Hello everyone, you've landed on Planet Kayfabe. Thanks for joining again. If it seems like it's been a while, I was planning on commenting on what is seemingly Paige's retirement, which broke Friday. I was going to wait for more details to come out and very little did. I was going to wait for Raw to see if she would make a speech and she didn't. So, I don't have much to say about that right now, but I will blurb about it at the end of this column. If you saw my Twitter and comments on the NoDQ official website then you know how I feel about Sasha kicking her in the upper back/back of the neck but am I blaming her for Paige's apparent retirement at the age of 25? Well, you'll have to wait.
I know, I'm a tease, but I know you guys like a little foreplay before climax.
Anyway, what I'm getting into is something also pretty relevant right now in early 2018 and that is Matt Hardy, specifically WOKEN Matt Hardy. Like most of you I was excited to see this character come to WWE. Like many of you I wondered if the character would have the same charm on this grand of a scale. Like a lot of you, I'm starting to lose patience with this gimmick and I'm going to explain why. I know Matt Hardy did a recent interview by saying the hardcore fans need to be a little more patient and I actually disagree. The hardcore fans, believe it or not and for all the shit they get for being vocal on the internet, are the ones who are going to be the most patient because they've already seen the potential the character can have. Also, if the fans are complaining too much, if they're anything like me, they aren't blaming you, Matt, they're blaming the WWE machine.
"Woken" Matt (which, while a decent name sounds more like a toddler who has trouble saying 'Broken') started off with enough promise. He made his first appearance interrupting a Bray Wyatt video package, which should get anyone over because Bray's monologues have become so mundane and drawn out that no one even pays attention anymore. The signature part of this debut of sorts was capped off with Matt Hardy's laugh which popped the crowd. It also became a viral .gif on Twitter and of course WWE's Twitter had to play along too and... whatever. Who cares.
The laugh must have really got over back stage too. Specifically with Vince McMahon himself because the next week, what did we get? More laughing. What have we got since? MORE f***ING LAUGHING! What the f***? Is this what we have waited for? In typical WWE fashion, they have a way of beating a good joke into the ground and killing it dead. You know like when William Regal did that freestyle "rap" backstage and then it kinda became his "thing" for a little while and any of his subsequent raps were devoid of all its original charm and had none of the humor as well. It's been said before, but sometimes the worst thing you can do is pop Vince because suddenly that will be your new shtick and currently Matt Hardy is "woken" to a guy who laughs a lot.
I have to be honest, I was not thrilled about the idea of WWE pairing Matt in a feud with Bray Wyatt. Maybe when the Broken character first hit in TNA and fans were fantasy booking in their minds about how such a program would go down it would have been a good time. However, Bray is coming off perhaps, actually, definitely the worst year of his run as the Bray Wyatt character. The gimmick is about as stale as old piss in a mayonnaise jar and 2017 was one lame feud and one lame promo after another and thank f***ing God we never got to see "The Demon" vs. "Sister Abigail". I bet Finn praises the Lord every day for that as well.
Feuding with Bray Wyatt was one concern. Nothing against Bray... He's a fine performer but the character needs to be put on the shelf for a bit. There's no Wyatt Family reunion or championship belt run or false finish fest with Cena that will save him in 2018. It's too late. Matt should be feuding with someone a little more interesting right now instead of working nothing matches with guys like Curt Hawkins and laughing with Bray Wyatt in the middle of the ring. The character already feels like it lost that special feeling and it's like he's just another guy on the roster and in an era where they lack stand-out stars and it's really just the brand driving sales, there's nothing funny about that.
Another thing that concerned before Matt and Jeff Hardy even returned to WWE last year was how much input WWE would allow Matt to have and how many fingerprints WWE would put on the Broken character if indeed he was allowed to use it. What mad 'Broken' fun for a lot of fans was mainly its campy nature. If you're unsure what I mean by campy, I mean the humor is tongue-in-cheek. If you're unsure what I mean by that then part of the gimmick's charm was that you weren't supposed to take it too seriously, in contrast to Matt who lived the gimmick to make you believe it, and the production lacks a sophisticated polish which, again plays to its charm and is in no way a detriment. WWE, for all the things it does great in terms of production and making things seem larger than life, that doesn't work well to the heart of the 'Broken' gimmick. WWE has no and I mean absolutely NO grasp on subtlety. Everything they do is always bold and in your face. I mean, look at their title belts. They're just huge WWE logos on a strap. When fans wondered if "Broken" would work in WWE like it did on the independent scene my personal main concern wasn't if it would get over with a large audience. It's entertaining so it should in theory. My main concern was is WWE too big for Broken to work. Think of it this way, think of old punk rock records from the late 70's or early 80's. Part of their charm was being unpolished and dirty. They became classics not because of state of the art mixing and knob twirling and not because the musicians were a bunch of virtuoso elitists strumming eight-thousand dollar guitars. It was because they tapped into a true emotion. WWE on the other hand has a way of taking that subtle charm and trying to make bands like The Misfits into Blink-182. While you may think both are great, neither would be great if a producer tried turning one into the other. That's how I feel with "Woken" Matt. Vince has Danzig in his studio and he's trying to turn him into Jon Bon Jovi and it just doesn't work.
As you should expect if you're a regular reader, Planet Kayfabe isn't just about complaining it's also about solutions, so what would I do differently? Well, first of all I already made it clear that I would not have had Matt enter a feud with Bray Wyatt. You're dead on arrival there. Too many shit feuds and no one cares. Move on from it. Also, I'd have Matt go heel. Again, I would have had this gimmick debut as a heel from the start, but whatever. Like I said no one cares about Bray and no one would care if this feud was aborted. Why turn him heel? Because as much as fans like chanting things these days and as much as fans like yelling "delete! delete!" (oh, that reminds me... Going back to production shit, the "delete" on the video board is shit. It's like telling fans to applaud.) -- as much as fans like singing along with chants they need to care about this version of the character again. Having him laugh and beat Hawkins isn't going to get him over. Making him a top (or close enough) level heel who along with being nuts also has a vicious streak would get fans paying attention to him. And if they still chat 'delete'? So what? According to WWE it doesn't matter who you boo or cheer... a way of thinking I don't 100% subscribe to but it's better than nothing, plus you can always turn him back. Keeping him babyface kind of keeps some of that nostalgia stigma to Matt Hardy. You'd think the nostalgia act stink would be totally off once he got to go Broken, but it's not. He's still coming off as a legendary fan favorite. Once he turns heel I feel it will legitimize his run. The same way guys like Chris Jericho and Ric Flair didn't settle for just a cheap nostalgia pop and hit their old catch phrases for an easy pay day. Turning heel woke fans up and legitimized them for a new generation of fans. You're not just going to sit there and cheer this guy you remember from 1999 while sitting on your ass. If he's a heel it wakes fans up from autopilot and forces them to pay attention to what he's going to do next. Again, look at Jericho, any time he came back as a babyface and did his old Y2J shtick it was cool once or twice but got old fast. Once he turned heel, you had to pay attention to him because he wasn't just doing the same old nostalgic bullshit anymore. Sure, "Woken" isn't the same Team Xtreme Matt Hardy, but it's not different enough as a babyface to where fans are fully invested in the direction and is in need of a sharp left turn in a matter of speaking.
There's my thoughts on the current state of 'Woken' Matt Hardy. Am I writing it off as a failure? No. Things do need to improve though and I'm not sure how serious WWE is willing to take this gimmick or Matt Hardy as a singles star. Matt has always been one of those guys who was more over than the actual push he ever got from the WWE and now that he's in his 40's I'm not sure if WWE is more eager to push him today the way they could have 10 years ago.
Okay, as far as Paige goes. The news sucks. She's 25 and had her entire career ahead of her. Who knows what the future holds. If WWE isn't going to clear her and her personal and WWE's doctors wont clear her then maybe she will wrestle independently just because she wants to. I don't know. What's most important is that she doesn't cause any more serious harm to her body that could perhaps put her in a wheel chair for the rest of her life or even worse.
As far as Sasha goes, I made my feelings clear. While I'm not blaming her for ending Paige's career, I'll say this... The spot where she kicked her in the f***ing back was stupid. I don't know if it was her idea, Paige's idea or an agent's idea or all of the above. It was stupid. I have seen a lot of people say "well, it's an ordinary spot which caused a freak accident" and I call bullshit on that. Yes, it's an ordinary spot, but maybe you don't kick someone in the back of the neck from behind, which obviously they can't see coming, which causes them to violently jerk their head back when this person you're doing an "ordinary spot" to just came back from taking over a year off after neck surgery. An armbar is a pretty ordinary spot and you probably wouldn't work a guy's arm who just came back from having his biceps repaired. Something that seems lost in this era of wrestling which some claim is the best its ever been is the concept of protecting yourself and your opponent. Everyone is so caught up in doing moves and spots to pop a crowd that people don't know how to keep themselves and their opponents safe like generations past so they can continue to work almost every night on the road. Some people have said Sasha is dangerous in the ring, but watching her work I think she's mostly dangerous to herself. The way she takes these rag doll bumps and splats all over the place is ridiculous sometimes and she's had her own serious rubs with injuries in the past, too.
Again, I'm not blaming Sasha. For all I know, Paige could have gotten hurt on any spot by anyone in any match or could have re-injured her neck doing yard work for all I know. I'm just saying the spot was f***ing stupid and either way Sasha may end up getting some heat for it whether its warranted or not. So, I hope that's clear -- yes Paige's injury could have possibly happened anywhere else, but also lesson to those who lack common f***ing sense: if a wrestler has just returned from neck surgery, don't kick him or her in the back of the f***ing neck. Ya know, I've never actually trained in a ring or anything but I think you can trust me on this one.
Thanks for reading this edition of Planet Kayfabe. I'll be back with a Royal Rumble preview. Leave a comment below. Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe and I'll see you next time right here on NoDQ. I'm Paul Matthews. Take care, everyone.