The consensus regarding the recent 2016 WWE Draft is that SmackDown Live got the short end of the stick.
At a glance, the show did fine. The blue brand picked up both established stars (John Cena, Randy Orton) and rising ones (Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles). Tuesday’s show also got arguably the WWE’s two most prestigious championships (World Heavyweight and Intercontinental). At the top, it truly is a roster that could compete with the one on Raw. It’s depth that’s the problem.
Raw got three picks for every two SmackDown Live got and so the latter had a harder time filling out it’s roster. That’s glaringly obvious when it comes to its tag team division. While SmackDown Live was solidifying its mid-card, Raw was scooping up blazing hot acts like The New Day, Enzo and Cass, and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
SmackDown Live’s most established act, meanwhile, is The Usos. Most agree that their act has grown stale over seven years together. Relying on that group too heavily won’t get SmackDown Live’s tag team scene anywhere. Elsewhere, though, the show mostly has teams who’ve yet to debut or who’ve yet to be taken as a threat.
Will that make it tough for this division to succeed? Yes, of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Of course, the backbone of the tag team division will be American Alpha. The astoundingly athletic tandem doesn’t possess the sense of humor of New Day or Enzo Amore, but is still wildly popular. That’s because they’ve got a look, a chemistry and a presence. And a good theme song never hurts either. If you don’t know them yet, they’ll be one of your favorite teams in short order.
The aforementioned Usos will serve as the division’s gatekeeper of sorts. The Usos, like The Dudley Boyz on Raw, will be counted on to make their adversaries look formidable. And they’re still popular enough with the kids to to serve as transitional tag champions if the need arises. That’s presuming SmackDown Live gets its own set of tag team titles, but that’s a story for another day.
The last known team on the face side of things is The Hype Bros. They weren’t necessarily an afterthought in the NXT tag team scene, but it’s tough to say they were major players. Nonetheless, this is a team with a chance to make some noise on SmackDown Live. WWE fans have long supported Zack Ryder and it’d be a surprise if it didn’t take to his even more energetic partner, Mojo Rawley.
The Hype Bros long, arduous journey from underdogs to champions could make for great television on Tuesdays. Thing is, much like the other above teams, they’ll need some opponents standing in their way. The heel side of the tag team scene is kind of lean at the moment.
There’s the Ascension. The group was wildly successful in NXT, but many feel their WWE careers have been damaged beyond repair. The duo were essentially used as sacrificial lambs for a nostalgic segment on Raw. It’s possible, though, that with the right booking — maybe the team takes on a new edge or picks up a manager — that their careers can be salvaged.
The other heel teams on the roster are fresh enough to not need saving. Still, that’s not to say the WWE’s made the best use of them.
Breezango seemed like a random tandem destined for the scrap heap a few months back. A never-ending feud with the Golden Truth hardly did them any favors. Still, the duo play off one another well and are easily hateable. Along with that, they’re both good in-ring workers and picked up a surprising victory over The Usos recently. They’re darkhorses to make some noise in this division.
Last are The Vaudevillains. They debuted strongly enough, factoring into the WWE Tag Team Championship scene right away. After coming up short, though, they were portrayed as mere afterthoughts. There is a fun, unique gimmick, however. And it’s one that fans had no trouble booing when Aiden English and Simon Gotch spoke of a better, bygone era. Again, this is a case where the right booking could pay huge dividends.
That about does it for official teams on the roster. There’s some promising, potential duos that could call SmackDown Live home as well. Luke Harper is currently on the shelf and was not selected to a roster in the draft. Should he decide to call SmackDown Live home, the likely outcome given two of his three former stablemates currently do, he and Erick Rowan could reform their dangerous union.
Then there’s Shelton Benjamin. Benjamin’s set to return soon and was a tag team specialist for a good chunk of his first WWE run. It’d seem wise of the WWE to have Benjamin team up with someone once again. Apollo Crews is a phenomenal athlete, much like Benjamin, and someone who the former Intercontinental Champion might want to take under his wing. That pair could give American Alpha a run for their money.
As you can see, much of the success of SmackDown Live’s tag team division is dependent on WWE committing to it. It features many Superstars who the company once saw great promise in, but that promise has been largely unfulfilled. With the tools at its disposal, though, it’s far from a division beyond salvaging.