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Team Rhodes Scholars, Please Lose on Sunday
For most fans, 1997-2002 was considered the golden era of tag team wrestling. The ground-breaking success of teams like the Legion of Doom, the New Age Outlaws, the Hardyz, the Dudleyz, and Edge and Christian have been well-documented and will likely never be duplicated. After their teams disbanded, most of these men went on to enjoy moderate success as singles competitors, with the exception of Jeff Hardy and Edge, who became bona fide superstars. Less significant teams, like the Headbangers and the Mean Street Posse, are still memorable mostly due to how comically bad they were. As the WWE progressed out of the Attitude Era, fans saw a decline in focus on tag team competition. Besides teams like MNM, The World's Greatest Tag Team, and The Hart Dynasty, the division was peppered with singles wrestlers who had been thrust together due to stagnation with their gimmick or previous storyline. Though some of these couplings would go on to win the Tag Team Championships, they never felt like real teams. It went without saying that this was a temporary fix; the two wrestlers usually had gimmicks that were dissimilar, and both wore their own ring gear in different colors. Some of them failed to truly gel, and as a result, never really felt like a cohesive unit. Rather, these were two wrestlers just biding their time until a more interesting storyline came along. Examples include Hogan and Edge, Benoit and Angle, Kingston and Truth, and, most recently, Daniel Bryan and Kane.
With the inception of the odd couple of Team Hell No, the WWE Universe has seen a resurgence of teams made up of wrestlers thrust together. Team Hell No served to turn both Bryan and Kane face, and was a natural extension of the storyline including their amorous intentions with AJ Lee, which only served to land both of them in anger management classes. Kane and Bryan's chemistry is strangely comical but highly entertaining. One doesn't get the impression that either of them are sacrificing their credentials as singles competitors, since both are proven stars and former world champions. Rey Mysterio is in a similar situation; he has nothing left to prove in singles competition, and his mentoring of Sin Cara and their matches together seem easy and natural. The pairing of Zack Ryder and Santino Marella seems by far the most contrived, but the one that is the most disappointing and should be disbanded sooner rather than later is the team of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, Team Rhodes Scholars.
Simply put, these two men are unfit for the tag team division. Their talent and charisma is obvious to even the most casual fan, and their youth ensures that they will take the WWE into the next decade. Rhodes has held tag team gold before with two different tag partners, and as a former Intercontinental champion, someone on the cusp of main event status, this push back into the tag team division is a downgrade. The American Nightmare has everything it takes to be a world champion; he has the look, the in-ring ability, the mic skills, and the last name. Rhodes' chilling promos during his "un-dashing" phase were genius. He worked the gimmick perfectly, speaking in an ominous monotone, purposely making his voice crack, and hiding his face from fans and cameras. His star quality and tremendous potential should plant Cody Rhodes right on the fringes of the WWE title scene, set for a possible victory in Wrestlemania 29's Money in the Bank match. However, the longer he is a part of Team Rhodes Scholars, the less likely it looks that Cody will be contending for any title or achievement come April.
Though the character of Damien Sandow is still relatively fresh to WWE audiences, his verbose promos and pretentious, obnoxious demeanor have certainly made fans notice him. After debuting on Smackdown, his charisma was so noticeable that halfway through the summer, he was appearing primarily on Raw. Sandow, like Rhodes, is not a tag team competitor. He needs to be in the U.S. Title hunt, entered into a lengthy program with Antonio Cesaro. These two would engage in highly entertaining technical bouts, and could really lift each other to a higher level of performance. Cesaro, like Sandow, has an enormous ego, and this should make for some compelling verbal battles, as each one tries to outsmart the other. Pitting Sandow against someone like Cesaro will not only serve to bring further credibility to the U.S. championship, which was reduced to a farce due to Santino's title reign, but will establish both men as legitimate, contending singles competitors. Thrusting Sandow in the tag team division is particularly dangerous because he has not yet made a name for himself in singles competition, even less than Cody Rhodes has. Sandow, both as a performer and as a character, can and should stand alone. What a shame it would be for him to be mired for months on end and labeled as a tag team performer. As history has proven, some men shake this label and some don't. Although Matt Hardy is a former ECW champion and did have some memorable rivalries in singles competition, in the minds of many fans, he will forever be known as a tag team wrestler. The same has been said about Billy Gunn and, until recently, Bully Ray. If the WWE really wants to build future stars and take the product into the next decade with credible wrestlers, then Sandow's foray into the tag team division should be brief. Perhaps when he has truly established himself and won some championships, then this point in Sandow's career should be revisited. However, while he is still trying to expand on his gimmick and make himself memorable, this is not the right time for Sandow to try his hand as a tag team competitor.
In the interest of the progression of both Rhodes and Sandow, Team Rhodes Scholars needs to lose against Team Hell No on Sunday at Hell in a Cell. A loss of this magnitude can then be used to disband the team and welcome both men back into singles competition by igniting a rivalry. Perhaps on Sunday, Rhodes will try to hit Kane or Bryan with the title belt, but miss and hit Sandow instead, causing him to be pinned. Maybe Sandow will decide that he is too good to be a tag team champion and will walk out on Rhodes, effectively losing the match and ending their partnership. Team Hell No needs to retain their titles on Sunday, and then move into a program with the Primetime Players. Darren Young and Titus O'Neil are young, hungry and entertaining, and if they eventually win the Tag Team titles, they are the ones who can move that division forward. With teams like 3MB, Kidd and Gabriel and the Usos, there won't be any shortage of competition. Sandow and Rhodes do not need the tag team division, and the sooner they are removed from it, the sooner they can progress toward the inevitable stardom and championships that await them both.
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