There’s a web comic that’s now a TV series on Fox called Axe Cop. The entire premise of that story is a cop with an axe who gets into shenanigans and chops off bad guys’ heads. It sounds sort of silly, until you look into the creation of Axe Cop and realize it was made by Ethan Nicolle, age 29, and his younger brother Malachai Nicolle, age 5. The look of Axe Cop is all done by Ethan, but the story is all done by Malachai. Because of this, the storylines are absolutely ridiculous and hilarious to read and watch. The series includes thing like a pet t-rex that has machine guns for arms, a baby with a unicorn horn, and a teammate of Axe Cop’s whose name is Sockarang that has socks for arms that he can throw like boomerangs. The absurdity factor is off the charts, but in a weird way that’s what makes it so brilliant. The reason I bring all this up is because I interpreted the recent Matt Hardy versus Jeff Hardy feud at TNA in much the same light. It was so breathtakingly stupid that I found myself enthralled with every minute of it.
What started as jealousy over the TNA World Heavyweight Championship evolved into a telenovela soap opera that gambled on the affinity fans had for the Hardy brothers. Long story short, Jeff and Matt would have a series of typical Hardy Boyz matches including tables and ladders and chairs (oh my!) that cultivated in Jeff jumping off a high set of stairs at the Impact Zone and crashing into Matt. The following week, Reby Sky, Matt’s wife, was shown distraught as Matt sat silently in a wheelchair staring off into space. He wouldn’t eat, she said. He wouldn’t talk to her or play with their baby, Maxell. Jeff had broken his brother completely. Matt would then use various Willow incantations to return as what can only be described as a hand-me-down Sweeney Todd Halloween costume gimmick. He had crazy, wavy hair with a white streak and a salt-and-pepper beard. He had eye makeup on, he dressed in dark clothes, and spoke in a funny accent. It was laughable and caught fire on social media.
But instead of imploding on himself and turning people off even further from TNA, both Hardy brothers embraced the gimmick and ran with it. As the weeks went by, the gimmick got stranger and stranger. Matt began to play creepy piano licks, he began to speak in cryptic messages, claiming he wanted to delete his brother Jeff and have his son be the sole heir to the Hardy name. On the surface, it looked like just another series of weird antics by TNA. Then the whole thing got personal. They started showing the Hardy’s at home, in Cameron, North Carolina. We saw Jeff’s house, we saw Matt’s house. We heard stories about their personal lives and their childhood. It really became something you just had to watch and didn’t want to miss.
Then this past week, it all came to a head in what Matt referred to as The Final Deletion. The whole segment was brilliant. It was quite honestly one of the best things I have ever seen TNA do. It started with Jeff at home, playing the guitar with a montage of home videos, photos, and recent vignettes involving Jeff and Matt’s feud. Then a drone flew up in front of Jeff’s window. It scanned him. Then rang his doorbell. As Jeff opened the door, a whole squadron of tiny drones flew in and Matt’s voice was coming from them screaming, “Brother Nero!” One of the drones stops in front of Jeff and a red hologram of Matt appeared and told Jeff that at dusk he would be deleted. No, seriously, this happened:
Jeff flips out and does his best Jeff Jarrett impression, using the guitar to swat drones out of the air and make them explode. The final drone left swoops out the door and Jeff runs after it. He chases it across his property on a dirtbike. I shit you not, this happened on television. The chase ends when Jeff comes to a lake and can no longer follow the drone. It watches him as it fades into the sky and Matt is heard insulting Jeff’s landscaping. Then out of nowhere, Matt appears at Jeff’s house and rides a lawnmower through his tribal designed yard. It’s batshit insane, but I couldn’t look away. Oddly enough, as a homeowner I can say that one surefire way to piss off another man is to mess with his yard after he’s worked hard on it. But for real, take a look at Jeff Hardy’s absurd front yard:
Later, at Matt’s house, he and Reby have a birthday party for Maxell. Matt lights a candle and says it will burn until Jeff Hardy is deleted. His gardener Senor Benjamin gives Maxell a present and then Matt sends him off to prepare the battlefield. As night falls, a ref is shown driving up to Matt’s place and he approaches a ring setup in the middle of a clearing of trees. Matt says he wants the ref to count either the pinfall or submission and to not revive Jeff after he is deleted. Then Matt pulls out a violin and says he will play a tune that will make Jeff appear. He strums the strings and you hear Hardy’s dirt bike, which is as funny as it sounds. Jeff pulls up on his bike and disembarks. He gets into the ring, the two standoff, the bell rings, and then they go to war. It’s night time and the whole ring is surrounded by torches and construction lights. This all leads to, naturally, Jeff setting up Matt on a ladder and then climbing high up into a tree. He flips down, bends the ladder and seems to destroy Matt. But he kicks out at two and they keep fighting. Then Matt goes crazy and lights a giant roman candle firework. He chases his brother until the fireworks go out. The tables are turned though as Jeff comes around the corner of the ring, in slow motion, and lights his own roman candle. Matt yells, “Oh shit!” and Jeff replies, “Oh shit is right!” Then he chases his brother towards a lake.
Are you on the edge of your seat right now? Yeah, me too. It was that crazy. As Matt approaches the lake, he ducks under an overturned boat to block the fireworks. So then Matt throws Jeff into the lake because of course he does. Jeff appears to be lost in the darkness of the water. And then suddenly, he emerges dressed as Willow! He attacks Matt and starts choking him with some sort of wire. Then out of nowhere Senor Benjamin runs down and attacks Willow to save Matt. Senor Benjamin and Willow fight and Willow is taken down. Matt laughs and goes over for the pin. The ref counts to three and we all think Jeff has lost. But then Matt pulls off the mask and instead of Jeff, we see Senor Benjamin! HaHa the old switch-a-roo. Fuck me, this is actually really fun to write. Jeff runs in and attacks Matt once more and they fight into an empty field that has a pit dug. At the top of the pit is Jeff Hardy’s tribal sigil. He beats Matt down and leaves him in the pit. Then he climbs a ladder atop his sigil and prepares to flip down on his brother. Just then Matt reaches for the candle from Maxell’s birthday party and sets the entire sigil on fire. Jeff tumbles down below and Matt pins him for the win. The camera zooms up and out as Matt stands below the burning sigil, arms raised. Jeff Hardy has finally been deleted and Matt Hardy is now the sole owner of the Hardy brand and name in kayfabe.
What in the holy hell did we witness? This was something straight out of The Attitude Era. It put the entertainment back in sports entertainment. If this gimmick had folded in on itself weeks ago, it would have just been a blip on the radar. But TNA took it all the way to the end and now this entire storyline is out there in the public forum for viewing at any time. It was worth the wait. It asked us to buy into some bullshit and follow it to its rightful conclusion and we did, but somehow the payoff was actually worth the ride. The end justified the means and now I am grateful for having sat through segment after confusing segment to get to what I can only describe as a satisfying end. I’m sure this saga is far from over, unless one or both of the Hardy’s is leaving TNA. We will probably see the resurrection of Jeff Hardy, but for now this was an actual achievement for TNA. It was one of their few wins as of late.
The bottom line is TNA took a big risk on something not really seen in the mainstream of professional wrestling in a long time. They pulled the trigger on something bizarre and followed through on it. They didn’t put the genie back in the bottle. They didn’t eject midway through. They came up with a concept and put all the effort they could into it. And for that they should be commended. It might not be enough to turn the tide and make them popular, but it certainly got people talking about them and tuning in. If they can fine tune the thought process and put this much effort into serious, slow-burner storylines, then they may be taking the first step in a new direction. It’s bizarre, but oddly it works. It’s something that might only be attempted on Lucha Underground. Professional wrestling asks you to suspend disbelief and accept what they are showing you and we all did for Matt and Jeff Hardy. I don’t know how or why, but this was something we desperately needed in the business. Thank you, TNA.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker