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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: The Final Deletion, The Wyatt Compound, and the End of Reality
By Maverick
Jul 14, 2016 - 2:49:01 PM

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The Final Deletion, The Wyatt Compound, and the End of Reality

A certain type of wrestling fan is all too used to hooting with derision at the latest round of bizarre creative decisions and terrible backstage business practices that have been everyday occurrences at TNA since Dixie Carter took control. I suppose it is a little like late period WCW in the way that fans draw schadenfreude from the death throes of a wrestling promotion. In the past couple of years alone, Impact has been shunted from obscure network to obscure network and lost most of its top tier talent, including such names as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, as well as having its product routinely panned by critics. For myself, I stopped watching long before that point; the TNA I enjoyed began with Roode’s face push to the Bound For Glory finals and ended around the time they brought in Derrick Bateman, a talented but low totem pole WWE reject, and tried with the Ethan Carter III repackage to instantly make him a credible main event talent. That he ultimately grew into the role, by all accounts, was by the by. I was done with my Sunday night viewing of Impact, which had been a ritual for me since the autumn of 2010. The marginalisation of Aries and Roode was my primary gripe, but it had also ceased to be a coherent promotion, at least in my eyes. I am always wary of people critiquing a product that they don't watch, but the last three years of following those who do watch on Twitter and so on, has done little to make me bother giving an episode of Impact a chance.

However, for me and many other WWE-centric commentators, that changed when the first footage of “Broken” Matt Hardy surfaced. Since Matt was first left in Jeff’s slipstream in the aftermath of Attitude, he had struggled to find his niche, outside of the Version 1 gimmick and a white hot feud with Edge which only came about because of his real life humiliation by that same man. Various attempts at a Hardy Boys feud had been made over the years, in both WWE and TNA, but nothing had ever aroused much interest. Add in the increasingly unstable behaviour Matt was exhibiting outside the ring- using a taster on his girlfriend on tape, and so on- and the Sensei of Mattitude had become a veritable punching bag for the IWC. That didn't seem likely to change when he unveiled his latest character change. After dressing up as Jeff’s alter ego Willow and tormenting him that way, the new “Broken” character was presented to us; looking like late period Adam Ant crossed with a more dishevelled Robert Smith, the new Matt Hardy dressed in an ornate enscrolled greatcoat and bore a skunk stripe of white through a mane of frizzed up hair. The laughter could be heard from every conceivable part of the Internet. This is a man in his forties...what was he doing? Moreover, he began to affect a faux British accent that sounded like an amateur actor sending in a showreel to Game of Thrones and calling his brother by his (very silly) real life middle name, Nero. Only in wrestling, eh?

Yet even that did not compare to the contract signing for Slammiversary, the event which REALLY set social media ablaze with conversation about the angle. Absolutely vintage wrestlecrap, the set piece saw Matt’s demand that the contract be signed by Jeff met in hilarious fashion. Arriving at the Hardy “compound” on a motorbike, Brother Nero was met by Broken Matt in full on demented shaman mode. At this point, Jeff noted to Reby that he was well aware that it was a trap, but would proceed anyway. Entering the house to find his brother miming playing piano like some sort of prog musician from the 70s, Jeff then proceeded to walk into the aforementioned trap, as a fairly bog standard in ring contract signing suddenly turned very weird; distracted by Reby throwing her child (actually a doll) at him, The Charismatic Enigma was glassed by Matt before taking a slow motion Side Effect through a coffee table. Matt then crowed, in his strange accent, “BROTHER NERO! IT’S OVAH!”, a phrase which soon went viral. So far, so weird. Who knows if the company and performers actually knew that they were creating such comedy gold? Knowing the Hardys, they probably went into the skit thinking it was deadly serious, only for the sheer campness of it to defeat their purpose. However, regardless of how it came off, it cannot be disputed that it got people talking. Even those who had not a single lick of investment in what usually goes on in TNA checked the segment out. Soon after, a “director’s cut” version was available, which was wonderfully ridiculous in its own right. If we follow the “any publicity is good publicity” rule of thumb, the gloriously bizarre compound film was a resounding success. But better- or worse, depending on your perspective- was still to come.

After losing the Slammiversary match, Matt challenged Jeff to one last battle, but this time with the entire image and copyright rights to the Hardy “brand” at stake. In gloriously hyperbolic terms, the event was titled “The Final Deletion”. When I woke up last Wednesday, the reaction to it had entirely taken over my Twitter feed. If the first Hardy compound video had been a postmodern treat, this one took “so bad it's good” to hitherto unforeseen levels. We begin with the birthday party of Matt and Reby’s son, “King” Maxel, and their gardener, “Senor Benjamin” gifting the child “an extraordinary xylophone”, before Matt announces that sunset will see Jeff DEE-LETED! Cue jump cut to Jeff mowing his trademark symbols into a lawn (yep, I have no idea either), before sitting down to play some chilled guitar, only to be interrupted by a “fleet of aerial assault robots” invading his home. Jeff comically swats at the invaders with his guitar, but “Vanguard 1”, leader of the fleet, beams a hologram of Matt into the living room gloating about the coming Final Deletion. At this point, Jeff randomly (and woodenly) yells “OH HELL NO” before deciding to take off after Vanguard 1 on a motorcycle. Little does he realise that Matt is busy mowing the lawn (or, “beloved yard”) Jeff had just painstakingly landscaped. The sight of the Broken One, arms outstretched, maniacally riding a sit down lawn mower is one of the stranger sights in pro wrestling history, quite honestly, but weirder was still to come. First we have a faux dramatic montage of Senor Benjamin “preparing the battlefield...for massacre!”, including the traditionally weird kendo sticks and steel chairs under the ring (who knows why they’re there in every pro wrestling match...good kayfabe question, that), as well as fireworks, and gasoline for reasons which would become clear later.

Cue darkness, and a referee, in his zebra stripes, turning up in a car to take a set of instructions about how to officiate the match, before Matt “summons” Brother Nero by playing a violin (obviously). So, in their teenage wrestling ring, the brothers begin to wrestle. Strangely, we begin with headlock takedowns and collar and elbow tie ups (soundtracked by ominous choirs and chugging power chords), before the weapons and big offensive moves are gradually introduced. Several near falls follow, as well as Jeff attempting a Swanton out of a tree, of all things, and predictably crashing and burning, before having to fend off fireworks with a trash can lid (of course). Matt’s gloating is short lived, as Jeff also finds fireworks, but Matt takes refuge behind a “dilapidated boat”. Somehow or other, Jeff becomes Willow (yeah, I don’t know either) but is tased by Senor Benjamin, only for the pinfall not to count because….Senor Benjamin is Willow (erm?). A brawl in a sand dunes between the brothers follows, which Jeff has the best of, but climbing to the top of a wooden sculpture of his symbol ends up being the end of him, as he falls off and is covered for the three count...his deletion was complete.

Now, once again, the complete seventeen minute slice of melodrama, though utterly absurd, captured the attention of the IWC. The statistic that I read was that TNA had secured an extra 90,000 live viewers for the Final Deletion episode. Now, what if those viewers, who tuned into see something ridiculous, were taken with something else on the show and came back to watch Impact again? Almost accidentally, TNA seem to have stumbled into something of a goldmine. The other aspect of this we have to look at is Matt himself. One thing which is not in dispute is his commitment to the character, from his appearance, to his demeanour, to his social media presence, which is as brilliantly over the top as his TV presence. You absolutely have to admire the way that he has reinvented himself at this point in his career. It would have been so easy for him to cruise to pay cheques based on his Attitude Era heyday, but instead, he is exploring other avenues, with extremely entertaining results (perhaps unintentionally, but entertaining is entertaining). This week’s Impact saw him continue the fun by naming the “dilapidated boat” which saved him from the “demonic fire of Brother Nero” Skarsgard and then taking it out to sink Jeff’s clothing in the river, including a t-shirt brought to him by the faithful Vanguard 1. We then get a private screening for his lackeys of the Final Deletion match, followed by a hilarious dinner scene where he mistakes a Romanian waitress for Spanish, obsesses over green beans and makes a strong statement about his dislike of mustard. All of this was crowned by a “public deletion” where Matt chose to keep Jeff around as an enslaved cash cow so that he can’t go and work under a pseudonym for “MEEK MAHON” (LOL) or “New Wrestling in Japan”. Though all of this began for me as a hysterically funny diversion from the actual wrestling I watch, I actually think that TNA might be on the verge of turning this into a genuinely interesting and well rounded pro wrestling story. I’ll certainly be following the angle through with interest.

Even more interestingly, it seems to me that WWE have sat up and taken notice. The very same week that the Final Deletion match aired, Bray Wyatt cut a promo inviting The New Day to “The Wyatt Compound” (hmm, where have I heard that before?), an invitation they foolishly accepted. Turning up in wife beaters and tracksuit bottoms, the usually chipper New Day were beaten into the mud and then forced to witness an entire valley full of “fireflies” and the honking of car horns as they realised what, in kayfabe, they’d got themselves into. Now, although rumours have stated that all of this was planned before the Hardys saga gained popular traction, I tend to think that if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. There was a definite influence there. Which isn’t to say, of course, that any of this is particularly new. Wrestling has traded in ridiculousness for as long as I can remember. Wrestlecrap angles are ten a penny through the past thirty years. Big Show’s dad’s coffin being stolen by The Big Boss Man anyone? Pepper the dog being fed to Al Snow? Al Wilson? Katie Vick? Faker Taker? Stone Cold and Booker T brawling in a supermarket? I could go on. I suppose that the reason the Final Deletion and the Wyatts compound segment has captured the imagination so much is that the past five years have been endlessly defined by WWE’s obsession with “reality”. Anyone who had a quid for every time the word “reality” or the moniker “Reality Era” was used would be a very rich man. WWE went out of their way to use fan awareness of backstage goings on, and the sheer amount of “smart” fans engaged in the product, to move away from some of the more fantastical elements of pro wrestling. Now, having explored- and arguably exhausted- that avenue, it’s no surprise to see the storylines get more, well, story, than has been the case since CM Punk cut the Pipebomb.

Whether this return to outside vignettes and over the top storytelling is a brief anomaly or the beginning of a prevailing trend remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: The Final Deletion will be a talking point for the rest of this year, and it is likely that it will continue to be so for many years to come. Postmodernist masterpiece or the purest wrestlecrap? That’s in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

This is Maverick, requesting flyby.