The Royal Rumble marked another opportunity for WWE to use its talented and varied tag teams and stables. And in general, they were used pretty well.
Tag team action didn’t give us any match-of-the-year candidates, but produced interesting results. The Usos vs. Gable and Benjamin threw us a curveball with a rare sweep of a two-out-of-three-falls match. The Bar topped Seth Rollins and a hobbled Jason Jordan. The Revival, showing they weren’t as buried as some thought, got their win back from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.
Members of stables and teams, led by Finn Balor playing the role of iron man, filled out the Rumble itself to various degrees of success. Heath Slater was effective comic relief for the first part of the Rumble, and even got an elimination on Sheamus. The three members of The New Day were lively editions, and Kofi got his annual amazing save thanks to his teammates. Seth Rollins and Rusev got good ring time, and Apollo Crews got some time to shine. Titus O’Neil and Aiden English were treated more like filler, but at least they can add the signature bout to their resumes.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens managed to lose a handicap match with AJ Styles, albeit controversially and with a hobbled KO. And then things got worse as dissension set in leading up to next week’s one-on-one for the right to battle AJ at Fastlane, resulting in another tag loss. And then there’s Sami doing everything in his power (unsuccessfully) to keep from getting pummeled by Braun Strowman in the Mixed Match Challenge.
All in all, Royal Rumble and the weekly shows that followed reminded us of the depth of variety of tag talent. Consider SmackDown, where four tag-first teams -- The Usos, Gable and Benjamin, Bludgeon Brothers and Breezango -- got decent screen time and only one had to take a loss (sorry, fashion police). And tandems that aren’t always tag-first -- like Rusev Day and Sami-KO -- also had impactful outings.
How will WWE utilize all these moving parts on the Road to WrestleMania? Hard to know, but so far they’re generally on the right path.
The following Tag Team Power Rankings take into account wins, power and placement of segments, recentness of appearances, creative direction and momentum for main-roster teams.
WWE Tag Team Power Rankings through Jan. 30:
1. The Usos (last week: 2)
Pro: The champs swept Gable and Benjamin at Royal Rumble and followed with a great promo on SmackDown.
Con: Are they ready for a Bludgeon Brothers challenge?
2. The Bar (4)
Pro: Reclaimed Raw titles at Royal Rumble. Followed with win over Titus Worldwide.
Con: Not as good a time in the Rumble match, especially for Sheamus.
3. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable (1)
Pro: Good bounceback win (and appropriately heelish behavior) over Breezango on SmackDown.
Con: Need to bounce back after being swept by The Usos at Royal Rumble.
4. The Bludgeon Brothers (not rated)
Pro: Finally, an implied potential rivalry with The Usos. Also, another squash match.
Con: A lot of people were like "oh right, they still exist" during SmackDown, which shows they could use more consistent time.
5. The Revival (9)
Pro: Big move from wins over The Club and Beauty and The Man Beast.
Con: How much do wins over those teams count? When will they see a chance at a title picture?
6. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (3)
Pro: Told an interesting story in a losing effort at Royal Rumble.
Con: Absence from Raw the next night and Jordan’s lingering injury leaves questions about their future.
7. The New Day (7)
Pro: Kofi had another fun Rumble save and #1 U.S. title contender match. These guys are always entertaining.
Con: They ultimately didn’t have much impact in the Royal Rumble, and Kofi lost his contender match.
8. Balor Club (5)
Pro: Finn was the IronMan for the Rumble.
Con: Balor lost to John Cena (nothing to be ashamed of) on Monday after Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows lost to The Revival on the Rumble pre-show.
9. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (6)
Pro: Still keeping a high profile, including a battle for #1 world title contention next week.
Con: Looking rather fractured and two tag-team losses in a row. And poor Sami had to catch Braun’s hands in the Mixed Match Challenge.
10. Rusev Day (10)
Pro: It was a glorious Rusev Day as the Lion of Bulgaria won the #1 U.S. title contender match.
Con: Hard to feel confident on him winning next week. Plus, while Rusev spent a lot of time in the Rumble, he wasn’t an elimination machine and Aiden English was barely in it.
Best tag segment of the week: The Bar recapturing the titles earns honorable mention, but The Usos’ continued dominance, even in the face of game foes in Gable and Benjamin, is a marvel to watch and the surprising sweep makes it memorable.
Grade: A. WWE is back to utilizing the breadth and depth of its roster, and it’s a beautiful thing.