On Monday night, The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) finally reached the pinnacle of tag team wrestling in WWE, winning main roster titles for the first time since their main roster debut on April 3, 2017. It’s been a long road to the top for Dawson and Wilder but now that they are there and healthy, there’s no reason to think that the Revival won’t enjoy a long, prosperous reign as Raw tag team champions. There’s also no reason to believe that these two can’t lead a main roster tag team revolution to bring the division back to relevance, much like they did three years ago in NXT.
Started from the Bottom…
In June 2014, during an NXT live show, Scott Dawson, who had signed a developmental contract two years prior and who was just returning from injury, was teamed up with new signee, Dash Wilder. The two weren’t a former team on the indies, they had never wrestled either with or against each other period. They barely even shared the same promotion as Dawson came up through the Carolinas and Wilder spent most of his early years with Georgia’s Anarchy Wrestling. In 2012, they both worked for Pro Wrestling EVO but their paths didn’t cross as Dawson worked dates in June and August and Wilder worked dates in April and September. But there they were, two Southern boys both from North Carolina, both with symmetrical styles, who WWE saw fit to pair together.
It was then that the Mechanics was born. The duo was used primarily at live events as WWE experimented with their gimmick to see how people would react. On July 17 (episode aired on July 31), Dawson and Wilder made their televised/network NXT debut in a losing effort against Bull Dempsey and Mojo Rawley. The Mechanics weren’t meant to be winners, they were out there to do a job. As Dash Wilder recounted in an interview with ESPN’s Brian Campbell, “There was never any red carpet debut. There was never a big fuss, it was just, ‘You will go out there and have a match and it might be three minutes and then bye, bye.’ I don’t think anybody expected us to become champions.”
The fuel to prove their doubters wrong, doubters which included key decision makers and WWE officials, led the Revival to fight even harder for their place in the company. They were going out there to get other teams over but were doing it with intensity and passion, two traits that are never going to be ignored for long. It didn’t happen overnight, in fact it took almost exactly a year to the day after their NXT TV debut (July 16, 2015), and months of dark matches and sub-four minute matches, for the team to record their first televised/network victory. It came against Enzo Amore and Big Cass in a match that lasted 6:30, which at the time was the longest non-live event match Dawson and Wilder had recorded. It also came with the duo re-branded as simply Dash and Dawson.
In August 2015, Dash and Dawson entered the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic where they reached the semifinals, losing to eventual champions, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor at TakeOver:Respect. The match marked the duo’s PPV/network special debut. But Dash and Dawson weren’t done there. With a year of honing their craft and finding their rhythm with each other, Dash and Dawson got their first real shot at the NXT tag team championships and did not let it go to waste. In October, the pair defeated the Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch and Aiden English), who they had been feuding with at live events, to capture their first career titles as a team.
The Arrival of the Revival
About halfway into their tag title reign, following successful defenses against the Vaudevillains and Enzo and Big Cass, Dash and Dawson were re-branded once again, but this time the name stuck. Now the Revival, Dawson and Wilder’s gimmick took their old school smashmouth style and presented in a way in which the duo saw themselves reviving tag team wrestling and making it relevant again. The Revival called themselves “Top Guys” and they were exactly that, on top and reinventing or rather reinvigorating tag team wrestling and reminding everyone of just how great the art can be.
In April 2016, at TakeOver: Dallas, in a tag team match that is still talked about to this day, the Revival found themselves the perfect dance partner in the form of American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan). Another team that was brought together based on the similar styles and in this case, amateur wrestling backgrounds of the two wrestlers, the babyface American Alpha were the perfect protagonists to the Revival’s antagonists. They were also the perfect team to stand toe-to-toe with the Revival and put on a series of tag team classics, the impact of which still looms large. It’s also a rivalry that both Dawson and Wilder still cite as hugely important in their own careers.
“You can’t overlook the stuff we did with American Alpha,” Dawson told Campbell. “At the time, I don’t want to say [it was] revolutionary, but it was just going back to the basics and reintroducing it to a new audience. That’s where I believe we started to shine. I think that’s where the evolution of Dash and Dawson actually began.”
Gable and Jordan were flashy, technical and soon became crowd favorites. The Revival were their foil. Wilder and Dawson became known for the slogan, “No flips, just fists” a reference to the fact that they weren’t about the pomp and circumstance but rather the in-ring beatings they gave out to opponents and win by any means necessary philosophy they employed in their matches. Compared to Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the two utilized such tactics as cutting the ring in half, perfecting tags and really just employing all of the great and in some cases long forgotten elements of tag team wrestling. Much of this was on full display at TakeOver: Dallas and TakeOver: The End, with perhaps the best example coming on a June 2016 episode of NXT where the black-and-yellow brand’s two best tag teams met in a two-out-of-three falls match that absolutely stole the show.
The Revival regained the tag team titles at TakeOver: The End, their second straight Dave Meltzer rated four-star match against American Alpha. But the feud needed its rubber match and it came in the form of a 22-minute two-out-of-three falls encounter which has been lauded as the best in the trilogy and one of the best non-TakeOver matches in NXT history. The chemistry, the psychology, the tactics, the spots, the storytelling, it was all there. The Revival, who were voted NXT’s Tag Team of the Year in 2016, emerged victorious but neither team was worse for wear, capping one of the best feuds in NXT that year and setting both duos up as ones ready to get the call-up sooner rather than later. But the Revival’s time in NXT wasn’t done as they enjoyed yet another fantastic feud, one that went on to win NXT’s Feud of the Year, against #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano).
Both American Alpha and Enzo and Big Cass were main roster bound early-on in 2017 but the Revival stayed in NXT. Not for lack of skill, but rather to elevate the next great tag team in the form of, you guessed it, two other guys WWE brought together with little to no history between them. The Revival vs #DIY was a barnburner feud with their first two matches both rating 4.5 stars on Meltzer’s scale and the second, at TakeOver: Toronto being named WWE’s Match of the Year in 2016.
At the time, these were the only two such tag team matches in NXT history to hit 4.5. Today, there are five such matches which stand as the top rated NXT tag team matches, the Revival have been in three of them. The afforementioned third match was their NXT farewell and it came at TakeOver: Orlando where the Revival fought against #DIY and Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar). The next night, NXT’s Top Guys made their main roster debut, showing up on Raw to stake their claim to the division.
Climbing Back to the Top
It seemed the Revival were set for a push right out of the gate as in back-to-back weeks, Dawson and Wilder defeated the New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E). But just two weeks into their debut, Wilder fractured his jaw and was out of commission for about eight weeks. The team returned in July, defeating the Hardys and then the Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) in subsequent weeks. The Revival started to work programs with The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) on the live event circuit as it seemed a televised feud with the Raw tag team champions was well on the way but then the injury bug bit again, this time in a ruptured bicep for Dawson. The injury left the Revival out of action for just over four months. The team returned to action in December, going on to defeat Heath Slater and Rhyno and the Club before losing their first Raw match in March against the Bar.
The starts and stops due to injuries had really hurt the Revival’s momentum as well as had its effects on the team’s ability to get over with the crowd. With tag team wrestling as a whole seeming to take a backseat in WWE, the Revival found themselves mostly wrestling at live events and on Main Event. In May 2018, the Revival once again entered into a live event program with the champions, then the Deleters of Worlds (Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt), but it wasn’t until August that Dawson and Wilder got their first TV shot at the titles, doing so in a losing effort against Deleters of Worlds and then champs, the B-Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas).A month later, the Revival received their first two-on-two televised title opportunity, losing to Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler.
Unable to capture the titles, the Revival ended up in a dead-end feud with Lucha House Party (Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik) where they complained about the use of Lucha House Rules. It was in the midst of this feud that it was reported that Dawson and Wilder had requested their WWE releases. The releases were not granted but according to Wrestling Observer, the Revival were made a promise instead. WWE told the team that the intent was to re-focus on tag team wrestling, perhaps in a direct counter to All Elite Wrestling promising the same, and that the Revival would be the ones as the face of that new revolution. After all, they had found great success in that role in NXT and now, WWE is in sore need of help with their main roster tag team division, especially on Raw. There is no better team to help spearhead that forward.
It didn’t take long for that promise to be fulfilled and that push to be materialized. The Revival were almost immediately throw into a program with Chad Gable and Jason Jordan receiving more opportunities at the Raw tag titles in the past two months than they had their entire main roster run. After winning a #1 contendership match last week, the Revival received their title match on Monday night. The near-20 minute match was the final match of the show and it was well worth its main event slot. Gable and Roode continued to gel and the Revival did what they did best. Together, with 3/4 of the men who began the NXT tag team boom, the Revival, Gable and Roode may have kicked off one of their own. The four men worked well off each other and in the end, after a match that no doubt reminded fans just how exciting and entertaining tag team wrestling can be, the Top Guys finally reached the pinnacle.
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) February 12, 2019
— WWE (@WWE) February 12, 2019
Now, it’s their job to stay there and hopefully usher in the next era of great tag team wrestling in WWE.