WWE NXT fans were pleased as punch last week when William Regal opened the show with the announcement that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic would be returning, culminating in the finals at NXT TakeOver: Toronto the weekend of Survivor Series. The first Dusty Classic was an acclaimed tournament won by the team of Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe, who became forever-enemies shortly thereafter.
WWE had been slowly rolling out the teams who would be involved in the tournament on social media and now we have the full field of 16! Let’s take a look at the competitors who will attempt to get their names etched on the prestigious trophy this year, in order of when they were announced.
Andrade “Cien” Almas and Cedric Alexander
These two may seem like an unlikely pairing … and they are! The two competitors earned one another’s respect after a hard-fought main event matchup on NXT a couple of weeks ago (the week that CWC standout Alexander debuted on both Raw and NXT, as a matter of fact), so now they’re joining forced to try to make it to those big silver boots. Will they be able to stay on the same page? Who knows!
NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)
The current reigning, defending two-time NXT tag champs would seem to have an advantage in this tournament, being the class of the division and all. But then again, that’s what we thought of then-champions The Vaudevillains in last year’s Dusty Classic, and they were defeated in the second round … by Dash and Dawson.
The Revival were defeated in the semifinals last year by eventual tournament winners Bálor and Joe, so they definitely — on paper, at least — are the favorites heading into this one.
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa
The oxymoronic Team Do It Yourself would appear to be another heavy favorite for the tournament, having spent the past few months winning over the hearts and minds of NXT fans and just coming up short in their quest for the tag titles at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. Then again, Gargano was a favorite for the CWC after advancing past Ciampa and he lost in the next round, so maybe the hard-luck underdogs won’t get very far in this tournament, either.
Gargano and Ciampa appeared in last year’s tournament, winning their first-round match against the odd team of Tyler Breeze and Bull Dempsey, but lost in their next match to eventual finalists Rhyno and Baron Corbin.
Perfectly Glorious (Tye Dillinger and Bobby Roode)
Many fans speculated that Roode and Austin Aries — who were both without partners — would reform the Dirty Heels and run roughshod over the Dusty Classic, but apparently there are other plans. Roode approached Dillinger after his match last week and said he can help mold him into the perfect 10 he claims to be, and that the two of them should team up. Dillinger accepted, and wants to use the Dusty Classic as a way to honor his mentor better than he felt he did when Rhodes was still with us. These two NXT darlings have a lot of potential … and their entrance should be one for the ages.
Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss
Some fans will be familiar with Tino “Sabby” Sabbatelli through his appearances on Breaking Ground. Both he and Moss have been working NXT live events for a very long time, but the Dusty Classic will be their first chance to show what they can do both as a tag team and in a first round showcase match. Hopefully they don’t just run into the Authors of Pain right away.
Hideo Itami and Kota Ibushi
Well now, THIS was certainly unexpected when WWE announced it. Hideo has been cutting a path through NXT since returning from injury, and Ibushi was possibly THE favorite to win the entire CWC before losing in the semifinals via “didn’t sign a contract.” Every other team in the tournament should protect their precious faces ASAP, because the kicks will be hard and bountiful.
TM-61 (Shane Thorne and Nick Miller)
These Australians have the potential to be the next major challengers to the Revivals’ spot as the top tag team in the world. Shane Thorne and New Girl‘s Nick Miller will be looking to leave a lasting impression with a deep run in the tournament, and their ratio of flips to fists might be just what the doctor ordered.
The Bollywood Boyz (Harv Sihra and Gurv Sihra)
These crowd-pleasing CWC competitors will finally get a chance to show WWE crowds what they do best: tag-team wrestling. Maybe the reigning GFW tag champs will use this opportunity to jump-start that GFW/WWE invasion storyline we’ve all been waiting for. Probably not, though.
Nico Bogojevic and Tucker Knight
LOS HOSS BOYS. Tucker Knight has appeared many times on NXT television, always in a losing role and usually as part of a tag team (in fact, he and Elias Samson(!) lost to the Revival in the first round of last year’s tournament). This will be the debut of Bogojevic and the first we’ve seen of these two as a team. But they’re certainly bringing the beef to the tournament and are the only competitors in the field who are a comparable size to the Authors of Pain. Will they meet their meat destiny?
No Way Jose and Rich Swann
They both dance, you see. These two fun-loving fellas will definitely get the crowd fired up, but how far this makeshift team can go is anybody’s guess. This is a classic pairing of powerhouse and high flyer, but to extremes we haven’t seen in WWE or NXT in a long time.