It's that time of year again. Time for the best tag-teams that NXT has to offer to take the stage and duke it out to see who is the best of the best. Each year The Dusty Classic gives fans some stellar bouts and gives some much-needed tv time to a style of wrestling that WWE can unjustly ignore all too often. This year provides a new twist, in that in addition to the typical men's tournament, there will now be a women's Dusty classic as well, giving a chance to see more of NXT's fantastic women's division on display.
So with our first-round matches just a few hours away, let's take a look at 3 men's and 3 women's teams that I think deserve this year's trophy and the future shot at the NXT Tag-Team Championship. While the majority of the men's teams have been announced, as of writing this, no women's teams have officially declared, so therefore, all of my women's pics are based on speculation.
The Grizzled Young Veterans
In last year's tournament, The Grizzled Young Veterans defeated both The Time Splitters and The Undisputed Era in order to get to their final round match against The Broserweights. With their recent return to stateside in the last few weeks, it seems like NXT is looking to build the former NXT UK Tag-Team Champions back up to their former glory.
Grizzled Young Veterans have the star power to add new life to the NXT tag division, and a win here in the Dusty Classic is the best way to show fans who to look out for in the future. Whether or not we see Gibson and Drake take home the win in the finals, we should be hyped for whatever matches we do get out of them during this year's classic.
Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai
Gonzalez and Kai are one of the few well-established female teams currently on NXT, and honestly, that isn't always an advantage in the Dusty classic. The classic has made great teams out of odd couples before, but going into the women's tournament, there are few downsides to backing Gonzalez and Kai.
There are many reasons why this team works so well, but the biggest thing going for them is their in-ring chemistry. For whatever reason, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez have super complimentary styles that elevate not only themselves but also their opponents in the ring. Not to mention that over the last few months, Gonzalez has really refined her in-ring work and has become one of the major breakout stars of 2020. Winning the Dusty Rhodes Women's Tag-Team Classic would be the icing on the cake for an already stellar year for these two.
Legado Del Fantasma
Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza will be representing Legado Del Fantasma in this year's tournament, and I could not be more thrilled. Since Santos Escobar debuted his new gimmick with Wilde and Mendoza as his counterparts, it had just felt like only a matter of time before they held tag-team gold. Winning the Dusty classic could be the first step for Legado Del Fantasma to be taken seriously in the tag-team division.
Anyone who has kept up with my other opinions knows that I am a total mark for this faction. Their look is great, their characters are fantastic, and they really do a great job of bridging the gap between 205 live and NXT. In fact, that link between the cruiserweight division and NXT proper might be another reason to watch out for Wilde and Mendoza going into the tournament.
Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox
This one might be a major long shot considering that we don't know if Tegan Nox will be back from her most recent injury in time to compete in the classic, but I would give anything to see these two women tagging together again. Back in June of 2020, Tegan and Shotzi put on a fantastic main event title match against then women's Tag-Team champions Sasha Banks and Bayley. While they didn't come out on top, they did a great job of proving that they could hang with some of the best wrestlers on WWE's roster regardless of gender.
While it hasn't been announced that the winners of the women's classic will get a shot at the titles currently held by Asuka and Charlotte Flair, I wouldn't be surprised if that announcement comes within the next few weeks. That being said, Shotzi and Tegan have the kind of widespread babyface appeal that could justify the WWE Women's Tag titles making the trip over to the black and gold.
The Way (Johhny Gargano and Austin Theory)
NXT's heel faction du jour is the fantastic pairing of Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae with Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell. This faction has not only solidified Gargano and LeRae and NXT main eventers, but it has given us a chance to see a new side to Hartwell and Theory. Recently Theory and Gargano have been announced for the classic. While that could mean that we see a wonk finish that furthers The Way's storyline with any of their babyface adversaries, I could also see NXT strapping the rocket to this faction by having them destroy their competition this year.
One big thing to keep in mind is that with LeRae and Hartwell likely at ringside, the numbers advantage lies firmly with The Way in the majority of their matchups. This could help not just Gargano and Theory but also their counterparts.
The Way (Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell)
In my bold predictions for NXT in 2021 article, I advocated for Indi and Candice to win the WWE Women's Tag-Team Championships in order to give Candice the recognition that she deserves while removing her from the NXT Women's Championship scene for a bit to allow for new challengers. LeRae and Hartwell winning the women's classic this year could set in motion the chain of events to make that happen. To be honest, Candice LeRae would likely lead the charge for this team, but still, she is such a fantastic worker that it wouldn't be that big of an issue. Indi Hartwell has gotten better over the last few months, and participating in a tournament like this would give her the kind of regular work that could really help her find her ground in NXT.
Like Gargano and Theory, these two will likely have the numbers advantage in their matches. The Way, regardless of gender, is NXT's shiny new toy, and they would be right to want to give both teams the honor of winning the tournament this year. The biggest obstacle for LeRae and Hartwell is NXT might not want to book LeRae to win considering her recent victory at WarGames, but hopefully, that doesn't factor in for this team.
So there you have it, the six teams I think are best suited to win this year's Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic on both the men's and the women's sides. Who do you think will win this year? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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