I remember the first time I saw an Ascension match. I have to say, I was impressed. I like tag team wrestling, and I like dedicated tag teams with a team name, gimmick, and a cool tandem finish. Konnor and Viktor have that, along with a brutal, smashmouth style that was a lot of fun to watch. It left me wanting to see more. The Ascension might not be former indy darlings and they might not be part of a long and storied wrestling family, but they have a good presence and they look like a tag team. After that very first match I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of the greatest tag teams of all time — the Road Warriors.
Now, I’m not saying that the Ascension are on the same level as Hawk and Animal in either the talent department, the charisma department, or the general brutality department. That’s just crazy talk. The business that spawned the Road Warriors was a lot different from the sports entertainment of today, and their years of experience around the globe set them head and shoulders above most tag teams that ever laced up boots. I’m just saying that, without the Road Warriors, there would be no Ascension. You can see the inspiration in terms of style and presentation. In all honesty, it makes sense, why wouldn’t an up and coming tag team want to pattern their game after one of the best? Every tag team should want to be like the Legion of Doom.
After a successful run in NXT highlighted by a nearly year-long run as tag champions, The Ascension got their call up to the main roster and the parallels with the Road Warriors became even clearer. The team added shoulder pads to their ring entrance and along with face paint, which were hallmarks of the Legion of Doom. Not only that, but they adopted a promo style that walks a thin line between homage and straight imitation of Hawk and Animal. Seeing the change, I began to worry that maybe WWE was trying too hard to turn the Ascension into a new age Road Warriors. I liked the idea of a team inspired by the Road Warriors a lot more than the notion of a watered down carbon copy. However, the entire thing took a solid left turn when The Ascension basically acknowledge the comparison by claiming to be better than the Road Warriors in a promo on Raw. That decision to bash legends like Hawk and Animal ended up launching a minor controversy across social media. Former WWE stars went on Twitter to register their disgust. Fans began booing the team when they came to the ring. Somehow the Ascension were getting over as heels by picking a fight with a tag team they can never actually fight. In short, it was actually really good booking.
I have no doubt that, behind the scenes, Konnor and Viktor have the utmost respect for Hawk and Animal. But when it comes to the on-screen characters, why shouldn’t the Ascension talk trash about the Road Warriors, or anyone else for that matter? It doesn’t do any harm to the Legends. No matter what The Ascension says, the Road Warriors are still Hall of Famers with countless titles under their belts. Standing on the shoulders of giants won’t hurt the legends, and The Ascension can’t actually hurt the Road Warriors. Guys like Hawk and Animal are already cemented in history and they don’t need to be protected anymore, their legacy is as solid as it’s ever been. On the other hand, Konnor and Viktor are still looking to make their mark and they have a long way. Legends can be building blocks for the future of the business, and since their call up to their call up The Ascension has been using those tools better than just about anyone. It was exciting to see where it was building to, until we saw that destination.
As is too often the case, WWE seems destined to bungle the situation. Creative showed us all that they have forgotten how to help heels build heat and that they are willing to trade in slow builds for cheap nostalgia pops. Ever since The Ascension came onto the scene on Raw and fired their opening salvo against the Road Warriors and Demolition, they have gotten nothing but disdain from JBL, the supposed “heel” announcer. JBL has continually buried the team for beating up enhancement talent in squash matches, basically stifling the entire purpose of those matches. If that wasn’t enough, someone thought it would be a good idea on the “Raw Reunion” to feed The Ascension to the APA, the nWo, and the New Age Outlaws. The Legends get one night of cheering, and The Ascension gets sent back to square one. Wins and losses might not mean too much anymore on WWE TV, but getting steamrolled by retired former stars is a great way to kill a push. As I write this, The Ascension defeated the New Age Outlaws at the Royal Rumble. Far from a completely one-sided beat down victory for the Ascension to regain some credibility, but at this point it’s more damage control. WWE now finally look to be building equity and making steps forward, The Ascension came out of the Royal Rumble looking a lot better than they went into it. This past week on Raw, the commentary team began to talk about how impressive their victory over the former 6 time WWE Tag Team Champions of the World was, as they knocked off Gold & Stardust.
I think there is a definite place for The Ascension in the WWE. I could see them battling for the tag straps, and I could see them as tag champions. But let me be clear, The Ascension have miles to go before they are close to the realm of the Road Warriors. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, but until that day comes there is no reason they shouldn’t talk smack about any legends or Hall of Famer they want. Hitching their wagon to established names will certainly raise the visibility of The Ascension, and that is never a bad thing. If it makes you angry to hear them say those things or if you want to see someone give them their comeuppance, that means it’s working. WWE just needs to stay out of its own way and let The Ascension rise, even if it is on the iconic spiked shoulder pads of the Road Warriors.