By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive”.
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‘I just wanna say to you all tonight, I’m very, very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I’d never wrestle again and that’s all I do.You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know in this life you can lose everything that you love, everything that loves you. Now I don’t hear as good as I used to, and I forget stuff. And I ain’t as pretty as I used to be. But god damn it, I’m still standing here. You know as time goes by — as time goes by, they say: “He’s Washed Up. He’s Finished. He’s A Loser. He’s All Through.”
You know what? The only one that’s going to tell me when I’m through doing my thing is you people here. You are the ones who are worth bringing it for because you’re my family. I love you all. Thank you so much!’
Upon reading the above transcript, and given this column’s subject, one would be forgiven for thinking this was a promo delivered by Matt Hardy. A message for the fans concerned for him following his brush with disaster at All Out 2020. Yet, this heartfelt monologue is actually from the final scenes of critically acclaimed film “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. A man with both feet in the twilight of his career. A man who’s faced numerous recent setbacks, one after the other. Like dominoes slowly but solidly crashing into one another. When you think of how apt this description also is for Matt Hardy’s 2020, you can understand why I see unfortunate similarities between the two performers.
It might be an unfair comparison to make. The “Ram’s” personal circumstances were far less desirable than Matt Hardy’s. At least recently, considering his own dark battles some years ago. However, this year has certainly not panned out the way Matt will have envisioned. An opinion held by the man himself, too.
Many WWE wrestlers who have jumped over onto the AEW ship have spoken of a new lease of life. Some, ad nauseum. There are, of course, those who indeed seem to have more control over their character presentation than they did in WWE. Jon Moxley, FTR, and Jon Moxley all immediately spring to mind. Especially as they all now find themselves in pole position in their respective divisions. The seeds of their labour are evidently bearing fruit.
Matt Hardy’s debut was as big a deal as those above. The will-he-won’t-he join The Elite teases online, following his WWE departure, had done enough to make him relevant again. Or, better yet, valuable. We all know the creative mind Matt has with the stablisers off. His Broken Universe and Expedition of Gold work speaks for itself. So much so, that NXT looked to have Matt on board, so as to tap into that innovation. Instead, Matt chose to laugh in the face of a backstage role. Instead, he chose to prove to fans and himself that he still had something to contribute in front of the camera. A miracle, when you think about it, what with his spinal fusion surgery a mere few years ago.
All was set for Matt Hardy to have a rip roaring 2020. The timing, however, couldn’t have been worse. With Coronavirus enforced rules, his anticipated debut was presented in the form of a badly edited empty arena segment, instead of in front of what would surely have been an accepting live crowd. What seemed like bad timing but was really just a bad decision was his contribution to Double or Nothing’s Stadium Stampede. In which his drowning spot was heavily criticised, due to the tragic death of Shad Gaspard just days before. It seemed that after all this, Hardy was in a reflective mood. Once again taking to social media, he spoke of hoping to rely on the name power of Matt Hardy going forward. Rather than that of his several other personalities.
It seemed to have a positive effect at first. If not for him, then at least for the advancement of wrestling’s future, in Private Party, and Sammy Guevara. Which is ironic, really, considering similar responsibilities would have been asked of him in NXT, without a burden of physicality. For that very physicality is why Matt Hardy’s name is on everybody’s lips again as 2020 starts to wind down. Unfortunately, it is for all the wrong reasons.
Hardy’s much anticipated promo on the Dynamite following All Out basically saw him take ownership for the concrete bump spot. Even going so far as to apologise for it. One one hand, it’s a ridiculous statement to make. Anyone with eyes and common sense could see Guevara, the AEW Doctor, and Tony Khan all played a part in the wildly uncomfortable scenes that followed the fall. Matt was in no position to make any judgement calls regarding his ability to continue. The only one with any sense of concern about them was referee Aubrey Edwards. Apparently, though, her “X” sign holds little value.
On the other hand, the decision to do such a thing in the first place is definitely something Matt has to take responsibility for. From the creation of the ill advised spot, all the way to the placing of the tables underneath the pair. With the match stipulation being that Matt would leave AEW if he lost, he was most likely going to win. Did he have to do so in such dangerous fashion? So soon after a particularly nasty chair shot to the head already? It screams of a wrestler looking for a “moment” with which to stamp their success, rather than relying on the importance of the success itself. In other words, it comes across as someone trying to enter the spotlight after spending so much time in the shadows.
Many a comparison has been made over the years. Of tag teams’ weaker halves being the “Marty Janetty” of the group. Granted, Janetty’s recent behaviour sparks many concerns. But that is a whole other conversation for another day. All that aside, though, from a pure wrestling perspective, it’s an outdated term, in my opinion. Rather, in modern vernacular, those runts of the pack are probably better off being labelled as the “Matt Hardy” of the pair.
It’s a sad state of affairs, really. He rejuvenated his career with more commitment and drive four years ago than maybe any other wrestler in history. But that’s a flash in the pan over his quarter of a century in the business. For the majority of those years, Matt has played second fiddle to his brother. Even now, free from WWE’s oft quoted shackles. While conspiratorial whispers grow in volume over Matt’s health, his brother is on a bigger and safer stage. In redemption angles he personally signed off on. The Intercontinental Title round his waist, the cherry on the cake.
One has to wonder if Matt has ever been happy with his lot in wrestling, considering the drastic and many gimmick changes we’ve seen. In such a short time, too, and at such a late stage for his body. With this in mind, the questions I ask are this. Has Matt Hardy, like many others in this year to forget, been a victim of circumstance? Or is it business as usual? And, try as he might, that grasp for glory is once again a fingertip’s width from his reach? At this point in his career, what’s more important to him: looking after his health and his family from a safe distance while still offering his brilliant mind to the business? Or will he, like Randy Robinson above, let fans dictate as such, until it’s too late?
Read my previous Brand Extension columns here.
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