This has been a tormented year. Wildfires. COVID-19. Kobe Bryant dead. Chadwick Boseman dead. Can it get any worse??
Well, apparently, last night, it did.
During this pandemic, I have allowed myself very few pleasures, and one of them is the enjoyment of professional wrestling. And the squad that catches my attention more often than not are the Australian tag team known as the IIconics.
Their backstory is quite interesting. Two high school best friends who bonded over professional wrestling, Jessica McKay (Billie Kay) and Cassie McIntosh (Peyton Royce) trained and worked and sacrificed to climb their way into the WWE. They spent five years working in WWE’s developmental company NXT, becoming a team of snarky heels who could wrestle and give drop-dead awesome interviews.
And in 2017, at Wrestlemania 35 – the biggest wrestling show of the year – Royce and Kay claimed their first title, the newly-minted women’s tag team championship, in a four-way match. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Billie Kay made a blind tag to be the legal wrestler in the ring, Peyton Royce threw another competitor out, and Billie snagged the pin.
The IIconics would hold the belts for about four months. And even when they lost the championship, they still remained as decent heel wrestlers who could give great interview / taunts. For example, in this clip, after a loss in the 2019 Royal Rumble, you can hear Billie Kay spit out some stinger insults, including “You gotta be JOKIN’ me,” that nearly had Peyton Royce break character and laugh.
Of late, the IIconics have been in a feud with wrestlers Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, better known as the Riott Squad. And even when Royce and Kay have competed in singles matches, you could tell that the other would be by their side, showing full support (and, as is the custom in professional wrestling, a little referee distraction or opponent mind-messing). I mean, how can you come back from Billie Kay’s big boot (the “Shades of Kay”) or her sit-out powerbomb finisher (the “Boyfriend Stealer”)?
Meanwhile, Peyton Royce has some skills of her own, including a leaping einzeguri head kick, followed by a sick-looking spinning brainbuster? Wow.
Well, last night, the IIconics and the Riott Squad had a blow-off match – in pro wrestling parlance, a blow-off match means that the feud will end between them, and they’ll go on to other battles with other competitors. In this matchup, the winner would be the #1 contender for the women’s tag team championships, while the losing team would have be … no more.
What? WHAT??? Is this one of those things where the losing team suddenly disappears in a finger-snap from Thanos?
Well, here’s the match.
No. No no no no no.
Restart the match. Make it two falls out of three. No.
The IIconics are “no more.”
And this is what gets me. In professional wrestling, a tag team breaks up when one of two things happens – one of the wrestlers is legit injured and the other competes in singles matches until his/her partner is healed up, or one wrestler turns against his/her partner and beats on him/her, breaking the team up.
This isn’t what happened here. After some comedic attempts to beg the referee to restart the match, you could see straight-up emotion from both wrestlers. They didn’t want this team to end. Nobody did.
Even after the match, in a post-wrestling interview segment, you could still see that the loss – and the dissolution of the IIconics – was weighing heavily on both women.
So what’s next for these two? I don’t know.
Perhaps they’ll try some wacky way to stay together – having Billie Kay act as manager for Peyton Royce, whom I’ve heard the WWE wants to give a major singles push to – or perhaps doing the old “wrestler in a mask who pretends to be someone else but everybody knows is really” gimmick, which has been done with everyone from Hulk Hogan (“Mr. America”) to Andre the Giant (“Super Machine”). Or maybe they’ll drop the name “IIconics” and wrestle as some other team name, or as part of another squad (I’m just imagining them as members of the WWE’s other super-popular tag team, the New Day, right now).
This doesn’t make any sense. WWE breaks up one of the only tag teams out there with decent chemistry and teamwork. They don’t have any off-ring scandals or embarrassments (heck, when they appeared on the E! show Total Divas, they were the only ones that refused to get drunk or hammered when some of the other WWE wrestlers were at a house party). They have amazing interactions with their fans; both host YouTube channels and Twitter feeds, heck, Peyton even has a TikTok channel.
But no, I’m still not down with this. This sucks eggs.
And maybe the only way I can get down with this breakup is if this storyline happens. Hear me out.
Next year, Peyton Royce wins the 2021 Royal Rumble, which guarantees her a Wrestlemania title shot. Meanwhile, Billie Kay works her way through the card, and somehow earns a title shot against someone for the OTHER women’s single’s title. Royce wins her match, Kay wins hers. And in the middle of the ring, at the greatest show of the year, they celebrate their achievement together.
And that … would be truly … IIconic.