I will be the first to admit that other than Jay Lethal’s Black Machismo and Ric Flair impersonation, TNA has never captured my attention. No matter how much I may have loved Kurt Angle or Mick Foley, I just never bought into the company. To hear most people tell it, other than missing out on a lot of phenomenal work by AJ Styles, I wasn’t wrong to feel that way. I never rooted against the company but I knew they would never be real competition for WWE which I always thought was really best for business. WWE’s stranglehold on the industry is well documented and is never going away. Sitting on a throne so high above anyone else has made Vince McMahon and company complacent and pretty lazy. I don’t doubt that Vince still displays his legendary work ethic but there is rarely a big payoff for that level of effort.
WWE’s complacency is no more glaring than their stagnant style of production. Raw has looked pretty much exactly the same for as long as I can remember and SmackDown! has basically been a watered down version of the flagship program. A byproduct of this is the fact that almost every other wrestling show is basically trying to do the same thing with a fraction of the budget. The tide has begun to shift somewhat as WWE seems to have bought into the indie wrestling style and poached an incredible number of top independent talents. While most of WWE’s viewers appreciate the work in the ring, it often isn’t enough on it’s own. Too often a lack of story, character development and undesirable match results seem to hold the company back in the eyes of many fans. To me it just seems like some type of change is needed in WWE and it has to be more than SmackDown! going live. It’s a great start, but they need to deliver fun and exciting programming to get viewers to invest almost double the time we already are. That’s where TNA’s most recent event “The Final Deletion” involving Matt and Jeff Hardy comes in.
First, it says a lot that outside of Brock Lesnar’s victorious return to UFC, “The Final Deletion” was probably the biggest story in the wrestling world. Second, I was never a big Hardy Boyz mark, even at their height in WWE. I thought they were different and fun to watch, but nothing ever really stood out to me as far as their characters were concerned. I was always a much bigger fan of Edge and Christian and the Dudley Boyz. That lack of character for much of their WWE run makes what they did last week all the more impressive. Having already admitted that I never pay attention to TNA, or really any other promotions outside of a little bit of Ring Of Honor and New Japan, I didn’t know much of the backstory between Matt and Jeff. I just happened to see Matt with his blonde streak running through his plume of hair and assumed it was absolutely ridiculous. I was right, but it was ridiculous in about as good a way as possible.
For anyone who may not know yet, a series of losses to Jeff left Matt a broken man. He turned into a bizarre character with an accent that seemed to change with each sentence who grew increasingly more dramatic and dangerous. This led to a contract signing for a final battle between the two with the rights to the Hardy brand on the line. This is where I picked the story up. I watched the clip on YouTube for a good laugh, which I got, but I got more from it than that. While the acting was pretty bad and over the top, I actually got sucked into the story almost as if it were a movie trailer. I wanted, actually needed to see how the story would be resolved. Knowing the match would take place in their own personal ring on the grounds of their home. I was intrigued by what they could possibly do with this match, knowing I was about to see something different. Then came WWE’s announcement of the match between The New Day and the Wyatt Family at the Wyatt compound. My first thought was that WWE wanted in on the filmed on location match. I was a little annoyed with that idea until I saw the match between Matt and Jeff.
Once again, the acting was pretty bad and over the top, although at this point I had come to accept that Broken Matt Hardy was supposed to be over the top and ridiculous. I laughed each time I heard him refer to Jeff as “Brother Nero” or exclaim, “Brother Nero, I knew you’d come!”, typically with his back to Jeff. Billy Corgan, now a minority owner of TNA was on Vince Russo’s podcast recently and discussed the direction of the wrestling business and TNA specifically. He said that the business is so exposed that wrestling fans can’t be hooked the same way as they were in the past. He said they had to become either more based in reality or push considerably further toward fantasy. That sentiment was definitely expressed in the production of The Final Deletion.
The first act was hilarious with Matt preparing for the match and demanding the battlefield be prepared for massacre. It culminated in drones infiltrating Jeff’s house, complete with Matt appearing to Jeff via hologram. Next was the actual preparation with the ring being set up outside and weapons being placed around and under the ring, with Matt having gasoline strategically poured on the grounds. Then it was time for the match. It was an interesting presentation with no commentary and a dramatic score playing over the action. Some of the camera angles made it a little tough to follow and were at times distracting, but mostly were used to great effect. There were great stunts like Jeff’s attempt at a Swanton Bomb out of a tree and onto a ladder. There was a cool set piece where they ended up in a lake with Jeff appearing to have been drowned. Then the ending where the gasoline came into play and Jeff was engulfed in flames at the top of his logo. Matt won the rights to the Hardy brand as the show came to a close.
There were things about it that were silly and cringeworthy but overall they told a story over the course of a few weeks and during the match itself. The lengths each man went to in order to come out on top were evident and I felt myself investing in the finish as the match progressed. The segment was met with a mixture of praise and negativity, but the end result was TNA’s highest rating since they moved to Pop TV. They generated quite a buzz an left on a high note which may allow a larger audience this week. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated what the Hardy’s had created, I couldn’t help but be excited for what The New Day and the Wyatt Family could be capable of.
We don’t know that WWE will officially take the route of production TNA used for The Final Deletion, but we can be sure that whatever the match looks like, it will look different from any we’ve seen in WWE in quite some time. It’s exciting because wrestling is at it’s best when the parties involved are taking chances and pushing the boundaries of wrestling as we know it. Watching Matt and Jeff do battle, it felt like I was watching the climactic ending to a movie.
Vince McMahon is known for saying WWE is in the business of making movies. With a superior cast of characters as well as a significant advantage in resources, WWE should be capable of creating a blockbuster. Will WWE be capable of pushing it’s artistic limits to bring us a fresh take on the product? Their track record says no, but here is to hoping TNA just inspired WWE into making the New Era more than just a catchphrase.
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