I have been conditioned to believe that everything involving a Hardy brother right now is a work. A rib. A con. A ruse. An implement used to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Not kosher. You get the general idea. So when I saw Jason Powell post this yesterday afternoon, I read it with a jaundiced eye, to be sure:
TNA officials came close to pulling Jeff Hardy from Sunday’s TNA Final Resolution pay-per-view. At one point, there was concern amongst TNA management that Hardy was in no condition to perform. There was talk of making an announcement that Hardy was injured, and that he was being stripped of the TNA Title.
Replacement main events were discussed and they were planning to go with an alternate main event at one point. However, the original main event of Hardy vs. Matt Morgan with Mr. Anderson as the special referee was back on as of last check.
Everyone’s immediate instinct is to get all up in arms when they read something like that. How could TNA let him perform under these conditions? They should fire him for being so unprofessional!
The problem with this logic is that this kind of thing has been TNA’s M.O. for a long time now. WWE released Kurt Angle because he was in such bad condition, they didn’t want him to die in a WWE ring. Desmond Wolfe failed a WWE physical so badly that they wouldn’t even consider signing him to a contract. They handed him to TNA, so unconcerned were they about losing him as a prospect.
So this really shouldn’t be anything new, work or shoot. But I hesitated on posting something about it until today because I wanted to read about (couldn’t be bothered to actually watch the show live, mind you – making me exactly like almost every other fan of professional wrestling) exactly what happened on the show and whether he wrestled or not. And, of course, he did. He wrestled a 12 minute main event title match against Matt Morgan, who obviously deserves much better than that, and is likely just counting down the days on his contract until he can go back to WWE and become a star.
As I indicated before, I figured it was a work from the beginning. Like in any good murder mystery, you have to look for the person ultimately responsible. In this case, you have to realize that Vince Russo still books TNA. Against all better judgment, all sense of reason and common sense, it’s still Vince Russo who is responsible for TNA’s murders. Let’s examine that more closely for a minute, shall we.
People can get in for free at the Orlando Fairgrounds. So there is no way to judge whether their booking is effective in getting people to pay money to come to the live events. The same amount of people every month watch their PPVs. Most people who view their PPVs opt to do so less than legally online. Apparently only people without an internet connection are willing to pay to see the product on pay-per-view. So that’s not the best way to gauge the product either.
The bottom line here is that there exists no system of checks and balances to show whether Vince Russo is doing a good job or not. I mean, I don’t know how to cook worth a damn, but I can tell you when you just burned your soufflé. But if you want statistics to back that up, I come up woefully short. If TNA does anything well, it’s keeping you from knowing just how not well things are going.
So back to Jeff Hardy. He’s looking at serving prison time for drugs, so when you hear something like “in no condition to perform” you automatically think he’s up to his old tricks. And whether it’s a work or a shoot, it’s a sad situation because no one is able to say, “Well, wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense!” Because it does. It’s perfectly plausible that Jeff Hardy would show up to any given show higher than ten kites stacked on top of eleven kites, being flown by Kevin DiFrango.
In a true professional wrestling organization, well run with discipline and accountability, Jeff Hardy would never have been booked in a main event World Title match at a PPV in the first place. He probably wouldn’t be employed. Once again, I go back to the example Bill Watts gave in his RF Video shoot interview. In 1995, when Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman and Davey Boy Smith got beat up by a bunch of Marines in a bar that time, that’s three guys who should have been fired on the spot. They were drunk and hopped up on whatever, and they got beat up and made to look bad to boot. Which, in turn, makes the company look bad. It doesn’t matter if these are top guys or not, what they did was profoundly stupid and unprofessional, and you can’t be having that in your company. You need to send the message that it is unacceptable.
In TNA, there is no such accountability. They are willing to hire people with drug addictions, pain killer addictions, people so broken down they can’t even pass a basic physical examination. And you can’t argue that they can’t afford to lose Hardy because he’s too important to the company. We’ve already established here that they have no business model for financial success. They can’t even market him properly; the top babyface in all of wrestling in 2009 is now being utilized as a heel, thus potentially castrating his ability to sell merchandise.
So I refuse to get all up in arms about whether he really was in no condition to perform (Powell’s suggestion that he must have “slept it off” before going out to wrestle is wholly laughable here), because the problem isn’t with Jeff Hardy. Jeff Hardy is simply doing what he always does: get high, have fun, mess around, be a big kid. It’s the company’s fault here. They are sending him the message that it is perfectly okay to behave in that manner. No repercussions will follow. He’s a former WWE superstar, and that’s all that really matters to TNA anyway.
Because for as long as TNA exists, it does not exist to make money. It does not exist to get good television ratings. It does not exist to sell a bunch of pay-per-views. It exists as somebody’s vanity project, a chance for them to rub elbows with superstars and get their face on TV. And after all, isn’t that what’s really important?