wrestling / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Reasons Why New Day Rocks

March 12, 2016 | Posted by Mike Hammerlock
New Day

Top 8 Reasons Why New Day Rocks

This week the Magic 8-Ball is shamelessly fawning all over New Day. It’s truly stunning that a tag team is one of the most popular acts in the WWE. A year ago, no one saw this coming. So we’re here to delve into the excellence of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E, long may they reign.

At the time I’m writing this, their match against Sheamus and Bad News Barrett at Roadblock has not happened. So it’s possible they won’t be WWE Tag Team champions by the time you’re reading this (forcing them to try to regain the belts at WrestleMania). Yet win or lose, New Day sits at the top of the WWE tag ranks. They have taken the division by storm. Really they’ve taken WWE fans by storm. If you were to make a list of reasons to watch the WWE these days, New Day has to be at or near the top. Now let’s dig into how they got there.

8. Remember Tag Team Wrestling?

More than any other federation, the WWE needs a healthy tag team division. It runs long shows. Every week Raw goes three hours and Smackdown goes two hours. The big Sunday cards run three hours with WrestleMania and SummerSlam stretching it out to four hours. You need tag and six-man matches in that mix for variety because an endless run of singles bouts would get monotonous. The WWE often forgets how imperative its tag scene is, but New Day showing up in 2015 with the all-too-short-lived Cesaro-Tyson Kidd combo, the Lucha Dragons, the return of the Dudley Boyz, the reformed Wyatt Family, the Usos coming back off the sidelines and the various combinations offered by the League of Nations has reinvigorated that division. A big part of what made Chris Jericho’s turn on AJ Styles work on Monday was that New Day has restored the luster to the WWE Tag Team Championship. It hurts when you lose out on a prize that means something, and that hurt can send you over the edge. The E still doesn’t do enough with the division. New Day vs. Y2AJ should have closed the show on Monday night. Sheamus and Barrett should have been given more of a build heading into Roadblock. Yet New Day gives the WWE a standout tag team. Given the chance, they could deliver us the best two-team tag title match at WrestleMania since WM14 when Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie took the belts off the New Age Outlaws.

7. Are We Having Fun Yet?

On top of re-energizing the tag division, New Day has injected fun into an otherwise dour product. Unicorn horns, trombone riffs and booty. These guys look like they’re having a blast out there and that sort of thing is infectious. More than that, it works because these guys are funny. They put out a constant stream of the most fabulous and ridiculous stuff on the planet via multiple social media feeds. If you like a good time, then New Day might be for you. That’s why the face turn they’re taking with this League of Nations feud was inevitable. Fans love these guys. New Day gives people the entertainment value people were hoping for when they bought a ticket. The faction has been the WWE’s anti-Roman Reigns – the heels you cheer like crazy as opposed to the face who makes you boo your lungs out – and now they’re going to get to work like the fan favorites they are. Hopefully that doesn’t make them bland.

6. It’s Not a Black Thing

When New Day first got together it looked like they might be a redux of the Nation of Domination. Remember Xavier playing Pied Piper and insisting, “This is our time.”? Then they disappeared for a few months and we heard rumors about Speed Force, which we suspected might be a superheroish gimmick. Eventually they traded in the angry black man stereotype for the inspirational preacher man stereotype. Fans hated it. The team didn’t work when it involved them being cardboard black characters. Lower in the column we’ll get into what they evolved into when WWE Creative finally let them do their own thing, but they’re in a place now where their race doesn’t matter one bit. They’re just three really cool guys who happen to be black. It’s something the WWE has struggled to present since the Rock. Maybe it takes oversized personalities to break free of Vince McMahon’s stereotypical black wrestler gimmick generator. Whatever the reason, they’re unlike anything we’ve seen in the WWE. The larger cultural significance of what they’re doing is there is no larger cultural significance to what they’re doing, at least when it comes to making a direct comment on race. That’s positively enlightened.

5. Good Wrestling Seal of Approval

If you happen to follow the 411Mania Wrestler of the Year race, New Day finds themselves in a pitched battle for top honors. They’ve done this without the benefit of main event exposure. They’ve put together a steady flow of quality of matches. The Y2AJ clash from Monday was quite possibly the best free TV match the WWE has put on during the past year. The ladder match at TLC against the Usos and Lucha Dragons was outstanding. Yet New Day’s true strength has been that they churn out solid matches every week. Give these guys 10 minutes and they deliver the kind of action you expect from a wrestling card. Punching the clock and getting the job done gets seriously underrated. Like with all of its secondary champions, the WWE throws a steady amount of garbage in these guys’ direction, yet they make it smell all right. That’s talent. Anybody can be the guy at the top of the card who gets booked to win all the time. Making the most of the 50-50 booking in the midcard? Drawing fans into matches that have been given sparse or no build? That’s a heavy lift and New Day does it pretty much every time they hit the ring.

4. Hype Man Extraordinaire

Flavor Flav defined the concept of the hype man back in the early days of rap. Pro wrestling had always had a form of that with managers, but soon saw the value of someone who can fight, prowl around the outside of the ring and also deliver catchphrases. A hype man added a more unpredictable element and, done right, it allowed guys who might be second banana afterthoughts to shine. Oddly enough, Triple H served as the hype man for the original incarnation of Degeneration X. “Let’s get ready to suck it!” Yet Xavier Woods has rewritten the playbook. He doesn’t really do catchphrases. His trombone, Francesca II, is a consistent part of his act, but he’s always adding new wrinkles. It’s more like he’s doing an improv act that a set routine. You really don’t know what exact kind of insanity Xavier will unleash each time he heads down to the ring. He might be in Harpo Marx mode where he lets Francesca do most of the talking or he might be running around insisting New Day are invincible unicorn friends. And let me backtrack here for just a moment, Xavier got a trombone over. He could hook an entire arena teasing when he’s going to start playing a tune. Amazing.

3. Thunder and Lightning

Kofi Kingston and Big E are an almost perfect contrast team. I’m not a fan of teaming up wrestlers based on skin color. I think it’s lazy, but Kofi and E always made sense. Kofi’s got a high flying arsenal, and he bumps and sells like a champ. Big E is a true powerhouse. They complement each other in the ring, yin and yang. It gives them a lot of different ways to beat you. Two of my favorite teams of all times, the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs, had that same perfect strangers chemistry. More recently we’ve seen it from Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns as well as Daniel Bryan and Kane. A high flyer/technician paired with a bruiser works like a charm. Part of the reason why is it gives both guys a chance to shine. Sometimes the big man powers the team to victory. Sometimes the smaller guy does it with his flair for the spectacular. Kofi and Big E still could use a team finisher. They’ve tried a couple, but neither has stuck. I maintain they’re perfect candidates for the Power Plex. Maybe adding a new team finisher will be part of their face turn. More than that, we’re being reminded just how talented these two are. Right now they’re owning the tag team division, but either one of them could be brilliant holding the Money in the Bank briefcase. We forget Kofi’s held the Intercontinental and U.S. belts seven times on top of his five tag titles. Big E has been the IC champ and the NXT champ. If the WWE is smart, and it often isn’t, New Day serves as a springboard for Kofi and Big E to challenge at the top of the card.

2. Nerd Alert

I talked earlier about what New Day isn’t, neither neo Black Panthers nor James Brown knockoffs. Yet even better than that is they’ve succeeded by being what they truly are: nerds. First off, these are three intelligent, well-educated men. Kofi graduated from Boston College, Big E from the University of Iowa. Woods has a master’s in psychology from Furman and he’s working toward a Ph.D. in educational psychology. Then you add in the true nerd factor. Woods seems like the ringleader for this. He’s a gamer with a Legend of Zelda tattoo. He’s also come out as a brony. They’ve dared to be smart and goofy. There are some recent precedents in the WWE of wrestlers who got over by embracing geek culture, notably the power couple of CM Punk and AJ Lee. Punk now is, for all intent and purposes, a comic book writer. AJ got over in the wrestling business by being the ultra hot gamer girl next door of every nerd’s dreams. She was pure wish fulfillment. It’s not entirely surprising that a team with Kofi, who is very good friends with Punk, would embrace geek culture. Best of all, they’re not wrestlers pretending to be stock Revenge of the Nerds knockoffs. They’re just three guys revelling in the nerd-dom that has taken over the mainstream. They’re the WWE’s answer to Big Bang Theory. They’re the three WWE talents most likely to show up on a Nerdist podcast. Got to figure it’s only a matter of time before they appear on The Nightly Show with fellow blerd Larry Wilmore.

1. Saved!

I mentioned above how fans hated the gospel gimmick. It was a rehash of a gimmick that’s been done to death, kind of like the invincible Russian strongman. It really looked like New Day was getting flushed down the toilet of history. Then, supposedly, they convinced the WWE to let them do their own thing and we got our beloved pack of nerds. New Day is the most striking recent example of wrestlers who escaped the WWE’s pipeline to irrelevance. We’ve seen Zack Ryder and Drew McIntyre go in that direction. Jack Swagger seems like he might be beyond rescue. Rumor has it that Wade Barrett soon will be leaving the WWE rather than let his decline become any more maudlin. To see three guys escape that death spiral is rare and fans seem to appreciate underused talents being given a chance to shine. This feeds into the promo Shane McMahon cut on Monday. He gots huge pops for complaining that many talented wrestlers can’t catch a break in the WWE while some guys with no talent get all the breaks. Anyone who’s followed the WWE over the years know this is 100% true. New Day turning into a phenomenon after they chucked the Vince/Creative gimmicks to the side and now being one of the most popular acts on the roster by doing it their own way is perhaps the biggest, most surprising turn of events in modern WWE history, up there with Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” movement. Check out the good that can happen when they chuck the corporate playbook. We get something fresh, vital and fun. Seeing New Day thrive gives people hope that maybe the WWE will be willing to change direction in other areas as well. For instance, maybe it’s finally willing to listen to its fans who’ve made it clear they want Dean Ambrose and not Roman Reigns to be the people’s champ. Maybe the WWE will stop force-feeding people things they don’t want and instead paying attention when fans rally behind the things they do want. Radical idea, but New Day’s success makes it seem possible it might be a new day for the WWE as well. Anything that cuts through the complacency and cynicism the WWE has bred in its own fans should be greeted with open arms.