Welcome, friends and fans, to another round of Geek Versus Pro Wrestling. Some of you may be feeling a little old this week, as it marked the 20th anniversary of WCW’s Bash at the Beach ‘96. This was the event where Hulk Hogan turned heel and the nWo was born. Yep, that happened 20 years ago. Time to get out of our collective wrestling rocking chairs, yell at those young trouble-makers to get off our lawn, and hit some high spots.
This past Monday was the 4th of July, which means RAW was essentially a holiday show for the WWE. It opened with a food fight and closed with a 16 (!) man tag match against 8 American superstars and 8 international ones. Holiday shows like this one usually result in minimal story movement and light, yet fun, matches with little to no stakes. With the brand extension looming in less than 10 days, which will essentially shuffle all of the stories around, we actually did get some solid build on the stories that will surely be continuing post-draft.
It’s been a lot of fun watching Seth Rollins contend with WWE Champion Dean Ambrose being ever-present during his matches. Ambrose sitting in briefly with the Spanish commentary team, demonstrating his ability to spin gold out of any situation, was a clever way to give the champ another angle in which to shine. These two are carrying a feud leading to a match involving three people, which is not only commendable but indicative of how much weight (or lack there of) the absent Roman Reigns actually pulls when he’s around.
The Club’s feud with John Cena also got some entertaining wrinkles this week. We saw the injection of the wildly popular Enzo and Cass, leading to a 6 man match at Battleground between Cena, Enzo, and Cass against The Club (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson). Making use of the holiday theme of the show, The Club cut a promo that spawned the #BeatUpJohnCena hashtag, leading to some entertaining Twitter fare. Wrestling doesn’t have to be emotionally complicated. Sometimes all it takes is the anti-heroes’ desire to beat up the icon. The Cena/AJ Style (The Club) story is about change in the status-quo, which is what’s happening right now in the WWE as a whole. It makes for the perfect time to put these two opposing forces into direct conflict.
However, that doesn’t mean wrestling stories can’t be complex. Case in point being the compelling conflict between The New Day and The Wyatt Family. It’s a program that’s loaded with nuance. It’s becoming clear that this story is about Xavier Woods and he’s knocking it out of the park. His understated action (and acting) became overt this week, leading to what appears to be some sort’ve off-site match at the Wyatt family compound. It’s risky to take the story off of the primary arena stage (as my King of the Week will illustrate), so hopefully what’s been handled quite well so far won’t culminate in a whack pay-off.
It was announced on Smackdown this week that Brock Lesnar will be returning to the WWE at SummerSlam to face Randy Orton, who has been out of action for quite some time. On the eve of Lesnar’s return to the UFC in Las Vegas at UFC 200, the WWE broadcast the UFC weigh-ins on their Facebook page. This is a pretty curious move. It’s assumed that there would be some overlap in promotion considering the high profile of Lesnar, but one has to wonder how deep this overlap goes. It’s a partnership that probably makes UFC die-hards a little nervous, but could ultimately prove to be massive for those of us that enjoy both. Especially with my man CM Punk’s debut fight at UFC 203 looming.
Crossover between UFC and WWE isn’t that farfetched, but the WWE also took a cue from a more far-flung sports tradition this week. To promote their upcoming Cruiser Weight Classic, the WWE aired their Bracketology special on the WWE Network. As much as the word “bracketology” has always bothered me, personally, these types of specials are a crucial part of college basketball’s March Madness. It’s fitting for this elimination style tournament, hopefully putting a little bit of shine on some of the competitors that may not make it out of the first round.
As someone that gets excited about tournaments, I’m a fan of marrying these two concepts. With the addition of the CWC starting this coming Wednesday, July 13th, summer’s becoming the season of tournaments galore. With NJPW’s classic G1 Climax tournament kicking off, the announcement of the competitors in both this summer’s semiannual Super J-Cup and PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA) among others, this summer is shaping up as one worthy of “Summer Madness”. Kool and the Gang already wrote a song about it in the 70’s. All we need now is to get all of this together on a beach and have some sort of “bash”…
King of the Week – “Broken” Matt Hardy
By far, the most mind boggling thing that went down this week was TNA’s culmination of the “Broken” Matt Hardy and “Brother Nero” Jeff Hardy story, The Final Deletion. For someone that’s neither really been a Matt Hardy guy post-Hardy Boyz nor a TNA fan in general, it says a lot that I’ve crowned him the king this week. If I’m being honest, it has less to do with the quality of #TheFinalDeletion, and more about having no idea how else to talk about this puzzling affair.
Over the past several months, Matt Hardy’s character has been experiencing this non-descript psychotic breakdown based on his obsession with his more successful brother, Jeff, referring to him as “Brother Nero”. Hardy’s “broken” character began speaking in an
inconsistent new accent that seemed to change on a weekly basis, demonstrate never before mentioned classically-trained proficiency in piano and violin, and evoke his brother’s Willow The Wisp character to torment “Brother Nero”.
The story culminated this week in a match taking place on the shared property of the two Cameron, North Carolina natives. It involved shooting roman candles at each other, taking swanton dives from trees, and attempts to drown each other in a lake. It was an event that was more confusing than magical, but compelling none the less.
Production quality aside, it speaks volumes of Matt Hardy as a pro wrestler to be willing to take such a risk by pushing his character so hard this late in his career. He’s a guy that’s been around the wrestling world for a very long time, and challenging himself in this way is certainly worth regard. It may have been out of morbid curiosity, but The Final Deletion captured the attention of the entire professional wrestling world. TNA doesn’t get this sort’ve attention often, and “Broken” Matt Hardy’s character deserves the lion’s share of credit for bringing it to them.
TNA hasn’t been aggressively taking down videos of the match, so I recommend seeking it out and experiencing this unexplainable event. For the time being, an extensive director’s cut is available here:
Geek Versus Pro Wrestling is an esoteric weekly editorial column reviewing the vast world of professional wrestling. That’s right. The word “esoteric” was just used to describe a series of internet articles about wrestling. Hang that from your turnbuckle and chop it.
J. Aaron Poole is a 21st century writer, musician, and geeky thing liker. He is a member of the American Sociological Association with an academic interest in the relationship between media, technology, and modern culture. Currently residing in Fort Walton Beach, Florida by way of Atlanta, Georgia, he’s recently begun archiving his work at Station146.com. Aaron can be found making absurd comments on Twitter, PSN, and other social media platforms as @JAaronPoole.