FTR — Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler — are the best wrestlers in the world.
I’m not even sure it’s all that close right now. This is always a subjective debate, but if we’re going on who has put on the most matches this year that had everyone talking, FTR is Secretariat-distance ahead of the field. Roman Reigns may be the biggest name in the industry, but the fact that he gets in a ring once every two months — and it’s almost always against Brock Lesnar — rules him out. Seth Rollins may be doing the best work of his career, but again, his big matches come sporadically and he spent too much time getting punked out by Cody Rhodes (admittedly a personal bias, but I’m calling the shots here). There’s been a late push from, shockingly, Chris Jericho, who has spent the past few weeks throwing out banger after banger that he really has no right to be producing at his age, but that’s only a late surge.
Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson are always easy choices, and you wouldn’t be wrong to suggest them. But most of their matches if not all have been contained to AEW television, and perhaps their standard is just so high it’s hard for them to stand out.
Ever since about March though, whenever FTR gets in the ring, the whole wrestling world becomes inflamed, if not downright riotous. People don’t just talk about “Match of the Year” whenever the bell closes out another FTR match. They say things like “best match I’ve ever seen.”
Both their matches with the Briscoes for the ROH titles have set a standard for tag team wrestling that just about no one else is going to get within a zip code of. Of course, FTR set the standard to be surpassed years ago in their textbook feud with Team DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa) in NXT. When FTR claimed the AAA tag titles in Mexico over Dragon Lee and Dralístico, most agreed that would have been a candidate for match of the year if FTR hadn’t then gone on to do their wrestling version of Exile on Main St. with the Briscoes. Their claiming of the IWGP tag titles at Forbidden Door over Roppongi Vice and United Empire would have gotten a lot more acclaim if it hadn’t come on the heels of the first match with the Briscoes. Or had they not put on a six-man humper next to Trent Beretta against United Empire a couple of weeks before on Rampage.
Somehow, their first matchup with Motor City Machine Guns at All Out, a match that fans had been concocting in the lab of their minds for years, felt a little flat, mostly because of the work that FTR had been doing the rest of the year, and also because it was a needless six-man affair (then again, everything is needless if Jay Lethal is involved). And then, this past weekend, FTR had another classic on NJPW’s show in England against United Empire again, retaining the NJPW titles and setting themselves up to be a major part of Wrestle Kingdom in January.
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For a tag team, it is an unprecedented run, not really seen recently since New Day and the Usos were being hurled at each other every three weeks by Vince McMahon and yet somehow making it work.
Of course, the problem, and one that FTR has been pointing out pretty regularly recently, is that so little of it has taken place on AEW TV. FTR hasn’t appeared on either Dynamite or Rampage by themselves as a tag team since May (!). There have been six-man tags with Wardlow or Danhausen or others, and Dax Harwood has been in a fair amount of singles matches (also all great, even if he loses them all), but the best tag team in the world has not been on TV in nearly six months. How can this be?
It might just be that they’re too good.
While it seems preposterous, there hasn’t been a window for them really. It’s hard to put FTR in simple tag matches below the title for too long, because then it becomes quite obvious they need to be wrestling for the titles. The AEW tag titles started the year by being won by Jurassic Express in January. Both FTR and Jurassic Express are face teams, and while FTR can do anything you ask of them, it is easier to make Jurassic Express look good by having them defend against teams that aren’t quite on their level instead of one team we all know is beyond them.
When the Young Bucks defeated Jurassic Express in June for the titles, AEW was in the midst of pushing both Swerve In Our Glory (Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland) and the now-split duo of Powerhouse Hobbs and Ricky Starks. Which they should, because both of those teams are fantastic. And both needed the rub of chasing gold.
Swerve in Our Glory took the tag titles off the Bucks within a month, but you don’t give a team shine by having them immediately drop the belts. They need some burn with it. And who in their right mind would buy that a team thrown together only a couple of months before is really going to take down FTR?
Soon came the rise of The Acclaimed, and it’s the kind of organic push that no smart company gets in the way of. But again, as popular as The Acclaimed has become, no one’s going to seriously just go with them beating FTR without shenanigans, which would fly right in the face of their newfound babyface charge. It was the same for Swerve In Our Glory, who were also faces until they came up against the overwhelming force of popularity The Acclaimed were. Heel Swerve would have been a great adversary for FTR, but AEW rightly pulled the trigger on The Acclaimed.
And The Acclaimed need some time with the titles too, to fully squeeze everything out of their current buzz. So can you really throw FTR at them? FTR could make any story work, but are we seriously going to accept a team that currently holds the tag titles in three different countries doing the job for The Acclaimed? Come on. That day may come, but The Acclaimed need to rack up a few defenses before it does.
So where do you put FTR? The Bucks aren’t around thanks to their handbag-related suspension, and even still AEW has always wanted to save another Bucks-FTR match for a big occasion. So who else? Jurassic Express is no more, as is House Of Black. Santana and Ortiz are in injury hell, and the Hardy Boyz are in Jeff Hardy hell. The Lucha Bros. are currently trios champs and nowhere near the tag titles, though that could change. For now, FTR looks to be locking up with Gunn Club, whom they really should ritually kill. Does that buy enough time for The Acclaimed to justifiably stand in a ring with the best the industry has to offer right now? Maybe something with Andrade and Rush to buy more time?
As deep as AEW’s tag division is, there just isn’t anyone on FTR’s level right now, especially without the Bucks. And it may take even more time to get someone there. It truly is something to be so good that your own company can’t find a spot for you.