The explosive resurgence of the tag team division

The fierce competition that has emerged for the WWE Tag Team Championship in recent months signals a true rebirth of the division.

In the world of sports-entertainment — where only those with the greatest skill and most interesting personas survive — this rising crop of dynamic duos represents a group of strong, cohesive combinations, each bringing their own unique identity to the table.

While they individually stand apart, together these tag teams create an authentic powerhouse that demands the attention of the WWE Universe and looks to only gain momentum in the future.

Team Hell No

At the top of the mountain right now stands the reigning WWE Tag Team Champions, Team Hell No. The ultimate irony of Daniel Bryan & Kane being the current titleholders is that they exhibit fewer qualities of a unified partnership than any pairing in the locker room.

But no matter how unorthodox their personal relationship may be, no one can dispute their absolute dominance from start to finish whenever they decide to work together. And they work together whenever someone tries to take their championship gold.

Somewhat reminiscent of Kane’s past tag team collaborations with his legendary brother, The Undertaker, The Devil’s Favorite Demon and the submission specialist thrive by trying to outdo each other, while at the same time sharing an affinity for ruthless aggression and a somewhat skewed perspective on both life and the squared circle.

Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara

What is more dangerous than one high-flying, lightning-fast lucha libra competitor? That’s right, two luchadores. And since former World Champion Rey Mysterio and the up-and-coming Sin Cara joined forces, the tag team ranks have never been the same.

The explosive, unorthodox style of the fast-moving and absolutely fearless duo throws their opponents off their game and forces them to compete on a whole new level. Reminiscent of electric, intuitive teams of the past like The Rockers and The Hardy Boyz — moving as one, as if they could somehow read each other’s’ thoughts — the masked Superstars offer a high-powered offense, fused with the technical brilliance of their Mexican wrestling training.

When you throw The Ultimate Underdog’s experience as a multi-time tag team title holder into the mix, Mysterio and Sin Cara become an absolute tour-de-force, almost certain to capture championship gold in the near future. 

Team Rhodes Scholars

Witnessing the meteoric rise of a tag team with the talent and chemistry of Team Rhodes Scholars’ possession can be a thing of beauty. Of course, the cocky duo of Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow will happily tell you about their superior status for as long as one can stand their boasting.

While they initially united against a common enemy in Team Hell No, Rhodes & Sandow quickly demonstrated their combined powers made them a force to be reckoned with in WWE’s tag team division. That reality became clear as Team Rhodes Scholars bested three other pairings — The Usos, Zack Ryder & Santino Marella and Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara — to win the WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contenders’ Tournament in October.

Their present status remains in limbo as the severity of a shoulder injury endured by Rhodes on the Nov. 14 edition of WWE Main Event is determined. That said, the experience of Rhodes, a second-generation Superstar and former three-time tag team champion in WWE, and the talents of Sandow, a supremely confident competitor who’s been nearly impossible to pin since his April debut, should continue to make Team Rhodes Scholars an intimidating presence in WWE’s tag team ranks for the foreseeable future.

Prime Time Players

In previous eras, WWE’s tag team division has always played host to that quintessential duo who combines a strong aptitude for in-ring teamwork and a strategic game plan with blatant rule-breaking and an abundance of trickery. This has been true from Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito to The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff to The Hart Foundation to Edge & Christian. And as the reemergence of the current tag team crop takes flight, these distinct qualities have certainly fallen into the hands of Titus O’Neil & Darren Young.

There is no one that could argue against the fact The Prime Time Players love to talk — and often chant — about their coming “millions of dollars!” Still, is it this excessive display of over-confidence and unrelenting larger-than-life personality that blind many from O’Neil & Young possessing such effective tag team ability.

Whether they’re cutting the ring in half to prevent their opponents from making a tag, providing a crucial distraction or executing The Clash of the Titus sit-down powerbomb or The Gut Check gutbuster, this powerhouse team continues to impress, win or lose. And as they’ve displayed time-and-time again, they will do anything to be the winners, surely making them a formidable force for some time to come.

Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd

It may be tempting to dismiss the prospects of Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd as a formidable tag team in WWE. Their first-round elimination in October’s WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contenders’ Tournament took them out of the conversation prematurely, while Gabriel’s pursuit of Antonio Cesaro’s United States Championship at WWE Hell in a Cell 2012 left the WWE Universe wondering if the South African Superstar’s interests lie elsewhere.

Yet Gabriel, a former three-time WWE Tag Team Title holder, and Kidd, one-half of the first Unified WWE Tag Team Championship duo in WWE history, have shown they have what it takes to build upon their respective accomplishments. These international competitors know how to work well with others as well as what it takes to conquer the other tag teams in WWE. That knowledge became apparent as Gabriel & Kidd helped put their side on top in an 8-Man Tag Team Match on the Nov. 12 edition of Raw.

This combination of Superstars has the tools and the talent to reach for greatness in WWE. Now, they just need to find the path that leads them to a WWE Tag Team Title opportunity against Team Hell No.

Primo & Epico

They may not have the anger management issues that distinguish Team Hell No or the cocky swagger of Team Rhodes Scholars, but the ties that bind Primo & Epico run deeper than nearly every other tag team in WWE today. That’s because the Puerto Rican Superstars are also cousins, giving them a familial relationship that has certainly proven to be a recipe for success throughout WWE history.

Primo & Epico keep their competitive efforts all in the family just as The Hart Foundation, The Dudley Boyz and The Steiner Brothers did in their respective rises to greater glory in the ring. That bond boosted the acrobatic Superstars into a 106-day reign as WWE Tag Team Champions in early 2012, which included a successful title defense at the WrestleMania XXVIII Pre-Show.

Of course, Primo & Epico have another ace up their sleeve besides their family ties: Rosa Mendes. The spicy Diva can raise her favorite tag team’s spirits with her fiery disposition, while her presence at ringside can distract even the most steadfast and focused of adversaries. Her presence gives Primo, a two-time WWE Tag Team Title holder, and his young cousin Epico an edge no other team in WWE can match.

Santino Marella & Zack Ryder

Jerry Greenfield, one of the founders of the successful Ben & Jerry’s ice cream empire, focused his entire business strategy on one simple principle: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

That carefree philosophy certainly worked well for Ben & Jerry’s, so it’s no surprise to see Santino Marella & Zack Ryder unofficially adopt it for their purposes as well. The Italian rapscallion and Long Island Iced-Z both approach their in-ring strategies by not letting the politics and rhetoric get in the way of having a good time. They both strive for success, but not at the cost of being unable to enjoy their achievements along the way.

Their devil-may-care attitudes may conjure memories of pairings like Edge & Christian, Too Cool and Men on a Mission, but don’t let their light-hearted antics fool you. Both Marella and Ryder are former WWE Tag Team Champions, and both possess the talents and tenacity to regain the titles once again.

Jimmy & Jey Uso

Tag team competition is as much part of Jimmy & Jey Uso’s bloodline as the traditional Siva Tau war dance they perform before each match. After all, the third-generation Superstars are members of the legendary Samoan Anoa’i family, a sports-entertainment dynasty that produced former World Tag Team Champions The Wild Samoans and The Headshrinkers, not to mention duos The Samoan Gangster Party and 3 Minute Warning.

The young twin brothers’ tag team DNA shows through in their impeccable timing for double-team maneuvers. And unlike any other duo in WWE’s division, they share the ultimate bond — brotherhood, meaning they know each other inside and out.

So why are The Usos so often overlooked? It’s certainly not for a lack of significant victories, so much as a lack of exposure: Jimmy & Jey Uso upset Vickie Guerrero’s former pairing of World Champions, Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger, on WWE Superstars back in May — a huge victory that garnered stunningly little attention from the WWE Universe. More recently, they defeated The Prime Time Players in a competitive bout on the Oct. 25 edition of Superstars.

The Usos are not bottom-feeders in a stacked roster of tag teams. Rather, they’re the division’s best-kept secret.

 

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