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Ascension dissension: What transparent thermoplastic can tell us about tag team success


Back in 1998, at the height of the famed "Attitude Era," everything had an edgy, badass feel to it. Look no further than top babyface, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

You can imagine then, the general consensus, when Jim Cornette dusted off his old tennis racket and exhumed the Rock 'N Roll Express for a (cough) "run" in the WWE tag-team division (video). I took one look at them and thought "Um, guys? Wrong decade."

The time machine has seemingly surfaced once again, depositing The Ascension into the "Reality Era" ... also known as the "PG Era" -- depending on how much screen time John Cena is given on Monday Night RAW.

As a tag team, The Ascension worked well in NXT and I enjoyed their work. Then again, I love everything about NXT because it complements the WWE product and at times, fills in the creative gaps. Stuff I wish happened on WWE I can often find in NXT.

And vice versa.

That said, NXT is not WWE and what works in the developmental system doesn't always translate to the grand stage. In a perfect world, you could carry heat from NXT over to WWE like a transfer student imports college credits from a two-year school.

I'm sure for a large portion of the WWE Universe, last month's debut was their only introduction to Konnor and Viktor.

As for how they're booked, I'm not opposed to their old-school theatrics, a clear throwback to popular wrecking crews like The Road Warriors and Demolition. Nor was I particularly incensed by their decision to throw shade on their predecessors.

It just felt out of place ... a lot like them.

If The Ascension had run through the current crop of tag team performers and perhaps captured the WWE titles, they would possess the body of work requisite to that style of promo. But squashing a pair of pudgy jobbers after two weeks on the main roster?

Yeah, no.

That brings me to the Plexiglas transparent thermoplastic. You may remember a couple of other NXT fellas who made their WWE debut as The Shield. But right before they were set to make their mark, they got bogged down in full riot gear, including those giant deflectors that even read SHIELD.

Roman Reigns elaborates:

"We were supposed to have like shields. It was really, for lack of a better word, it was really lame. They had like literal riot shields, big fiberglass riot shields with the word "shield" written up it... We just pictured trying to get in the ring with these things... We just had this terrifying nightmare of not being able to get under the bottom rope, like slide in and we're like stuck. We can't get in and there's like, Ryback standing over us and we've completely blown the whole debut. So immediately Vince was like, 'what are you guys, wussies? You need that?' We're like, 'no'. He's like, 'all right, good, leave 'em.' And then we just ran in there and we beat the dog piss out of Ryback and put him through the table."

Creative had the right idea with The Shield, it just needed to refine its execution.

The same holds true for The Ascension. While they look a little silly, I do believe they have the right talent and don't think anyone would argue against WWE beefing up its tag team division. This irremediable gimmick, however, is an anachronism.

The good news is, hope is not lost.

Dolph Ziggler used to be a male cheerleader and Bray Wyatt was some middling mid-carder named Husky Harris. If WWE can manage to take its rough draft of The Ascension and whip up a more polished version, we may be looking at the future of the tag team division.

If not, it's welcome to the wasteland.

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