NOTE: The following is part two of the two-part editorial by Andrew Khellah. You can read part one by clicking HERE.
In mid July, Matt returned to the WWE as the rebel and anti-establishment (ring a bell anyone?!) by showing up uninvited and attacking Edge, while being frisked away by security as if he were a fan interrupting a WWE event. Matt even wrestled on the indys (including ROH, which Matt mentioned on the mic before being removed from the building on one episode). Matt’s popularity was at an all-time high and it looked like he was going to become the next great superstar that only comes around once a decade—and then it came… “The Missed 3:16 Moment.”
Vince McMahon made a big announcement on RAW that he has signed back Matt Hardy (to a big contract by the way) to the WWE. Now, three things bothered me that night on August 1st 2005. First, the anti-establishment Matt Hardy is introduced by Vince McMahon. Second, Hardy comes out of… ready for this: a limo. And third, Matt gets into the ring and shakes Vince McMahon’s hand.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mb6pShbG4vA (the Missed 3:16 Moment – Hardy’s comeback / promo)
Now I don’t know if this was intended to sabotage Hardy’s return however, either way it did not help the Matt Hardy movement. And his brother Jeff even made those feelings known publicly at the time. Should Matt have barked at the idea to come out of a limo or to enter the ring and shake the evil boss’ hand? Maybe. Maybe he could have fought harder or maybe he could have still created his own “3:16 moment” in spite of a potential sabotage.
Nevertheless, those three things that bothered me failed in comparison to what Matt did next after he shook Vince’s hand. Vince McMahon gives Matt the mic and leaves the ring, and as Vince is leaving I can only wonder if Vince was telling Matt with his body language as he handed that mic… “Sink or Swim – here is your opportunity.”
Matt had about four months to come up with the promo of a lifetime… the 3:16 moment that many in this profession don’t get… and instead, Matt sunk his opportunity. Matt missed his 3:16 moment, as he said Edge’s name (not real name, Adam) and that he hopes Edge dies in a car accident before he gets the chance to kill him himself. By Matt saying that, he allowed himself to be an unsympathetic and bitter man who is scared to get his revenge that he hoped Edge died in a car accident. So instead of garnering that sympathy as a babyface, Matt sounded bitter calling Lita a slut on more than one occasion over than few-week spam in his return. There was no ‘Ruthless Aggression’ (remember Vince’s speech on RAW to all the stars in June 2002), no drive, creativity or intensity. Matt’s promo sounded like another mid-card promo of “I hate you and I will kill you.”
Matt’s comeback promo was upstaged a week later by Edge, who showed everyone why he is main event talent. The two had their big match at SummerSlam where Hardy was ‘knocked out’ and couldn’t beat the 10 count. The following night on RAW- Matt loses to :::drum roll::: Rob Conway, a man with a horrible win/loss record and a character that has still not explained what on earth ‘The Conway’ means.
Next month, Matt does the J.O.B. to another guy who’s very familiar to J.O.B.’s, Gene Snitsky. And remember folks, “its not his fault!” Weeks later, Matt’s ex-girlfriend Lita hits his own finisher on him, the Twist of Fate. Ok, it was used to setup the Unforgiven PPV in the cage, which Hardy did beat Edge (for once). Next month on the RAW Homecoming on October 3rd 2005, Hardy loses a Loser leaves RAW ladder match against Edge—sending Matt to the ‘B’ show, Smackdown!
Afterwards, Edge becomes “the Rated R Superstar,” headlines WrestleManias and wins numerous World title belts. And how can we forget having a live sex show with Lita on television that had the Nielsen ratings on fire… something the WWE hadn’t experienced too often following the Attitude Era and Monday Night Wars.
Meanwhile Matt is watching his brother Jeff rise to great popularity; in spite of many personal demons along the way, defeating Triple H, main eventing PPVs and winning the World title (ironically from Edge).
The Missed 3:16 moment that Matt couldn’t capitalize on happened incongruously nine years after Austin took destiny into his own hands at the King the Ring in 1996. Matt had the opportunity to deliver a promo that separates mid-carders from main event talent. And although Matt Hardy still had and currently has a good career, 2005 could have been the year where Matt Hardy: Version 1 took his place in history as one of the greats.
Andrew Khellah can be reached at email@example.com.