FTR: A Contrast That Fits

Not long ago, All Out’s Tag Team Title match was nothing more than a fantasy booking scenario. Granted, FTR’s intentions appeared clear, their destination almost inevitable. From the outside looking in at least, it was a matter of when, not if. That didn’t make the possibilities any less worth pondering though, as fans imagined a range of dream matches in the meantime. Hangman Page and Kenny Omega, 2020’s standout team and current AEW Tag Team Champions, certainly belonged on that list. Now just days away, that very match is one of All Out’s central attractions.

With that being said, this isn’t quite the scene we envisioned. After years of speculation, FTR’s triumphant arrival didn’t receive the thunderous reaction that once seemed like a formality. Instead, it was all rather sudden, as AEW talent tried to recapture that excitement as best they could at ringside. These are surreal times across the board, but mainstream wrestling’s almost nonstop response has produced some bizarre moments. FTR’s debut ranks high on that list, the moment we’d been waiting for, suddenly capped by unimaginable circumstances.

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Even if a priceless shine had been taken from it, FTR’s presence was certainly a positive. Harwood and Wheeler were finally in a more suitable situation, landing in the industry leader as far as tag team depth. Those aforementioned dream matches were now readily available too, even if the consensus centerpiece would be understandably delayed. As expected, FTR and The Young Bucks indeed came face to face right away but the result was telling, as while their story got established, their conflict came to a brief pause.

That approach indicated that their eventual clash’s intrigue wouldn’t hinge on the mere matchup itself. This wouldn’t be an immediate payoff, with AEW seemingly striving for more. With that in mind, FTR initially entered as the Bucks’ allies, uniting to battle some of the division’s antagonists. The endgame was always clear but that hasn’t made the execution since any less impressive. Infiltrating The Elite, FTR have befriended Page, capitalizing on his prior issues with The Young Bucks. With Page now dismissed from the group, FTR will look to take his tag title too.

Even if the setting remains without the sense of grandeur we’d come to expect, this match’s appeal can only be so tamed. In terms of just the physical potential here, this already feels truly can’t miss but with the genuine layers of intrigue they’ve added, it appears simply limitless. That’s a credit to the direction in truth, an ongoing saga that arguably, has been wrestling’s strongest case of character development in 2020. Incredibly, when Page’s personal path first appeared at its apex, FTR were still apart of the SmackDown roster.

Page’s story was the focal point for he and Omega’s famed title defense opposite the Bucks. At Revolution, those four made a magic that’ll live forever but yet, AEW’s audience remains hooked to his journey, even six months later. FTR have played a major part in that feat, providing the perfect contrast to The Elite core and in doing so, becoming natural fits alongside Page. While before, that character appeared to be on an island at sorts, he’s now being pulled directly in the other direction.

Now fully fledged villains with Tully Blanchard by their side, FTR have very effectively kept their presentation authentic. They haven’t changed dramatically in terms of behavior; their true colors are simply becoming clearer. Their still appears to be unlocked potential as far as personality too. This isn’t a matter of showing unnecessary range, it’s about FTR knowing their own identity and showing consistent comfort in embracing it. FTR’s in-ring performance isn’t built on glitz and glam, their promos shouldn’t be either. Harwood and Wheeler can be entertaining while remaining genuine, they can be compelling while remaining believable.

In truth though, that element remains somewhat beside the point with FTR. It’s a bonus that their first AEW PPV match comes with such an engrossing tale, encouraging that they are showing versatility. Their signing with AEW remains rooted in-ring though, that shouldn’t change. A pure, traditional tag team, FTR are capable of producing classics and finally, they now feel in position to maximize that talent. It’s already showing too, as the greater emphasis on TV matches has allowed FTR to whet the appetite in their first meetings with multiple AEW teams.

The product’s commitment to satisfying finishes may have its own flaws but thus far at least, it’s allowing FTR to thrive. Clearly, this team wasn’t losing anytime soon, but the time to craft matches with a relative clean slate has heightened the impact of their attention to detail. Even if the result is assumed, there’s a sense that these matches matter and it’s under those scenarios that FTR shine brightest. That speaks to their method, and the ‘throwback’ term so often tied to FTR’s identity, both in compliment and in critique.

Their style’s simplicity doesn’t really require that description though, as its current effectiveness speaks for itself. FTR wrestle with a palpable chemistry, a knowing confidence that connects them. They are meticulous on offense, decisive and diligent throughout. Harwood and Wheeler’s excellence is as much about execution as it is creativity. Conceptually, they seldom seek anything unfathomable. Instead, it’s about the way they do things and why they do them, planting plot points as the pace accelerates. That description works as perfectly for FTR’s performance as it does for their personas.  

This team’s greatest skills are part of their on-screen style and approach. Their passion for the tag team genre entrenched in their every move. There’s a commitment to FTR, a sense that regardless of what their rival team brings, they’ll stay as true as possible to their core beliefs. That doesn’t mean that they avoid any kind of flash either. It means that their tactics color within the lines of a logic befitting their ability. That provides an internal story to each match they have, as with fundamentals and grit, FTR look to impose their will.

Perhaps it’s a comment on the current situation, but it’s certainly not a criticism when I say that thus far, FTR has fit in AEW seamlessly. They feel special because of their story and skill, not due to an internal urge to immediately amplify the hype. That hype was there for a reason and FTR doesn’t require smoke and mirrors. They simply need a fitting presentation to pair with the now available dream matches. That’s been the case and then some after three months, with FTR’s AEW PPV debut coming in a main event worthy title match.

When working under conditions even remotely comparable in the past, FTR have produced matches that stole the wrestling world’s attention. It feels naive to place such expectations upon any match right now but with Page and Omega opposite them, it’s hard to be anything but optimistic about what awaits. This could be a very special match that potentially, could start a defining, historic title reign. The spotlight is there, the tag teams are there and best of all, FTR are now there too.

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