I know it feels like it’s been forever now but “Wrestlemania XXXIII” was earlier this month. While the show might have lasted the better part of nineteen days with 1837 matches taking place, one moment stood out above all others with the undisputed pop of the show: Matt and Jeff Hardy returned to the company and won the Raw Tag Team Titles in a major surprise. Since our collective heads exploded at the time, I don’t think we really realized how important and impressive this comeback really was.
Both eventually left the company (Jeff in 2009, Matt in 2010) and went to TNA with, shall we say, mixed results. This is where things get interesting as it seemed that, while still big deals, they were far from their WWE versions. Matt arrived as Cold Blooded (a gimmick that was little more than a name) before being released that same year due to a DUI.
Then there’s Jeff, who was a bit more up and down. Jeff won three TNA World Titles but was put into a less than thrilling heel gimmick. This included a certain infamous match at “Victory Road 2011” where Jeff challenged Sting for the TNA World Title, but the wrestling (what little there was) is far from the most memorable portion.
This match is best remembered for Jeff showing up incredibly stoned and not being able to do anything resembling wrestling a match. After teasing throwing his shirt to the crowd for over a minute, Jeff took a few strikes and then a Scorpion Death Drop for the pin in 1:27. That’s the whole main event and the pay per view went off the air with Sting agreeing with the crowd’s complaints.
Since it was TNA, they kept Jeff around and gave him the World Title the following year at “Bound For Glory 2012” because he was a former WWE star and therefore needed to be pushed as the focal point of the promotion. Jeff was mostly fine after that point though there was always a sense that he could go over the edge at any given time.
After a few years on the independent scene, especially in Ring of Honor, Matt returned to TNA and actually won a pair of World Titles. Eventually he got into a feud with his brother, who cost him the World Title by attacking him before Drew Galloway cashed in his Feast or Fired briefcase. An I Quit match followed…..and then it all went off the rails.
A few weeks after Jeff nearly killed his brother in the I Quit match, Matt returned with white/black hair and an accent that can most accurately be described as somewhat British. This led to a discussion of his gardener’s amazing green beans, a battle of dueling fireworks, a dilapidated boat and the Rock N Roll Express showing up to prevent seven deities from destroying either just Cameron, North Carolina or perhaps the entire world if the Hardys couldn’t win a very long tag match.
This was the Broken Universe, which started off as one of the most insane, ridiculous, over the top and downright bizarre things we had ever seen in wrestling. It then evolved into the absolute most insane thing ever in wrestling with an entire show dedicated to it craziness. Almost all of this came from the twisted mind of Matt with Jeff contributing his own additions as well.
The thing is, while the concept didn’t exactly raise TNA’s stock around the wrestling world, it certainly raised the Hardys’. All of a sudden these guys were the hottest act in wrestling and were brought into almost every promotion you can imagine, including Ring of Honor for their “Final Battle 2016” event where Matt made a cameo appearance, setting up their official debut in 2017.Then the wrestling world rolled into Orlando where the Hardys were the featured attraction at both “WrestleCon Supershow 2017” and “Supercard of Honor” where they were treated like kings. The following night was the main event of the weekend with “Wrestlemania XXXIII” which saw triple threat ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Titles.
Actually not so fast though as the Day, the show’s hosts, came out announced that the match was now a four way. After teasing that New Day themselves would be added, but instead there was a major surprise. Yes the Hardys were back and drawing the biggest pop of the night all over again. This might have been the most fun moment of the entire weekend with an absolutely incredible ovation. The Hardys won the titles, completing their return to the top of the tag team world.
While people were raving about the act that the Hardys were back and winning more gold (in their second ladder match in two nights), I don’t think they realize what a career turnaround this was. When you consider that just a year earlier, Matt was staring into the camera ant shouting about Brother Nero while Jeff just kind of went along for the ride, this is one of the biggest surprises in a very long time.
A few years before the Broken Universe, the Hardys were absolute disasters with Jeff not being able to make it through a pay per view main event and Matt seemingly pretending to leave a suicide note on Twitter for the sake of working the internet (as his wife put it). These guys were not only back on the top of the WWE but near the top of the wrestling world in general.
To call this a comeback is an understatement, not to mention missing the bigger picture. This showed that wrestlers can indeed leave WWE and increase their stock elsewhere before coming back. That opens a lot of doors and is only further enforced by the return of Drew McIntyre, who was announced as returning to WWE the night before “Wrestlemania XXXIII”. People who left the company can indeed regain their status and turn into successes all over again without WWE’s help, which is hardly the most common occurrence.
What we saw in Orlando wasn’t just a big moment and a cool return. It was the payoff for two people who never gave up and kept going until they were allowed to show that they still had that magic. The Hardys are both getting up there in years and aren’t likely to be around much longer, but it’s very cool to see them having one last big run at the top of the wrestling world.
They earned their way back and that’s a great sign for other wrestlers who were told they didn’t belong in WWE anymore. The Hardys turned themselves into something brand new and it was too much for WWE to pass up. Hopefully that means a change of pace and a sign that the WWE’s complete dominance over everything might be a bit broken.
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