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Then vs Now: What happened to AEW’s tag scene?

When AEW started they promised to be different to a WWE product which was at that time turning fans off in droves.  One of those differences was to be the tag scene.  Which those in Stamford haven’t really taken seriously since their duos had managers and mascots.

There was even the suggestion that the tag belts might one day close a pay-per-view.

A month ago they finally fulfilled this promise.  But it took the retirement of a legend who’d aged to the point he could no longer pull off a singles clash.  Essentially, the long-promised tag main event owed more to necessity and circumstance than it did a red-hot feud or commitment to duos.

Anyone who checked out the AEW Top 25 at the back end of last year can see your author has a penchant for four-ways with lots of double teaming.  Better rephrase that… tag team wrestling.

But you know who doesn’t anymore? AEW.  Putting together the upcoming preview for Bucks/FTR, it stood out that there hasn’t been much difference between the TV with and without tag champs.

Which sent yours truly down a rabbit hole.  This is the result.  Old show results taken from https://www.thesmackdownhotel.com/.

Squash = Any match involving a team who appear on tv solely to lose (squashes will not be considered reg. or irreg. here, they’re just squashes)

Irreg. = A tag where one of the duos isn’t a regular team

Reg. = A tag where both duos are regular teams

Why not the women?  No division.

Tag Matches on Dynamite (Oct – Dec 2019)

22 out of 53 total men’s matches.

0 squashes.

5 irreg.

17 reg. (incl. the below)

1 #1 contender match.

3 title matches, 2 defences.

Notes:

  • 6 matches were part of the inaugural tag tourney, incl. 1 of the title matches
  • 1 of the irreg. matches was Kenny/Page vs Mox/Pac and wasn’t even the main event!

Tag Matches on Dynamite (Jan – Mar 2020)

14 out of 51 total men’s matches.

1 squash.

2 irreg.

11 reg. (incl. the below)

2 #1 contender matches.

3 title defences.

Notes:

  • The last show in March was the first Covid show, featuring 0 tags out of 5 matches due to a skeleton crew

Tag Matches on Dynamite (Oct – Dec 2023)

10 out of 60 total men’s matches.

5 squashes.

5 irreg.

0 reg.

0 #1 contender matches.

0 title defences.

Notes:

  • The Continental Classic started in Nov, comprising 18 of the next 26 matches
  • You have to go back to April 5th to find a title defence or #1 contender’s match, though there were some on Collision which started in June

Tag Matches on Dynamite (Jan – Mar 2024)

10 out of 57 total men’s matches.

3 squashes.

2 irreg. (incl. the below)

1 #1 contender match.

5 reg. (incl. the below)

1 title defence.

Notes:

  • Both the title defence and #1 contender match featured Sting & Darby so were part of the storyline building to his retirement r/t a renewed focus on the division: champs Ricky Starks & Big Bill rarely even appeared on the show
  • Their title defence on February 7th was the first on the show since the previous April 5th
  • Tag tourney as a result of Sting retiring a champion started late March

*****

That’s a healthy ratio of about one TV defence per month in the early days descending into barely one per year.  And going from future world champs Omega and Page in Jan 2020 to the Gunns in early 2023.  At a time when most viewers probably couldn’t tell you their finish.

So what happened?

Well, it’s a story which parallels the company’s general decline.  They signed too many guys, introduced too many belts and so both champions and titles received too little attention.

Illustrated by the fact that a brief duos renaissance occurred last summer on Collision.  A show which mirrored the early days of Dynamite in both its smaller roster featuring the same guys every week.  And its lack of title belts: FTR being about the only regular champions on the show.

It’s telling that for the upcoming tournament final they’ve resorted once more to Bucks/FTR.  Which in 2020 was a fresh, hot and patient feud built around the newbies manipulating poor Hangman.  But in 2024 feels cold and lacks any sense of story.

Not to mention being a screamingly predictable finale despite a field of eight teams.  Speaking to the lack of depth within the division: outfits such as the Infantry seen neither before nor afterward.

Gone are the days when we used to debate who was next for a run.  Bucks, Proud & Powerful, Lucha Bros, Kenny/Page, even Jericho/Sammy at the company’s outset.  Moving on to the likes of FTR as we got later into 2020 and the young and exciting Top Flight.  Not to mention the premature run of Swerve in our Glory and almost premeditated cooling-off of the Acclaimed.

Five years into the company’s existence, there are fewer viable tag teams than ever before.  In one of what is becoming far too many similarities with the behemoth in Connecticut, they’re just not a priority.

Paul Hemming
Paul Hemminghttps://h00kedon.weebly.com/
Paul Hemming got into AEW during the pandemic, lives in Liverpool, England, and is a huge Liverpool fan, Playstation player and history lover.

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