Since the WWE opted to split into two main brands a year ago, schlepping some Superstars to SmackDown Live and others to Monday Night Raw, there have been numerous consequences. Some are intended, such as attempts to divide up the company's biggest names between the two shows to spark interest in both. And others have been unintended, if not entirely unexpected, particularly the watering down of both the Raw and SmackDown talent rosters. And nowhere is it more evident now than in the tag team division , particularly on the Raw brand.
Raw boasts only five tag teams (or six, if the young partnership between Titus O'Neil and Apollo Crews holds up), compared to eight for SmackDown, even though Raw runs for three televised hours per week to SmackDown's two. In just the past three months, two have dissolved -- The Golden Truth (R-Truth and Goldust), who have been in a promo war for weeks in the wake of their breakup, and Enzo and Cass, who finally split last Monday and who will be battling it out against one another for the foreseeable future. Yet another tag team, the three-man stable The New Day, moved on to SmackDown in spring's "Superstar Shakeup."
This leaves Raw with its champions, Sheamus and Cesaro; top contenders he Hardy Boyz; The Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson); Rhyno and Heath Slater; and The Revival, whose participation in the ring has been delayed by Dash Wilder suffering a broken jaw in April. And it's possible that the Rhyno-Slater partnership is not long for this world, with Cageside Seats reporting last week that their breakup could be imminent. Not only would that further thin the ranks of Raw's tag team division, it would also reduce the number of "face" (or "good-guy") teams to just one, the Hardy Boyz -- which is why they are stuck in a seemingly endless loop of tag team and singles matches with the (heel) Sheamus-Cesaro championship duo. Barring that, the Hardyz are also frequently matched up against Gallows and Anderson, but with Sheamus and Cesaro as the current champions, The Club gets stuck in a holding pattern. The WWE, for better or for worse, is loath to make heels major challengers to a heel champion's title.
It's difficult to pinpoint a concrete solution to this problem. Even in a situation where The Club or The Revival are scripted into being fan-favorites, it still does not change how flimsy the division is as a whole. Though moves such as those can at least breathe some life into a division that seems destined for stagnation up to and through August's SummerSlam blowout, it still doesn't increase its numbers.
Even if Vince McMahon and the WWE's powers-that-be assemble new tag teams from disparate singles competitor parts, that still solves only half the problem. Should the Miz's newly minted henchmen Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas also be placed in the tag team picture, that ups the numbers in the division as a whole. But Raw not only has a quantity problem in its tag team division, it also has one of quality.
Raw's top names are not going to be matched together in a long-term tag team situation, a la Cesaro and Sheamus, anytime soon. Beyond being teamed up to advance their individual storylines and rivalries, superstars like Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor aren't suddenly going to be written out of their singles careers for the benefit of a languishing tag division. While the eventual return of The Revival to in-ring action will up the quality and degree of competition, not even that is enough to round things out in a way that moves the whole tag division forward.
Raw cannot even turn to the one solution the WWE has frequently employed when the main roster seems weak: calling up talent from the NXT developmental ranks. NXT itself is also tag-team thin; The Authors of Pain are the NXT tag champions and only five other duos (or stables, in the case of SAnitY) exist as current or potential challengers. If any of these NXT teams get called up to WWE (and land on Raw), it doesn't seem to be in line to happen anytime soon.
Essentially, this puts WWE's Raw brand between a rock and a hard place, with few realistic options to get out of it, particularly between now and SummerSlam. Perhaps even more frustrating, this is not the first time the WWE has scripted itself into a corner, and it won't be the last. This is a recurrent issue in the WWE -- just swap out "Raw tag teams" with "women's division" or "Dolph Ziggler" in years past. The WWE has no problem with staying in a holding pattern with certain characters, feuds or, in this case, an entire division, indefinitely. Also frustrating is that this is a problem of WWE's own creation, but it didn't have the foresight to script ways to avoid reaching this point in the first place.
While the return of The Revival will bring new life to the division, it also won't be enough to make the tag picture as robust as it is on SmackDown or even as it was on Raw just mere weeks ago. The best solution to the WWE's Raw tag team conundrum is to have avoided getting into it in the first place. But the only realistic one that remains is to wait it out while the WWE books the same matches in various combinations, something which viewers have become all too accustomed to seeing over the years.