Last night’s RAW was an episode of wrestling TV that will be talked about for some time, as Matt Hardy returned to WWE in a “worked shoot” angle that tied real life into storylines in a way not done successfully in years.
It’s been confirmed by several in the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) that the Matt Hardy angle from last night’s RAW was in fact planned by Hardy and WWE, and the reactions have been mostly cautiously positive:
– Dave Meltzer at wrestlingobserver.com has posted his comments HERE including:
“Although I’m sure most everyone has figured it out by now, what happened last night involving Matt Hardy was a planned part of the wrestling show.”
“I have to give Matt Hardy credit in that the internet posts he wrote last week were very clever, enough to where I actually thought he was going to TNA and turning down the best potential angle in his career for the chance to fully control his life and schedule.”
“At this point, they really need to make it as believable as possible on television, without insulting people’s intelligence off televisoin by trying to believe everyone’s hand hasn’t been tipped.”
He goes on to say that Hardy needs to be careful how much he tries to “work” his fans on his Web site so he doesn’t come across badly (WWE on the other hand, he says, should keep up the charade), and that Hardy will likely work other indie dates such as the upcoming Ring of Honor show that he plugged on the air last night. Meltz suggests Hardy was re-signed in the June 13-20 range, and also warns Hardy to be careful how far he takes this, particularly in front of the rabid ROH fans.
– Joey Styles of 1wrestling.com has posted HERE his thoughts, including that “WWE was so close to pulling off the perfect angle…” but is risking it by posting Matt Hardy’s comments from www.THEMattHardy.com on WWE.com, despite the recent “real life” feel of the site’s news coverage.
– Dave Scherer had a similar take to Meltz’ in his PWInsider.com recap of RAW here where he comments that:
“…it made for great TV and was excellent booking. I don’t know for sure when Matt went from shooting to working on his website and in interviews … And what a work it ended up being.”
“…I love what he has done. He used a vehicle that he had to progress an angle. It’s the wrestling business and the idea is to get you behind a storyline, and that is exactly what Matt, very effectively, used his website to do … Wrestler Matt worked you.”
“Continuing to act like he’s not working with WWE would be nothing but an insulting lie at this point, so he should definitely consider that before he does his next post.”
– InsidePulse Wrestling columnist and author of several wrestling books Scott Keith, in his SmarK RAW Rant stated: “Thank god for the Matt Hardy angle, because it finally gives me something to sink my teeth into as a fan and makes me want to watch and see what happens next. That’s a feeling that’s been lacking for a long time.”
– IPW’s Eric S. has remained cynical, stating in his Wrestling News, Opinions, Etc. that “Right now, I’m laughing my ass off at all the suckers on the whiteboards who bought Hardy’s entire act. What a nice little coincidence that this happened on “Freedom Day”, huh? Did Hardy actually go to Vince and say, “Pretend to release me, and I’ll work the marks for you?” The amount of sheer cynicism in this…you know, I said that if Hardy showed up at the wedding, I’d turn the damn show off and never watch again? Now I’m seriously tempted to do this. However, I have my own form of revenge…”
– Our friends at TheWrestlingBlog have also seen a TON of reader reaction to RAW, from all ends of the spectrum, including this comment from our own Dan Hevia: “The fact that some people, including Styles, seem to think that WWE has dropped or fumbled at the goal line in regards to promoting this on WWE.com is ludicrous. Over the past week, WWE.com has tried to change the “air” of what it is. They’ve attempted to make it a work and shoot website, where they will promoto Kerwin White but also go nuts with news that we report. Since many people have been able to buy into this on their site, it is a great move to have comments from Hardy on the site, along with making Byte This a forum for Lita to continue the angle. They are playing this perfectly, and for the first time in about 4 or 5 years, I’m interested again. And I think that interest is resonating within the IWC. It’s things like this that get us off of our pessimistic asses and make us work. When WWE makes us work, they are working damn good … Also, stop acting like all the people did when they found what really happened in the 6th Sense. Nobody really knew what was going on. Nobody can pinpoint anything and say “I knew it!” We got worked as well as anyone else.”
– UPDATE: The Ring of Honor message boards are buzzing from last night’s RAW, with mostly positive posts about Matt’s mention of ROH on WWE television and the shoot/angle. You can read this thread here, along with some details from Wade Keller’s PWTorch.com elite update that an ROH fan posted on the forum. Keller is saying, among other things, that Lita DID in fact have an affair with Edge and that a deal with WWE was worked out 1-2 weeks ago, at which time Matt began to turn things up a notch and bring the storyline to his Web site’s message boards. The crowd response to the Matt Hardy entrance video tease on RAW a few weeks ago proved the potential of bringing Hardy back to WWE, and Matt turned down a lucrative offer from TNA (which perhaps, Keller speculates, would not have been the case if TNA had a national TV deal) to sign with his former employer. Matt was not seen backstage interacting with anyone before or after the angle last night.
– Matt Hardy’s Web site, at the time of this posting, is down, most likely due to traffic overload. You can check that out here.
– Also, as previously reported, on its front page, WWE.com has posted a picture of Matt Hardy along with some of the comments he put on his Web site. While there’s no mention of Matt in the RAW recap on WWE.com, Lita is scheduled to discuss what happened on RAW on tomorrow’s Byte This!, and the Matt story is being covered on WWE.com in a similar way to the Brock, JBL/Meanie, and released wrestler stories.
BACKGROUND: Back in April, WWE.com posted a statement that Matt Hardy had been released from his contract, and Matt began posting on his Web site and saying in online and radio interviews that while the official reason for the release given to him by WWE talent relations head John “Johnny Ace” Laurinaitis was that the creative team didn’t “have anything” for his character, in reality Matt had found out that his friend Adam “Edge” Copeland was having an affair with long-time girlfriend Amy “Lita” Dumas, and was released when he started commenting on his private life via a public Web site. The story escalated as Matt, his friends, and even Edge’s current wife posted derogatory remarks about Adam and Amy on Matt’s Web site and elsewhere, and eventually fans in live arenas began to chant “We Want Matt!” and “You Screwed Matt!” at Edge and Lita whenever they appeared. In fact, Lita — a babyface (“good”) character in a feud with heel (“bad”) Trish Stratus — was effectively turned heel by the crowd at Madison Square Garden in May, and eventually WWE’s writing team had Lita turn on her storyline husband Kane to join forces with Edge on TV.
Matt Hardy said that seeing WWE use his real life tragedy in a TV storyline (with Kane being the one betrayed instead of Matt) made him sick, even though he was always careful to say that he was thankful for the opportunities that WWE and Vince McMahon had given him throughout his career, and that he didn’t hate WWE, just the way the situation was handled (since he not only lost his girlfriend to one of his best friends, he also lost his job while out rehabbing an injured knee). He continued to say nasty things about Edge and Lita as he waited for his 90-day “no compete” clause to run out on July 11, making him a free agent who could sign with TNA, Ring of Honor, or any US indies or Japanese federations. He never publicly ruled out going back to WWE “at some point,” and recently asked his fans on his Web site what they wanted him to do, after the IWC reported that WWE had made contact with Matt before or following a wedding angle between Lita and Edge that took place on RAW. Speculation on whether or not he would return to WWE, join TNA where his brother Jeff currently wrestles, or do something else has run rampant, with last night being the culmination of a three-month story. In fact, on recent episodes of TNA’s iMPACT!, Jeff Jarrett has hinted that Matt Hardy would be coming in, and that Jarrett would “drive him out of TNA.” Additionally, Matt has been booked to appear at several indie shows, including this Saturday’s Ring of Honor event in CT and an upcoming Wrestle Reunion.
We’ll continue to have the latest on this huge story as it develops. Check out our full coverage of the Matt Hardy return and the IWC’s reaction, and comment on the situation in our reader forums.