This past Monday night, I watched WWE go all in and cement New Day as their new longest-ever reigning tag champs.
I think that was the right thing for them to do. Records shouldn’t stand forever. Heck, The Rock talked about records a lot earlier in the year at Wrestlemania, right before setting a new one for shortest Wrestlemania match. Who held the record before that? Kane beating Chavo Guerrero. A match I can’t even remember taking place.
It’s quite possible that 6 seconds will never be beaten as a shortest match at Wrestlemania. It’s a raise nobody is going to call. It’s equally possible that New Day’s remarkable run at the top of the tag division might never be beaten and that’s ok – it doesn’t need to be beaten for a long time because it’s as near a Royal Flush of a run as you’re going to get.
I think records matter. Not only because it’s a great, easy way to tell a story and give matches meaning, but because the passage of time and passage of batons from one generation to the next should be encouraged and celebrated. Not the comedy records such as Rock’s shortest-ever Wrestlemania match, but the ones that matter – the longest title reigns, most title reigns, undefeated streaks, that type of thing.
New Day have achieved something that vindicates their existence as a team. It matters that they’ve surpassed Demolition’s record, because we’ve lived through it. When you live through history you remember it.
I remember vividly CM Punk’s steady progress up the leader board during his record-breaking title run. I remember it not only because it was a guy who I wanted to see succeed, but because you couldn’t help but wonder if WWE would screw him at the last, just as I wondered if WWE would screw New Day last night. In hindsight that seems like a strange thing to say, given how close to the record New Day were, but had they gone with KO and Jericho winning to further their feud, I wouldn’t have been surprised because the tag titles have a history of being used as props for other supposedly more important feuds.
I’m glad New Day retained, twice, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to watch them over the past few years. I don’t find them as old as others seem to – I think they’re refreshingly individualistic and set themselves apart from the rest of the tag division in a way that the rest of the tag teams need to take a good long hard look at themselves about.
New Day aren’t serious. They’re all about the jokes and the entertainment – up until the match starts, when they’re all about retaining the belt. It matters to them, which makes it matter to me. They’re cocky because they’re successful, not cocky in spite of failure. It’s why KO’s character works as well – he’s arrogant but he backs it up by winning.
Which is why the one thing I don’t want to see as a result of the record being broken is a lot of talk about how New Day should now lose the titles and then split up and go their separate ways. It’s nonsense. They are great together and there’s no reason they can’t go for another record as a group – the most number of title reigns.
We rush to want to see teams split up too soon, I think. The Dudleys are as successful as they are, as decorated as they are and as known as they are because they’ve been working together as long as they have. The Hardys too.
It doesn’t mean individuals in those tag teams can’t have great singles runs – Jeff Hardy and Edge both emerged to top the totem pole, but it’s the tag teams they’re both primarily remembered for because it’s the tag division they truly excelled in and changed. To ram home my point like an unexpected spear, what does Edge end up recreating when he comes back to WWE? His time with Christian and the five second pose. The longevity and success of that run doesn’t eclipse what he achieved as champion, but it certainly resonates more.
As much as I’d like to see a run from Bully Ray in WWE, I wouldn’t argue against welcoming the Dudleys back as an occasional tag team because it matters if you beat the Dudleys. It doesn’t matter at all if you beat The Club now, because everyone does. It doesn’t matter if you beat Primo and Epico. It doesn’t matter if you beat Goldust and R-Truth. It’s getting to the point where no matter how good Sheamus and Cesaro are, it doesn’t matter if you beat them because they lose all the time too.
The successful tag team is something that WWE has consistently failed to capitalise on by either letting them run out of steam far too soon and splitting them up or trying to capitalise solely on singles runs because that was the aim all along. It’s why I’m not as excited as everyone else about Sheamus and Cesaro – they won’t last that long and will end up again as singles wrestlers before long.
As if that all weren’t enough, who would take New Day’s mantle as top tag team if they were to depart the scene? The Club? Fold. They needed to have won the titles before now in order to make an impact.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s very clearly going to be Sheamus and Cesaro who take the titles off New Day, but where do they go from there? The trouble with putting together two guys as good as Sheamus and Cesaro (I don’t know why you’re all so down on Sheamus, he’s pretty good I think) is that you need believable teams to go up against them or they are just going to steamroller over everyone.
It will be the same now Randy and Bray are champs on SmackDown. It’s not long-term and everyone knows it, and they will lose the belts to some kind of in-fighting to two surprised new champions who will be diminished by the experience rather than built by it. As much as I’m loving Randy’s work at the moment, we all know this story is going to come to an end sooner rather than later and when it does, it leaves the tag division worse than when it started. If it’s American Alpha who beat them, I don’t think it adds rub to them to have them defeat Bray and Randy due to the Wyatts’ in-fighting.
Now, I write this before SmackDown so something could change on that show to change my mind, but as I write this, both tag divisions need new blood to dominate and not only new champs, but two or three more strong teams per roster, that all stay together for a number of years.
Who is that new blood? Well, I think it’s high time The Revival made an appearance on one or other brand. My colleague Ron Pasceri spoke about this on a recent Mat Madness podcast – and it was their collective view that The Revival wouldn’t be used properly by Vince McMahon so they should stay on NXT – but I thought they were booked pretty strongly when they featured at the last Roadblock. I thought they looked like they belonged and they’re a team you don’t need to do too much with other than have them go out there, kick ass and take wrestling seriously.
It’s why I’m aggrieved James Storm went back to TNA – having Beer Money (or whatever new name they could have been given) on one of the major brands would have added instant kudos, not to mention match quality, but that’s not going to happen now.
Both divisions need some serious challengers – by which I mean not only challengers who take themselves seriously, but who portray wrestling as a serious business. There’s enough jokers in the pack now, we need a few more aces. A few more winners.
I’ve used some card terms here, but do you know what? Tag divisions aren’t poker. They’re not even blackjack – they’re no more complicated than singles wrestling. Just keep teams together, build them up and don’t be scared of having divisions full of experienced winners who are booked like experienced winners – full of strong, possibly intransigent characters who not only carry the division well, but carry themselves well at the same time.
In other words…The Revival. Now WWE just needs to go out and find three or four more teams as rock solid as that. They could set the record for best tag division of all time. You never know.
But enough from me, what do you guys think? Do tag teams need to be stable and/or serious? Are you any more filled with confidence in the post-New-Day era (which we’re not even in yet) than I am?