Random Thoughts from the Office: February 11, 2011

I never thought I'd see the day when Jerry "The King" Lawler would headline a WWE pay per view. It is so surreal to see a champion who seemingly had such potential when he was given the ball thrown under the bus like this. I love The Miz but I just see him coming back from this one. It's so sad and so frustrating to see good talent squandered like this. Jerry Lawler is a heroic figure but to call him a main eventer especially at this time does a disservice to everyone.

But ultimately that's small pickings on a larger spectrum on things. As I look over my notes this week I see that there are reports they may be planning to break up the Usos. Another tag team dead end on the long and lonesome highway that is tag team wrestling nowadays.

Just why is putting a credible tag team division so difficult to achieve for the WWE and TNA? In a lot of aspects tag team wrestling is easier to write/book than singles. You take two bad guys, who are either monsters or just incredibly self centered, and have them claim they're better than everyone and want to get to the top but the only thing standing in their way is the virtuous babyface tag team who have proven time and again they are one of the best teams in the business, you build up some heat through the heels cheating or sneak attacking the babyfaces, get the fans riled up, put them in a ring and let them fight. It's not that hard.

Think back to some of the greatest feuds of all time. Sure you have your Steamboat-Flairs and your Hogan-Andres or your Dusty Rhodes-Ric Flair battles but ask a fan who grew up on wrestling, especially from the NWA in the 80's and you'll hear people talk with great reference and memory about the great matches between The Midnight Express and The Rock 'N' Roll Express.

There was a time when that feud carried territories, despite the fact that a lot of the time the matches were pretty much the template of a tag team formula: The babyface Rock 'n' Rolls would run wild and hit a bunch of high spots and get the heels on the back foot till eventually the heels would find a way to cheat and take control by cheating and attacking one of the babyfaces from the apron, usually Ricky Morton. Then the heels would dominate, making quick tags and double teams, keeping Morton grounded and more importantly away from his partner Robert Gibson, the fans would slowly get behind Morton and will him to make the hot tag and eventually after a few false tags it would come and the babyfaces would run wild again leading to the finish, where the Rock n Rolls would either hit their double dropkick finisher and get the win or the Midnights would cheat that one last time, usually by using their manager Jim Cornette's loaded tennis racket and steal the win.

In the end who won wasn't the most important thing because both teams were so good they both made each other. There was rarely a night when their matches weren't the best on the card, which at the time was saying something and both teams became iconic pretty much on the basis of the matches they had with each other.

The WWE was a little different. They had two teams that were stuck in the midcard, but the problem was no one could follow them as they put on epic match night after night. The Hart Foundation-British Bulldogs feud of the mid 80's made fans of the WWE sit up and take notice of tag team wrestling, some for the first time. While tag team wrestling in the WWE existed before then, it was the Harts and the Bulldogs that put it on the map, with a little help from teams like The Killer Bees, Strike Force and Demolition. Just like the NWA had teams besides the Midnights and the Rock 'n' Rolls: Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, The Road Warriors, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, the list went on and on.

Nowadays though tag team wrestling is sadly treated more as an afterthought that anything else. Either something to get a pair of guys over when they have nothing else for them, for example ShowMiz from last year, or guys just put together to fill out spaces in cards because the writing staff have given up hope on them, say for example Zack Ryder and Primo. It seems the WWE lives up to the old adage of "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy". IE: If you're in a tag team the fans won't think you're over, so they book their tag teams as either comedy acts (Santino and Kozlov) or in such a way that they'll NEVER get over (Well...Santino and Kozlov again).

By doing away with Tag Team wrestling, the WWE has created a place where it's very hard to get over as a star. Simply due to the fact that most times there's not enough time to showcase everyone, also it forces some of the younger talent they're trying to push to be exposed before they're ready to carry their end of the workload in singles competition (For example Mason Ryan). The result sadly is a worse product for everyone, the quality drops, the buyrates drop and the ratings drop.

In the end building a new tag team in this day and age may be hard but it's not impossible if you have the time and the patience to let it build. And as an added bonus, with time to settle into the big time before going into singles competition your younger talent will have time to relax and get used to the feel of being in the big time. And by doing that and keeping teams together for a year instead of a month, a guy like Justin Gabriel might just have a chance to become the next Shawn Michaels.

Clarence "Showstealer" Mason

No comments: