When Old School Ruins New School
By Vincent Ferrari
It’s no secret that we here at JK Wrestling aren’t thrilled with the fact that Road Dogg and Billy took the straps from the Rhodes Brothers. No matter how imminent the breakup of the team was (the rumor has been going around forever that it’s coming at Wrestlemania), we still love them. It isn’t so much a matter of them losing the belts, though, it’s who they lost them to.
The WWE tag division was on a roll that cannot be overstated. It was a stacked division that, after the company let it languish for what seemed like forever, was finally starting to find its legs. You had a tag team champion team that was beloved, containing a huge fan favorite who had seemingly found the fountain of youth as well as a young up and comer who continued to develop into a high-flying brilliant technical wrestler. The Brothers Rhodes were the accelerant to a period of tag team growth that we will remember for years to come.
You also had the former champs, the Shield, wrecking everything in sight. The Wyatts. A potential CM Punk / Daniel Bryan teaming. Prime Time Players, Los Matadores, the Real Americans, and, of course, the Usos. The division couldn’t lose. All of the teams listed were, even if they were heels, popular with the crowd. The level of technical wrestling and overall skill from these guys was a treat to watch every night. Then came Old School Raw and the return of the New Age Outlaws and suddenly it became ridiculously obvious that the next champs weren’t going to be the most deserving team, they were going to be The New Age Outlaws.
That’s right. In a division loaded with young talent, the company decided that the best stewards of this revived division would be two guys who hadn’t wrestled in any fashion in years, and hadn’t held gold in nearly a decade. Why? I have no idea. This decision wouldn’t be so outrageous if the Outlaws could still bring it, but to say they can’t would be a gross understatement.
In spite of JBL constantly noting how Billy Gunn forgot to age, the man gets gassed bouncing off the ropes one time. The Road Dogg? Well let’s be honest; he was never a “great” wrestler, and always was a more entertaining show-man than ring tactician, and much to our chagrin, he hasn’t gotten better. In fact, these two together are a shining example of exactly what can go wrong when you try too hard to recapture the past by dragging out old corpses.
On this past Monday’s Raw and on Friday’s Smackdown, there were singles matches with Jimmy and Jey Uso, and were it not for them selling the old men, the matches would absolutely stink. Watching Jimmy on Friday back Road Dogg into a corner and seeing Road Dogg take a breather made me want to puke. The old guys simply can’t hang with the talent in the division, so why in God’s name do they have the belts? The uncomfortable truth is that the Attitude Era, in spite of how much people pine for it, is over. The Outlaws and their 5 minute intro are a remnant from the old days. Their body slams off the ropes? Old and dated. Their double axe-handles? Outdated. Nothing in their repertoire, to me, says they’ve done anything more than take their skills from years ago and just employ them in 2014. That’s not the way to do things. In fact, if you even compare Goldust to either of the Outlaws, you can see a visible difference in philosophy. Goldust has been commended over and over again for his return because he has kept pace with younger stars. He’s as high-flying and risk taking as younger guys, and throws his body into his matches. In the match where the Brothers won the belts, Goldust was brilliant against a much younger and much stronger Shield. They’ve also had some brilliant matches against The Usos, the Wyatts, and the Real Americans and Rybaxel. In fact, no matches they have had since joining up as a team have been letdowns. In that sense, they’re the perfect team because they make the other teams around them that much better.
The New Age Outlaws not only don’t make other teams better, they aren’t on fire themselves.
As I write this, it’s Saturday February 22nd. Elimination Chamber is tomorrow night and the champs are defending against the Usos. I’m allowing myself a little speculation here because it’s the only way I can wrap my head around such a terrible choice in tag team champions. The Usos have been destined to be the champions for awhile. Before the Rhodes brothers were even put together as a unit. In fact, there were some rumblings after Cody and Dustin won the belts that the Usos were unhappy that they got passed over, and rightfully so. When they got passed over the second time, even their dad, Rikisihi, had words for WWE Creative.
It is possible, however, that they didn’t want the belts to go directly from one face team to another. The Rhodes Brothers were over like no team has been in years. The Usos are huge fan favorites. It’s totally possible they needed an intermediary team to put the belts on and no one wanted to play that role, so they dusted off the Outlaws and got them back in the ring again. If that’s the plan, and the Outlaws were simply a holding pattern on the way to the Usos getting the titles I think they rightfully deserve, I’m fine with that. If, however, there’s a long term strategy with these two past-their-prime clowns running the show at the top of the division, then I am not happy with that at all. In fact, I would be downright pissed off to see creative look past the depths of talent they already have on hand and continue this farce in trying to make us believe that the Outlaws can still be competitive when it’s increasingly obvious with each passing week that they simply can’t hang with the rest of the teams in the company any more.
I hope to read this on Monday a second time and think “Wow, I’m happy I saw that coming,” but as much as I’ve enjoyed the product that the WWE has put on TV lately, it’s been far from perfect and I’m skeptical that what fans want even remotely matters to them. In fact, to borrow a phrase from Mick Foley, it seems at times lately like the company is simply being openly antagonistic toward its fans.
I guess we’ll know soon enough!