The complexion of the SmackDown Tag Team Championship picture was drastically changed this week when overall favorites to win the title tournament, American Alpha, were forced to drop out. Despite making it to the finals, an attack from The Usos following a whitewash victory would see Chad Gable put on the shelf for up to four weeks to heal from a sprained MCL.
At first glance, this development comes as quite a disappointment since Gable and Jason Jordan had a serious chance to become the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions.
After all, when the new title belts were introduced after SummerSlam, it was almost a given that American Alpha would make it to the finals, seeing as up until that point, they were the only tandem on the roster who had been given a significant spotlight on Tuesday nights.
Now, joining Heath Slater and Rhyno in the last bout will be either The Usos or The Hype Bros, neither of whom have really done enough to be able to represent SmackDown’s tag team division as its champions yet, nor will they be able to weave together as compelling a match as Alpha would.
That being said, in becoming the biggest tag team on the roster from the get-go, American Alpha ran the risk of losing out on the potential to recreate the gradual build that saw them become the most popular duo on NXT. As good as they are on SmackDown, their slow journey from underdogs to champions down in Full Sail is what allowed the fans to get behind them, making the team’s hot tag one of the most consistently electrifying in-ring moments in all of wrestling.
Bulldozing through the competition every week was starting to diminish any hope of Alpha matching that electricity on the main roster, particularly when they’d be up against the Cinderella story of Heath Slater teaming with Rhyno to secure both a contract and a Tag Team Championship.
The story of Heath Slater has been so entertaining that there’s a good chance he would be the most over star in the finals at Backlash this Sunday no matter who he and Rhyno were up against, which could have been disastrous for American Alpha’s popularity amongst the WWE Universe.
This change of plans, however, is like a do-over for Gable and Jordan, and the potential to go back to being the underdogs is definitely there now that The Usos could be about to steal their spot as the faces of the SmackDown tag team division. Plus, it leaves a lot of different avenues open for WWE to go down with for the straps; the main one being that potentially pitting The Usos against Slater and Rhyno will get Jimmy and Jey over as heels no matter who wins the match.
They could have Slater win the gold and secure his contract without damaging the credibility of a tag team like American Alpha, or they could get The Usos some serious heat by having them win the match, subsequently squandering Slater’s dreams of a SmackDown contract while also capturing the titles and making their inevitable rivalry with American Alpha that much more intriguing.
There are plenty of roads to take here, and all of them involve Gable and Jordan benefiting from this brief hiatus from WWE programming. Their return to action alone should be a great moment for SmackDown, especially if they go straight for the guys that put Chad Gable’s career in jeopardy.
Just a few weeks ago, American Alpha vs. The Usos was the most interesting combination we could expect from SmackDown’s tag team division, but it still didn’t really have that spark, since Jimmy and Jey hadn’t been relevant for quite some time.
Now that they’ve had a fire lit under them, however, it’s made the eventual rematch all the more compelling, and could turn this heated rivalry into one of the blue brand’s biggest drawing factors.
Injuries are never something to actively wish for in professional wrestling. As we’ve seen with Finn Bálor just recently, they can derail a star’s push and completely alter the WWE’s plans. But names like Seth Rollins and John Cena are a testament to the fact that when a Superstar gets laid out, WWE can often improvise in a way that turns out even better than the original plans.
The potential is there for American Alpha, and the rest of the SmackDown tag team division to benefit from this brief absence that Chad Gable has to undergo, and it could potentially put the hottest tag team on SmackDown back on track to becoming the hottest tag team in all of WWE.