Last night’s episode of NXT programming played host to one of the bigger announcements to come from the black-and-yellow brand since their move to network television last year. In the coming months, the black-and-yellow brand will host its first-ever Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, quenching the thirst that wrestling fans have had for years for a women’s edition of the nearly-annual tournament.
Though no details were announced last night, wrestling fans worldwide are already salivating at what the Women’s Classic could potentially mean for NXT. The men’s tournament has already played host to a number of the brand’s biggest heel turns and major swerves, and with NXT’s women’s division in need of a bit of a soft reset, the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Classic couldn’t have come at a better time.
Of course, every wrestling fan has their favourites, and yours truly is no different. Though the endless buffet that is the WWE has plenty of different flavours of wrestling to choose from, there are a few teams I’m perhaps pining for a bit more than others in this year’s inaugural edition of the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Classic.
Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?
Shotzi Blackheart + Ember Moon
While 2021’s Dusty Rhodes Classic may be the first for the women, this year will mark the sixth tournament for the men since it was introduced in 2015. Since the tourney’s inception – and stop me if you’ve heard this one before – WWE and NXT has made a habit of utilizing singles stars in haphazardly thrown-together tag teams to help fill out the tournament’s brackets. In fact, three of the five winners of the Dusty Rhodes Classic have consisted of teams that traditionally haven’t worked together often, if at all, prior to the tournament. While these teams admittedly usually turn out to be anywhere from solid-to-great, it often seems unnecessary given the already incredible tag teams that NXT is fortunate enough to feature.
When it comes to the women, however, alliances aren’t quite so clear-cut. While babyfaces and heels are prone to aligning simply because, well, they’re good or bad guys, there aren’t a ton of true teams or factions on the female side. That being said, there are a few singles stars that could be feasibly paired together in this year’s tournament, and none more so than Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon.
While by no means an official duo, Blackheart and Moon teamed together at December’s NXT: WarGames event. Even in defeat, the two looked excellent, and there’s certainly a storyline to be built in the two looking for redemption together after what was a hard-fought loss at last month’s show. Frankly, as two of the promotion’s most popular singles stars, there HAS to be a way to work them both into the tournament, right?
While it may seem like taking the easy way out, sometimes the easiest path is the right one to take. Putting two of the most charismatic, athletic talents on the NXT roster together to draw some eyes to a major tournament? Seems like pro wrestling 101 if you ask me!
Dakota Kai + Raquel Gonzalez
For the better part of a year, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez have been linked at the hip. Since Gonzalez made her debut in February, many have compared the duo to the early-’90s pairing of Shawn Michaels and Diesel, with Kai representing the brains to Gonzalez’s considerable brawn. In their time as a pair, the two have picked up victories over Rhea Ripley, Teagan Nox, Ember Moon and picked up the winning pinfall in last month’s WarGames event. Truly, there are few more dominant pairings throughout the entirety of WWE right now, providing the duo the perfect reason to enter the inaugural Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. When a team’s getting compared to one of the all-time greats, at some point they have to prove it, right? Unfortunately, for all of their singles success, rarely have Gonzalez and Kai had the opportunity to showcase their prowess as a team. When they have, they’ve dominated – look no further than the aforementioned WarGames tilt.
It makes too much sense for Kai and Gonzalez to enter this year’s tournament. Not only that, but I’d expect them to go far.
Jessamyn Duke + Marina Shafir
Both Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir have been with WWE for the better part of three years. While the duo have made a number of appearances on NXT programming throughout their time in the promotion – their time as Shayna Baszler’s sidekicks most prominent among them – the two have yet to establish themselves as full-time roster members of the black-and-yellow brand.
Perhaps there could be no better way to do so than through the cozy confines of a tag team tournament?
Much like previous MMA-stars-turned-pro-wrestlers Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler, both Shafir and Duke give an air of legitimacy that’s hard to capture in professional wrestling. It’s the kind of vibe you get from people you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, or any alley, really, lest they kick your ass in front of all of your friends and laugh about it. Having your first true tour of in-ring duty during the Dusty Rhodes Classic may be a daunting task for some, but bringing in two legitimate badasses to refresh the division certainly isn’t the worst idea and especially given the (rumoured) impending departure of Rhea Ripley.
NXT’s in need of two people like Duke and Shafir. I can’t think of a better way to debut ’em.
The Riott Squad
Let’s start a Riott!
Both Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott have been steadily building momentum on Smackdown Live for the past few months. The two haven’t lost a match as a duo since October and are one of the only consistent female tag teams featured on WWE programming.
However, despite their popularity and their in-ring success, neither have found their way to any semblance of gold in WWE.
Frankly, few pairings are better equipped to hoist the 2021 Dusty Cup. Ever since making their main roster debuts, Morgan and Riott have been attached at the hip save for those weird few weeks at the end of 2019. The pair’s relationship is well-documented in WWE lore, even taking a large part of the focus of Morgan’s recent WWE Network special. Heck, even the simple fact that WWE brought the two back together in the midst of breaking up tag teams like The IIconics and Heavy Machinery should speak volumes about their potential as a pairing. They’re winning and they’re popular: why WOULDN’T you put the two on top?
If WWE really wants to solidify a long-term team here, they’ve got the perfect opportunity with The Riott Squad.
Indi Hartwell + Candice LeRae
Another pairing that makes all-too-much sense to feature, the duo of Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell has to be one of the early favourites to win the entire tournament.
The now-Indi Wrestling has been downright excellent since officially aligning with the Gargano family nearly two months ago. Frankly, she’s taken to her brand-new attitude like a duck to water, player her role as the icy-cool heel to perfection.
LeRae, too, has undergone a revitalization of sorts over the past few months. Admittedly, her heel turn was slow to click for this writer, but once she hit the ground, she did so running. A breakout performance at WarGames truly solidified her as one of, if not THE, top women in the division, and after a few failed attempts at dethroning Io Shirai as the NXT Women’s Champion, it’d make all-too-much sense for the Poison Pixie to look to lock up some gold another way. With the momentum that both she and Hartwell have behind them, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them with a big ol’ trophy at the end of the tournament.
The Divas of Doom
Last year’s Dusty Rhodes Classic featured the shocking reunion of The Time Splitters. Despite their first-round loss, wrestling fans were blown away by the appearance. Why not reunite another classic duo under the NXT banner?
I don’t think there are any arguments that the team of Natalya and Beth Phoenix are one of the greatest tag teams of ever, regardless of gender. The two were truly ahead of their era, with both displaying incredible in-ring prowess at a time when perhaps it wasn’t as prominent in WWE’s women’s division as it is today. That fact in-and-of itself is likely enough storyline-wise to bring back the Divas of Doom: why wouldn’t two of the all-time greats want to mix it up with some of the best female tag teams of today’s generation? Natayla’s recent matches have more than proven there’s been no decline as far as her in-ring game goes, and Phoenix has looked outstanding in her Royal Rumble appearances and her WrestleMania 35 match for the Women’s Tag Team titles.
The Divas of Doom are still looking for their first major tag team accolade, and the chance of becoming the first-ever Dusty Cup winners on the women’s side is likely more than enticing enough for one more run.
Could she reunite with former IIconics tag team partner Peyton Royce? Could she appear on commentary? As a special guest ring announcer? Frankly, I don’t care how we get her in there, but the world is better any time Billie Kay makes an appearance on WWE programming. Make it happen!
Who do you want to see in the 2021 Women’s Dusty Rhodes Classic? Laycool? Asuka & Kairi Sane? Another team we’ve neglected to mention?
Let us know in the comments or get in my mentions on the Twitter machine @SpennyLove!