Professional wrestling has presented fans with various examples of underdogs overcoming the odds to grab any variant of a brass ring placed in front of them. Since this summer’s WWE Draft, Heath Slater has been presented with insurmountable odds en route to finally earning a WWE contract by winning the SmackDown Tag Team Titles with Rhyno at Backlash.
Fans joyously cheered as Slater declared that he could finally buy a double-wide for his family (which he apparently, for some reason, could not afford after spending nine years with the WWE). We all received a lovely dose of whimsy as Slater was able to fulfill his Roseanne-inspired dream and Rhyno was able to grab WWE gold for the first time since 2001.
Now it’s time to get back to reality. Unfortunately, reality dictates that American Alpha and The Usos are the top tag team dogs on SmackDown Live. When it comes to Slater, any money that was to be made from him has been made, but American Alpha and The Usos still have plenty of money on the table to be earned, and now it is time to earn it.
The recent heel turn from The Usos is really the event that made putting out Slater’s spotlight a necessity. They were ice-cold before the turn, acquiring creative cement shoes through being so closely aligned with Roman Reigns. Already considered to be half-way heel anyway due to this association, WWE made the only choice it could by having Jimmy and Jey take out American Alpha last month on SmackDown.
For the first time since the inception of the new show, Tuesday nights finally contain a heel tag team that actually contains the resume to contend for the brand’s tag team championships. Relatively soon, to grasp whatever heat is left from their heel turn, they must commit some dastardly deed and put an end to Slater’s (and Rhyno’s) dream run at WWE gold.
This essential creative move is not just to get attention away from Slater. This move also allows The Usos and American Alpha to kickstart a rivalry that could be career-defining for both teams.
Slater and Rhyno currently holding the SmackDown Tag Team Titles does not make them credible contenders for the belts (you know, even though they are currently holding them). Their title win came as a result of Slater’s storyline that found him fighting to earn a WWE contract. Their win was circumstantial, and their eventual exclusion from the title hunt leaves only The Usos and American Alpha as deserving contenders for the titles.
One may look at this situation as being an issue, but one must realize that the cocktail of inventive styles combined with the current renaissance taking place involving both teams, makes for a perfect storm to create a tag team rivalry not seen since Edge & Christian and The Hardy Boyz.
The Usos have already established their tag team greatness within the annals of the WWE. It was not long ago when the WWE tag team division by-in-large consisted of randomly constructed tag teams that the writers used as excuses to allow these performers to remain on-screen. Since their debut in 2010, they won the tag team belts twice, received Slammys for “Tag Team of Year” twice and were named “Tag Team of the Year” by Professional Wrestling Illustrated in 2014. Turning heel adds a whole new dimension to their already-impressive legacy, as their offense has already drastically changed to fit their adopted heel roles.
However, although their eclectic skill sets are impressive, they are in need of a tag team to serve as foil in order to showcase their embrace of the heel culture. Enter American Alpha.
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable made a name for themselves in NXT not just through having an excellent look comparable to the dearly-missed Kurt Angle, but also by taking his style and adding speed. The offense American Alpha utilizes in the ring is fast, vicious, technical, and more importantly, original.
Their matches are almost guaranteed to steal the show. The popularity they have earned impedes on the turf that The Usos have already signed off on, creating a natural rivalry that needs to be showcased prominently — not only because of the collection of talent that would be in the ring, but to also give the impression that there is a credible tag team division on Tuesday nights.
When attempting to give the image of having a formidable tag team division, The Usos and Amercian Alpha really are all SmackDown has at the moment. However, the talent and potential that exists between the two teams is enough to make the SmackDown tag team division mean something for when it’s time for a new team to step up to either Alpha or The Usos.
This means that there is no longer room for fans to watch Slater reach for the brass Cool Whip bowl. Professional wrestling often needs abbreviated little fun angles to fill in gaps in programming, and Slater has done his job. Now, it is time for him to step aside and let those who can serve toward the progression of the product do their job.