Tonight we see the return of the Elimination Chamber! It’s the first time we will see the structure since the Intercontinental Championship was defended inside the steel in May 2015. But, that’s not the match type tonight that has been absent from our screens for the longest time. And that brings me to the match I’m featuring in this article.
I’m not writing about there being three women’s matches on a PPV’s main card for what is probably the first time ever. I’m not re-visiting the Luke Harper/Randy Orton match that I kind of touched on earlier this week. No, I’m going to be writing about the match that by my calculations we haven’t seen in three and a half years, since Night of Champions 2013, the tag team turmoil match.
I think this name is truly apt for the latest chapter in the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. Not because it’s potentially going to push competitors to their very limits to be able to outlast five other teams, but because this match really highlights the turmoil SmackDown’s tag division has been in since day one.
There really is no depth. I mean, this was pretty clear from the start, only American Alpha hadn’t already been ruined by a main roster burial, and only The (initially incredibly stale) Usos could lay any real claim to credibility apart from them. But I really thought that a character change for the Samoans, which did happen, as well as some improved booking could build at least one other team up to be challengers. That simply hasn’t happened.
Heath Slater and Rhyno filled a purpose in becoming the first blue branded tag champs, and that in itself was essentially only to get Rhyno and Slater onto SmackDown in the first place. I think it was clear to everyone that they were a novelty team that weren’t going to be top guys for an extended period.
The Usos… what can I say? I had such high hopes for them, but the writing team has done absolutely nothing with them. The heel turn was the right thing to do, even if it was a bit late in coming, but they haven’t capitalised on that at all. If they had cut off Slater and Rhyno’s title run early on, while people still cared about them on a regular basis, you would have had a new top team you could depend on while you built the rest of the division up and it was time for Jordan and Gable to take the titles.
I don’t even massively object to The Wyatt Family holding the titles, because that played into their story so well. But while that short term fix was in place you had to do something to make sure that when their split inevitably came the attention on the teams wouldn’t crumble with them. And that didn’t happen. For all the good writing and character development to come from SmackDown since the draft – and it’s certainly miles ahead of Raw in that regard – they have failed the tag teams thus far.
So now we’re left in a situation where The Ascension have to get a pinfall victory for the first time in two and a half years on SmackDown to make you think there is even the slightest of chances that Alpha aren’t going to walk out as still your SmackDown Tag Team Champions.
And let’s face it, there is very little chance that’s not going to happen. The worst they could feasibly do in this card is be in there first, eliminate four teams until they are finally eliminated by The Usos after a gruelling affair. Breezango, who may or may not be faces right now, aren’t going to pose a threat to the belts. The Ascension aren’t going to pose any threat to the belts. Slater & Rhyno and The Vaudevillains aren’t going to pose any threat to the belts. The Usos are the only ones who could potentially crown themselves new champions, and the way the last couple of months have gone that still seems extremely unlikely.
What I would do in this match is actually very similar to the scenario I laid out for American Alpha losing the belts, only in reverse. Have The Usos go in first, have them fairly easily dispatch The Vaudevillains, The Ascension and Breezango. Have them tested against Slater and Rhyno, then have them lose a gruelling battle against American Alpha. That way you have your top tag team feud over the next couple of months, as The Usos can say they proved they were better than the rest of the roster, the only reason they didn’t win the titles was because they had already beaten four other teams, and they deserve their two-on-two opportunity.
Play into The Usos injuring American Alpha in the tournament to crown the first champions, say they know they can take Jordan and Gable out because they’ve done it before. Then you have Alpha as the team who hasn’t forgotten being injured at the hands of the Usos, and wanting to prove they really are the best. It’s a simple story.
Or, alternatively, have American Alpha win with ease and have The Revival show up afterwards (whether that be immediately, or on the next SmackDown). Then you have an awesome, competitive rivalry right there.
Either way, something needs to be done about the blue brand’s tag team division. It’s in dire straits at the minute, and needs a complete makeover. Tonight, with the showcase the currently non-credible superstars are about to get, could be the start of that.