That was my literally my first thought when “Broken”…er…“Woken” Matt Hardy finally debuted on “Raw” last week. Like many others, I was beginning to think it wouldn’t ever happen. At some point in late May of 2016, he debuted a brand new character in what was at the time TNA. See, he’d been revealed as the attacker of Willow (one of Jeff Hardy’s alter egos; another was Itchweed) and kept trying to defeat him. Each time, Jeff would find a way to win. In a short time, this drove Matt to become “Broken” and he became completely obsessed with not only defeating Jeff, but “deleting” him. Eventually, on July 5th in a show called “Final Deletion”, he finally managed to defeat Jeff on their Cameron, NC property. He became the owner of the Hardy name and Jeff could no longer use it or his music. He was “deleted”. He would become, at Broken Matt’s insistence, “Brother Nero”.
“Broken” Matt Hardy is, without question, the strangest characters ever introduced into sports entertainment. He spoke with a very loose British accent and died a bright white streak into his now frizzy hair. As the character became popular and loved, things got stranger and more fun. With Brother Nero (Jeff’s real middle name), who by this time was no longer being punished but celebrated by “Broken” Matt and the audience, he also got his wife, Queen Rebecca, involved, Señor Benjamin (Matt’s father-in-law), a security drone that responded to “Broken Matt” called “Vanguard 1” a dilapidated boat called “Skarsgard”, and their (only at the time) son King Maxel. “Broken” Matt’s entrance involved Queen Rebecca playing a piano piece she wrote called “Broken Suite”, with Jeff breaking into “I’ll fade away and classify myself as obsolete” (his new lot in life). As he sang, “Broken” Matt, in “call and response” fashion, would repeat “OBSOLETE” and the crowd would chant with him.
“Broken” Matt and “Brother Nero” would engage in various battles with many tag team including Decay and the DCC. They had their own shows like “Apocalypto”, “The Final Deletion” and “Total Nonstop Deletion”. They often shot footage at their own home and even did two special shows there which truly defy description. They have to be seen to be believed.
Eventually, money issues caused contract renewal talks to break down and they left in March of 2017.
After some time in other promotions, both Hardys returned to WWE in April of 2017. Until last week, Matt hinted at “Broken”ness but because of contractual issues, WWE either could not or would not exploit the character that had made him popular in TNA (or Impact as it is now named).
When Matt debuted the character in TNA, they had nothing to lose in trying it. It is said that it took a combination of Matt and Reby Hardy, Jeremy Borash, Billy Corgan, and Dave Lagana to pull this off. The amount of involvement of each is something we may never fully get to the bottom of. Either way, these people contributed in some way. Since the character took off during Billy’s time with the company (he was trying to buy it from Dixie and run it), it didn’t have Dixie’s hands in it. Dixie, while being a great person, repeatedly showed us how little she knew about wrestling so this is a good thing. This is likely the reason the Hardys were able to be as completely gonzo as they were. Because they were using their own “compound” as the set for most of this, that likely kept costs down and what costs did exist were said to be funded largely by the Hardys themselves. Reby was responsible for the merch and the theme music (along with Jeff who’s Peroxygen song supplied “I’ll fade away and classify myself as obsolete”). All contributed to ideas to make the whole thing work. No one denies Jeremy’s involvement, though the amount of involvement is somewhat in dispute.
The “Broken Hardys” gimmick played to a relatively small audience on a very small network. Still, it managed to get over big time as the Hardys (along with Benjamin) constantly put the gimmick out there on Twitter. It even managed to get a good bit of mainstream attention – something no other angle running on TNA at the time was doing. For my part, it was the main reason I was watching TNA at the time. Other things were going on that were very good and I enjoyed it but I was always most curious about what was happening with the “Broken Hardys” and what they’d do next. The freedom supplied by Billy Corgan allowed the Broken Hardys to fly free and do whatever they wanted.
The Broken Hardy gimmick (as “Woken” Matt Hardy) has finally materialized on WWE TV, though in severely neutered form. It appeared seemingly out of nowhere without build and it’s basically been rudderless ever since. The intelligence of the gimmick is seemingly now gone – replaced with never-ending laugher and “delete” chants. Hardy’s “feud” with Bray felt like it was inexplicably ended on tonight’s “Raw – 25th Anniversary” by clean pinfall victory. Vince controls everything and all ideas have to run through a writing committee and then through him. As a result, it is more sanitized and less “gonzo” version. I’m so glad it debuted on TNA TV before they got to WWE so we could see how brilliant it really was without any interference from people who clearly don’t really have a handle on it. Only time will tell what happens to the gimmick in WWE and if it gets better.
Oh, and we still don’t have Señor Benjamin, Skarsgaard the dilapidated boat, Vanguard 1, Reby, or King Maxel. Here’s hoping they all show up in time.
In closing, I leave you with this – a symbol of what should have (and still could be):