Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tag Team Wrestling: More Of An Art Than A Science

Bryan and Kane were entertaining, but they were not a true tag team
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Lots of people want to tell you about the renaissance of tag team wrestling in big-box corporate wrestling. And in a lot of ways, they're right. Surface-wise, at least, it does seem to matter. But look closer, and you'll see a problem, a problem you would only have noticed if you had watched previous "Golden Eras" of tag team wrestling.  What problem, you're asking? Simple. A lack of actual teams.

Now I know what you're thinking. I understand and respect it. You're probably going to tell me how much fun Daniel Bryan and Kane were, and how TNA's tag team division has always been good, and some of that is true. But the larger point is that Daniel Bryan and Kane weren't a team, at least not how I and other people for whom is this is their favorite style might also understand it.

To be fair, at least in the corporate offices of the company that puts wrestling on in Stamford, the idea of tag team wrestling as an art, and something that should be aspired to, is slowly coming back into vogue. The trouble with that is Triple  H, the guy who thinks, this cut his teeth as a wrestler in the "superteam" era of tag team wrestling. Hell, the best and most accomplished tag teams he was ever in were superteams: with Steve Austin as the Two-Man Power Trip and with Shawn Michaels as Dad Joke-Generation X. Say what you want to, but those who were not tag teams in the traditional sense of the word.  Think of how many times you saw the "wacky mismatched tag team" end up winning the tag team titles from a team that was supposed to be a cohesive unit. Or, to put a finer point on it, think about how many tag teams from that era were two top singles stars who just were thrown together and given the tag team titles for a story that never involved the belts.

What do I mean when I say "tag team" in the traditional sense of the word? Well, firstly, there has to be a sense of unity. There are really no hard-and-fast rules about what that unity is supposed to come off as, but more the idea that it should feel like you wanted to be partners, instead of someone telling you that you had to be. In keeping with this, the individual members of the team don't have feuds. The team can feud with a singles star, sure, but that's about where it ends. (Author's Note: I understand that Ricky Morton, and a few other tag team wrestlers, had singles title matches against Ric Flair in late-80's NWA. But you'll remember, the Rock N' Roll Express feuded with the Andersons or Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson.)

Secondly, and this is the art part, there has to be chemistry. I have to believe you want to be partners, not that someone threw you together and it's torture but you're doing it. Daniel Bryan and Kane fall into this part. They never seemed to really WANT to be partners. They just won the belts, and eventually decided that they might as well work together to retain them. But that want, that "Hey we're good at this" that so many other teams have and have had, never was there for me.

So that's it. That's how you make good tag teams. Watch big-box wrestling sometimes, and see if you can see how many of the teams make that cut.