20th Jun2019

Opinionated: Tag Team Wrestling Isn’t Dead… Yet.

by Chris Cummings

opinionated-tag-teams

You know… I don’t think many of today’s wrestling fans, the casual viewers anyway, realise just how f@cking good tag team wrestling can be.

It isn’t hard to find a good tag team match nowadays. I mean, all you have to do is watch an NXT TakeOver Special and it’s likely you’ll see a blinding tag team encounter. If you popped over to AEW for their Double or Nothing event then you will have seen a couple of top notch ones too. New Japan presents them regularly, NXT UK has shown us some great ones… they’re out there, if you look for them.

My early memories of tag team wrestling saw the likes of The Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Road Warriors, The Rockers and The Orient Express putting on short but sweet tag team clinics in WWF. I have fond memories of seeing Bret Hart coming off the ropes and nailing one of The Bolshevics with a clothesline as Jim Neidhart held them in the air. I have fond memories of Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels hitting double dropkicks in tandem on The Powers of Pain and bringing the live crowd to their feet. I have fond memories of the Ax and Smash hitting the ring to the sounds of their heavy metal theme, their faces masked in leather and studs, tag team titles around their waists. It was all so exciting. It was different from the rest of the show. It was tag team god damn wrestling!

In the years since I became an avid wrestling viewer, I’ve gone back in time to watch old shows, and seen the likes of The Midnight Express, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Rock n’ Roll Express, The Von Erichs and The Horsemen light up arena after arena with absolute barnstormers full of drama and complex wrestling psychology. The crowds in attendance full of rabid passion, fully immersed and invested in the matches, fully on board with the stories being told in the ring. No need for too much glamour or glitz, no need for over production or over-thinking. It was two guys who wanted to beat the living hell out of two other guys, sometimes they wanted the titles that the other guys had, sometimes they just wanted blood. That’s it. It worked because everyone understood it, everyone related to someone, and everyone wanted to see the despicable heels get beat, and the heroic babyfaces come out on top. I know times have changed, but the general feeling of wanting to see a good dude win against a prick hasn’t. The desire to see four guys thrown down hasn’t. The passion is there, it just needs to be dug up with a big fucking shovel, perhaps the same shovel that has buried tag team wrestling under layers of unnecessary dirt for so long.

Today, in the modern age of pro-wrestling, we have some spectacular wrestlers. We have more wrestling than we know what to do with. There are old school teams like The Revival, who take you back to the age of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard with their work, hitting hard and enforcing an education in tag team wrestling again. There are teams who strive to do something fresh, exciting and new, like The Young Bucks. There are teams that tell stories and work beautifully together, like The Usos, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish and So-Cal Uncensored. There are guys who can go for thirty minutes and bring the fans out of their seats, like Moustache Mountain. I’m not even mentioning a fraction of the teams that are around right now. There are so many incredibly talented, creative and interesting teams, all doing different things.

It’s all about positioning. Promotion. Opportunity. When given a chance, tag team matches can easily be the best on the show. They can get a response unlike any other from the crowd. We’ve seen it in NXT, in Japan, in ROH and AEW. We’ve seen it on the main roster of WWE too, though it doesn’t happen much, and it doesn’t happen enough. It could be a huge part of the show. It really could. We could see The Revival and The Usos putting on 30 minute classics on PPV, instead we sadly get quick matches where the action in the ring is toned down, and the booking is handled poorly. With NXT we’ve seen classics between the likes of The Revival and DIY, Undisputed Era and British Strong Style and others. There are those who want to make tag team wrestling more relevant again, and in some ways it’s working, but in other ways it is still mishandled and treated like a second-rate part of the show. That’s not right.

Women’s tag team wrestling has been around a good amount of time too but only recently, in WWE, has been brought back. Still, with the sheer amount of incredible female talent in WWE, the division isn’t given a chance to shine, the feuds aren’t given the opportunity to matter, to build into something we must see. That isn’t the fault of the performers, but instead the fault of those writing and booking the shows, shows that seem to put most things ahead of the male and female tag divisions. Both of these could be highlights, but instead are just there, and sometimes ignored completely.

Some of the best matches I’ve seen in my 27 years as a fan have been tag team matches. I have memories of some of my favourite teams, like Owen & Bulldog, The Hollywood Blondes, Edge & Christian and The Revival stealing the show. It needs to become a regular occurrence, and maybe, just maybe, one day it will. Until then, I’m glad we have promotions trying to make it happen. Sometimes though… I wish things would go back to basics. Four guys. A ring. Two belts. Plenty of time. Go.

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