Dear Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson,
I’ve been watching your work with great interest over the past year, and I’ve felt compelled to say something to both of you for a while now. So here it is.
Thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done for tag team wrestling over the past year.
As a kid I never appreciated the art of the tag team. The heights of the 70s and 80s with the Von Erichs, The Freebirds, The Legion of Doom and Demolition were all before my time. And as a kid watching the Attitude Era I was never that interested in tag team wrestling – they never felt as important or as interesting to watch as singles matches, and often felt like filler between the stuff I wanted to see. Why would I care about The Headbangers when I could have Rock or Austin on my screen?
I’ll admit I flirted with the devil-may-care car crash style of the infamous matches between the Hardys, the Dudleys and Edge and Christian. They defied gravity and seemingly fear as they threw themselves off of ladders and through tables for our enjoyment. It was a spectacle, but it always felt like the benefit of those being tag matches were that we got more bodies to throw around and less waiting time between big spots. It made me appreciate destruction and sacrifice, not tag wrestling. It wasn’t until I saw the Motor City Machine Guns and their eventual feud with Beer Money in TNA that I began to realise what tag team wrestling was truly capable of doing. They were telling stories that couldn’t be told in a singles match, and pulling off moves and combinations I hadn’t even thought of.
That was great, but unfortunately it came and went, and soon tag team wrestling just felt like it used to, filler for inferior wrestlers or those with no direction.
Now? I’m not so naïve. And that is thanks to you two. I didn’t notice you guys at first. Having not been all that enamoured with tag wrestling in the past, I tended to switch off mentally when you first started teaming. But then I began to notice something. These weren’t just ordinary matches. For one thing, the crowd seemed far more into it than normal. The crowd was responding, they would cheer and boo louder than I was used to in tag matches. They seemed to care, maybe I should too?
That’s when I began to notice the little things. Sure it wasn’t like you were wrestling in a way I hadn’t seen in tag matches before. Every WWE tag match (indeed, just about every tag match full stop) would go the same way: faces start out strong until the heels do something cheap to take control, then cut off the ring and stop a few close hot tag attempts before the faces finally change the momentum. But there was something about the way you went about this that felt different.
When you bend the rules to take control of the match, you two seem to genuinely love knowing you got one over the ref and the good guys. It wasn’t just a step towards the end goal, it was a victory in its own right. When you go through a series of quick tags, you seem to be gloating about the fact you’re in a position to tag, mocking the stranded opponent. When you target a body part, you seem to be actively trying to cripple your opponent (it helps you have the best chop blocks in the business, which is a criminally underused move for heels).
And then there’s the cutting the ring in half and the denial of the hot tag. You control the crowd like an orchestral conductor. You surround the weakened partner like a pack of wolves and ruin hot tags at the last second. Some of it is innovative, some of it is just paying homage to the classics. But nobody in the business does it better than you two. I can only imagine how sweet it’d be to hear the crowd groan and boo as you prevent that momentum changing tag. Normally I see them coming, but you keep finding ways to catch me off guard. The first time I saw you crawl under the ring to break up the hot tag I sat in awe. I wanted to boo, but I couldn’t help but applaud at the same time.
NXT revitalised women’s wrestling in the WWE through 2015, and the effects have changed the landscape of the WWE in 2016. This year, even with the arrival of Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT has been must watch wrestling because of the tag team division first and foremost. And you’ve been at the centre of that for the entire year. You started by denying Enzo and Cass their big championship win. Then, you traded the titles back and forth with the incredibly exciting American Alpha. I didn’t think your year could get any better, and then you went up against #DIY and had what was in my opinion WWE’s match of the year at Takeover: Toronto. Now obviously when you look at those three teams it’s clear you have had some fantastic dance partners. Just like it takes two to tango, it takes four to forge tag team perfection. But the one consistent has been you two.
By now you’ve reached that difficult spot that a lot of brilliant heels reach in this modern era. The audience know how damn good you are at your job, and they like you for it. They’re excited to see you, and so their natural inclination is to cheer. And they like you for the very acts that should get you booed. Yet despite this, you still know how to work the crowd. Before the match, I want you to win, yet there I am, getting excited as Gargano crawled towards Ciampa for the tag – and then threw my hands up in frustration as you cooled that hot tag attempt.
It must only be a matter of time before you join the main roster, and whether you end up Raw of Smackdown, I can only hope you’re given the chance to shine like you have on NXT. The New Day have helped make the tag scene relevant again on the main roster, and between Raw, Smackdown and NXT tag wrestling is as good as it’s been since people were paying just to see the Hardys, Dudleys and E&C. But while I love what the New Day have been doing for the past year and a half, they haven’t made me appreciate the art of tag team wrestling like you two have.
So Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for making me understand how good tag team wrestling can be. Thank you for exemplifying heel work. And finally, thank you for being top guys.