Friday, July 8, 2016

Wrestling Review: #TheFinalDeletion Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy

It was hyped for weeks, and it finally happened Tuesday night, July 5 -- #TheFinalDeletion match between Matt and Jeff Hardy. For the longest time, we didn't know much about this match. Just that it was filmed at Matt's North Carolina home and that it would be unlike anything that wrestling fans had ever seen.

Then, the reaction videos started appearing. In a really cool twist, TNA Impact Wrestling filmed various wrestlers and other personalities watching the match and all we could see and hear was their reactions. It built anticipation.



But, first, what led to this:

Matt and Jeff Hardy are brothers from North Carolina who first popped up in WWE in the mid 90s as what is now known as "enhancement talent" aka the nameless, random guys who would always lose. Matt was in his early 20s and Jeff was a teenager.

The era from 1999-2001 was the height of their success as a tag team, as they became huge stars and loved by fans of all ages. They were cool. Matt was the ring general, the leader of the group. Jeff was the wild one, the free spirit. He had the crazy-colored hair and would do all of the insane flips that drove wrestling fans insane.

WWE first tried to split the group apart in late 2001, with Matt getting jealous of Jeff. The feud lasted less than a month and was quickly forgotten. They eventually went their own ways a year later when WWE did their initial brand split. Jeff was a popular babyface, eventually leaving WWE in 2003. Matt became the more well-rounded character, starting off as a heel known as "Matt Hardy, Version 1." Like all good bad guys, they eventually start to be respected by the crowd and he turned into a good guy.

Jeff came back in 2006 and WWE had the Hardys reunion tour for most of 2007. By 2009, they went into their first full-blown "Hardy vs Hardy" feud, with the same theme as 2001 -- jealousy. Matt was jealous that he was the better wrestler, the architect behind the team and got no respect from the fans while Jeff was universally loved. They had a couple matches and that was the end of that. Jeff left the company on good terms later that year and Matt was released on bad terms in 2010.

Jeff has had two stints in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, the first in 2004 and lasting about a year. Then he came back in 2010 and has been there since. He has gone through a lot of ups and downs in the last six years, from being a multiple time World Champion to getting suspended and sent home for showing up "impaired" at a live pay-per-view. TNA got a lot of deserved criticism for actually sending Jeff to the ring in that state.

Fast forward a few years and Matt and Jeff are both in TNA together. They have reunited and have held the tag team championships. Then, Jeff breaks his leg in an outside-the-ring accident. So, Matt is on his own.

It culminated with Matt winning the TNA World Championship. Through some chicanery, Matt is stripped of the title without ever defending it. It builds a lot of sympathy for Matt as a good guy. When the time finally comes for him to get his rematch... the turn happens! 

Matt Hardy, sympathetic hero that we all love, now wants to be known as "Big Money" Matt. He takes cocky, Ric-Flair-esque character traits and becomes a very entertaining bad guy. Also, around this time, Jeff comes back and costs Matt the world title. So, they are now in a feud.

They have a couple crazy matches filled with extreme high spots that Jeff is known for. Matt tweets that his injuries will likely end his career. Nobody believes him, and he shows up a month later looking and acting crazy. He has a blond streak in his hair, is talking with a weird accent, and will only refer to Jeff as "Brother Nero." His middle name is Nero.

He is no longer "Big Money" Matt. He is now "Broken" Matt Hardy

Matt now wants to destroy Jeff. He tells him that this will be "Ovah!" They have a contract signing for the match that quickly goes viral for how weird it is. It's produced like something off of a cheesy television show.

Jeff defeats Matt in their first match and Matt posts a Facebook Live video promising a retort, but is actually five minutes of him standing in his hotel room staring at a camera. After Jeff wins their second match, held in a steel cage, Matt again posts a Facebook Live video, this time it is of him writhing around in pain in a bed.

It all culminated in #TheFinalDeletion match. Matt challenged Jeff to one more match, promising that one Hardy will be deleted. The anticipation built. And built. And then it happened. There are a lot of people who love it. Chris Jericho, one of the biggest stars in WWE, tweeted his support of the match.
Others hate it. Wrestling purists will say that it's ridiculous. The experiment paid off, though. TNA got their highest ratings since they moved their show to PopTV, formerly known as the TV Guide Channel.

It is below. It was presented in a couple different parts throughout the TV show, so the spots where commercials would have been are actually plugs for TNA's show changing nights.

I'm still figuring out how I feel about the match. There are some ridiculous campy parts of it. The actual wrestling match isn't anything special. The acting is decent by the others involved. Matt is overacting on purpose. Jeff is Jeff, which is all we'll say about his performance.

It's an interesting piece of business. I'm still deciding if it's "so bad it's good" or just so bad. It was entertaining at a few parts, so I can't complain... I guess.

In terms of this as a layered story, I like it. Matt Hardy was a veteran good guy wrestler who turned heel because he achieved his dream of winning the title and he still wasn't getting the respect that he deserved. He was cocky and on top of the world. Then, his brother cost him the title and destroyed him. He went from "Big Money" to "Broken." That all makes sense and is very compelling.

From what they're implying, this does not appear to be the end of the story. So, it will be interesting to see what the fallout from #TheFinalDeleton is.