Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross: A Tag Team Turning Point

Since being announced in December last year, the WWE Women’s Tag Titles have if nothing else, been a major topic of discussion. At first, they appeared to be an obvious vehicle for the on-again, off-again pairing of Sasha Banks and Bayley. Once NXT rivals, Banks and Bayley had remained linked for better or worse, often appearing without an endgame seeming in sight. Those titles provided a perfect climax for the pair’s reunited friendship, an increase in the stakes surrounding their constant tag team outings.

Initially, that’d indeed be the direction too, but a polarizing WrestleMania decision would soon shift things dramatically. To the surprise of some, The IIconics left ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ as champions and just days later, neither Banks nor Bayley were in the tag title picture. That particular tale is well-documented and thankfully, can now simply become just another memory but at the time, the title change left things in a somewhat uncertain state. Regardless of opinion or perception, The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection were an ideal centrepiece to build around. Unfortunately though, that was no longer an option.

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Banks and Bayley also provided a trusty consistency inside the ropes, previously proving their worth against a wide range of opponents. As they went their separate ways though, a new tandem was formed, with Asuka and Kairi Sane becoming the Paige-assisted Kabuki Warriors. On the surface, that appeared to be an encouraging decision. Ideally, it’d only make Sane’s main roster transition smoother and moreover, it would also provide the division with a fresh tag team that shared incomparable in-ring skill and stature. They’d have cowardly champions to chase as well and suddenly, a new title direction appeared relatively promising.

In truth though, much of that already muted optimism was soon proved misplaced. No consistent direction defined The IIconics reigns as instead, they were featured almost sporadically on WWE TV. Though the titles stayed around Kay and Royce’s waists for four months, their time as champions often felt aimless. Creatively, it was unfocused and when utilized, The IIconics were rarely presented as a formidable figureheads. Considering their on-screen personalities, that was probably fitting as well but combined with the lack of focus, it diminished the titles’ importance in general.

A fresh chapter suddenly felt required, a reset button to alter the division’s fortunes. Thankfully, an ideal option had emerged in the meantime. Three months ago, Nikki Cross replaced Alexa Bliss in the Money in the Bank match and since, their budding friendship has been a revelation within the main roster landscape. What initially appeared as a solitary segment soon developed into an ongoing saga, with the duo showing palpable chemistry in each and every showing. The pairing was beneficial for both, as Cross earned a staggering increase in exposure while Bliss received a potentially fresh direction along the way.

After previously betraying almost everyone in her path, Bliss could now finally develop as a character, righting prior wrongs and forming a genuine alliance at last. That initially appeared possible too, with the charismatic tandem looking likely to challenge The IIconics only weeks after uniting. Unfortunately, that direction was delayed though, as the tag titles once again took a backseat while Bliss and Cross focused on Bayley. In the process, some subtlety felt stripped from their friendship too, with a seemingly inevitable split suddenly feeling as likely as ever.

Thankfully though, that quite obvious route has for now at least, been avoided. Instead, Bliss and Cross’ were committed to as a team, swiftly entering the tag title picture for a fatal 4-way match with Fire and Desire, The Kabuki Warriors and The IIconics. The match felt like a pivotal moment in the division’s short history, providing the perfect starting point for a brand new championship chapter. Seemingly removed from the SummerSlam line-up, the four duos would also have a chance to maximize the Monday Night RAW spotlight, making the most of an initially disappointing situation.

In execution, those two feats would eventually be achieved too, with the teams combining to overcome their match’s short notice circumstances. The outing neatly highlighted each pairing and by its culmination, had escalated encouragingly. Moreover, the outcome felt necessary too, as Bliss and Cross became Tag Team Champions. Opinions aside, that simply felt like the logical choice. Regardless of the landscape surrounding her, Bliss had always been a prominent player on WWE TV and Cross was quickly following suit. Ideally, that trend would bring the titles to relevance too, allowing the other teams to feature more as a result.

Well, in the week following their title win, that line of thinking has already been somewhat validated. Though allegedly displaced from SummerSlam, Bliss and Cross would appear after all, defending their titles against The IIconics in a comedic pre-show encounter. By the event’s conclusion, that particular match may not have been a talking point but their presence was a positive, especially considering the in-ring absence of the RAW and SmackDown Tag Team Champions. One night later and the new titleholders built on that effort too, sharing an enjoyable RAW tilt with the aforementioned Kabuki Warriors.

The match was yet another step forward but it’s undeniable that in truth, there’s still a very long way to go. After The IIconics’ presentation, it’s certainly understandable that Bliss and Cross are being established as impressive and capable champions. In fact, that feels logical. However, the list of potential challengers is already slim and after just one week, those options appear fewer than ever. While an inevitable clash with Fire and Desire still remains, it’s obvious that at some point or another, more teams simply have to be formed.

Moreover, some consistency needs to be found with the champions’ presentation as well. While there’s an argument for keeping Bliss and Cross versatile in their portrayal, it feels as though now more than ever, a direction needs to be chosen. Both options certainly have potential too, with Cross following Bliss’ villainous ways or alternatively, continuing as the engaging, almost odd couple tandem that appeared at SummerSlam. Either way, a clear choice would allow the audience to either embrace or loathe their new Women’s Tag Team Champions. That feels pivotal, particularly as they now provide the base that this division will be built upon.

In just six months, these long-awaited titles have certainly sparked some debate. In history, their original direction will be forever tied to Sasha Banks’ publicized hiatus, one of 2019’s largest wrestling talking points. It also resulted in Beth Phoenix’s brief in-ring return, allowing ‘The Glamazon’ to fittingly shine on the WrestleMania stage. Those two tales are central within these titles’ fleeting past, but it’s also impossible to ignore the disappointment that surrounded The IIconics’ handling as champions. Ideally though, this current chapter will make the latter more of an outlier than a forecast of what followed.

It’s hard to dismiss any pessimism or reluctance that surrounds these titles as so far, their management has warranted that response. Timing is everything though and in Bliss and Cross, this division suddenly has the necessary champions at the essential time. Right now, those titles simply need exposure, characters that can make them matter regardless of their segment’s importance. Due to their chemistry and Bliss’ prior exploits, this pairing provides exactly that. Eventually, that can hopefully result in far greater feats but for now at least, this is ideal.

Concerns may rightly shroud what could happen next but in my mind at least, it’s undeniable that overall, this week was a positive one for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles. That certainly doesn’t promise a trend and in just a few weeks’ time, could prove an outlier within itself though at the moment, it’s hard to deny that now more than ever, a shift in perception feels possible. With Bliss and Cross as focal points, things could change. That doesn’t mean they will of course but it must be said: if they don’t now, it feels unlikely that they ever will.

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