After seven months, WWE will finally be showcasing the gimmick that made Matt Hardy the most-talked about wrestler in the country outside of the WWE umbrella. Now that he is “woken” as opposed to broken, Hardy will hopefully recreate the success he was able to have outside of the company. When Matt and Jeff Hardy were first brought back to WWE, the plan was originally for them to bring their money-making gimmick with them. Legal action from Impact disrupted those plans, but with Impact struggling to retain talent and pay the bills after being sold to Anthem, they have relented on their refusal to allow the Hardy’s to use the broken gimmick in WWE.
It remains to be seen just how popular the gimmick will be in WWE, which will be a much larger audience than in Impact, ROH or any of the indie promotions it has appeared in previously. The gimmick got over like gangbusters in Impact and did have a positive effect on ratings, so there is evidence to support the notion that it is going to be successful in WWE. However, there is concern that WWE and their domineering control of their characters, will alter the gimmick to the degree it will no longer represent the same character that was popular in the first place. I actually think fans should be optimistic about “woken” Matt Hardy because the nature of the gimmick almost makes it impervious to characteristic damage. The whole point of the broken character was that it was intentionally bizarre and played on fans’ fondness for cheering the obscure and the absurd. Matt Hardy’s gardener is a major character? Matt’s infant son is going to have a wrestling match? Those aspects just made the character more interesting and played into the overall absurdity of the gimmick. I think it is safe to say that in his feud with Bray Wyatt, Hardy is going to be doing some seriously weird stuff, but unlike Wyatt, who fans are supposed to believe is scary and intimidating, I think it will mostly benefit the character Hardy is trying to portray.
Tag Team Dream
For years and years the tag team division in WWE was a complete afterthought. How many memorable WWE tag teams can you think of between 2005 and 2010? In recent years, WWE has been steadily stockpiling talent in the division and the result is that the best part of RAW, SmackDown, NXT or any of the PPVs is often the tag team matches. Whether it has been career teams like The Usos and The Revival, or the pairing of two singles wrestlers stuck in no-mans land like Sheamus and Cesaro, WWE has found teams that work and have been able to put on consistently good matches, even after fans have seen the match-ups plenty of times. Just look at the last few PPV events; at Survivor Series outside of Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles, the best matches were the tag team bouts (The Shield vs The New Day and Sheamus and Cesaro vs The Usos). At TakeOver the night before, the most talked about match was the War Games tag-team match. At Hell in a Cell, easily the best match of the night was The Usos vs The New Day.
The New Day deserve a lot of the credit for turning things around. Not only did they reinvent themselves after their original gimmick was DOA, but they have been able to stay fresh and entertaining even while being tasked with working with the same opponents over and over again and being asked to cut promos nearly every week for years. Kofi Kingston is the best natural athlete and veteran worker of the group. Big E is great at getting the hot tag and using his strength and athleticism to tilt the momentum of matches. Xavier Woods isn’t quite as good of a worker as the other two, but he is the best talker and has a flair for self-promotion that few in the company can match. All three of them have like-minded attitude and the WWE marketing department has done a great job in developing merchandise and they work hard at promoting it. It’s a real success story for the company and and for three hard-working individuals that were able to make the most of their opportunity.
The New Day are not the only team to find success in the division. The Usos have come a long way over the years since their debut and since going to SmackDown and working as a tweener team, they are showing a lot more charisma and ability on promos. Sheamus and Cesaro have been the exact, fundamentally strong team you would expect them to be. Adding The Shield to the mix obviously also gives WWE a team that is instantly over and features well-known stars. As good as the division has been, it could be even better if WWE hadn’t whiffed on so many other teams. Anderson and Gallows were never pushed to the level they should have been, they unceremoniously broke up American Alpha, teams like The Vaudevillians and The Ascension were never seriously pushed after being called up from NXT, and The Hardy Boys and The Revival were both derailed by injuries. The number one issue in the division right now is depth, but hopefully that problem will be rectified soon. The return of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan as The Bludgeon Brothers should help SmackDown. The Revival is nearing a return and they will likely be followed by the return of Jeff Hardy on RAW. Down in NXT, The Authors of Pain have progressed faster than anyone could have expected and Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly have been one of the best tag teams in wrestling for years. WWE could also call up SANITY at pretty much anytime, and flying under the radar is TM61, who should be getting back into the picture after Shane Thorne missed nine months with an injury.
The most underrated wrestler in the world
Underrated in wrestling is defined by someone whose reputation and notoriety seems less than what their production and talent level seems to deserve. In my opinion, the most underrated wrestler in the world this year has been Masaaki Mochizuki. Mochizuki has been having a fantastic year for Dragon Gate and yet I have seen very little written about him, even from puro blogs and other outlets that frequently cover Japanese pro wrestling. Mochizuki, at age 47, has had some incredible matches for Dragon Gate and was able to capture the Open the Dream Gate Championship (Dragon Gate’s version of the world title) from YAMATO in September and has put together some spirited defenses, most recently in November against Susumu Yokosuka. Dragon Gate isn’t a small promotion, they frequently draw upwards of 5,000 fans for their PPV shows, and Mochizuki as the champion has been counted on to deliver 30-minute main event matches that are wrestled at a lightning fast pace. Again given his age, his ability to not only keep up but overwhelm younger athletes is almost as impressive as his crisp strikes and smooth technical transitions. In 2017, Mochizuki has been every bit as good as KENTA was when he was the world champion for Pro Wrestling NOAH, a time when a lot of fans who watch wrestling worldwide thought he was the best wrestler in the world.
Must Watch Matches
Ricochet vs Eita: ****1/4 – Dragon Gate The Gate of Destiny
BxB Hulk, Kzy and YAMATO vs El Lindaman, Shingo Takagi and Takashi Yoshida vs Kotoka, Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi: **** – Dragon Gate The Gate of Destiny
Masaaki Mochizuki vs Susumu Yokosuka: **** – Dragon Gate The Gate of Destiny
Suwama vs Kento Miyahara: ****1/2 – AJPW Raising an Army Tag 4