Metalhead’s Riff: Tag Team Turmoil (WWE, New Japan, Bruiser Brody vs Terry Funk)

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Before having a look at WWE’s (and a few others) Tag teams scene, let me start this weeks column with a bit of news from all around the world.

NJPW has announced more names for the upcoming ROH/NJPW joint shows. In addition to Tanahashi, Okada, Naito and Thunder Jushin Liger, Takaaki Watanabe, KUSHIDA, Gedo and (YES!) Shinsuke Nakamura will also be participating. Furthermore the Bullet Club quintet of AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and The Young Bucks have been confirmed this Thursday. NJPW clearly thinks highly of these joint cards and doesn’t hesitate to send its top names. The winner here is clearly us, the wrestling fans. Should be a treat for the ROH fans to watch Nakamura and Co in action live.

Also in NJPW, their Road to Wrestling Dontaku has started, featuring the usual 2,3,4 or 5 men tag team battles, used to further the various feuds. Interestingly Ibushi often teams up with Tanahashi and Goto against the Chaos members Nakamura/Ishii/ Yoshi-Hashi and has ended up making the winning fall for his team on several occasions. Those who are familiar with the Japanese way of booking things know what that means, the more a wrestler takes wins on such shows, the  closer he is to a new or renewed push. The summer of 2015 might very well be Ibushi’s.

Still in japan I hear good things about Big Japan’s Ikkitousen Day 8. Featuring several Death Matches, counterbalanced with more traditional “Strong Style” Matches, the event was well received by most observers. Now if only Big Japan (and other promotions like Dragon gate for example) could make their shows more visible and available because it’s still very difficult to find them. By the way do you know what a “Devouring Of Heaven And Earth Returns” Match is? No? Well, it’s a ladder match apparently. Those Japanese sure have a way with words.

News of the departure of Taz has already been commented on this very site, but another wrestler also was released this week. Ex X-division Champion The Great Sanada was released three months before his contract actually ended. Whether this was at the request of the wrestler himself or should be seen in light of the recent rumors concerning TNA wrestler’s paychecks remains to be seen. Still Dixie can’t be very happy about TNA being in the news for people leaving. Sanada himself will simply be returning to Wrestle-1.

According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the following wrestlers have reported to the WWE Performance Center at the start of April.

Male:

Uhaa Nation: A Dragon Gate regular and 6 year veteran on the indie scene.

Kenneth Crawford, a former US marine and excellent athlete with no wrestling experience. He reportedly bulked up after a first tryout.

Thomas Kingdom: A huge, jacked-up bodybuilder, weighing around 300 pounds, no wrestling experience. I’m taking bets right now he’ll be the first of the bunch on RAW.

Axel Tischer: 14 years veteran pro-wrestler and still only 28. German and GWF Wrestling regular.

Oscar Vasquez: Former TNA Gut Check contestant and former tag team partner of the current Sin Cara. Luchador of course.

Peter Howard: English athlete (Track-and-field and rugby), no experience.

Radomir Petcovic: Amateur Wrestler, former Vice-European Champion and two times bronze medalist at the 2009 Mediterranean Games.

Levis Valenzuela Jr: Trained with CWF Mid-Atlantic, proficient ballroom dancer. And no, I’m not making this up.

Female:

Cassie McIntosh: Australian, trained with Pro Wrestling Alliance, a former Lance Storm trainee.

Jessica McKay: Also Australian, has been all over the place most notably in ROH and SHIMMER.

Nhooph Al-Areebi: Trained with Squared Circle, former member of the Toronto Circus School and former gymnast.

A rather mixed bag, I think I’ll assign myself the task of following this bunch, making episodic reports and see where they end up. Just for fun.

 

After watching (parts of) Raw this week, I felt the need to take a little trip down memory lane. It took me all the way back to 1987 and the first annual Survivor Series Event. While the whole Survivor Series concept, as it originally was, always had appealed to me, I wanted to watch one particular match. That match was the 20 man, ten tag teams spectacular. Featuring Strike Force (Santana and Martel), The Young Stallions (Powers and Roma), The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond Rougeau), The Killer Bees (Brunzell and Blair) and the British Bulldogs vs The Hart Foundation, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), Demolition, The Bolsheviks (Volkoff and Zhukof) and The Dream Team (Valentine and Bravo) it was given 37 minutes on the cards and easily won Match of the Night honors.

In 1988 WWF/E did it again, this time presenting The Powers of Pain (Warlord and Barbarian), The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers and The Young Stallions vs Demolition, The Bolsheviks, The Brain Busters (Anderson and Blanchard), The fabulous Rougeaus and the Conquistadors (Uno and Dos hilariously). This one was given 42 minutes and again, easily won Match of the Night honors. It went beyond just putting 10 teams and a slew of talented workers together, both matches were masterfully booked, the first one featured tons of action and in-ring psychology, would create or continue various feuds was totally unpredictable and ended up with a very surprising winner. the second one was as good action wise and would even feature a double-turn. No wonder the second part of the eighties is considered the Golden Age of tag team wrestling. Look at the line-ups, teams disbanded but new and exiting teams were created, former enemies would occasional alliances, heel teams would turn fan favorite and vice-versa, aside from the talent involved the tag team division was booked in such a way it really felt like a division apart. Those wrestlers would also only occasionally mingle with singles wrestlers giving and extra flavor to events like the Royal Rumble.

Fast forward to this Monday’s raw. Current Champions Tyson Kidd and Antonio Cesaro (too busy figuring out who Cena will beat this week for coming up with a Team name, WWE creative?) were jobbed out to Randy Orton, all in the name of a stupid storyline involving stipulations nobody really cared about anyway.

While WWE’s lack of care and attention towards ALL their secondary titles is nothing new, this baffles me to no end. I do realize the Tag Team titles are very low on Vince and Co’s list but couldn’t this daunting task of loosing to Orton (everybody KNEW he was going to win anyway) have been given to someone else? In fact any two or three singles wrestlers would have done the job in this spot, so what was the idea behind it? To build-up Orton? What more build-up does he need? he’s been booked strongly since his return and pinned the future Champ at WM31 for gawd’s sake! It was nothing else than another baffling and idiotic booking decision that served absolutely no purpose. Was anybody exited about Orton beating the champ? Did anyone jump out of his couch at the announcement of the stipulation? I didn’t think so. Sacrificing your tag team champions for such a thing is a senseless waste.

It even goes beyond the Champs, The Lucha Dragons have made their rather exiting debut and seem to be able to get the crowds behind them. The PTP have been reunited and have actually had some screen time. Los Matadores have… been there. Even the ascension have been dusted off to bring up the numbers if nothing else. And now all those teams are supposed to go after a title that was treated with so little respect on Monday Night RAW?

In his excellent weekly Smackdown review, which you can read here: http://insidepulse.com/2015/04/17/spains-wwe-smackdown-report-and-results-for-april-16th-2015/ , David Spain tells us Cesaro and Kidd had an excellent match against John Cena and Daniel Bryan, a match that, according to Mr Spain elevated the four (three?) belts involved. I have no reason to dispute David on the excellence of the match since he has shown uncommon good taste when it comes to wrestling matches (meaning he usually like the same stuff I do). But the Tag Teams Champs lost. Again. And yes they may have been featured against two of the top guys, they may have been given time to show their moves, it might have been a competitive match, and, sometimes losing in a certain way will indeed elevate your profile, I agree with all of this. Except, this comes after what happened on Monday; Meaning Ultimately the Tag team Champions were, again, presented as inferior to everything else, despite their good showing.

It could so easily be different. Protect the titles. create story-lines for the tag team division only. Create maybe 3 or 4 more teams, to keep things fresh and interesting, hell hold a tournament like Lucha Underground has done with  success (ok, it was trio’s but still), or do something like NJPW does every fall. Surely WWE has enough people under contract to do all that. But no, that’s all too much effort apparently. Have your champions job to someone who doesn’t even need the win, that’s the WWE way to go nowadays.

As often when talking about WWE there is really only one word that can really close this chapter.

Sigh.

 

In closing, it is time for my Match of the Week. I was tempted to put up the Survivor series matches, but since they are so easily available on the Network (and it’s a bitch to find decent links featuring only those matches), I decided to go just a little farther down memory lane and stopped at:

11/30/1981

Bruiser Brody vs Terry Funk. Held in AJPW, I always felt this was a good showcase of Brody’s talents. His chain wielding entrance (sending spectators and crew running for cover), his intense brawling style, and the chaos usually involved in his matches are all well represented here. Plus this is one of the best quality Bruiser Brody video’s that is available, so there.

From a time where wrestling seemed so much simpler and monster heels  genuinely scared people:

This is all from me this week, thanks for reading, see you all next week and have fun!

 

 

 

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