WWE have done it again. They’ve managed to take something which was once so special, entertaining, unique, creative and full of potential… and completely destroy it. On tonight’s Monday Night RAW we will see Matt Hardy take on Randy Orton in what is likely to be Matt’s final match working for WWE. Matt, alongside his brother Jeff, have already gone down in history as one of the greatest tag teams to ever grace the squared circle. Despite this there was the potential for so much more. Jeff was always the star of the tandem, with his high-flying offense and charisma wowing fans all over the world, but Matt had so much more to give that it is a crime to see where he has ended up. Jeff may have had the crazy face paint and the high spots, but he was pretty one dimensional when you look back. Matt on the other hand had reinvented himself on numerous occasions before settling on one of the most outrageous and inspired creations the wrestling world has ever seen…
The introduction of Broken Matt Hardy was a revelation and one which made rival company TNA/Impact relevant again after many years of decline. We had high hopes for the character on the brothers return to WWE, along with a little trepidation, but Woken Matt Hardy has died a slow and painful death in WWE. The breakdown in recent contract talks seem to signal that the damage has well and truly been done and that Matt will be taking his one of a kind creative mind elsewhere. But can the Human Vessel once known as Matthew Hardy be reborn again?
First, a little backstory.
WWE were riding high in the 90’s during the Attitude Era. The Hardy Boys came in and very quickly made a name for themselves as the risk taking, high flying, extreme daredevils who helped to shape the tag team scene alongside Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boys. The three teams put tag team wrestling on the map and took it to a whole new level, one which we will likely never see again. The latter stages of their WWE careers took very different paths as Jeff went on to have multiple memorable feuds and capture a tonne of singles championships, whereas Matt… sort of faded away into mid card obscurity. Upon leaving WWE the brothers continued to find success across the globe both in singles and tag team competition, but Jeff always remained as the bigger draw of the two. Matt’s problem was always that he was too safe, too ‘by the books’… too boring. He never really had an interesting enough character to invest in and he had lost the safety net of his brother Jeff. Despite Matt v1’s initial popularity seeing Matt pick up some steam he struggled to capture the imaginations of his once loyal fans. As the years passed by, Matt continued to plod along picking up various championships in various promotions along the way, but never managed to live up to the popularity he built within WWE. But that was all about to change. Matt was about to reach his ‘breaking’ point…
Debuting his new character back in May of 2016, Matt portrayed a new version of himself complete with partly bleached hair, unusual period-drama clothing and a sophisticated, eccentric accent. Every promo from here on out was littered with gold and I would regularly find myself asking “is Matt okay?”. His insane ramblings and unhinged expressions would go on to spawn a seemingly never-ending meme train and he was once again the talk of the town. He blamed his brother Jeff for ‘breaking’ him and became obsessed with trying to ‘delete’ his brother, who he was now referring to as Brother Nero. Matt would regularly ramble intelligible mysticism and philosophical musings, often describing how The Seven Deities had informed him that over many thousands of years, his soul had been passed from human vessel to human vessel. It was utter madness. We’ve seen some crazy ramblings from the likes of Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior before, but this was different. This was special, we were seeing a man give absolutely everything to the business in one last shot at making it.
The rivalry culminated with The Final Deletion match, where Matt defeated Jeff to become the sole occupier of the Hardy name and brand and forced his brother to take on the Nero mantle full time. This was no ordinary match though and played out as more of a short film than anything else. It featured a drone which projected Matt’s face, Jeff chasing the drone down on a dirt bike, tree diving, fireworks, a giant hardy sign on fire, a lake of reincarnation, both men running at each other with roman candles… you know what? Just check out the match on YouTube asap. It’s one of those things that really does have to be seen to be believed.
Jeff would eventually succumb to Matt’s will and join him as part of the Broken Universe, eventually capturing the TNA Tag Team Championships. The duo would then spend the remainder of 2016 and early 2017 on their Expedition of Gold, where they sought to capture as many tag team titles from around the world as possible. During this time they would go on to taunt wrestlers from other promotions including the likes of “The Man With Three H’s” (HHH), “The Kid Who Breaks Hearts” (Shawn Michaels), “The Day of New” (The New Day) and “The Family of Wyatt’s” (Wyatt Family). This even prompted a response from Bray Wyatt via Twitter, leading to many fans hoping for a return to WWE and an eventual showdown with The Eater of Worlds. The expedition culminated in the brother’s triumphant return at WrestleMania 33 where they were entered at the very last moment into the now fatal 4-way ladder match for the RAW Tag Team Championships. Matt and Jeff would go on to win the match in what is hands down one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time.
That all sounds quite mental, right? Quite the rollercoaster? Well it was, but it was also incredibly entertaining. TNA knew exactly how to use the character and the key to this was allowing Matt to have full creative control, something that WWE were never going to agree to. We all know that Vince McMahon is an egotistical maniac who can’t stand it when something amazing comes along which he didn’t create, but the way Woken Matt has been booked in WWE has been nothing short of sabotage. The main problem WWE faced was securing the broken gimmick from TNA, which took quite some time to get settled after a lengthy court battle, but in the meantime, WWE chose to do something very silly. They chose to jump the shark when Jeff suffered a long-term injury and forced Matt into becoming a watered-down version of what made the persona so captivating… and thus Woken Matt Hardy was born.
Now we had a problem. Matt needed to be given something to do while we waited patiently for Jeff’s return and hopefully the start of a new broken universe under WWE’s umbrella, so they did the only thing that made sense and put Matt into the long-rumoured program with Bray. On paper this rivalry sounds like absolute fire. Matt may have been 43 at the time and starting to lag in the ring, but you could surely bet on the promo’s being out of this world, right? Sure, at first they were… Matt and Bray played off each-others gimmicks beautifully, playing mind games with one another and we got to see some of Matt’s new-found catchphrases come to life. However, as time went on the live crowds lost almost all interest in the feud and so did many of us watching at home, because as usual WWE have failed to realise that you can have too much of a good thing. The rivalry went on for what felt like an absolute lifetime, and bizarrely culminated a few weeks before WrestleMania in The Ultimate Deletion. WWE did the worst thing they could possibly do by trying to copy the unusual match, with the eventual payoff somewhat underwhelming.
WWE did themselves no favours by giving Matt new entrance music, centred around his DELETE chant, it reeked of desperation and was almost WWE’s way of saying “he is in fact Woken as opposed to Broken and you have no choice than to get behind it. Oh and also, could you all please chant DELETE as loud as possible to make it seem like we made the right choice? Thanks” Almost everything which made the character interesting before, like the inclusion of family members, absurd skits and segments, hilarious bit part characters, a man being fired out of a back-garden volcano (seriously) and Matt’s trusty drone Vanguard 1, had all gone missing. Having him engage in laugh-offs with a man who claims to be a god despite being 0-3 at WrestleMania at the time, was a disappointing direction to go. Woken Matt didn’t need to happen in the first place, they could’ve quite easily held fire until Jeff returned, maybe even keeping Matt off TV until that day arrived. This is yet another example of WWE seeing the dollar signs before looking at the long-term plan or what is best for the superstars themselves… no matter how good the Broken persona could have been going forward, the unnecessary timing and poor booking of the Woken character has damaged it beyond repair.
The most interesting rivalry WWE had going at the time… what did they do? Put it on TV.3 weeks before their showcase PPV. 99% of the time I find myself sitting there asking myself ‘what the hell are you thinking WWE? Who makes these decisions? Is it Vince? Why isn’t he in a home yet?’. You don’t waste something this big, with this much potential, 3 weeks before your marquee PPV. Some people were saying that the Mania crowd wouldn’t want to sit and watch a match on the screens for 20 minutes… I do get that, but how is it any different showing it on RAW? Regardless of where you are, what show you’re on at or what town you’re in… it’s still going to be shown on monitors and screens. We then saw new rivalries forged in the 2 weeks leading to the biggest day in the WWE calendar and they were placed on the main card. This rivalry had been going on for months and months, should have been treated as a huge deal for the world to see… but the outcome was decided on a Monday night. Gee, thanks a lot Vince! It just went to show how little the top brass in WWE cared about the character and story.
Fast forward to the current WWE product in 2020. Over the last 12 or so months, Matt has veered away from the Broken/Woken persona and is harking back to the old days of The Hardy Boys alongside Jeff. They’ve captured more tag team titles and have another couple of setbacks due to serious injuries for both and more ill-advised lifestyle choices for Jeff. The latest long-term injury for Jeff saw him placed on the shelf for much of 2019 and gave Matt very little to do at all. A few fleeting appearances here and there to put over other talent in glorified squash matches are what this legend had been reduced to… until one week ago on RAW. In a truly bizarre moment, Matt came out to defend his long-term rival Edge after the Rated-R Superstar was heinously attacked by Randy Orton. The promo was great, albeit very unexpected, but led to Matt taking a wicked Con-Chair-To from The Apex Predator. The majority of the WWE Universe had assumed this was WWE writing Matt off TV as his contract ran down, further fuelled by Matts simple “Goodbye” tweet, but within a few days we saw a No Holds Barred match announced for tonight’s edition of RAW.
With this extremely likely to be Hardy’s very last WWE appearance, what does the future hold? Does he take the Woken/Broken character elsewhere? Does he join a creative team backstage? For me, the most logical move would be for Matt to head over to AEW. Matt could easily strike up a deal with the newest challenger to WWE’s crown, using his recently forged friendship with Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks to become an important part of their Tag Team division. AEW is currently swimming with former WWE talent such as Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Brodie Lee and Jon Moxley and adding Matt would not only be a huge coup, but also brings someone on board who the current workers know so well. Could we see a new Broken Universe where Matt goes head to head with The Inner Circle? Or maybe Matt takes over The Dark Order to give them some legitimacy? All very viable options. Vince was clearly ever interested in putting money into the Broken character, but with Tony Khan clearly happy to use his substantial wealth to establish his fledgling company, the sky would be the limit for House Hardy.
Of all these options, Matt taking leadership of The Dark Order makes the most sense and would be a great starting point for his new venture. The cult is currently teasing the imminent arrival of The Exalted One and have had some back and forth with Matt on social media, leading fans to believe this is in Hardy’s immediate future. We have seen various other names being speculated to take up the mantle, including Marty Scurll and Brian Cage but there simply couldn’t be a more suitable candidate than Broken Matt Hardy. His unhinged, deranged and deluded nature could take The Dark Order from being a paint by numbers faction that we’ve seen many times before and turn them into something dark and intriguing. With a big name like Matt Hardy leading the line, the group could go from strength to strength and use Hardy’s name and creativity to propel them towards the top of the card in the future.
Could we even see Matt return to where the Broken character was so successful? Impact has slowly been turning things around recently after years of mediocrity and issues within the company, re-inventing themselves as more of a unique style of wrestling compared to the mainstream safe booking of a company like WWE. Things started to turn around for Impact largely thanks to the hard work of Matt and Jeff, with a lot of new eyes being drawn to the product because they wanted to see something new. Matt could pick up where he left off and maybe bring back any fans who left when he and Jeff did before, Since the Hardy’s left, Impact has made a name for itself by challenging the norm. Just recently, the company decided to crown Tessa Blanchard as their world champion, marking the first time an US based wrestling promotion had ever put their top title on a female wrestler. We’ve also seen former WWE fan favourite Rob Van Dam turning heads with his recently adopted X-rated playboy gimmick, clearly signalling that the company are happy to let their talent have some fun with their own creative direction.
Wherever Matt ends up, he will be a major factor in that companies success moving forward. Having him work with younger, new talent like AEW’s Darby Allin and Jungle Boy could help to create a new megastar. Having him behind the scenes in creative would help any company to bring eyes to their product through logical booking and by giving the fans something new. If Matt was to sign on with WWE again, the company should immediately DELETE all traces of the OBSELETE Woken character before Matt’s legacy is tarnished forever. This writer and purveyor of nonsense just wants to see Matt treated like the legend he is. And at the end of the day, if we do get to see Broken Matt reach his potential, regardless of where he goes to do it… well that would be just WONDERFUL!