They should watch their backs, however, because The Ascension and Prime Time Players are aching to prove themselves. This healthy competition will bring the Tag Team Championship back to relevancy and assume its rightful place in the triumvirate of titles in the WWE.

Masters of the WWE Universe Brass Ring Club

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