For the second year in a row, the 16th of May has marked a day of notable controversy in the WWE. On this day last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, over a dozen superstars were let go or furloughed from their contracts, giving the date the nickname “Black Wednesday”. This year, neither this mass exodus from the company nor the pandemic that supposedly motivated it is novel concepts. Beloved wrestlers like Samoa Joe and Mickie James were let go this time around to a good deal of fan backlash, but another significant source of outrage has been the release of the fan favourite tag team duo The IIconics.
I don’t think WWE management really foresaw The Iiconics’ release being quite so unpopular online. Since the tag team of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce was divided around a year ago, they’ve faced a drop in screen time. Kay’s character has been adrift without the partnership, instead of being involved in a running gag in which she constantly tries to join new squads in the women’s division only to be swiftly rejected, while Royce was far less involved in major storylines after the 2020 redraft left her and Kay on separate brands. All this has seemed to go over… not well, exactly, but not terrible either. There’s been a general sense of dissatisfaction with the state of the tag team roster in recent months, which hasn’t all been down to a lack of Iiconics content, so I could forgive the naivete of the WWE bookings team for expecting the duo to go quietly.
However, while this slow phasing out of their individual storylines could well have been foreshadowing, it didn’t go unnoticed by fans. According to online fans, the women’s tag division has been losing steam, with many pairings feeling as though they were thrown together haphazardly rather than due to the two superstars having much notable chemistry when wrestling side-by-side. The exception to these mismatched tag teams, aside from the tight-knit Riott Squad, was once The Iiconics. From the semi-serious trash talk, they perfected to the lovable cheesiness of the way they’d announce their team name, like the cartoonish intro that let you know the 1960s Batman was on his way to fight crime, their presence on the roster has been entertaining from the start.
But what has always stood out about The Iiconics was their teamwork. Throughout their time on the main roster, and as far back as in NXT, their synchronised tag style has always indicated that they genuinely enjoy working together. Fans have lapped this up, regularly praising the passion and compatibility of the pair in the ring. In matches where they’ve been disbanded, such as the most recent Royal Rumble, their brief reunion went over brilliantly with fans – even if they only teamed up to take out one or two competitors.
It seems like The Iiconics are a case of wasted potential. I don’t mean this in terms of the performers themselves – both women have clearly demonstrated talent and entertainment value over the years. Billie Kay’s last few months on Smackdown, where she’s continued to provide entertaining segments with her resume gimmick, have highlighted her adaptability in tricky circumstances. These gimmicks could so easily have been irritating enough to make me switch off my laptop, but like many others, their conviction in what they were doing kept me watching. So much more could have been done with their stories.
It’s likely that we’ll see an Iiconics reunion wherever the duo are signed to next, which wasn’t possible in the WWE due to a previous match stipulation, there’s still so much more that could have been done with their storylines. Tag matches against each other to spice up the women’s tag team division, and even solo matches pitting them against fresh new wrestlers, were all on the table. The possibilities were all there in the WWE for these flexible and endearing performers, a pair that easily go over with audiences.
Now, though, it’s up to any brands that snap them up to harness The Iiconics’ talent and form new possibilities. One thing’s for sure, though: The Iiconics brought true heart to the ring, in a way that no grating gimmick could ever outshine.