It was announced tonight on NXT New Year’s Evil that the annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament would return yet again for 2022. The men’s bracket will start in two weeks, whereas the women’s division will have to wait until February to start their rounds.
In all likelihood, that is because there are simply more men on the roster than women, so the tournament can consist of more rounds. But when looking at the roster, I’m stuck trying to figure out just who could comprise most of these teams on both ends of the spectrum.
We do have a handful of teams already established, yet depending on how many matches WWE wishes to have, some finagling might need to happen.
In 2015, 2016 and 2021, there were 16 teams for the men. 2017-2020, and the women last year, all just saw 8 teams. More than likely, we’re looking at around the 16 and 8 mark for this year if they’ve split the tournament like that.
With that in mind, which teams might be taking part and who might be the frontrunners to win tag title shots? Let’s start tossing out some ideas!
The Tag Team Champions Exclusion
As always, this tournament not only awards the winners the cup itself and the honor of winning, but they receive title shots for the NXT Tag Team Championship belts and the women’s titles.
That means unless there’s a title change before this takes place, we should expect Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner) as well as Toxic Attraction (Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne) to not compete in this. Why would they be fighting to earn title shots against themselves?
Women’s Tag Team Options – Already Formed Pairs
- Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter = The life of the party, so they say, might get taken out in the first round, but they’ll definitely participate.
- Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta = No-brainer. They’re arguably the best options to win.
- Io Shirai and Zoey Stark = Assuming Stark is back in action by then.
- Valentina Feroz and Yulisa Leon = This duo has been paired up quite often on 205 Live. If they go with some other combination, I’d be surprised.
- Erica Yan and Fallon Henley = I think this will happen because they teamed together on 205 Live and lost. They’ll be first-round fodder.
That’s it. Five teams, essentially, and that’s a stretch. Hardly a tournament, wouldn’t you say?
Filling in the Gaps: Women’s Division
But there are still the following names left to pick from:
- Amari Miller
- Candice LeRae
- Cora Jade
- Dakota Kai
- Elektra Lopez
- Ivy Nile
- Kay Lee Ray
- Lash Legend
- Mandy Rose
- Raquel González
- Tiffany Stratton
- Wendy Choo
What can we do with those? Well, let’s toss Candice LeRae out of the mix, as she’s pregnant. Mandy Rose makes no sense as champion. Yikes. There isn’t much synergy. We’re looking to make 3 more teams.
- Cora Jade or Kay Lee Ray and Raquel Gonzalez = Either they go with Jade and Gonzalez still together even after the triple threat match, or they pair KLR with Gonzalez because they’re the resident “tough chicks” on the brand right now.
- Lash Legend and Tiffany Stratton = Both are cocky. I honestly see no other means of pairing people up other than that. Maybe you could argue Legend could be with Ivy Nile if Malcolm Bivens thinks she’s got star power, but that’s a weak sell. Stratton would be an even less likely mesh.
- Amari Miller and Sarray = Literally nothing worth combining them together for. They have nothing in common from what their characters have shown, other than that they’re both babyfaces, meaning they’d be more likely to team with one another than with Dakota Kai or Elektra Lopez. Wendy Choo only naps, so why would she be chosen as either of their teammates? Maybe, whoever isn’t with Gonzalez between Jade and Ray pairs off with either Miller or Sarray and that’s a duo, but this is looking like the weakest tournament yet by far.
Men’s Tag Team Options – Already Formed Pairs
- MSK = Confirmed.
- The Creed Brothers = Confirmed.
- Jacket Time = Not confirmed, but might as well be.
- Legado del Fantasma = Not confirmed, but might as well be.
- Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen = Not confirmed, but might as well be.
- Grizzled Young Veterans = Not confirmed, but might as well be.
- Joe Gacy and Harland = Essentially confirmed. Storyline, they’re looking to get approved, but WWE wouldn’t bother to toss out this idea and not have them in the tournament.
- Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams = They’re a team, for sure, but since Hayes is holding two titles right now, I don’t expect them to go far in this tournament, if they even are involved. I do think they’ll be competing, though, with Hayes talking about how he’s going to add even more gold to his collection.
- Andre Chase and Bodhi Hayward = We’ve yet to see Hayward wrestle, but he’s been given a “full scholarship” to Andre Chase University. He’s the standout student and if they don’t do a match with these two against Harland and Gacy, I don’t know what they’re thinking.
That’s 9 teams out of the 16 we’re looking for. Thankfully, there are at least a few more options I can imagine.
Filling in the Gaps: Men’s Division
With 7 teams left to fill, this is going to be tough without bringing in some talent from NXT UK. That’s definitely an option, provided travel restrictions don’t come into play, though. If that’s the case, you’ve got Pretty Deadly, Moustache Mountain, Gallus, Symbiosis, Die Familie, Ashton Smith and Oliver Carter, Jack Starz and Dave Mastiff, Subculture, Noam Dar and Sha Samuels ready to go, which more than makes up for those missing 7 teams.
Assuming NXT UK is entirely kept out, though, here are my suggestions/predictions:
- Roderick Strong and Hachiman = While The Creed Brothers are already representing Diamond Mine, maybe Strong and Hachiman team up to take up another slot? That way, Bivens has doubled his chances of winning. I’d be down for seeing them face Hayes and Williams in the first round and to lose.
- Edris Enofe and Malik Blade = These two were paired up recently when Enofe saved Blade. Maybe that’s the start of a new tag team?
- Xyon Quinn and Santos Escobar = This would be one of those “can they coexist??!?” type deals. Elektra Lopez is the glue between the two. She tries to get Quinn and Escobar to work together. They fail their first match.
- Cameron Grimes and LA Knight = Both are babyfaces now. Let’s have them move past their feud from the past and try to work together.
- Danny Burch and Pete Dunne = This is a longshot in that I am nearly 100% convinced this absolutely is not happening. However, I’d pitch for it. Burch was previously aligned with Dunne. Both are from the UK. They’re both tough guys. Why not? You even have an easy out with Burch taking the pin.
- Odyssey Jones and Solo Sikoa = Admittedly, nobody works with these guys. This is random. I just don’t think either would be teaming with Dexter Lumis, Boa, or Bron Breakker.
- Grayson Waller and Von Wagner = Arguably the two heels at the forefront right now. Tony D’Angelo with either of them makes about as much sense, since there’s nothing in common between these guys, but I feel like if anyone were to team with D’Angelo, Duke Hudson would be better off.
- Alternates: Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa could re-team if Thatcher is healthy, but I don’t think that’s the case. I could see them throwing Dante Chen and Ru Feng or Draco Anthony together as fodder. As I mentioned, Hudson and D’Angelo together could maybe be justified if you say Hudson lost all his poker winnings and got involved in D’Angelo’s loan sharking, in a sense, but man do I miss the good old days of teams like The Revival, American Alpha and The Undisputed ERA.
Predictions for Winners
Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta pretty much have to win the women’s tournament, right? Unless there’s a game plan to bring someone new into the fold and start a push with that person, I just don’t see any other choices.