Out of all the wonderful things AEW has given wrestling fans—a long-needed alternative to WWE, the emotional depth of “Hangman” Adam Page, everything about Jade Cargill—one of the more historically interesting things about its fictional world is the evolution of the Team Taz concept. In 1997 ECW, Team Taz was basically just a collective of young boys in black and orange t-shirts who had to withstand Bill Alfonzo blowing that damn whistle without earplugs. The group was given an entire new life in AEW; a deceptively diverse blend of top stars, rising stars, and Taz’s son Hook shadowboxing under the learning tree. Over the course of big wins, gutting losses, failed recruits, and savage beatdowns, Team Taz—guided by Taz himself and staffed by Brian Cage, Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, and the aforementioned Hook—has stood out in AEW’s vast landscape of warring collectives as a fraternity of no-nonsense ass-kickers.
Over the course of the past few months, however, Brian Cage—seemingly remembering that he’s meat truck bad ass—has expressed his displeasure with Team Taz cheating to win instead of simply allowing him to win matches on his own. After repeated interference in his matches and partners (i.e. Starks) more concerned with showing ass than kicking ass and going home, Cage has even stated publicly he’s thinking about ending things with Team Taz, which has set the rivalry between him and Starks on edge. Taz is sick of their fighting, so are Hook and Hobbs. It has gotten to the point where both Cage and Starks are perilously close to having their Team Taz membership revoked, especially with Starks bringing out his own personal security to make overtures toward Cage’s wife Melissa Santos. On Wednesday’s Dynamite, Cage and a newly-cleared Starks will go at it one-on-one, as the number one tenet of Team Taz is competition.
With tonight’s simmering grudge match being one of this week’s marquee events, it’s only right to unveil this scientific ranking of each member of Team Taz— in order from least to most essential—just so we know where things stand.
Not to bring the pernicious influence of Cody Rhodes on AEW’s product too far into this, but Hook’s inclusion in Team Taz came from a snide remark the supposed prestige hero of AEW slipped into a storyline for no real reason. Cody proclaimed was the one being beset with the responsibility of training Taz’s own son. The very next week, Hook was rolling with the group, pretty much because Cody couldn’t help himself. Hook rounding out the bottom of this list has not much more to do with the fact that he has yet to compete officially in a match. Hook represents the Team Taz of yore; learning from the sidelines and occasionally giving his fraternity brothers an unfair advantage. But he seems to have a tremendous upside, with skills that can only be learned as the son of a Human Suplex Machine and a judo throw that would make Ronda Rousey’s eyelids perk up.
Is it blasphemous to rank Taz so low in a ranking of his group? I doubt the man himself would take it too personally since he’s unable to get in the ring and show his proteges by doing. He does, however, provide the thematic vision and ethos of his group by being their advisor and mouthpiece. (As well as getting into occasional, ancillary feuds with visionary rapper JPEGMAFIA.) It also has to be said that although he did a great job recruiting the crew’s current members, Team Taz’s failure to bring Darby Allin, “Hangman” Adam Page, and Christian Cage into the fold knocks a few points off the group’s influence on the rookie prospect and free agent markets. As a commentator—guesting during every Team Taz match and in his regular role on AEW Dark—Taz shines as a salty, no-nonsense, exorbitantly knowledgeable analyst. Certainly there would be no Team Taz without its namesake, but even the Human Suplex Machine knows it also wouldn’t exist if he were the one who had to shoulder the load. His vision is clearly focused on the future.
3. Ricky Starks
Let’s not kid ourselves; “Absolute” Ricky Starks is easily one of the most exciting performers in AEW, full-stop. His in-ring repertoire is dazzling and the guy could talk a lion out of a steakhouse. Since being a foundational member of the contemporary version of Team Taz, he’s performed Darby Allin cosplay and nearly took the TNT Championship from the film school dropout skate goth he mocked so relentlessly (and hysterically). In recent weeks, however, Starks has proven himself to be more of a liability to Team Taz than an asset, allowing his professional jealousy of Brian Cage to lead him to act irrationally and obnoxiously. He’s nearly sacrificed wins in tag matches with Cage, he once paid for his own security just to disclose his desire to sleep with Cage’s wife Melissa Santos on primetime television. Starks is the true wild card of Team Taz, because the question remains: Is his immense talent worth footing the bill for his reckless lack of discipline?
2. Brian Cage
One question was revealed to kick off the next generation of Team Taz, one which sounded a lot like the quandary that guided Taz through a reign of terror in mid-’90s ECW: “Who can stop the path of Cage?” Brian Cage stormed into AEW as the surprise entrant in Double or Nothing 2020’s Casino Ladder Match, where he threw Darby Allin around like an eight-year-old wrestling fan would throw around a body pillow and was literally buried under a stack of ladders and still won the contest. Cage was awarded the FTW Championship—arguably the most recognizable unofficially recognized championship in pro wrestling history, bequeathed to him by Taz himself. As a result of pulling a comically large poker chip from a hanging clip, he was immediately anointed a main event competitor, earning an AEW World Championship Match against Jon Moxley at Fight for the Fallen 2020. He was also on the losing end of a brutal TNT Championship match against Darby Allin and was the only man to defeat #1 “Hangman” Adam Page in 2021, evoking his tendency on the indies for wild (and sometimes ill-advised) moves by nearly hitting Page with his own Buckshot Lariat at Double or Nothing 2021. Cage’s unreal combination of power and technique makes him a perennial wrestler to watch, and he’s always seemingly one win away from basking in that main event spotlight once again.
1. Powerhouse Hobbs
Ever since Will Hobbs leveled Darby Allin after a weeks-long fakeout to formally join Team Taz in November, he immediately claimed position as the member with the most upside. He’s young, he’s strong as a bull (there’s no impressionistic metaphor when reflecting on why he’s called “Powerhouse”), and he’s one bad dude. Under the tutelage of Taz, Hobbs can now suplex motherfuckers several different ways in addition to plain-old mowing them down, adding a sense of nuance and technical skill to his can’t-be-taught ability to bully and pummel his opponents into pulp. (And as you’d imagine as a student of Taz, he’s able to harness a real mean streak possibly suppressed in his early days in AEW.) With the continuing problems between Ricky Starks and Brian Cage, Powerhouse Hobbs might just be in the perfect position to become the focal point of Team Taz.