In-Ring Work: ***1/4 Mic Work: **1/4 Character Work: ****3/4
This man deserves a medal for the way he's rebuilt his career.
I hate Jeff Hardy. I think I made that abundantly clear in my analysis thread about him. Matt on the other hand I do not hate.
I've always had a deep amount of admiration and respect for the guy. I see more strive and heart in him compared to his brother Jeff, in all aspects of Pro Wrestling work. And that's actually not even a knock on Jeff, who actually does show it too and I'm sure does have love for Pro Wrestling (for what it's worth coming from me). But for what ever reason, I've always felt that Matt is giving it his all with everything he does. But that's not the main reason as to why I respect him.
I respect him for the shit he had to put up with from Lita/Edge.
Before I start the analysis, I just want to say that what happened to Matt in that whole mess was a travesty. For those of you who might not know about it yet (and I don't know how you wouldn't by now), in 2004/2005, Matt was at this point in a real life relationship with WWE Diva Lita. And at some point, she had an affair with Edge, who was a very close friend with Matt outside the ring. Matt found out I guess from Edge's wife and all kinds of shit went down. That alone is tragic in of itself. But to make matters worse, Matt got fired because of it. Matt was eventually brought back, and while it was his idea to make the whole thing into a storyline, this is one of the worst things you could possibly put up with in any profession. There's no other way really to work around it: the mans girlfriend was cheating on him with one of his best friends and he was fired for it. That's just a gross injustice that I felt Matt was never fully repaid for, and probably never will. And this is all on top of him always receiving the short end of the stick compared to his lesser talented brother Jeff. Matt simply deserved better.
But in the end, he continued on. He kept working. He did what he had to do for the sake of himself and for the sake of the company and, most importantly, for the sake of the fans. And I just can't help but respect the guy for that. Regardless of the shit he does through out the remaining portions of his career, however long it may be, I'll always like the guy for that reason alone.
So, enough about my personal agenda. Lets get this analysis started.
Disclaimer: I am about to break a rule with my analysis threads again and make some big mentions to his work outside of WWE (and I think you all know what I'm talking about). Truth be told, this is going to be a giant fuck you to Jeff Hardy, because some people did bring up his character work in TNA and mentioned that I wasn't be fair in that regard by ignoring it. And you know what? You guys are right. I was being unfair. And with that said, I will at some point in the distant future update his character work out of fairness for him and for the people who choose to read these.
I've always considered Matt to be a criminally underrated character worker. And oddly enough it's not the heel part of his work that isn't appreciated enough, it's the face side.
I've always found Matt to be a great face. He's likable with a nice dose of personality that we got to see in his singles runs. I think his feud with MVP brought out the best in him as far as being a face went. We have to give credit to WWE for doing such a great job with booking the feud, as well as MVP for being such a good heel. But Matt played his role so well in this feud. He had some other good singles feuds that showcased his personality too, most notably the feud with Edge. It was on display in a sense during his tag teaming days with Jeff too. In both instances he was always over with the crowd, and he was always came across as natural in the role. But another thing I always noticed was, as I said before, he seemed to just give it all with every moment he had.
This segment is fucking stupid. Everything about it is just stupid as hell. But someone who knows what the hell they are doing can make it work. And you know what? Matt actually makes this segment tolerable. And to me this showcases just how superior Matt is in the character work department compared to Jeff. Look at them as they're looking at Candice. Jeff has the same damn expression on his face through out the entire segment, doesn't even acknowledge Ron Simmons and just stands there like a regular cardboard cut out. But Matt on the other hand? He's having the time of his life with this shit. He's actually reacting as if he's enjoying what he's seeing, even drinking a fucking water bottle at one point in a strange sense of irony (...I think?). And it's actually pretty funny to watch. It's stuff like that which can make character work such a joy to watch. When you're actually giving a shit and are showcasing some god damn personality (looking at you Rollins), it can make the segment, regardless of what it is, more enjoyable than it has any business being. I could give other examples but we're going to move on because there's another side to character work...and it's the heel side.
And Matt was great at that too.
I will explain the minus quarter star part by saying that in his latest heel run in WWE (that being in 2009), one of Matt's weaknesses in character work showed, which was his tendency to be a little dull at times. I don't know if he was bored or something, but it came across on screen if he was. I actually had a hard time figuring it out. Hell even as a face he could be bland at times. But it wasn't a huge problem for me. He was still all around very good in the heel role. I really liked this version 1 gimmick, and what really got me about that role was that he didn't try to have a constantly mean demeanor. He still looked and presented himself as a everyday normal guy. But that was what got me about him. He was able to flawlessly come across as a asshole almost perfectly without really trying. And you want to know how he does this? I could explain a lot of reasons, but instead I'll do it with this one entrance of his.
Cut to 1:05 for his entrance. Now, tell me what you notice about Matt's entrance. Can't quite figure it out? Look at what he's doing with the cruiserweight championship. He's holding it up for the entire entrance. That is fucking genius. From that little action right there, the whole story is being told to me. To me, he comes across as an arrogant asshole just by doing this one small thing. He even does it again after he wins the match, keeping the title high above his head during the post-match celebration. It seems to me like Matt clicked very well with the version 1 gimmick. He knew the exact things to do with the character and the crowd hated him because of it. I always considered version 1 to be the height of his career, something he could simply never outdo because of how great it was.
At least, that's what I thought at the time...
Broken Matt Hardy
And then this happened.
Broken Matt Hardy made TNA relevant again. That's not an exaggeration. For the past five or so years, literally nothing consistently good came from TNA. You can say that TNA Impact had a long string of great shows for a period of time, but quite frankly, I don't agree. And maybe I'm missing something, but so far nothing else is coming to mind. So when I first heard about this "broken" Matt Hardy thing, I rolled my eyes. I thought it was the case of TNA fanboys trying to lash on to anything they could to make TNA sound good again. And when the character was first described to me, I thought it was the dumbest fucking thing I had ever heard and couldn't help but wonder how any sane person could find something like that enjoyable.
And then I saw this video.
My jaws were sore from laughing. Do I even have to explain what's so great about this?
After this, I did quite a bit of digging, finding all the Broken Matt segments and matches I could. And I was pleasantly surprised. This wasn't just a great character, it was one of the best pro wrestling gimmicks we've had in at least fifteen years. And it came out of TNA. Go figure.
What amazes me so much about the gimmick is how original it is. The little patch of yellow dye in Matt's hair, the British accent, the way he dresses and acts, some of the popular catchphrases that this gimmick has created (most notably "delete"). It's amazing how popular this gimmick got. Just Seth Rollins saying the word "obsolete" made the fans on Raw chant "delete". That's insane. And as some posters here have pointed out, it brought Matt Hardy out of irrelevancy and he actually ended up overshadowing his brother. That's no easy feat considering Jeff's popularity. Jeff was one of the top stars in WWE at one point, and without question the top guy on the Smackdown brand in late 2008/2009. No lesser half of a famous tag team usually ever becomes more popular than the other. Christian never did, Kane never did with the Undertaker, we all know about Marty Jennetty. For Matt Hardy however to not only eclipse Jeff but completely reinvent himself is very impressive on his end.
Honestly, this might be the greatest gimmick change in the history of Pro Wrestling, even better than Chris Jericho's 2008 heel turn. Matt Hardy, who was well past his prime and never as popular as his brother Jeff, was able to change away from a tired gimmick he had been running with for most of his career, became something completely different and became the hottest act in Pro Wrestling. And it gave you a reason to give a shit about TNA again. He took TNA's pathetic excuse for a Pro Wrestling program and gave it something new and fresh. It was something that represented what we all love about Pro Wrestling. It was engaging, it was over the top, but most importantly, it was something different. And in this day and age, that can be hard to come across. But TNA had that. And it made me start watching their shows again. I haven't watched TNA shows actively since 2010. Broken Matt Hardy made me watch them again. That alone tells the whole story. This gimmick was so good that I was almost certain that Vince McMahon didn't like it, and I wasn't at all surprised when I found out that was apparently the case.
The Broken Matt Hardy character is, in my opinion, one of the best characters we've had in the past ten to fifteen years, maybe even twenty. The fact that he was able to create something better than the Hardy Boy and Version 1 characters, both of which were great in their own right, is truly astounding and a testament to how great he is in this department. Even if he had issues with being bland and dull at times, it doesn't take away how much of an impact he's made in this body of work. He took a literal shit show in TNA and made it watchable again. And that, in of itself, deserves all the praise in the world.
And this is where the phrase must unfortunately stop.
Yes, there are some really good things about his mic work, which I'll start with first. The first thing is, again, the effort he just gives into his promos. I made a similar point with Ric Flair in my analysis thread about him, in that giving a ton of effort and just having so much fun with what your doing can really bring out the best in you. The best way I can explain that is sometimes you will see actors in a movie role they simply aren't meant for. You can blame it on the casting director or just poor direction or just the actor being terrible. But if they are giving a lot of effort and are just having fun with it, that can rub off on the viewer. There's a popular saying in that if you, the actor, aren't giving a shit, then why should the audience give a shit? In Matt Hardy's case, in promos or moments where he isn't exactly good, him just having a blast makes everything more fun. And this can definitely apply to just short, simple moments. Or even just moments where he's saying one word.
Case in point:
Skip to 5:25, unless you want an idea of what the hell is going on, in which case watch the entire video up until that point. I've said a few times in my analysis threads that how good you are can go beyond how many memorable promos you cut, or how long you can go on and on for. Sometimes, just doing a small amount of talking can showcase how good you are at this. In this case, we are seeing Matt Hardy have the time of his life out here. And in doing so, his acting and delivery are surprisingly great and it's a very enjoyable little moment in the match. And in the end he ends up bringing the crowd into the match. And that's a key competent of mic work: making people give a shit.
For the most part, I've found Matt's use of facial expressions to be his strongest attributes on the mic. And while his voice can be a problem, in cases like above it can be beneficial. And he does tell a pretty good story on the mic. Here are the problems however with his mic work.
He could be downright cringe-worthy at times.
Cut to 3:45. Now let me ask you a question: do you believe anything that Matt is saying here? He is trying WAY too hard to act like a heel. In fact it seems like being a heel on the mic is his Achilles heel...no pun intended. But he could be forceful at times as a face too. He was fine when he just had to be natural and stuck to his character, but when he had to convey more emotion, all of a sudden he was doing everything wrong. I guess I should give him credit for actually trying to convey some form of emotion in his promos unlike a certain someone else with the same last name...but to be fair to Jeff, I guess he at least knew his weakness in that department and rarely tried. His pacing could be inconsistent too. I guess the morale of the story here is that as a face, Matt was a decent mic worker, who seemed to do best when he wa But as a heel, he would struggle. But overall, I consider Matt to be a somewhat decent mic worker, not anything to go crazy over but he can be entertaining.
This was probably the most difficult section I've done so far for a Pro Wrestler, because like Christian, Matt got totally fucked in this category. Rarely ever got significant in-ring time for matches to truly showcase his abilities, didn't have a lot of high-profile matches with a proper story. Now, granted, he doesn't come close to Christian in the ring, but none the less, he's proven himself to be a good in-ring performer when he was given the chance. In my opinion, his greatest attribute was without question his ability to play the face role in the ring. And this is just in regards to almost everything. Storytelling, bumping, character work, execution, he was very good in these areas.
Now I'll admit, Matt's entrance in this match still to this day gives me goosebumps, as does the first two or so minutes. With everything that is going on in this feud, you can just feel the intensity. This is one of those rare moments where the tension between two wrestlers actually feels legitimate. And yeah, I guess the storyline being about something that actually happened has something to do with it. But the way they play this match out from beginning to end showcases that tension, that anger, that desire from Matt to just beat the living shit out of Edge. When he gets his babyface comeback moment, he doesn't do a routine faster pace style type of deal. He just beats the shit out of Edge. And given the story and the circumstances, that's the way it should be.
He could be pretty good as a heel too.
In this match, he is playing the heel role perfectly fine, letting the Undertaker showcase his in-ring abilities but still allowing himself to look like he could at least go toe to toe with Taker (at least to an extent). But this match, while good, does display one of Matt's weaknesses in the ring, and it's selling, particularly when it comes to limb damage. Taker spent a good amount of the match working on Matt's left shoulder/arm, but once Matt takes control of the match, he almost immediately stops selling the damage. And I'm sure you all know how I feel about that. I've noticed that selling is a common problem with Matt's matches.
Another problem I have with Matt's matches, although minor, is the inconsistent pacing. Again, not too big of a deal, but at times, the pacing of his matches could be off.
My biggest problem with Matt as an in-ring performer without question has to be the character aspect. Now, I know I just got done saying earlier that he does good character work in the ring. At least, in some aspects he does. When he needs to be intense and showcase that, he does. He sticks to the story and does show aggression. When he's in the ring with an opponent he's supposed to be on good terms with or respects greatly (or even in the one case where he was facing his brother when they were both faces), he tones down on the intensity and has a match where he's trying to get the win as opposed to just beat up his opponent (so more wrestling, more school-boy or roll-up pin attempts). These are fine. But for a good portion of his career, he continued to carry this moniker that he was still someone who brought the "extreme style of wrestling" like his brother did. And that couldn't be further from the truth. At least Jeff actually did showcase that. Matt always showcased a more technical and crafted aspect of in-ring work. And my thing is that, although it's good, it simply doesn't fit what his character was supposed to be about. Sure he did leg-drops from the top rope regularly and every so often he did the moonsault too. But this just isn't enough. Again, Jeff did a lot more jumping-based moves, ones that exerted more energy and were much more risky. Even in the matches where he was allowed to use weapons, I just never felt like Matt showcased that. In his very early days, sure, he did, but mid career? No. My point is, if you're going to claim it, showcase it.
So while I do consider Matt a good in-ring worker, there are some problems that irritate me. I wish he could have gotten more chances at higher profile matches with longer in-ring time, but I guess I can at least be thankful for what we were given. He's given us some great matches, and he's proven himself to be a good hand in the ring with the opportunities presented.
So if I were to compare the two Hardy's from a talent perspective, I think it's pretty obvious who I'm going to pick. Matt's simply better on the mic, in the ring, and in the character department. I will admit that before, I thought Matt Hardy blew Jeff out of the water in pretty much every aspect of Pro Wrestling apart from charisma, but after analyzing both of them, it's actually a lot closer than I thought. Both guys are talented in their own aspects and while I consider Matt to be more talented, he isn't without his faults too. Neither Hardy is going into any top ten all time most talented list that I make, but I would be lying if I said there weren't areas they both stood out in.
In Matt's case, he's had a very interesting career and one we probably won't see again for a very long time. He ended up in what seemed like a hopeless situation well past his glory days and re-ignited his career, and in the process brought TNA back into relevancy. TNA deserves some credit too, especially Jeremy Borash, but it takes a special kind of talent to be able to do what Matt did with the Broken character. It'll most likely go down as the highlight of his career, and in my opinion, it should. It's something he should be proud of, because it was something truly special.
In ring, I feel Jeff is better than Matt but not by much, they both are decent but as you've pointed out Jeff has had more timer to shine than Matt but that'll be because he's just so much more charismatic that they had no choice but to push him because he's always been so over.
Character work is where Matt is very underrated. Matt Hardy's Version 1 was so good and I still remember when he was determined to lose the weight to become Cruiserweight Champion. Of course there have been times where Matts character has just downright been dull and boring (coming to the end of his WWE run back in 2009 or when he was a face in TNA and never talk about his first TNA run) but he's managed to reinvent himself. His big money Matt thing in ROH was hilarious and whether he was a face which you could get behind (2005 vs Edge or his feud with MVP) he always made it work and we all know the story with the Broken Hardys gimmick, who would've thought in 2016 Matt Hardy would be the most interesting wrestling.
Mic Work - ***
In-ring skills - ***
Character Skills - ****1/4
Excellent write up as always. Can't find anything in it that I disagree with. The only thing I'd like to add is just how much Matt contributed behind the scenes to the early success of the Hardy Boys. I was watching a documentary a while back and he's was talking about how he made their ring attire himself in the early days because they couldn't afford to but pre made stuff. He taught himself how to sew and make clothes. He talked about pretty much having to handle all of the grown up pain in the ass work like travel plans, booking, etc. There was also that Edge and Christian interview where they were talking about who they sat down with and planned out the matches with. They said that both of them were part of the planning, but that it was always Matt and Bubba from their respective tag teams. For this I respect the hell out of Matt. He really did so much of the heavy lifting behind the scenes and was so often overlooked in favor of Jeff.
Could you re-word this please? Because I'm not really sure what you mean by this.
I feel like people make up props to give Matt and Christian so they don't feel like they're the Janetty of their respective teams. For instance giving Matt an edge as an in-ring worker seems like finding credit to give him, because what about his ring work is better. I mean it's more traditional, but it's not like he's considered a great worker of that style or has all these great Matt solo matches that we're eye opening. It comes off like more knocking Jeff, because there's nothing really to praise about Matt's in ring work (I'm) other than if you like that he doesn't use Jeff's style.