Wrestling has always been a bit campy. By nature, as a so-called “fake” sport and male soap opera, WWE storylines have no shortage of cheesy moments. In the late 1980s, Vince McMahon put so much emphasis on telling a good story to promote a match, that it changed the public perception of wrestling entirely. Many casual fans of the old school wrestling from the 70s went from thinking it was real to begrudgingly admitting it was staged. From the classic Jake Roberts/Ultimate Warrior vignettes to Fuji Vice, there was always a tongue in cheek irony to what became the pop culture style of pro wrestling.
But story driven feuds aren’t always enough to put butts in the seats in 2017. A basic grudge match is a dime a dozen, so a rivalry has to be unique for people to watch. And in the vain of hipster-driven media, we are entering the style of “so bad, it’s good.”
People who are fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or the Evil Dead series should love a stipulation like the House of Horrors match from last Sunday’s Payback pay-per-view. Die hard wrestling fans may not enjoy the over-the-top corniness of House of Horrors, but if you’re a fan of the Rock n’ Wrestling era, this match was practically a throwback. Also, in what could be perceived as an homage to the booking style of Kevin Sullivan, this match looked like it could have come out of early WCW. Love it or hate it, this match had people talking. And that’s really what’s of the utmost importance in the wrestling business.
From a technical standpoint, the match wasn’t great. But as JBL said on last week’s Talking Smack, this match would be more in step with Roddy Piper and Goldust’s Back Lot Brawl or Undertaker and Mankind’s Boiler Room Brawl. A brawl is a brawl is a brawl. In that, 90 percent of the offensive maneuvers would be by using their surrounding environment. In this case, that would take the form of a room full of creepy dolls or, say, a refrigerator. If I have any real complaint about this match, it’s that they didn’t go far enough in one direction or another. It was pretty clear that they weren’t aiming for realism. But more importantly, if they wanted it to feel ridiculous and campy, they could have tried harder. The tractor moving on it’s own was a nice touch and the Spencer’s Gifts lighting was on point, but you might as well go all the way with it if you’re attempting such silliness.
Sure, wrestling fans might not want a match that doesn’t even attempt to be authentic, but in a way, it’s still true to the spirit of pro wrestling. And the fact that it read “LIVE” in the corner of the screen when it was clearly pre-taped may have irked some fans, but these are the same fans who raved about the Broken Matt Hardy gimmick in TNA. If anything, the House of Horrors match, as well as the Wyatt Compound match against the New Day seemed to mimic the Hardy’s Compound match and Broken Matt storyline. This wouldn’t be the first time that WWE jumped on another company’s bandwagon (See: The entire Attitude Era). Granted, the “Broken” storyline and vignettes were brilliantly bad. No one expected the kind of creativity that Matt Hardy has shown in the past few years.
The work that Matt Hardy did in TNA was so popular that it landed him and his brother a new WWE contract. While there are subtle shades of “Broken” Matt in the current tag team champs, WWE does not have full rights to the gimmick. WWE is presumably engaged in a legal battle with TNA over the gimmick. Considering this was entirely Matt Hardy’s idea, TNA shouldn’t be able to claim rights to it. But considering it’s the only desirable content they’ve produced in years, you can’t really blame them for clinging to it with a deathgrip.
So, we have our Matt Hardy in WWE with a white streak in his hair and a crowd of people chanting “Delete” with a flick of his hand. But due to legalities, he isn’t fully broken. Not yet anyway. But if history is any indicator, WWE will get their way, even if it takes buying out TNA entirely. For now, we’ll have to be content with a fractured Matt Hardy, displaying mere hints of his broken self. It will definitely be entertaining to watch whatever mutation the Hardy Boyz develop in coming months, and we could see a split between the brothers, revisiting their feud from TNA. The question is, is WWE capable of pulling off the same magic? If they give Matt full creative control of his vision, then it’s possible. But WWE has ruined great ideas by adding too many cooks from their creative team in the past. As much as we all want Broken Matt Hardy to thrive in WWE, the powers that be sometimes don’t know what to do with a good thing; especially if it wasn’t their idea. Let’s hope that Broken Matt Hardy isn’t handled the same way as WWE’s version of ECW, cutting off their nose to spite their face. Only time and a pending legal battle will tell if Matt Hardy can become “Broken” once more, or if he will be deleted from WWE.