When I was watching Smackdown LIVE past week Tuesday, I had to rub my eyes back and forth because I had to confirm what I was seeing. I actually saw American Alpha, the Smackdown Tag Team Champions, ON SMACKDOWN! I literally couldn’t believe it. They hadn’t been on the show since around the Elimination Chamber PPV, so when I saw them, they were like strangers to me. This, of course, all indicative of the bigger issue. The fans, and more importantly, WWE, does not care about the Smackdown tag team division. And why should we? During their match (if you want to call it that) against The Usos on Smackdown last week, WWE constantly cut the camera to Shane McMahon walking out towards the arena. I’m sure the fans were concentrating more on that as opposed to whatever was going on in the ring. This is an issue that can be traced back to the WWE draft.
When the draft was announced, I immediately said that there shouldn’t be any tag teams specific to any brand. Initially, I thought that the brand split could help because each brand would have concentrated storylines and having their own division for each brand could invoke the sense of competition. However, the brand split has especially hurt the tag team division, much more so on Smackdown. We all knew RAW was going to get the more mainstream, popular tag teams from the lot including Enzo and Cass, The New Day and The Club among others. Since then, they have added Cesaro and Sheamus to the RAW tag team division. Meanwhile, on Smackdown’s side, the tag teams are hugely lacking in credibility. From comedic tag teams such as Breezango to tag teams which would be fortunate to get air time on their own show like the Vaudevillians, there’s just nothing to be excited about on Smackdown’s end. While the Usos are serviceable in matches and American Alpha can hold their own against anyone, we just have literally no reason to care for any of them. They are just spot-holders. Merely groups of teams with no direction.
Of course, it is not entirely the fault of the tag teams. The lack of care, time, development, and attention given to the tag teams on Smackdown has been amateur at best. On most nights, we may not see any tag team, and when we do, there’s a lack of variety or we just don’t care why they are there. The first SD Tag team champions, Heath Slater and Rhyno, were only a comedic tag team in which their only purpose was to get Slater his contract with Smackdown. The next tag team champions from SD, The Wyatt Family, only held the titles to help facilitate the eventual dissension in the Wyatt Family. American Alpha was just a team to take the titles off of them to make it happen. Now, imagine if the tag teams were brand neutral and they were allowed to go on any brand?
Now, imagine if the tag teams were brand neutral and they were allowed to go on any brand, with all of them competing for one set of tag team titles? Now, you have more match possibilities, more depth and never a shortage of slots to fill for the tag teams. You could have fresh matchups like American Alpha taking on New Day. Or perhaps you could have The Usos take on Cesaro and Sheamus (if you saw their ending sequence to their match at Survivor Series, this would be a good thing). Maybe Enzo and Cass could have taken on the Wyatt Family when they were a tag team. RAW has more time to fill, so it’s not surprising they not only have more tag teams, but more credible tag teams. When you look at Smackdown’s tag team roster, Breezango, the Vaudevillians, The Hype Bros before Ryder’s injury, The Ascension and even Slater and Rhyno barely show up on the show. The Usos have also already beaten every other tag team on the roster already, rendering any future tag team matchup pointless in its entirety.
With the blatant lack of care, it’s actually surprising to think that American Alpha and The Usos will actually make the WrestleMania card, even if it is most likely going to be on the pre-show. For every positive aspect that the brand split has brought, the Smackdown tag team division has been an unmitigated failure of colossal proportions. What’s sad is that Smackdown’s roster, while filled with talent, isn’t exactly deep. There is more than enough time to allow around 10 – 15 minutes for the tag teams on each edition of Smackdown LIVE. However, in spite of that, the fans simply just do not care for the teams on Smackdown, because we are not given reasons to care. Many were excited when American Alpha was called up to the main roster, because many saw the quality of their matches in NXT, especially with The Revival. However, their competition was rather scarce on the SD division. Now, they are left in flux with little to salvage the division barring a main roster call up for The Revival or DIY (Let’s face it, Smackdown could use both.)
All hope may not be lost for SD’s tag team division. With the next draft set to take place at around June of this year, Smackdown may salvage some tag team power. Or maybe they can get an NXT boost after the next round of call-ups post-WrestleMania. Despite that, as for now, this is a baseless and aimless division that wasn’t needed to be made. I would say the same for RAW, but at least those tag teams have personalities and are given adequate time to make fans care about them (or at least try).
Smackdown has RAW beat in many areas. The tag teams are not one of them.