Former ECW and TNA World Heavyweight Champion Matt Hardy has had a strong career. The former WWE star gained relevancy through his group, Team Xtreme, with Jeff Hardy and Lita. The brothers would go on to win multiple Tag Team titles before WWE’s unnecessary decision to split the brothers in 2002. Jeff Hardy was the charismatic daredevil and Matt was grounded and level-headed. The Hardy Brothers were a popular act, but it was clear when the duo went their separate paths that WWE saw Jeff Hardy as the main event star. It’s an odd decision because Matt Hardy has proven that when it comes to character work, he’s actually the better of the two. Who could forget Matt Hardy: Version 1? It was a fun gimmick that allowed him to truly show off his personality. Matt Hardy was the perfect douchebag bag heel and given the fact that he won the Wrestling Observer Award for Best Gimmick, it’s clear that audiences agree.
However, Matt Hardy has been able to diversify himself throughout his career. His most notable time was during his TNA/Impact Wrestling run. Big Money Matt was a fun departure for his character and his wife Reba really helped add to his whole persona. Of course, the most memorable was Broken Matt Hardy. Whether you loved the gimmick or hated it, there’s no denying that it sent a huge buzz around the wrestling community that actually garnered much-needed attention for TNA/Impact Wrestling. More importantly, it showcased more of Matt’s creativity and why he should’ve been a WWE main event star. So, why was it the fact that WWE branded Matt as nothing more than a mid-carder despite him being the stronger Hardy on the microphone? Simply put, Jeff was the more bankable star. When you peel back the layers of Jeff Hardy’s character, there’s not much to it than the daredevil/highflyer aspect. However, that’s the gimmick that was working. Obviously, the notion that Hardy was more popular thus his push isn’t a surprise.
However, take note on how Matt Hardy was pushed down to the cruiserweight division. In retrospect, Vince McMahon didn’t see him anything beyond that. Jeff Hardy is the crazy highflyer that would’ve been more of a fit for the division, yet Matt is the one vying for that title. It’s been well documented that Vince doesn’t particularly see cruiserweights as money and sending Matt down into that division pretty much highlighted his views on the former WWE Tag Team Champion. Matt wasn’t some 6’3, 300-pound dude, nor did he have the star presence of his brother. Jeff was terrible on the mic, but he has a star aurora about him that fans gravitate towards. When you look at the span of Jeff Hardy’s WWE career, his character hasn’t changed much. He’s still the charismatic daredevil. Sure, the company has brought Jeff’s real-life issues to his storylines, but it’s never changed him as a character. Again, it comes down to the fact that Vince McMahon sees main event value in Jeff and only Jeff.
Even after all the hard work that Matt Hardy did in TNA/Impact Wrestling, the WWE Chairman just saw a mid-card wrestler with a goofy gimmick. That’s why Michael Cole apologized to fans before the Broken Hardy match against Bray Wyatt. It would be shocking if Vince paid attention to Matt’s TNA/Impact stint, though at the point in the former WWE star’s career, the chance to take a huge risk with Matt Hardy as main event star was slim to none. The company never cared for the broken universe. They simply cared that it was a hot topic in 2016. Matt never really got a chance to prove that he could hang with the big boys in the main event. Sure, he was ECW World Champion, but that belt was never seen on the same level as the other brand titles. In all honesty, Matt Hardy’s reign of ECW World Champion felt like a consolation prize for his time in the company. It sucks to say this, but Matt Hardy was the Marty Jennetty of Team Extreme. The veteran has proven that he can carry himself as a main star, but Vince just didn’t see him as a Shawn Michaels.
It’s a shame because Big Money Matt could’ve worked well for the main roster. Broken Matt Hardy was too niche, so it likely wouldn’t have gotten over on the level that it should have because WWE’s need to micromanage everything. At the end of the day, Matt Hardy never stood a a chance between because he was always seen as Jeff’s brother, not a future WWE Champion.
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