Welcome everyone to Part 3 of my series Impact Profiles! With Impact being on AXS for the past few weeks now, I’m sure quite a few of you are getting to know the stars of Impact. If not, check out my other parts of the series here and here!
Today though, I want to take a look at one of divisions of Impact that’s going through a rough patch, the Tag Team division.
It feels strange writing that. Historically, Impact has always had strong tag team division, and the list of former champs is long and illustrious. The Hardys. Team 3D (The Dudleys). The Motor City Machine Guns. Bad Influence (Daniels & Kazarian). The Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards). Beer Money, Inc. Decay.
But no team, no name, is associated with the Impact Tag Team Championship more than LAX recently. The second LAX incarnation of Santana & Ortiz put the division on their back and carried it to four tag team reigns. And they had plenty of rivals, including a hot feud with The Lucha Bros.
But times change, and with first the Lucha Bros, and then LAX departing for AEW pastures, Impact’s dual division now rests on the shoulders of The North (Ethan Page & Josh Alexander).
Yes, I typed that correctly. There’s no Impact Profile just yet. I said “Challenges,” not “Challengers.” Why? Because with the departure of LAX, Impact’s tag team division has seemed rather hollow. Sure, there’s a few stables and such out there, but serious contenders to The North? That’s been harder to find. They’ve tried, putting a few teams together, but so far nothing’s caught fire yet.
As you’ll see as you read on, there’s plenty of comedy teams, a few high flying teams, and some stables out there. But serious teams that can get the fans involved? That’s a big negative so far.
Impact needs to fix this, and fast, if they want their tag team division to continue to be a standout. Specifically, they need a babyface team since The North are clear heels, but my first Profile isn’t going to be on babyfaces, but rather on what could be another cornerstone of the Tag Team Division: oVe.
oVe: Dave & Jake Crist
I somewhat covered oVe in the first two parts of this series, but today let’s look at the most established tag team in oVe, the Crist brothers. Dave & Jake Crist were in fact the first members of oVe to join Impact back in 2017, and made an immediate impact (pun intended) by taking the titles from LAX a mere 3 DAYS after debuting.
Not too many people in wrestling can claim to have gotten gold that quickly, and the Crists held the belts until January 2018 before losing them back to LAX. The real life brothers, teaming together since 2003, are established vets of the hardcore scene, with long tenures in CZW and JCW on their resumes.
The Crists debuted as a sort of yin & yang team, with one brother wearing a dark/demonic mask to the ring while the other wore a gold or white mask. Certain parts of that (including the befuddling ‘sleep’ gesture in their ring entrances) have been pitched, but the Crists still maintain elements of it in their personas.
In-ring, the Crists use a lot of kicks and leg strikes to compliment their brawling, with both being put over by the Impact announce team for having ‘educated feet.’ Jake Crist has currently been getting more focus, being portrayed as ‘The Golden Draw’ and a disciple of Sami Callihan.
The biggest challenge for the Crists though is that since Jake won the X-Division Championship in July, they haven’t done any tag teaming together that hasn’t involved other members of oVe in 6 or 8 man action. Dave’s… well, around. He’ll take Madman Fulton out for food, he’ll tag with Sami or Fulton, and if someone needs to take a pin for oVe, he’s your man. But in terms of the brothers working together? Nada.
As such, their presence in the tag team division is nil. And, with oVe being a definite heel faction, it makes little sense for them to be around while The North has the belts. That’s a shame, because while they’re not the Hardys, the Harts, or even the Hollys, they are blood. And that’s something missing in a lot of current tag teams.
Still, this team deserves an Impact Profile simply off of their history. This is a team that can, at a moment’s notice, become instant threats to any babyface team with the belts. Jake Crist in particular has improved in the charisma department, and with a good opponent, they’re a threat.
The question, of course, is if Impact will use them in this capacity.
Rich Swann & Willie Mack
When I first heard that Swann & Mack were tag teaming together, my initial thought was “Well… better than nothin’.” Escaping from bad business decisions (Mack) and bad personal demons (Swann), it still felt like a waste of talent to me.
But they’ve grown on me. Swann’s a long time vet who did a hot minute in WWE. Willie Mack’s also a long time indy vet who’s made memorable stops in Lucha Underground and was a former NWA National Champion.
Swann & Mack have a classic ‘big man/little man’ vibe to them, with a twist. Like a lot of big men nowadays, Willie’s nearly as athletic as Swann. Seriously, ten years ago you wouldn’t find men who looked like ‘Chocolate Thunder’ popping off standing moonsaults. But Willie does it frequently. He’s got a street style, without it being silly or condescending. He can brawl, he can fly, he can even do comedy. And he has a better stunner than Kevin Owens by a long shot. Combine that with his ‘6-Star Frog Splash,’ and he can end the match at any time.
Swann’s just as dangerous. Smaller and faster than Willie, Swann’s more or less ditched his ‘All Night Long’ dancing gimmick to be more serious. That doesn’t stop the high flyer though. With lots of kicks, lots of top rope action, and the Phoenix Splash finisher, Swann can also end matches quickly.
Like I said, it’s taken awhile for this team to gel. Besides Rich having an X-Division reign, they also had a friendly feud for a few weeks. Now having smacked the crap out of each other enough, the two are one of the top babyface teams on Impact.
In terms of threat to take the belts, they both have the skills. They have fan support. With just a little bit of push, they could take the belts and have a great run with the belts.
Every generation, pro wrestling finds performers or teams who are supposed to be youthful and ‘with it.’ In the eighties, there were The Rockers, the nineties had The Hardy Boyz, and more.
The Rascalz (Dez, Trey, and Wentz) are Impact’s version of that youth movement. Portrayed as a trio of stoners, they do backstage ‘Tree House’ segments almost as much as they show up in the ring.
All three men are supremely athletic, and can fit into both the tag team and the X-Division title picture at any time. They also, as a team, often seem to employ a Freebird Rule-esque nature. If you’re teaming against the Rascalz, you’re not quite sure which two of the three you’re facing on any night.
That being said, there are drawbacks to the Rascalz. First, they often come off as too jokey. The ‘Tree House’ is basically a rip off from That 70’s Show, and it’s sort of hard to take a group seriously as ‘youthful’ when you’re ripping off a show that ended 13 years ago.
Second, the Rascalz violate what I call the ‘Vader Rule.’ Namely, there are guys who look brutal kayfabe, but don’t hurt their opponents IRL (great!). Then there are guys who look soft kayfabe, but hurt their opponents IRL (bad!). Then there was Vader, who looked brutal because he basically beat the shit out of you IRL.
The Rascalz seem to be a fourth style, a set of high flyers who pull of amazing aerial maneuvers, and they never seem to hurt opponents IRL… but they don’t look like they hurt people kayfabe either. A Rascalz match will involve plenty of flips, dives, topes, ‘ranas, head scissors and more. But at the end of each move, I have the feeling that nobody gets hurt. Often, they’ll throw kicks that don’t even look like they connect.
I guess it’s better than Bea Priestly giving Britt Baker a concussion… but these guys would be handed their asses if they ever went to a strong style promotion.
That being said, the Rascalz have plenty of upsides. In limited doses, their stoner humor is funny. They can fly, and they’re super athletic. And they’re young. I’m willing to admit that at 41 I might just be too old for their demographic.
The Desi Hit Squad
On the flip side of The Rascalz, an Impact Profile trio who have been faces during their time in Impact, you have The Desi Hit Squad.
Now, you don’t even need to know much about them to know simply from their names… these guys are heels. And Indian.
Led by The Great Gama, The Desi Hit Squad has been a flexible assembly of Indian wrestlers who play on cultural stereotypes. Whether it’s their music, their ring gear, or even their working style, they are very ‘Desi.’ Currently, the members we’ll look at are Rojit Raju and Raj Singh.
Until recently, The Desi Hit Squad has been mostly a jobber or comedy heel tag team. While Rohit Raju is obviously a skilled worker, he’s mostly been tasked with being a showcase talent. It was the Desis, mostly Rohit, who helped Tessa Blanchard get over in the transition from Knockouts to intergender action.
But the Desi Hit Squad has never quite reached the level of fan reaction I think the Impact was hoping for. Lineup changes (swapping out Buphinder Singh for Raj Singh, bringing in Mahabali Shera, etc) have done little to make the team get over. Yet Impact keeps trying. Who knows, maybe they work cheap?
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is The Great Gama. A legend of Stampede Wrestling back in the 70’s and 80’s, a consistent over villain for Stu Hart, the years haven’t been kind to Gama Singh in my opinion. His mic work is usually stilted and forced, and his introduction of The Desi Hit Squad gets met not with boos, but with crickets. I don’t care if the man’s Raj Singh’s father. I don’t care if he’s the uncle of Jinder Mahal. He’s a detraction from the team right now.
And it’s hard to take a team seriously when they lose to… well, this team.
Of the two current members though, Rohit Raju has the biggest upside. Raju always goes out looking like he’s into his match. Reasonably athletic, he can work with a variety of styles. He’s also able to do double duty in the X-Division. And when put into comedic bits, he carries the comedy for the Desis.
Raj Singh… well, he’s the heavy of the team. Which is a problem when you’re about 220 pounds. Which pretty much sums up the sort of problems the Desis have. I think Raj can work better, but honestly if I rack my brain, it’s hard to find a memorable Raj moment.
Of course, every division needs their jobbers. And the Desis fill that role well. Especially Rohit, they make their opponents look good. But until they do more, expect them to be counting the lights regularly.
The second of the comedy jobber tag teams, Reno Scum hasn’t seen much action lately. They’re on screen, but not in the ring. Mostly they hang out backstage acting as lackeys and… well, scum with Ace Austin.
And they look the part. Adam Thornstowe and Luster the Legend look like they just wandered off of central casting for either a Fallout game set in Vegas or a Mad Max redux set in Nevada. With Luster’s (currently) leopard print mohawk and both of them sporting enough bad tattoos to make you question their thinking processes, they fill the part.
That being said, Reno Scum are another team that Impact frequently uses as enhancement talent against just about any face team that needs a win. They’ve counted the lights against the former team of Fallah Bahh and KM, against The Rascalz, against Willie Mack & Rich Swann, and many others. Seriously, I can’t even figure out what their finisher is.
After putting up a rather impressive losing streak, Reno Scum’s spent most of the past few months in vignettes. Popping up as Ace Austin’s lackeys, they helped him in his attempts to seduce Alisha Edwards. Now that that storyline’s thankfully over, Reno Scum’s course is unknown.
Still, expect any babyface team that’s new to Impact to have a run-in with Adam & Luster, if for no other reason to get a win. As enhancement talent, they do their jobs well, and can make people look good.
Perhaps that’s something to applaud them for. These twelve year vets can work, and they’re professional about being losers. Who knows? Maybe Impact will reward them for that in the future.
Another team in the category of The Desis and Reno Scum, The Deaners are a clear comedy team. The difference is, The Deaners are comedic babyfaces. Comprised of Cody Deaner and ‘Cousin Jake,’ The Deaners are redneck farmers who wrestle like you’d expect. They have lots of power moves, lots of brawling, and not a drop toehold to be seen. Give them credit though, they do fly.
The Deaners are half a retread as well. Cody Deaner, the older of the two members, has been wrestling since 2000, including a memorably embarrassing program in TNA with ODB all the way back in 2009.
It’s hard for longtime TNA fans to forget the man who once claimed half of the Knockouts Championship. Don’t ask, it was TNA back in 2009. That’s all you need to know.
After spending nearly a decade on the Canadian indy circuit, Cody came back to Impact with ‘Cousin Jake’ in 2018, and have spent a good portion of their time since feuding with The Desi Hit Squad. The feud was utterly ridiculous, but at the same time good fun. Seeing Gama Singh riding backwards on a horse was interesting at least.
A Deaner match is pretty formulaic. Cody will most often start, and at some point get isolated and beat down. A hot tag to Cousin Jake will lead to chaos and ring clearing action, Cody doing some dives while Jake slams people around.
It’s basic face tag teaming 101, almost cut and paste out of the WWE playbook. In another era, I’d even see The Deaners on Raw in their current schtick. As it is, they’re in Impact, resting somewhere in that middle ground. Based off of wins and losses they’re above The Desis and Reno Scum, but I doubt they’ll ever see a belt.
The Wrap-Up & Impact Needs
So there you go! Six Impact Profiles, and you can see the problems. We’ve got a team on hiatus, three comedy jobbers, a trio of stoners, and Mack & Swann.
It’s enough to make a tag team lover cry, really. Especially when you think about the teams that have held the Impact Tag Team Championship. Somehow, we’ve gone from Team 3D vs. Beer Money Inc. to… this. I know why. Finances have sucked. And they’re just getting their feet back underneath them. Still… damn.
Now, I know I’m normally a supporter of Impact. I love this little company, even back in the Impact Zone days. But right now tag teams need a lot of work. Either get some new blood, or repackage some of these teams. Because this… ain’t gonna do it.
Here’s to hoping that over the next six months, Impact can right this division. Because those belts need more respect than what this group of Impact Profiles give it.
Okay, okay, enough.
Next time, we’ll look at another long time cornerstone of Impact: The Knockouts. Weird, wild, and sometimes just a little crazy, The Knockouts Division gets lots of love from the fans. And for good reason. Stay tuned for our next Impact Profiles… The Knockouts!