The New Day are set to make professional wrestling history. On Thursday the trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods will have held the WWE Tag Team Championship titles for 479 days; smashing a record that has held firm for nearly 30 years.
Not since Ax and Smash of Demolition lost the titles to the Colossal Connection of Andre The Giant and Haku in Huntsville, Alabama, had another team come close to eclipsing their hot streak. That is, of course, until the New Day.
Much has been made about whether or not the New Day ‘deserve’ the honour. The brightly-coloured, positive-thinking, PG-friendly, trombone brandishing combination of pace, agility and thumping brawn have inevitably contrived to divide opinion throughout wrestling’s online communities. That said communities subsist on contrary arguments and cooler-than-thou attitudes shows it’s always an uphill task anyway.
It’s something of a miracle the New Day made it this far to begin with. They were hated at first, regarded with suspicion, greeted with disdain and mocked for their brash tights and attitudes.
Even in the first few months of 2015 they were given short shrift. Fans thought the gimmick fell into Blaxploitation, others called them plain boring and too upbeat and some even compared them to the trials and tribulations of Rocky Maivia. Now that’s taking it *too* far.
Yet the threesome have fought and flew and scratched and clawed their way into the affections – and wallets – of WWE’s fanbase. The company is high on them because it’s no secret that they shift a lot of merchandise. T-shirts, unicorn horns…their own cereal…it’s a veritable goldmine for the ever-accepting pockets of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
They possess a conveyor belt of memorable catchphrases, have most of the fans in the palms of their hands by and large can back it all up in the ring too. But this is pro wrestling and so nothing is ever as it seems. It was ever thus with one of the more superficial art forms that the real story is some way beneath the surface.
At the time of writing WWE is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by 53 of its former employees. The complainants are taking the company to court citing a possible link between head injuries sustained during their time in the ring and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been diagnosed and at least two deceased wrestlers, Chris Benoit and Andrew “Test” Martin. WWE is already fighting a case challenging the results of Dr Bennet Omalu’s findings relating to concussion and brain degeneration in the aftermath of Chris Benoit’s double-murder suicide in 2008.
You will have probably already guessed, but two of the 53 complainants are Ax and Smash. More adept at shaking off bad news and publicity than Donald Trump, Vinnie Mac has resorted to playing games he knows he can win. In this case, it’s cooking the record books.
Erasing the names of Demolition from the pantheon of greats is both a petty and hugely intense “fuck you” to the former champions and fan favourites. While the duo were hardly the topic of conversation on WWE TV, the erasure of their achievement is incredibly obvious to anyone even slightly in the know.
Vince has form in this realm. Brock Lesnar’s acrominious 2004 departure from the company saw his accolade of being the company’s youngest world champion passed to a very green Randy Orton for a one month throwaway reign at Summerslam the same year
Should this tarnish the New Day’s achievement and denote it an asterisk in the mental playbook of fans? Absolutely not.
Consider the difference between the modern WWE schedule at the one at the tail end of the 1980s. In 2016 the average big name wrestler is on the road 300+ days a year, working TV, house shows and PPVs, potentially defending a title each time. Before this year’s brand split the New Day could have defended those belts on Raw, Smackdown, house shows in between and capped it off with a PPV appearance on the Sunday night.
Even at the last show before the record breaks they put up a huge fight. First defeating the teams of Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns before going on to win another triple threat against Cesaro & Sheamus and Anderson & Gallows.
And while we’re here, let’s just accept that the passage of time in wrestling is going to demand more up-to-date record holders. The young, PG fan isn’t going to care about who had the belts nearly 20 years before they were born. Much as they won’t give a hoot for Ric Flair being a record 16-time world champion. But that’s another argument altogether.
So for now let’s just think about what breaking the record means beyond the numbers. Will there be new champions next week now that the barrier has been smashed to pieces? Will the tag team division finally light a spark and start living up to its potential?
Could there indeed be the dawning of a new da…oh, I can’t. I just can’t do it.