The much-needed tournament to finally reclaim the women's tag belts from Hall of Famer Vacant is under way. Some teams (including the only team with any history in Doudrop + Nikki A.S.H., plus the already eliminated Tamina + Dana Brooke and Shotzi + Xia Li) are just there for depth and losses, but what about the rest of the field? Are they contenders or pretenders? Let's take our best guesses.
Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai: Contenders
You don't get a big re-introduction at SummerSlam with Bayley just to become organizational depth. Grabbing tag gold in advance of a trios match with Bianca Belair, Asuka and Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam makes a lot of sense. That The Genius of the Sky and The Captain of Team Kick can put on great matches with fresh matchups just makes their crowning even more likely.
Asuka and Alexa Bliss: Pretenders
Using the phrase "pretender" so close to Asuka hurts, Cagesiders. But the money's in the chase. I could see them taking the titles from Iyo and Dakota after the SummerSlam match. They don't need to be established as much as the new faction does, but would absolutely make entertaining champs down the line. Bayley shenanigans to help her stablemates to a tournament win makes perfect sense.
Raquel Rodriguez and Aliyah: Contenders
Hear me out: The SmackDown bracket doesn't have anybody who looks like a favorite. And WWE has been pushing Raquel pretty consistently. And they love kinda mismatched teams, with the powerhouse/speed combo a proven recipe. I don't think they beat Control, but I consider them favorites to make it to the finals, where perhaps Asuka and Alexa find a way to avenge their loss to let the underdogs have their day.
Natalya and Sonya Deville: Pretenders
There's a chance they get a first-round win (more on that in a sec) because they've already set up a beef with Raquel and Aliyah, but they're not in it to win it. While Sonya could absolutely win singles gold down the line because she has the skills for it, Natalya's doing a great job in the gatekeeper role and that doesn't include winning this tournament.
Zoey Stark and Nikkita Lyons: Pretenders
It's cool they're getting showcased for a future main-roster run, but the future is not now. Zoey is feuding with Mandy Rose over the top NXT women's belt. SmackDown could use a good heel women's faction. The other members of Toxic Attraction lost their gold already. The stars are probably aligning here: Mandy gets reintroduced to a show that she'll rejoin before long (with her stable) to cost Zoey this shot, only to put Stark over for the women's championship to tie up all the loose ends.
The wildcard here is the previous champs in Sasha Banks and Naomi. It would be weird for babyfaces to get into the tournament by beating up and taking the spots of an existing team (and maybe they could return as heels, but Naomi works so well as a face). If they do return after the tournament and claim belts they never lost, that could be a workable scenario.
That's how I see it. Who do you think are contenders and pretenders in the tournament?
The following Tag Team Power Rankings take into account wins, power and placement of segments, recentness of appearances, creative direction and momentum for teams and factions.
WWE Tag Team Power Rankings through Aug. 12:
1. The Bloodline (last week: 1)
Pro: Still hold all the belts, and The Usos remain an integral part of SmackDown,
Con: They took a loss in a makeshift tag match against Drew McIntyre and Madcap Moss.
2. Control (Bayley, Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai) (not ranked)
Pro: Iyo and Dakota picked up the first win in the women's tag tournament and seem like strong contenders. The heels also have a Clash at the Castle trios match,
Con: That setup would seem to delay Bayley's shot at Bianca Belair's title.
3. Katana Chance and Kayden Carter (not ranked)
Pro: Still the NXT women's tag champs.
Con: Hopefully they'll get some good programs moving forward.
4. The Creed Brothers/Diamond Mine (4)
Pro: Still NXT men's tag team champions.
Con: Roderick Strong took another loss this week and seems pretty determined to blow up the faction.
5. Judgment Day (9)
Pro: Finn Balor picked up a win over Rey Mysterio, thanks in part to Rhea Ripley continuing to ... um, dominate his son Dom. Upcoming matches with Edge will be high profile.
Con: That said, there's no way Damian Priest beats Edge in Toronto, eh?
6. Toxic Attraction (6)
Pro: Mandy Rose is still champ. Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne were at least featured in a video package.
Con: Mandy also seems vulnerable to Zoey Stark at the moment.
7. Raquel Rodriguez and Aliyah (not ranked)
Pro: Picked up a win to advance in the women's tag title tournament.
Con: Hoping there's more to this than just "two women who smile a lot" as a makeshift team.
8. Hit Row (not ranked)
Pro: Congrats and welcome back to Top Dolla, Ashante Thee Adonis and B-Fab, with a nice little squash.
Con: Going to take some adjusting to see them as whole without their former leader Swerve.
9. The New Vicious Viking Raiders (8)
Pro: Laid out Kofi with an impressive barricade splash from Ivar.
Con: Still need more work to make the Raiders-New Day feud more interesting.
(T)10: Pretty Deadly (not ranked)
Pro: Picked up a win over Edris Enofe and Malik Blade and a potential ally in Lash Legend. Also got the best of the NXT UK titleholders outside the ring.
Con: Maybe the added member will help them finally win a title match?
(T)10: Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen (9)
Pro: Still the NXT UK titleholders.
Con: Likely will have to beat Pretty Deadly and/or The Dyad to keep the belts.
Best tag segment of the week: With a lack of title defenses, usually action involving The Bloodline qualifies here. And while it was weird to see The Usos lose to an ad hoc team, it makes sense for Drew McIntyre to get one up on Roman Reigns' cousins at this point in the story, since that's clearly the SummerSlam main event.
This was more a week of establishing teams than big matches, but that's cool too.