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The 8-Ball 02.15.13: The Top 8 Tag Team Breakouts

February 15, 2013 | Posted by Ken Hill

Welcome, laddies and laddettes, to the 8-Ball. I am…wait for it, wait for it…YOUR “Kennection to All Things Wrestling” Ken Hill, and I am your new man with the plan, the party host, the fire starter, counting down random topics from all around the wrestling world!

Sadly (or not, given some of the “lovely” comments I’ve read on this column the last few weeks, yikes), Ryan Byers has left the column in lieu of, get this, A JOB. Tragic, I know, but the show must go on, and I’m just the ringmaster for the job!

Today, we explore the potential of wrestlers from current tag teams who I believe have the best potential for singles stardom!

Top 8 Potential Tag Team Breakout Stars

8. Austin Aries

The reason I’m putting both Aries and the following current Tag Team Champion as my bottom two picks is rather simple in that both are already established main eventers and former world champions and don’t really need a big bump to transition back to singles action. Like his partner Bobby Roode, Aries is a smarmy, snarky, cocky, and confident heel that can get it done in the ring six ways to Sunday. However, unlike Roode, who has been firmly entrenched in the spotlight battling the likes of AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, and James Storm during his time as World Champion, Aries got but a taste of that, winning and retaining against Roode, but losing the championship to Jeff Hardy. If and when Aries and Roode’s pursuit for all the gold leads them back to the World Title, I believe Aries will make the stronger grab for it, and if he does succeed, will hopefully get a longer reign and a chance to face more varied opposition as an awesome heel than he did as a so-so face.

7. Daniel Bryan

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See Aries for the reason I put Bryan low on this list. He and Kane have made for the most entertaining pair I’ve seen in recent memory and have helped with at least a partial revitalization of WWE’s long-stagnant tag team division. However, their interactions in the last couple weeks since the Royal Rumble and the potential for being opponents in the Elimination Chamber lead me to believe that a split is forthcoming and a potential one-on-one match at Wrestlemania, which I would see Daniel go over Kane, who serves best at this point as a strong mid-carder for elevating younger talent,and get a push back into the main event. His match on Monday with Jericho has reminded me that Daniel is very much still capable of competing in main-event quality matches against equally main-event quality opposition. Going past Wrestlemania, I definitely see Mr. “Dazzler” becoming firmly entrenched in the World or WWE Title scene.

6. Cody Rhodes

Now this is where it gets a little more difficult to discern the potential of a breakout star. With the official dissolution of “Rhodes Scholars”, which I agree with the overall backstage opinion that it came far too soon with no real resolution, both Cody and Damien Sandow find themselves back in the singles scene. Cody has had a few high-profile matches, particularly his feuds in 2011 and early 2012 with Randy Orton and Big Show. However, it was after he lost the IC Title to Show that he began to flounder and found himself an intellectual ally and friend in Sandow to remain afloat in the tag team division. However, those times are seemingly done for the foreseeable future. At the moment, he’s treading water and serving as a JTTS to the main event faces like Cena. With a few key wins over the right superstars or maybe another quality run with the IC Title, Cody can be reestablished as a credible high-level threat. That being said, it will take some time and I see Cody making a break in the latter half of 2013.

5. Justin Gabriel

This is an interesting choice on my part because when I was mulling over the idea of breakout stars, Tyson Kidd seemed the most likely of his tandem with Gabriel to make the break for single stardom, purely based on the notion that WWE showed more faith in him by giving him a spot in MITB and wins over a big man in Tensai. With Tyson on the shelf for the year and his brief push all but a faint memory, Gabriel is all by his lonesome in the mid-card dregs with no real direction. However, his feud in late 2012 with US Champ Antonio Cesaro, even scoring an upset win over the Swiss Mister, shows he can be a credible mid-card threat when the WWE wants him to be. While I certainly don’t see him holding any world titles in the future, Gabirel can certainly become a contender to and even hold one of the secondary championships in 2013, if WWE decides to elevate him again to the level he was at with Cesaro.

4. Titus O’Neil

Titus may seem like an odd choice at first glance. I thought so myself when going through who has the most potential to make a big break from their respective tag team. While I don’t see the Prime Time Players separating in the near future, Titus has been getting more screen and ring time on the flagship show than his partner Darren Young. We’ve heard him on commentary with King and Cole (he’s actually pretty hilarious), and despite ending up on the wrong end of a Ryback squash, actually looked pretty decent in his brief showing, going power-for-power against the “Big Hungry.” He dresses sharp, talks big on the mic, and can move around pretty damn well for a man who’s 6’4″ and 270 lbs. If WWE ever decides to put the straps on the Players, it means even more air time for Titus and maybe we’ll see more of that potential big star come out down the road, showing he’s really worth the “MILLIONS OF DOLLAHS, MILLIONS OF DOLLAHS” he says he is.

3. Hernandez

Remember when this guy was a credible threat to the TNA Heavyweight Championship and even Kurt Angle was scared shitless of him? Neither do I, and that’s a damn shame. Hernandez, to a lesser extent, is in the same boat Samoa Joe was in after he lost the heavyweight title; he’s stagnant and bogged down in meaningless feuds (Matt Morgan), leader of a do-nothing group (Mexican America, anyone?), then he ends up as part of the Eddie Guerrero Tribute Band alongside its founding member, Chavo Guerrero, and while the two Latinos winning the tag belts was a sweet moment, it’s since faded fast as it’s done nothing to elevate Hernandez. Hopefully, he and Chavo lose their rematch and go their separate ways, because unlike Chavo, Hernandez still has a good couple of years left in him, and I’d hope TNA would make the most of them with a monster like him who can still move and fly like a cruiserweight.

2. Damien Sandow

Unlike his partner Cody, I felt like the Rhodes Scholars team was something of a step down for Sandow, who was in the midst of establishing himself in the singles division following his debut. While he did have several impressive outings against the likes of Kane, Daniel Bryan and Sheamus, his identity more or less pertained to being a part of Rhodes Scholars and not as a true singles competitor. With the team in the rear view mirror now, it seems probable that Sandow is being looked at as the man to push to the next level with his gift for the vernacular, skills on the mic, and aggressive nature in the ring. Aside from a squash or two, Sandow has been made to look like a credible threat in the mid-cards, and we’ve seen in his recent bouts with Sheamus that he can match the physicality of a main eventer and hold his own. If booked right, Sandow could become a viable contender for the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship in the months following Wrestlemania.

1. Christopher Daniels

He’s been in TNA since the very beginning in 2002, a multiple time X Division and Tag Team champion, and one half of the (former) World Tag Team Champions of the World, one of if not the most entertaining, charismatic, and combative teams in Bad Influence. Yet, even after 11 years, why does it feel like Daniels is capable of doing so much more? Why do I rank him here instead of with other established main eventers n Aries and Daniel Bryan? Simple: He hasn’t won the big one. Yes, he beat AJ Styles (Finally!) and essentially excommunicated him from TNA. With that old chestnut out of the way and Kazarian fresh in his new role as Chris’s “manager”, Daniels looks primed to finally seize the one championship that has eluded him in TNA: The Heavyweight Championship. He looked damn good against the champ Jeff Hardy and nearly pulled it off, but came up just short. I don’t see that as dissuading Daniels from the championship scene as I expect him to be in constant pursuit of the gold alongside Roode, Aries, and others. At some point in 2013, it will all come to fruition and then, only then, will we have permission to worship him…


Thank you all for reading on my inaugural post of the 8-Ball, and I certainly promise to bring you more exciting, unique topics in professional wrestling to count down. However, don’t be afraid to suggest your own topics in the comments section. In the wacky, wild world of professional wrestling, there’s a multitude of ideas to explore and you never know when you might stumble on a fresh idea no one’s considered before. Ciao for now, boys and girls!

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Ken Hill

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