Update: the full “director’s cut” of the Final Deletion, with the match and its lead-in vignettes, can be seen here.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling is in dire straits. Now on its third cable network since 2014, the former home of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Sting has almost no mainstream profile and has as bad a reputation among wrestling fans as any promotion in memory. Despite a solid weekly TV show on the Pop network and good work from wrestlers like Drew Galloway, EC3 and Bobby Lashley, TNA as currently constituted has failed to convince fans who long ago wrote the promotion off to give it another chance. Somehow their own contracted wrestlers come off as bigger stars on shows put on by other promotions, like when EC3, Galloway, Trevor Lee and Andrew Everett wrestle for Evolve or PWG. Once the second most prominent wrestling organization in America, TNA now exists in its own weird world with a severely diminished audience and widespread disrespect within its own industry.
Matt and Jeff Hardy aim to change that.
The real life brothers and former WWF/WWE stars have been feuding in TNA for most of 2016. They’ve feuded before and in other promotions and it’s never really hit it off with the audience. (Ask Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer about brother vs. brother feuds and he’ll go on a long aside about how they’ve hardly ever drawn throughout the history of professional wrestling.) What’s different about this feud, though, is that TNA seems to be giving the Hardys the freedom to book it on their own. And so, instead of a spat between two brothers from North Carolina that wrestling fans have known for almost 20 years, we’re witnessing a battle between an operatic supervillain named Broken Matt Hardy and the daredevil brother he now only refers to as Brother Nero.
Six years after leaving WWE, and well after most wrestling fans wrote him off as the less talented brother that had to be tolerated in order to witness Jeff’s insane risks, Matt Hardy has reinvented himself into the best character of his career. With his hair blown out and back like John C. Calhoun, a broad shock of white down one side, and an intermittent new accent flavoring his slow, melodramatic speech patterns, Broken Matt Hardy is no longer a raver redneck from Cameron but a creepy villain out of an MST3K horror film. He’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater Hardy, complete with passionate piano playing in vignettes shot at his house. With his real life wife Reby Sky and infant son Maxel in tow, he’s easily the most unique heel in American wrestling today, and perhaps the most entertaining.
Matt Hardy didn’t just reinvent himself: he seemingly convinced TNA to let him write, shoot and edit his own vignettes. This resulted in one of the most popular wrestling videos on the internet last month, as Broken Matt invited his brother Jeff (who, again, Matt exclusively refers to as Brother Nero now) to his house for a contract signing. It’s five solid minutes of amazing, endearingly incompetent schlock, as fun and campy as anything from the similarly themed Lucha Underground but without the slick production values.
As great as that video is, it was promoting a pay-per-view, and few wrestling fans would pay $40 or more for a TNA PPV in 2016, no matter how amazingly weird the Hardy Boys vignettes got. Thankfully the rematch is airing for free on television tonight, on TNA’s weekly Impact Wrestling program on Pop. TNA has released two ads for the match, which, in perfect Broken Matt Hardy semi-coherence, is being called The Final Deletion. If you are a wrestling fan who can watch these two ads without wanting to see the Z-grade camp brilliance they’re advertising, then you’re probably watching pro wrestling for very different reasons than we are.
We’re fans of “traditional” pro wrestling here at Paste. We can love long technical matches as much as we can love flashy, cartoonish high-spot fests, and in fact prefer the former, as long as the pacing and psychology are right. (Give us Flair/Steamboat over the TLC matches with the Hardys, the Dudleys, and Edge and Christian any day.) But wrestling is also supposed to be fun, and few things in wrestling have ever promised as much fun as this insane Hardy Boys feud and the absolutely absurd Final Deletion match hinted at in those trailers. If you like wrestling, and thirst for those wrestling moments that are incomparable and unforgettable, tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling might deliver on both fronts. I know I’ll be tuned in to Pop.