Team Taz: The Faction of AEW’s Future

This Sunday’s Revolution event hosts one of the pro wrestling industry’s most stunning comebacks. Standing alongside Darby Allin, Sting is back, appearing in his first match since 2015. Understandably, that’s the story here, an icon’s return, a passing of the torch from one teammate to another. Though not quite as sudden or dramatic though, Sting isn’t this match’s only tale of that ilk. Standing opposite him and Allin will be Team Taz, one of AEW’s most unexpected triumphs in their short, but already eventful history.

Just weeks after Dynamite’s debut, Taz made his first appearance in the promotion, taking a seat at the Dark announce desk. Taz’s excitement was immediately tangible, bringing an energy rich with motivation and optimism. Years removed from a polarising stint in TNA, Taz’s reputation as an announcer had faded somewhat, but he sounded better than ever alongside Excalibur. Months later and he was officially signed, earning a response indicative of his strong showings thus far. In just a few appearances, Taz had earned that contract, plain and simple.

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With that being said, the enthusiasm could only climb so high. After all, AEW already had a star-studded announce team and though Taz warranted a role, his position wasn’t immediately obvious. Instead, Taz would be just another incredibly qualified member of the team, which certainly speaks for itself anyway. However, that soon changed, as Taz accompanied the debuting Brian Cage at Double or Nothing. Nine months later and Taz is arguably the industry’s finest manager, the vicious spokesperson for his increasingly spiteful squad.

That evolution has been extraordinary, even if bizarrely unsurprising. Taz’s skill-set was always suited to this role, it just inexplicably took decades for the surrounding puzzle pieces to find their place. As a manager, Taz was immediately at home, one of the strongest talkers on a product filled with personality. In many ways, Sunday feels like the culmination of this particular chapter, as a fully formed Team Taz enters their first blockbuster PPV bout. Speaking of such, Taz’s original charge is progressing in his own way.

Brian Cage is a familiar face to the ardent viewer, a former Impact World Champion in fact. As a performer, Cage’s unique selling point has always been his athletic range. Armed with an imposing physique, Cage produces bell to bell thrills that stand in contrast to the traditional perception of his look. Cage is a stunning specimen, somehow capable of matching his foe’s most spectacular feats. At times though, that’s a blessing and a curse. Though a rare trait, those instances benefit from the being the exception, not the rule.

With so many monsters emerging on the AEW roster, Cage’s adaptability is certainly a powerful tool. On the other hand however, some rivals require more ‘Machine’ than anything else. Matched with Darby Allin, Cage portrayed his power first and foremost, launching the TNT Champion around with an unapologetic hostility. The flash is striking but that intensity is the ingredient that Team Taz is built around. As the current centerpiece, Cage has become comfortable capturing exactly that, his confidence visibly enhanced by Taz’s presence.

With every match, ‘The Machine’ becomes bigger, more daunting as each victim that falls before him. Offensively, this position was never a challenge but in terms of the mood and sprit surrounding those moves, Cage is swiftly perfecting this persona. The arrival of Ricky Starks certainly didn’t hurt either, joining the faction in July. A complete contrast to Cage, Starks is the group’s boastful and colourful character. That variety has only further defined their roles, allowing a complimentary blend of style and skill, all held together by Taz himself.

Starks shines through the screen, a star at first sight. There’s a palpable polish to his performance, one years beyond Starks’ personal experience on this stage. He just belongs, an obvious addition that regardless of role, felt certain to succeed. Even still, this starting point certainly helped, adding a flavour of violence that’s only amplified Starks’ flair. One year ago, Starks was a standout on the NWA’s fledgling Powerrr product, making an opening statement to the wrestling world. Now the ideal dance partner for Sting, Starks is a trusted talent today and the suspected star of tomorrow.

Starks isn’t alone in that sense either, not even within Team Taz. Though he’s not involved in Sunday’s street fight, Powerhouse Hobbs has quickly become a special element of the faction’s dynamic. Initially an endearing powerhouse, Hobbs was a natural babyface, an organic underdog on arrival. Hobbs had literally fought his way into the promotion, earning a position in front of the audience’s eyes. That made his eventual turn slightly surprising, providing Hobbs with an unexpected clean slate, effectively erasing his emerging identity.

Though daunting, Hobbs’ Team Taz incarnation had the answers to those questions. Sporting a Tyson-esque scowl, Hobbs immediately transformed, embodying a malice that frankly, just isn’t found elsewhere. There’s a venom to Hobbs, a nastiness in his every move. In many ways, Hobbs’ performance captures Team Taz in its purest form, a group of brutal, ferocious fighters. They are cold, cruel killers, battering protagonists with sheer disdain. Major PPV bouts are obviously in Hobbs’ future, even if not at this year’s Revolution.

The same could be said for Taz’s son Hook, who joined the team under far different circumstances. Hook wasn’t the latest hired gun but instead, something far closer to home. Referenced by Cody in a heated exchange with Taz, Hook made family first after his father’s most explosive outburst yet. That moment was indicative of his role thus far, the most obviously personal piece of this particular puzzle. Hook is the route to Taz’s most abrupt rage, the emotional chink in his combative armour. He’s family, the line that can’t, or at least shouldn’t be crossed.

That portrayal is progressing though, as Hook gets increasingly physical with each passing week. The faction’s fight camp feel is only enhanced by Hook’s presence, adding a built-in hierarchy beyond the core trio’s standing. Hook is the rookie, the faction’s overt future, Taz’s most prized protégé. He’s also the unit’s unknown, a brooding x-factor that’s mostly maintained his cool within the chaos, even boldly battling Sting. Taz is visibly protective of Hook, which is perhaps the most human element of a squad that otherwise, is unashamedly callous.

Clearly, Sunday’s show isn’t short on headlines. With an ‘Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch’ leading the way, Revolution looks certain to continue AEW’s brief, but impressive history of PPV hits. In such an evolving landscape though, it’s easy to lose track of the individual ascensions within. Team Taz is a faction of in-ring talent that this time last year, wasn’t even involved in AEW. It’s an act built around Taz, a wrestling legend that not long ago, seemed cemented in his analyst role at the announce desk.

As AEW adds to their third year’s superb start though, this group suddenly feels like a pivotal piece of the empire that’s being built. They may not be the centrepiece of this match, not the titleholder nor titan currently earning everyone’s attention. In truth though, they aren’t supposed to be either. On Sunday, they are the uncomplicated, steady hurdles standing in the star-studded team’s way. They don’t need the spotlight, because their box is already ticked, effortlessly establishing themselves AEW’s fiercest faction.

Even still, that doesn’t change the magnitude of this moment and what it symbolizes for each man’s career. This is a signature bout for all involved, the perfect encapsulation of Taz’s importance, a sign of Cage’s relevance and ideally, Starks’ first marquee match of many. One day, this may be a mere memory, a step along the road to superstardom but if so, it’ll certainly be a memorable one. This faction is a unique mix of talent and timing, clicking in a fashion that’s obvious with each united step they take.

Regardless of what’s next, Team Taz is one of AEW’s finest success stories thus far. It’s a collection of contrasting journeys that stand together, each assisting each other as they climb the promotion’s ranks. For some, it’s another chapter of greatness and for others, simply their first but these names are now tied together, forever linked in history. AEW’s future could be found within this squad of stars but first, they have a major role to play at Revolution. For now, they are the timeless act simply made for a moment like this.

Team Taz are a throwback unit, the ultimate antagonists that simplify an increasingly complex scene. On Sunday, that makes them roadblocks, the fitting foils for a PPV attraction that only recently, seemed unfathomable. This isn’t really their story but one day, it could be and to me, that captures this faction’s potential better than I, or even Taz, ever could.

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