Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai: Contenders
With Bayley, you don’t get a major re-introduction at SummerSlam solely to gain organizational depth. It makes perfect sense to win the tag team championship before competing in a trios match at SummerSlam with Bianca Belair, Asuka, and Alexa Bliss. It only increases the likelihood that The Genius of the Sky and The Captain of Team Kick will be crowned since they can put on entertaining contests with intriguing matchups.
Cagesiders, it hurts to use the word “pretender” so next to Asuka. But the chase is where the money is. After the SummerSlam match, I could see them stealing the belts from Iyo and Dakota. They don’t require as much establishment as the new group, but they would make very exciting champions in the future. Perfect Bayley shenanigans to assist her stablemates in winning a competition sense.
Raquel Rodriguez and Aliyah: Contenders
Hear me out: There is no one in the SmackDown bracket who appears to be a favorite. Additionally, WWE has been continually promoting Raquel. They also enjoy rather uneven teams, with the powerhouse/speed combination being a tried-and-true combination. Although I don’t think they defeated Control, I still think of them as the favorites to advance to the finals, where Asuka and Alexa may find a way to exact revenge for their defeat and allow the underdogs to win.
Natalya and Sonya Deville: Pretenders
Since they’ve already started a feud with Raquel and Aliyah, there’s a chance they’ll win the first round (more on that later), but they’re not in it to win it. Sonya has the talent to win the gold medal in singles in the future, but Natalya is excelling in the gatekeeper role even if she doesn’t succeed in this competition.
Zoey Stark and Nikkita Lyons: Pretenders
It’s great that they’re receiving some exposure in preparation for a main-roster run, but that’s not right now. Mandy Rose and Zoey are engaged in a feud for the top NXT women’s crown. A strong female heel faction would be helpful on SmackDown. The other Toxic Attraction members have already lost their gold. Mandy is reintroduced to a show that she’ll soon return to (with her stable), costing Zoey her opportunity. The stars are definitely aligning for Stark to win the women’s championship and tie up all the loose ends.
Sasha Banks and Naomi, the reigning champions, are this situation’s wild card. It would be strange for Babyfaces to defeat and replace an existing team in order to enter the tournament (and maybe they could return as heels, but Naomi works so well as a face). It might be possible if they do come back after the competition and claim the belts they never dropped.
I think of it that way. Who do you believe to be the tournament’s pretenders and contenders?
The following tag team power rankings consider victories, the importance and placement of segments, the freshness of appearances, the creative direction, and the momentum of teams and factions.
WWE Tag Team Power Rankings through Aug. 12:
1. The Bloodline (last week: 1)
Pro: Still in possession of all the championships; The Usos are still a vital part of SmackDown;
Con: They suffered a defeat to Drew McIntyre and Madcap Moss in an impromptu tag match.
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.