Wrestler of the Week: Matt Hardy

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OWW Wrestler of the Week: Matt Hardy
Our Resident Philosopher, Jay Shannon, profiles the older of the Hardyz. Matt not only took out his brother, Jeff, in an Extreme Rules match at Wrestlemania, but also took out Jeff in a Stretcher Match on Smackdown. Matt Hardy’s dominance in his feud with his brother earned the Master of Mattitude this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

Matt Hardy has been in the center of things in the WWE for many years. He started out as one half of one of the best tag teams, ever. After his brother left the WWE, Matt had to reinvent himself. He worked himself up to one of the best secondary men in the business. When Matt’s brother, Jeff, returned, all seemed well. Jealously would eventually raise its ugly head and Matt would go after his brother. Matt has been surprisingly dominant in the feud. His Stretcher Match win on Smackdown earned the Master of Mattitude, Matt Hardy, this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

The Omega Man

Matt, along with brother Jeff, created their own small wrestling promotion in the mid-90s called Omega. They had several future WWE stars working with them, including Joey Mercury, Shannon Moore and Gregory Helms. Matt used several energy oriented ring names, such as High Voltage and Surge. The duo was eventually noticed by scouts for the WWE and offered positions with the company.

The duo of Matt and Jeff were sent to Florida to train under the legendary Dory Funk, Jr. The Hardys were both used as Jobbers initially, but management felt that they could be a modern-day Rockers/Rock and Roll Express.

Growing Pains

The Hardy Boyz went through several changes during the early days of their career. They were first brought to the ring by Michael Hayes. There was talk of making them the “New” Freebirds, but that idea was scrapped. The duo then replaced Edge and Christian as Gangrel’s henchmen. They were dubbed “The New Brood”. That alliance was brief. The brothers eventually won the managerial services of Terri (Runnels). Terri was only their manager for a few weeks before the high-flyers replaced Terri with Lita, a close friend to both brothers. The Hardys employed the nickname Team Extreme. After their alignment with Lita, the brothers began their tag team dominance.

Breaking away

In 2001, Creative decided to give both Matt and Jeff individual pushes. Matt won the European championship. He ended up as the second longest reigning European champion.

While the brothers did win both the WCW and WWE tag titles during 2001 and 2002, they were being pushed in different directions. When the talent was shifted around, Matt ended up on Heat. Matt would turn on his brother, Jeff, due to Jeff getting a title shot that Matt felt he deserved. The two brothers feuded briefly before Matt left for Smackdown.

Matt had a full change of character. He became Matt Hardy V.1. Matt aligned himself with “followers”, Shannon Moore and Crash Holly. The heel version of Hardy had a great run on Smackdown, but wanted to return to the Raw roster so that he could be closer to his girlfriend, Lita. Their relationship was used as part of a running storyline where Matt turned on Lita and a feud with Kane was created.

The World, The Flesh and The Devil

Matt and Lita had been dating for many years. During Matt’s time off to recover from an injury, Lita became romantically involved with Edge (Adam Copeland). The potential for “shoot” fights between the two men was one of the factors that led to Matt’s release from the company.

Matt worked the independent scene, including Ring of Honor. He filmed several vignettes to deal with his grief over being betrayed by Lita. He created a character called El Angelico Diablo (The Angelic Devil/Demon). That character was never used on WWE TV. Matt also called into the WWE talk show, Byte This, to go off on Lita. The viciousness of Matt’s comments actually sent Lita from the room, in tears. After that encounter, Matt was approached by WWE about coming back for a run against Edge. Matt had to agree to only go “so far” when it came to their battles.

Matt’s videos began to run on the Titantron. The first appeared during the “wedding” of Edge and Lita. Just as the priest asked the “if anyone should have good reason” question, Matt’s music blared and the eerie video ran. Matt’s videos would roll several times before Matt made his return to attack Edge. The two feuded for some time before Matt lost a Loser Leaves Raw match.

Starting Over

Once Matt was relegated to Smackdown, he began to look for a new tag team partner to assist with a feud with MNM. After several try-outs, Matt found himself teaming with The Road Warrior aka Animal. The two had minimal success before the team imploded. The Road Warrior was working a heel angle where he felt used by all his partners, especially Hawk. Matt and Road Warrior feuded briefly, until Road Warrior was released.

Hardy then moved on to feud with several other stars. He was the first man to defeat Mr. Kennedy. Hardy also briefly fought Booker T. Hardy’s biggest post-Road Warrior feud was against Gregory Helms. The two men exchanged numerous victories. Their feud would come to a halt when Matt was shelved with a staph infection.

Reunion

After recovering from his injury, Matt was paired with his brother, Jeff, for the first time in five years. The two would battle the Full Blooded Italians on an episode of ECW. The brothers were recruited to become part of Team DX at the Survivor Series. The quintet was dominant against Team Rated R-K-O.

Matt and Jeff injured the face of Joey Mercury during a botched ladder shot. This led to a nasty feud between the Hardys and MNM. Their feud lasted until Mercury’s release. Matt then won a spot in the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 23. The Hardys competed in a 10-team match to determine the World tag team champions. They defeated Cade and Murdoch to win the titles. The Hardys would drop the titles to Cade and Murdoch. After the loss, Matt returned to Smackdown.

A Patch of (Smackdown) Blue

After the tag team loss, Matt was brought over to Smackdown. MVP had been involved in an on-going feud with Chris Benoit for the US title. MVP had won the title and Benoit had left for ECW. Matt was set as the first challenger for MVP’s US title. The two feuded for several months. Hardy came close but never managed to take the title. He did dominate MVP in a series of odd challenges, including a basketball shoot-out, chess matches and more. Evander Holyfield and Steve Austin would be brought in as “special guests” to help in a boxing match and a drinking competition.

Matt would win gold on Smackdown, tag team gold. His partner, oddly enough, was MVP. They defeated Deuce and Domino. During their title run, Matt injured his knee. He needed time off for rehabilitation so Matt and MVP dropped the titles to Miz and Morrison. After the loss, MVP attacked the knee of Hardy. This gave Hardy the out to rehab his knee. He would also undergo emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix.

The Substitute

After recovering from the surgeries, Matt returned to support his brother, Jeff. Jeff was involved in a program with WWE champ, Randy Orton. Orton attacked Matt, kicking him in the head and near the area where the appendix had been removed. This returned Matt to the D-L list for a few more weeks.

Once Jeff Hardy failed the Wellness Program and found himself facing a 60-day suspension. Matt was called up to fill the void left by Jeff. Matt’s first appearance was at Wrestlemania 24, where he attacked MVP. On the Raw after Wrestlemania, Hardy attacked Randy Orton. This was in revenge for Orton’s brutal attack, months earlier. Hardy then challenged his old partner and foe, MVP, to a non-title match on Smackdown. Hardy focused on MVP’s knee. Matt would eventually take the US title from MVP at Backlash.

Crossroads

Matt was drafted to ECW during the 2008 Draft. Matt took his US title with him to the Black Brand. Matt had a few matches, defending his title, before dropping it to Shelton Benjamin. Matt faced Shelton a few times to try and win back the belt, but failed. Matt decided to switch his focus to a bigger prize.

On July 22, 2008, Matt defeated Finlay, Miz and John Morrison to become the number one contender to the ECW title. Matt would go on to defeat Mark Henry by disqualification at Summerslam. He would try a few more times to take the Platinum and Leather strap, before finally winning it during the Championship Scramble at Unforgiven.

Matt would successfully defend his title in some impressive matches. His battle against Matt Bourne was a contender for the 2008 Match of the Year. He was also successful in title defenses against Miz, Finlay and Chavo Guerrero. Matt’s title reign would come to an end at the hands of Jack Swagger. Matt’s arm was damaged during the match, which allowed Jack to take the advantage and hit the Gut Wrench Powerbomb.

Family Feud

While Matt was having a tough time in ECW, Jeff Hardy was going through some major personal issues. Jeff lost everything in a tragic house fire. He was then attacked in a hotel stairwell. He was also victimized by a wild driver and almost roasted by a pyrotechnic accident. Everyone was sure the “accidents” were caused by Edge. The fire was a legitimate accident that was not caused by the true tormentor of Jeff, but the others were. The person haunting Jeff was his very own brother, Matt.

Matt showed his true colors at the 2009 Royal Rumble. After losing a rematch to Jack Swagger, Matt came out to, seemingly, aid his brother during Jeff’s WWE title match against Edge. Matt prevented Vickie Guerrero from getting involved in the fray. Matt even brought in a pair of chairs, so Jeff could deliver a Con-chair-to to the skull of the Rated R Superstar. After sliding the first chair under Edge’s head, Matt looked prepared to help Jeff deliver the finishing blow. Instead, Matt blith-whapped his own brother with the chair, which would eventually cost Jeff the WWE title.

Matt would then go on a rampage, claiming that his brother was a “Screw Up” that didn’t deserve the fame that he received. Matt was always the “good brother” that got passed over for Jeff. Matt disowned his sibling and challenged his brother. In a bizarre reversal of the Bret v Owen Hart feud from many years earlier, it was the younger brother who didn’t want to battle his older brother. Matt continued to taunt his brother, including bringing out a Jack Russell terrier that looked a lot like the dog that Jeff lost in his house fire. Jeff finally agreed to battle his brother, at Wrestlemania.

The two brothers squared off in an Extreme Rules match at Wrestlemania. The two men were pretty well matched. The wrestled and counter-wrestled each other in a severely brutal match. Most every critic, myself included, expected Jeff to dominate and shut his brother’s mouth. He didn’t. Matt hit a Twist of Fate to seal the deal. Matt wasn’t ready to give up on the destruction of his brother. On the Smackdown following Wrestlemania, Matt smarted off during an opening segment promo about wanting to “stretcher out” his brother. New Smackdown GM, Teddy Long, picked up on the comment and booked a “Stretcher Match”. Matt, once again, overcame the odds and defeated his brother in another vicious battle. The feud with Jeff is just starting and Matt is looking like the better brother, at least so far.

In Conclusion

Matt Hardy has worn many faces during his career. He’s been the tag team specialist, the Master of Mattitude, the wronged person in a real-life love triangle, and the bitter brother. No matter which Matt walks through the curtain, the fans always get a top notch match. Matt may never reach the level of an Austin, Rock, HHH or Hogan, but he will always be one of the cornerstones of the modern WWE. Matt Hardy has accomplished every goal that he’s set out after. He is truly worthy of this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

Peace

— Jay Shannon
[email protected]
(4/14/09)