By Will Pruett
It’s been years since I have written about TNA Impact Wrestling. I somehow (well, purposefully) missed the entire Destination America run of the show. I have avoided some of the Pop TV episodes. However, when a screener for this show popped up in my email inbox, I could not resist. TNA, over the last week, has done a masterful job promoting what they called “The Final Deletion” and I wanted (well, to be honest, NEEDED) to see what it was all about.
This match/music video/battle was the culmination of the blood feud Matt and Jeff Hardy have been in since Hardy turned into the “Big Money Matt” character (and, of course, Broken Matt Hardy after). I’ve been keeping an eye on this feud, simply because it seems like someone finally figured out how to make Matt and Jeff feud the right way. WWE tried it multiple times, notably in 2001 and 2009, but never got it right.
To start with, The Final Deletion cannot be judged the way one judges an average American wrestling match. It’s not meant to be given a star rating and analyzed hold-for-hold. If you’re trying to evaluate it the way most folks evaluate wrestling, you will miss the point entirely. Stepping away from standard wrestling metrics is important in general (they’re terrible), but especially important when looking at something like The Final Deletion.
Now, with the standard method of evaluating wrestling out of the way, let’s talk about professional wrestling, not as a genre itself, but as an art form containing multiple genres. There is not one sole way of producing compelling professional wrestling. It’s not as simple as basic math. When trying to create something worthwhile in the medium of wrestling, two plus two does not always equal four. Art is more ephemeral than a formula would suggest. It needs room to breathe, grow, and experiment.
Just like the medium of theatre can be a massive hip hop musical like Hamilton, a quiet introspective play like Beckett’s Endgame, an interesting social experiment like the works of Improv Everywhere, or a classical presentation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, wrestling can be presented in so many ways.
For many years progress in the medium of professional wrestling has slowed. WWE has dominated the scene with one particular style and genre. I tend to enjoy this genre more often than not, but it is stale. It’s been done. It is a formula. Other wrestling companies, whether on the national scene or the independent scene have tried to produce wrestling within WWE’s genre. Few have ventured out. Wrestling has stalled the way the sitcom stalled in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Everyone has focused on producing carbon copies of Friends instead of bringing new thoughts to the space.
Lucha Underground has helped to change this depressing circumstance in modern wrestling. They produced something outside of the standard American drama. It’s hard to look at something as unique as The Final Deletion and not see the clear inspiration Lucha Underground provided (incidentally, an Executive Producer for Lucha Underground looked exceptionally petty last night by harshly critiquing TNA).
Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy, along with Impact Wrestling’s production and creative teams, brought something completely new and different to the medium of wrestling. They didn’t half-ass any portion of this. They didn’t directly copy anything that had been done before. They didn’t let the medium confine them. They expanded what professional wrestling can do in a massively experimental way. In doing so, they created something fun, new, and different.
I don’t want to watch something like The Final Deletion every week. I don’t want to watch an entire television show dedicated to matches set in the wilderness of North Carolina. I do want to see more wrestling that stretches the traditional boundaries of what wrestling can do. I want wrestling to evolve and grow. I want wrestling to experiment, even if some of those experiments fail.
The Final Deletion was a brilliant experiment. It was an event unlike anything Impact Wrestling has ever produced. It was downright magical in certain moments. Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Impact Wrestling’s creative staff, and everyone else involved should be applauded for creating a true game changer in the medium of professional wrestling and reminding all of us how experimental the art form can be.
– Of course Jeff Hardy’s lawn has the same designs as his weird facial hair. Why wouldn’t it?
– I am personally concerned for the safety of Matt Hardy’s gardener.
– There was some very real joy in my heart when the referee drove up to the ring and was visibly confused.
– Not only did Impact Wrestling do a good job building hype for The Final Deletion, they also did a great job using this episode of Impact to build next week. They knew a lot of eyes would be on this show and they capitalized on it. The segment between Bobby Lashley and Eddie Edwards building to their title-for-title match next week was excellent. This is how you use one show to build to another. This was some great week-to-week storytelling.
– The hype for the fight (of some sort) between Ethan Carter III and Drew Galloway was also quite solid. I’m planning to tune into Destination X next week, which I did not expect to be doing.
– Eddie Edwards winning the X Division Championship on this show could have been a bigger moment than it was. I understand the idea behind the Mike Bennett vs. The Entire X Division match, but Mike Bennett losing clean to Eddie Edwards would have been better. Throwing the entire division out there in one match makes to division seem far too small. As the talent in the division walked out, I was happy with the depth shown. Now it’s time to make each character in the division matter.
– Billy Corgan should never be on a wrestling TV show again.
– Dixie Carter should never be on a wrestling TV show again.
– Mike Bennett and Maria are a fantastic act who seem better on the TNA stage than they ever did in Ring of Honor.
– This was my first exposure to Eli Drake and I enjoyed the presentation of the character.
– On a show with something like The Final Deletion, I would not suggest tossing another hardcore style match around. Marti Bell and Jade’s fight involving nunchucks was super strange. I was not feeling it.
– Josh Matthews and D’Angelo Dinero are not a quality commentary team.
As someone who keeps tabs on TNA, but doesn’t watch regularly, this episode left me feeling very confident about their current creative direction. While their roster is not the roster I remember them having, it’s actually younger and stronger than what TNA had for many years. This is a show with the right people in the right places. I’m going to watch again next week, which was not my original plan.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts (and please don’t ignore this and post super annoying thoughts), hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.