For years now, Matt Hardy has been the laughing stock of the professional wrestling world. His departure from the WWE in 2010 was mired in sadness and controversy. The world lay witness to one of the industry’s most creative minds seemingly unraveling due to substance abuse problems and an unrelenting stream of videos that showed him in no state to wrestle or be productive in any fashion. While many mocked his situation, those closest feared for his life. It was sad to see someone who was so integral to the tag team revolution of the Attitude Era seem to lose the mental capacities and control over his own situation. The Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian had mentioned in multiple interviews that it was Matt who worked out many of the three tag teams greatest encounters. He seemed to be the smarter brother, while his loose cannon younger brother Jeff Hardy continued to squander his golden goose opportunities on substance abuse issues. But when it happened to Matt, it was met with parts of disappointment and fear.
It took years for Matt to rebuild his Matt Hardy brand after his release from the WWE in 2010. He quickly went to TNA in 2011, but again, issues with his abuse took hold and TNA ultimately released him six months into his tenure. Months later, Hardy would announce his retirement from full-time wrestling. As the months wore on, he would do sporadic indie dates, but in reality he began working on himself as a person. It seemed he finally began to realize the opportunities he was wasting and the dangers he was doing to himself.
In 2012, Hardy emerged in Ring of Honor and for two years, devoted his career to reclaiming his spot in the history books, determined to show his passion and love for the industry and make the horrors of the past few years just a blip on the radar and not the final exclamation point of his own wrestling story. Inspired and re-energized, following programs with The Briscoe Brothers, Kevin Owens and Adam Cole, Hardy left ROH in 2014 and returned to TNA.
And while his ascent back up the mountain of wrestling credibility was full of stops and starts, he finally achieved World Champion status in TNA by pinning Drew Galloway in a 3-way match that included TNA World Champion Ethan Carter III on October 4, 2015. Hardy developed an arrogant style character that drew mixed reviews, but Hardy was finally back in the main event. But it was the aftermath of losing his title (after his second reign as TNA World Champion), that Matt Hardy finally became a buzz name in the world of wrestling once again.
Following a hellacious “I Quit” Match involving his brother Jeff in early 2016 that resulted in both Hardys being stretchered out, Matt Hardy disappeared from TNA Impact television for weeks. When he returned, it was under a persona that was unlike any character Matt had performed before.
The wrestling world was stunned by this new character. Speaking in strange pacing with the dialect of bad theatre acting, many began to speculate that perhaps Hardy was back to his old habits. That he was abusing substances once again and he was literally losing his mind. In essence, he took the public perception of him from six years ago and transformed it into a character that was as much captivating as it was troubling and uncomfortable. And the world began to watch Matt Hardy like never before.
For weeks, #Broken Matt Hardy stalked his brother, referring to him only as “Brother Nero” (Nero is Jeff Hardy’s real middle name), determined to delete him from wrestling history and prove he was the only man worth carrying the Hardy mantle. The Hardy Brand. And on July 5, 2016, it all culminated in the viral sensation, The Final Deletion.
The world was shocked. This wasn’t wrestling was a prevalent decree by purists, while others lamented it’s creativity and bravery. It took the kayfabe of the ring into the backyards of the real world. With absurdity and drones galore, it was unlike anything TNA had done before. Only CHIKARA had dared to show something so outside the box. It’s narrative and use of sci-fi drones was also reminiscent of some of the angles of Lucha Underground. But if Lucha Underground was a wrestling show in the style of gritty director Robert Rodriguez (who himself is an actual Executive Producer), then The Final Deletion was a wrestling short under the direction of Ed Wood. At first glance, it was a train wreck. But on repeated viewings, it became a glorious witness to something that many had been waiting for. Something different.
The Final Deletion segment caused extreme buzz for TNA heading into July 5 and the day after, the numbers were in. TNA Impact experienced its largest live viewing audience in ages. The Hardys were once again must-see-TV for wrestling fans.
Following his win over Brother Nero, Broken Matt publicly deleted Jeff Hardy and began to put his brother on trial for ruining his chance at Tag Team gold the previous year and for ruining his World title reign. He pushed Jeff in handicap matches on a mission to reclaim the TNA World Tag team titles, as Matt’s “obsolete mule”.
And following his last obstacle, Jeff Hardy finally saw the “light” his brother was pushing for.
With his brother now as broken as himself, Matt Hardy turned his attention on the TNA World Tag Team Champions, Crazzy Steve and Abyss, who, alongside Rosemary, made up the faction The Decay.
With the battlegrounds now set, it became apparent it was going to be an all out war for the belts. And in many instances, it appeared that the titles were secondary to the chaos that surrounded everything that seemed to fall in Broken Matt’s shadows. Which ultimately led to what happened last night on TNA Impact.
Final Deletion 2: Delete or Decay followed the style of the original short, except this time diving darker into the twisted psyches of the Hardy Brand as they competed with the demented horror of the Decay.
Darker than it’s predecessor, it’s clear this storyline isn’t ending any time soon. And why should it? It’s kept TNA’s numbers up, drawing eyes to its other stars and storylines, as the Billy Corgan Era of TNA looks to move well and far beyond TNA’s previous attempts at competing with the WWE. And while the gap is simply far too great for TNA to ever truly catch up to WWE, TNA seems okay in being what it should have been all along. An entertaining other option.
There is clearly more story to be told. The fans are clamouring for a proper Hardy Boyz reunion, but are equally torn with their newfound love for the infectious madness that Broken Matt Hardy has brought to their television sets and live events.
Following the airing of Final Deletion 2 last night, many online made a similar comment. If Final Deletion was Star Wars: A New Hope, then Final Deletion 2 was The Empire Strikes Back. If one were to follow that analogy, then all roads lead to a Final Deletion 3. Will it mark the Return of the Hardi? Or will the madness continue…
Regardless it’s outcome, one thing is for sure. Matt Hardy has risen from the ashes of his own seeming self-deletion in 2010 and has become one of the most polarizing and enchanting characters to emerge in wrestling in 2016.
Main Photo: impactwrestling.com