NXT has built a reputation for being daring, relevant and creative, which is more than you can say for WWE’s main brands. They have grown their own stars from the ground up as well as bringing seasoned talent from the indies into the fold.
When the goal was to get from NXT to either Raw or SmackDown, many superstars made the transition and handled the change well. WWE’s Four Horsewomen have all had successful careers after leaving NXT as have all three members of The SHIELD. Although unfortunately, making the jump from NXT to main roster doesn’t always guarantee success.
One NXT acquisition that has lost all momentum since moving to Raw is the team now known as The Viking Raiders. On the independent scene, they were called War Machine and competed in the US, UK and Japan. They had multiple title reigns, including being the IWGP Tag Champions in New Japan Pro Wrestling and the Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions. They showed up in NXT with an impressive resume, whilst undergoing a slight name-change to War Raiders.
During their NXT run, they were incredibly dominant, crushing pretty much every tag team they came across. They partnered with Ricochet and Pete Dunne to defeat The Undisputed Era in a WarGames match, then took the NXT Tag Team Championships from Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong at the next TakeOver.
When the time came to make the jump up to Raw, WWE made more than a few mistakes. They first changed their name from War Raiders to The Viking Experience, a change Vince McMahon reportedly made on a whim moments before they debuted. In addition to that, their individual names changed from “Hanson” and “Rowe” to “Ivar” and “Erik.” After the immediate backlash, WWE panicked and changed their name to The Viking Raiders and renamed their finishing moving ‘The Viking Experience’. If you’re keeping score, that’s three names for one tag team in under two years.
The next big mistake was how they lost their NXT Tag Team Championships. Erik and Ivar showed up on NXT, declared that no one there was capable of beating them and vacated the belts. The only conclusion less satisfying than that would be a Hell in a Cell match ending in a DQ.
Since then, The Viking Raiders have primarily fought local jobbers, crushing them over and over and over again. That’s fine for a while but this went on for months, to the point that people just stopped caring. It’s hard for fans to be engaged in matches when they know one team has absolutely no chance. More recently, they’ve been locked in a feud with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, another well-travelled, successful team WWE can’t figure out how to use. Fans simply aren’t invested in these teams facing off as there are no more stakes in their feud than there was when The Viking Raiders squashed jobbers every night.
Destroying unknown wrestlers and frequent name changes is not how you get talent over. In fact, it’s the opposite.
The culmination of mismanaging one of the most respected tag teams in the world is that they’ve become largely irrelevant in the WWE. That’s tragic. These are two big, powerful men who can move like cruiserweights when the moment calls for it. Their tag team skills are virtually unparalleled but live crowds are increasingly disinterested in their matches. The only time the crowd comes alive is when one of the big men flies.
The Viking Raiders can still become relevant, though.
There are always classic moves like having them switch brands in the upcoming draft or turning them heel. The problem with either of those options is that the core issues The Viking Raiders are suffering with could easily follow them. Nevertheless, there is hope.
The first step in substantial adjustment is to start facing off against other tag teams in more prominent matches. They need to rack up big wins, plain and simple. Crushing local guys that most of the audience have never heard of is a place to start but it’s not enough in the long term. It’s time for The Viking Raiders to mix it up with a variety of the best the WWE has to offer on a regular basis.
The next step is bringing fellow WWE Superstar Sarah Logan, aka Sarah Rowe, into the mix. Erik’s real-life wife competes in the Women’s Division using a similar Viking gimmick. Until recently, she was part of the Riott Squad, a team consisting of her, Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. Since the end of that faction, she has been largely absent from Raw. Adding Sarah to The Viking Raiders allows for new storylines for all parties, an angle that could re-energize all three of their careers.
Finally, The Viking Raiders need championship gold around their waists, or over their shoulders as the case may be. It’s hard to take a dominant tag team seriously when they don’t have a championship. This is a team that have held gold everywhere they’ve gone. It’s time they held gold on Raw, too.
For this tag team to be taken seriously as faces or heels on either brand, these steps are necessary to get them there. Whatever name you know them by, The Viking Raiders are a great tag team. They were fan favorites for years before joining the Raw roster and can be again. WWE just needs to make the right choices.
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