Divided, who stands?

Divided, who stands?

As the WWE Draft looms ever closer (Raw, Monday on USA Network, at a special time of 8/7 CT), the Superstars of Raw, SmackDown and ECW grow increasingly concerned over the fate — and brand — awaiting them. And it's doubly troubling for the Superstars who constitute one-half of a tag team.

We've seen it before, starting with the very first Draft that divided Matt & Jeff Hardy in March 2002. Though both brothers were able to forge successful solo careers, it drove a competitive wedge between them that lasted more than four years. On Monday night, the WWE Draft not only threatens to reinsert that wedge for all Superstars, but create an even greater divide among others contending within WWE's tag team divisions.

"A split due to the Draft would be, quite frankly, a travesty," protested a stone-faced Shelton Benjamin, one-half of the World's Greatest Tag Team. "We've yet to achieve our goal of becoming World Tag Team Champions."

"It wouldn't surprise me if Shelton and I were split up again Monday," chimed in Benjamin's tag partner, Charlie Haas. Clearly, he's unhappy about the sheer randomness of the upcoming lottery draw, but he realizes that it all comes down to one thing: "This is a business, man. We've got to make money, feed families, pay the bills. So if it happens, we'll just wish each other the best and go our separate ways…focus on what's best for each of our careers. It's up to fate."

Like The Hardys, Benjamin & Haas have experienced firsthand the divisive wrath of sports-entertainment's notion of fate. The World's Greatest Tag Team were two-time WWE Tag Team Champions before 2004's WWE Draft sent Benjamin over to Raw, while Haas remained part of the SmackDown roster. Also like The Hardys, both Superstars fashioned a degree of solo success — Haas captured the WWE Tag gold a third time with another partner, while Benjamin wore the Intercontinental Title three times — before re-teaming together on Raw late last year. The reminder of this very fact causes Benjamin to pause and carefully restate his position.

"Charlie's a buddy I like to look out for, and he watches my back. It's nice to know there's someone in your corner who's always on your side," he said. "But anyone who has followed my singles career knows that Shelton Benjamin is more than capable of getting the job done alone. It's like apples and oranges — which is better for me? Who knows? We gotta wait."

"Me and Robbie have been together for, well, our whole lives," said anxious Scotsman Rory McAllister. Upon assuring simpler cousin and tag partner Rory that the ramifications of this particular Draft can't be felt beneath The Highlanders' kilts, the brogued rogue added, "Honestly, we're best suited together, but if we're split apart, we'll still want to fight for Scotland, fight for what we believe in…. Basically, we'll just want to fight."

"Aye, fight!" Robbie echoed.

Cryme Tyme's Shad is surprisingly honest as to what the WWE Draft could mean for himself and his partner, JTG. "Honestly, I think being a singles wrestler would be a good thing for me, and it would be a good thing for JTG, as well. We're both lions; we can fight together or by ourselves," explained the current Raw Superstar. "Still, even if we're split up as a tag team, we're never gonna be split up as brothers. We're always gonna be Cryme Tyme, and it's always gonna be our time."

Figuratively remaining brothers is one thing; the potential that a brand separation can negatively affect a fraternal bond is another matter entirely. ECW's Brian & Brett Major, however, refuse to let such pessimistic notions cloud their outlook in the final days before the WWE Draft.

"Since kindergarten, all Brian and I wanted was to be WWE wrestlers," said Brett, conveying an exuberance that strongly implies his personal fascination with his newfound Superstardom. "Now we're finally living that dream. Whether or not that means we'll be part of the same brand after the Draft…well, everything happens for a reason."

"I remember when Haas & Benjamin first got split up in the Draft," Brian added. "They each went their own way and did their own thing, but in the long run they got back together. I'm not worried; I'm sure Brett and I will make the most of any situation."

Needless to say, not all ECW tandems share the Major Brothers' affirmative attitude toward the very near future in WWE — specifically, the Extreme upstarts in the New Breed, or its leader, Elijah Burke. "Obviously, I'm a man of power, a man that loves being in charge, of being in control," he professed. "But to be under the mercy of this Draft, to talk about the possibility of separating one of the hottest young groups in history…that can't be good."

Good or not, is Burke willing to provide Raw or SmackDown with his "Elijah Experience"? Can he accept that the WWE Draft may force the New Breed to die off Monday night? Coyly keeping the answers to himself, he offered only one response: "I am the Paragon of Virtue, and I've got a little pull, so don't count out the New Breed just yet. Remember, I'm carrying out a vision that was formed by my close personal friend, the Chairman of the Board, Mr. McMahon."

Sorry to inform you, Elijah, but with Mr. McMahon's deteriorating mental health of late — as evidenced this week on Raw and ECW — he's probably not a wild card you should count on sparing you or the New Breed from the inevitable Superstar shuffle. Then again, it seems many tag teams and factions simply don't want to think about how things will play out next Monday night — including SmackDown's former WWE Tag Team Champions, Paul London & Brian Kendrick.

"If the WWE Draft were to somehow separate London & Kendrick, the most fantabulous tag team of the era…I'd fire my agent for letting such a stupid deal go down," London said. "I'd also make sure that Brian would fire his agent for the same reason."

"I can't fire my agent because she's my mother," replied Kendrick, "but like Paul, I would be very upset. We've had a lot of success in WWE and on SmackDown, especially considering how young we are as a team. I feel that if we were to be split apart, the world will miss out on great tag team wrestling."

And what of The Hardys, one of the original tag victims of the WWE Draft? Matt admits that he's as in the dark as everyone else as to how Monday's selection process will paint him or Jeff into any tag team picture. The only thing he's certain of is that the Draft won't let him lose sight of another personal focus in his life.

"I don't care whether I'm wrestling for Raw, SmackDown or ECW," Matt emphasized, "but there's one thing that I want to do: I want to win a World Championship. I want to be World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Champion or ECW World Champion. Whatever brand I'm in, I want to be looked upon as the No. 1 guy, the No. 1 performer, the No.1 athlete, the No. 1 entertainer. That's my ultimate goal. Wherever fate puts me is where I want to start my quest to be the best. I want to become ‘The Man' there."

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