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Tag Team Decline


Mr Wrestling X
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I'm pretty sure that anyone who calls themselves a 'wrestling fan' has noticed in the last couple of years, there has been a steady decline in tag team wrestling. So why has this happened? Lets examine WWE first...

 

The last time a tag team in WWE could call themselves 'credible champions' was last year when the Hart Dynasty held the belts (and to a lesser extend, Drew Macintyre and Cody Rhodes). There was a really good build to the Hart Dynasty becoming champions. Starting with a push, post Wrestlemania, DH Smith and Tyson Kidd were quickly built with the excitment from Bret Hart's return still in focus. They defeated Big Show and The Miz to earn a shot at the titles and on an episode of Raw, where they were extremely over, defeated the champs for the belts. It seemed like the E was finally taking stock again of tag team wrestling again, but...It wasn't too last, the Hart Dynasty were slowly phased out, despite the initial amount of acclaim they recieved. At Night Of Champions, Drew Macintyre and Cody Rhodes won the titles, after the Hart Dynasty were eliminated by the Usos. With talk of DH Smith leaving to give MMA a shot and Tyson Kidd struggling on Superstars, it would appear that a once promising tag team have past their sell by date in the eyes of the WWE creative team.

 

In the last few months, the tag team titles have changed hands several times. At Bragging Rights, David Otunga and John Cena won the tag team titles, the following night they handed them over to Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. Two months later, the comedy team of Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov won the titles before dropping them back to Gabriel and Slater at Elimination Chamber. John Cena and The Miz held the titles for less than 5 minutes, before dropping them back to Gabriel and Slater. 57 days later, Kane and The Big Show won the titles in a popular win that once again gave hope that WWE were going to establish a decent tag team, however, due to injury (it appears Big Show is injured), just over a month later, Kane and The Big Show dropped the titles to the team of David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty. What happened with John Cena and The Miz's brief title reign, was a huge knock to the divisions already damaged reputation. In the past we've seen some great storylines built out of reluctant tag team champions, including...

 

Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1997

The Rock and Mankind in 1999

Booker T and Goldust in 2002

Edge and Randy Orton in 2007

Shawn Michaels and John Cena in 2007

MVP and Matt Hardy in 2007

 

Out of the 3 longest holding tag teams (Morrison and Miz, Carlito and Primo, London and Kendrick) only Morrison, Miz and Primo remain with WWE. Primo is a staple on Superstars and despite a promising start in WWE, has not been given much to do since Carlito was released. John Morrison has been stuck on the upper mid card since 2008, he has yet to break through the glass ceiling. Miz meanwhile has gone on to be one of the proverbial main eventers of the WWE, defeating Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, Miz has gone onto headline Wrestlemania. Despite Miz's rise to the top, he has taken backseat to the Rock/Cena feud and decidedly lost the WWE title to Cena. The feud with Cena has grown stale and WWE has recently set in motion the next challengers for Cena's title.

 

With TNA theres not much to say. Their tag team division has been held together by the strength of two teams, Beer Money Inc and The Motor City Machine Guns. With rumors of TNA splitting up Roode and Storm, perhaps Storm will go onto reform America's Most Wanted with former partner Chris Harris, to replace the loss of Beer Money Inc. Or TNA could do the logical thing and use the imminent break up to establish a new tag team. In TNA there is a lot of unused talent, taking a backseat to the veterans and main eventers, surely creating a couple of new tag team out of this unused talent wouldn't be too much of a stretch? We all know TNA's attitudes however, some of which mirror WWE's.

 

So what can be done exactly? Can these two organisations justify having a tag team division anymore? WWE has made it clear that titles (with the exception of the WWE Championship) are taking a backseat to the talent. WWE PPVs seem to sell on the backs of John Cena and Randy Orton alone, with the occasional feature of someone like The Rock to keep the traditional fan buyrates up. TNA is now trying to capitalise on WWE eliminating wrestling as the focus of their product, perhaps this will signal a change in attitudes towards such things as the Tag Team division.

 

Thoughts?

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WWE has pretty much always treated tag teams like a division instead of a potential main event thing. The difference in the past was that they had enough teams to make the division feel complete. The times over the last few years when the belts have meant the most is when singles wrestlers show interest. But WWE has typically looked at tag teams the way WCW looked at cruiserweights.

 

In a perfect world, you'd have guys who team regularly, and all the singles stars would also have a regular tag team partner that they team with when they go for the tag titles. Sometimes, they'd win, sometimes, they'd lose.

 

They actually did a great job rebuilding the belts when they were headlining PPVs with Jericho/Big Show vs DX, but as soon as that feud ended, the belts really lost their meaning again.

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Tag Team wrestling died in the mid-90's. WCW killed their belt in 1997 with the Outsiders, despite the fact the division was pretty hot one year before. WWF tag belts were kinda meaningless as soon as 94-95, with weak champs like the Smoking Gunns or the Godwinns... Then it died a terrible death during the Attitude era and those godawful NAO. People will argue the Hardys/E&C/Dudleys put back some flair into it for a while, maybe, but it was more about falling from high places than be the champs.

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WWE has pretty much always treated tag teams like a division instead of a potential main event thing.

That's long been a problem in too many wrestling feds. Back in my old indy company, there were long periods where the tag title match would be the main event, because the tag teams were the top draw (insofar as you can say that anyone's a "draw" in front of 120 people, but some guys drew less than half that and it was easy to tell which was which). But too many companies are addicted to the idea that their top heavyweight belt singles match has to go on last, no matter what. You should go with whatever's hottest at the time, regardless if it's cruiserweights or women or tag teams or a Euro-Continental Television Title whatever.

 

People will argue the Hardys/E&C/Dudleys put back some flair into it for a while, maybe, but it was more about falling from high places than be the champs.

During late 99 until Invasion, though, there were more than just those three teams involved. You also had the Outlaws/DX, Too Cool, the Hollys, the Acolytes, Kaientai, the Radicalz, T&A, Right To Censor, and plenty of other fairly established, relatively cohesive teams. And when they put two singles stars together for more than a month at a time, it made the belts look important when Rock & Sock, Two-Man Power Trip, or Brothers Of Destruction were treating the tag belts like serious trophies that they really wanted.
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[You should go with whatever's hottest at the time, regardless if it's cruiserweights or women or tag teams or a Euro-Continental Television Title whatever.

Absolutely, but the thinking with the bigger companies is that their top draw must have the top title. Look at WWE at the moment, the top faces on both shows hold the World Championships. No one can deny that John Cena is the biggest draw in the WWE, but he just doesn't need to hold the World title, he's over no matter what. The same can be said, albeit to a lesser degree about Randy Orton. Most of the IWC were pissed that Orton ended Christian's title reign after only two days so they piled on the hate, without understanding the reason for it being wrong. The reason it was a bad move, was because Orton doesn't need a World Championship to carry a brand. From 2005 to 2007, Randy Orton was the hottest heel in the WWE, in that two year period, he didn't hold one World Championship. My feeling is that they should have left the title on Christian and built him up, whilst having Orton involved in a top line feud with someone else on Smackdown.

 

The same goes for John Cena, he's actually more entertaining (if you can say that) when he's not chasing the gold or holding the title. His feuds with JBL and Batista in 2008 were a real breath of fresh air. The beginning of the Cena/Nexus angle was a great start, although it didn't end up as a acclaimed storyline.

 

Look at Undertaker, he is so over, that his matches at Wrestlemania steal the show and the streak means more than any World Championship or accomplishment in the WWE. Its something the fans get invested in and its arguably the most successful long running angle that WWE have ever done.

 

 

During late 99 until Invasion, though, there were more than just those three teams involved. You also had the Outlaws/DX, Too Cool, the Hollys, the Acolytes, Kaientai, the Radicalz, T&A, Right To Censor, and plenty of other fairly established, relatively cohesive teams. And when they put two singles stars together for more than a month at a time, it made the belts look important when Rock & Sock, Two-Man Power Trip, or Brothers Of Destruction were treating the tag belts like serious trophies that they really wanted.

This is exactly what I was thinking. The Tag Team Championships meant more in this period of time than they ever have any other time. There were numerous excellent matches contested for the titles involving some tag teams that were more over than 90% of the talent on the roster. As you said, singles stars would often team up and compete in the tag team division and many feuds were built around tag teams. The beginning of Stone Cold Steve Austin's heel turn was all about his tag team with Triple H, the World Championship didn't matter here, it was all about them as a team and their feud with Undertaker and Kane over the straps.

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It's funny that for all the shit he takes for his booking, Dusty Rhodes was pretty much the only one to book tag teams (actual teams as opposed to two top singles together) as main eventers in the last 30 or so years. Hell, even the US tag team titles were treated seriously for a few years, which is more than WWE can say about their titles.

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It's funny that for all the shit he takes for his booking, Dusty Rhodes was pretty much the only one to book tag teams (actual teams as opposed to two top singles together) as main eventers in the last 30 or so years. Hell, even the US tag team titles were treated seriously for a few years, which is more than WWE can say about their titles.

 

The interesting thing about Dusty is that he still is booking the Tag division in FCW better than WWE and probably TNA. It's treated as a main event type deal with the heavyweight champion(Lucky Cannon) even going for the tag titles.

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Guest Andy

WWE has pretty much always treated tag teams like a division instead of a potential main event thing. The difference in the past was that they had enough teams to make the division feel complete. The times over the last few years when the belts have meant the most is when singles wrestlers show interest. But WWE has typically looked at tag teams the way WCW looked at cruiserweights.

 

In a perfect world, you'd have guys who team regularly, and all the singles stars would also have a regular tag team partner that they team with when they go for the tag titles. Sometimes, they'd win, sometimes, they'd lose.

 

They actually did a great job rebuilding the belts when they were headlining PPVs with Jericho/Big Show vs DX, but as soon as that feud ended, the belts really lost their meaning again.

I disagree. Just because tag matches were headlining PPVs, it doesn't mean they had been completely been rebuilt. The only reason they were main event was because they were DX & Jericho & Show were involved, 4 of the biggest stars in the company. If it were two more unknown but talented tag teams they would be opening the show.

 

The tag belts haven't meant shit for the past 6 years.

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They were important people fighting over the belts, though, so by default, it raised the artificial "prestige" of them.

 

WWE does that a lot. It generally peaks and valleys through makeshift main event combinations, then it falls back onto Cryme Tyme/Deuce and Domino/London and Kendrick type of teams until the next angle (usually WWE/World champion & challenger as team) comes about. I loved JeriShow and Miz/Morrison, but the last truly great WWE tag team was MNM. MNM vs the Hardys was the closest thing to an old school tag team feud between two great teams over a long period of time that you're probably going to get in modern day wrestling.

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Just a correction/clarification to what Jingus wrote: I believe he's referring to 2000 when the WWF/E tag team division was deep and had plenty of viable contenders. 1999 is when things got bad as Russo got more of the booking power and every title pretty much lost its luster thanks to his "hot potato" booking.

 

Also, I think NAO did have their share of good matches. I know the new Midnight Express were considered a joke, but they had a very good match with NAO at KOTR 98. The NAO just fell into the same trap everyone else did... the booking got worse as Russo gained more power.

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I blame Eric Bischoff. No really, I do.

 

It was his philosophy that no one wanted to see tag teams so the division became more and more of a joke on his watch. Since Vince was aping everything he could from the promotion that was kicking his ass at the time, that's one of the things that carried over.

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Just a correction/clarification to what Jingus wrote: I believe he's referring to 2000 when the WWF/E tag team division was deep and had plenty of viable contenders. 1999 is when things got bad as Russo got more of the booking power and every title pretty much lost its luster thanks to his "hot potato" booking.

 

Also, I think NAO did have their share of good matches. I know the new Midnight Express were considered a joke, but they had a very good match with NAO at KOTR 98. The NAO just fell into the same trap everyone else did... the booking got worse as Russo gained more power.

Although there's lot's of stuff to hate about the booking in WWF 1999. One of the things that pisse's me off the most is the tag team scene.

 

Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett could have been one of the great heel tag teams of all time. Neither man was relly cut out for main event single status, but tagging would have allowed both of them to play to their strengths and given them a meaningful place on the roster.

 

Under a decent booker. Something like Owen/Jarrett vs Edge/Christian and the Hardys. Could have produced a whole bunch of decent matches and elevated everyone involved.

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Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett could have been one of the great heel tag teams of all time. Neither man was relly cut out for main event single status, but tagging would have allowed both of them to play to their strengths and given them a meaningful place on the roster.

Yep. This could have been a great tag team. Since Russo booked it, it was all about Debra getting undressed.

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Can I just say how much I hated them winning matches by Debra flirting with the babyfaces? Occasionally would have been fine, but every single match every single week had either the same finish, or a close variation of it.

Yeah I hated it too. Owen & Jeff were/are great at playing annoying dickhead's, who you wanted to see get their asse's kicked. They didn't need Debra.

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I had a burst of inspiration. The problem is that tag teams as main eventers made sense in the territory days. The traveling NWA champion only appeared occasionally. There were no NWA World Tag Team champions, so you could easily build up your own tag champions as meaningful as there was no distinctive champions above them. In the PPV era though, every promotion tries to sell its own champion as the World Champion. Not putting a world title match on a card jeopardizes your sales, and putting the singles title below the tag titles undermines your biggest attraction.

 

The Road Warriors for example. Almost certainly the biggest tag team draw in history. Certainly one of the most popular teams. But they never main evented a PPV in the states. Even Crockett who boosted the tag belts as much as any promoter. Once PPV came about, no tag team ever really became consistent PPV main eventers.

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The Road Warriors for example. Almost certainly the biggest tag team draw in history. Certainly one of the most popular teams. But they never main evented a PPV in the states.

Was Great American Bash '87 a PPV or closed-circuit? They main evented in Wargames for that one. But astoundingly, overall you seem to be correct on this one. (Canadian Stampede '97 wasn't in the states, so technically doesn't count.) You'd think for sure that the LoD would've been in a big main event at some point or another, but I can't name another one besides the exceptions I already mentioned.
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The Road Warriors for example. Almost certainly the biggest tag team draw in history. Certainly one of the most popular teams. But they never main evented a PPV in the states.

Was Great American Bash '87 a PPV or closed-circuit? They main evented in Wargames for that one. But astoundingly, overall you seem to be correct on this one. (Canadian Stampede '97 wasn't in the states, so technically doesn't count.) You'd think for sure that the LoD would've been in a big main event at some point or another, but I can't name another one besides the exceptions I already mentioned.

 

Home video taken from more than one house show/TV taping.
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