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Hulk Hogan? Ric Flair? I’ll Take Jeff Hardy: A Look at the New Monday Night Wrestling Wards

By John Pitroff

TNA’s Monday night Impact debut competing against Raw was full of many surprises. The main one being that I actually wanted to watch Impact for the first time in months. It was full of a lot of new names and faces, and even more old ones making their returns. It was also full of some pretty bad booking decisions, but I don’t want to review the show. That has been done from every conceivable angle, but I do feel as though there is something important that came out of Monday night that has been overlooked by most of the wrestling community.

Orlando Jordan, The Nasty Boys, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Hardy, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, Sting, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Val Ven….well, Towel Guy, and Bubba The Love Sponge, whoever the that guy is (is he related to SpongeBob SquarePants?), all showed up for Monday’s historic Impact. Some were surprising, some were monumental, and a few had you wondering why they even bothered. Why wouldn’t they let Mick Foley into the arena, but Val Venis and Orlando Jordan are free to just walk right in? That makes as much as sense as the fact that it was booked that way.

The one star that was overlooked more than all the rest was Jeff Hardy. I am here to make the case that this was a bigger acquisition for TNA than any of the other talents who showed up expectedly or unexpectedly Monday night. The biggest surprise coming out of TNA Monday night? The fact that Jeff Hardy showing up in TNA wasn’t surprising enough for TNA to make a bigger deal out of it.

I realize it won’t be easy to convince one that Jeff Hardy is more important than Hulk Hogan or any of the other big names making their returns on Monday. I feel as though I am TNA going up against WWE at the moment, without Hogan or Flair to back me up. Just call me Dixie Carter for the past six years.

Both Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan were both just wrestling on the Hulkamania tour not that long ago. So, if one is to put some thought into the situation, them being in TNA is not quite as big a deal as some would have you believe. Sure, Ric Flair is a huge name, as well as Hulk Hogan, but are they young, athletic, and ready to compete? No. They are quite the opposite, actually. I mean, these guys were old when they were in WCW, and that was about ten years ago now! When I think of Hogan and Flair, I feel old just thinking about how long I’ve been consistently watching them.

Have they been relevant in months? Not really. They have a much bigger name attraction than Jeff Hardy because they have been around longer. But, it is sort of how dinosaurs are more popular than tadpoles. Flair, although he was a huge surprise, didn’t do anything. If his tenure in TNA consists of him stepping out of limousine to shake hands with a few people no one knows and then interrupting a perfectly good main event, I see no reason he even signed a deal. Plus, that catch phrase won’t work when he can only say, “limousine ridin’.” Actually, keep him in the back, I was having fun watching Kurt Angle and AJ Styles work their magic. This might be the first time Ric Flair has made a match worse. And, that is something that takes effort, TNA!

I realize Jeff Hardy is not as big a name as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, or perhaps even Eric Bischoff, but what he represents is something more symbolic. The difference between Jeff Hardy and the rest of the guys that came back Monday is that Jeff Hardy was actually doing something a few months ago. And, that something was being one of the top guys in the rival company.

What were The Nasty Boys doing besides sniffing each other’s arm pits…and sucking up to Hulk Hogan so they could get back on TV? Scott Hall was most likely drinking or looking for a toothpick, and X-Pac was probably making another homemade porno with Chyna (I apologize for this reference being so 1999 – it’s almost as old school as Raw and Impact were Monday). Towel Boy? Apparently he has been in the shower since January 9, 2009 when he left WWE. Well, I guess he might be moving up. Before, he was jobbing to WWE’s low to mid carders, now he is playing cards in a terrible voice that makes Batman sound good. Orlando Jordan?

He was doing the same thing he had been doing in WWE, absolutely nothing. He had so much time he was able to watch to his hair grow. Both Sting and Jarrett were already part of TNA, so their so-called “returns” were really no big deal at all. I think Sting successfully did less than Flair, actually. Eric Bischoff? The last relevant thing he did was produce Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling. Oh, wait, that wasn’t relevant. I won’t get into the fact that he was also executive producer for a Scott Baio reality show on VH1. Scott Baio at this point is more irrelevant to society than Bubba

The Love Sponge is to wrestling.

The return of Jeff Hardy means more than any of the others because only a few months ago he was still with WWE competing for the World Heavyweight Championship. A little over a year ago, in December 2008, Hardy was winning his first WWE Championship. Jeff Hardy is not washed up, he is not a “has been, he is not even an older star looking to get back some of his glory. At the end of August, he was still one of the top wrestlers on the entire WWE roster. Jeff Hardy is coming off of main eventing SummerSlam, WWE’s second biggest Pay-Per-View of the year!

What this proves to the wrestling world is that TNA can get top talent from WWE. I realize TNA can pick up guys that haven’t been on TV in years, guys who still have name value but haven’t done anything of significance in recent memory, and random radio hosts that happen to be good friends with Hulk Hogan. But, TNA signing Jeff Hardy proves that WWE has to watch its back. If one of the top two baby faces in the company is willing to join for another company, WWE has to now be paying attention to TNA, something I doubt they did before. I know TNA likes to keep talking about a war being started, but the jump of Jeff Hardy from one company to the other was what made the previous Monday Night Wars so popular. Who is going to show up from the other company? What will they do with him? It is exciting, and Hardy’s move opens the doors for others from WWE who are at the top of the card to do the same, if it is handled the right way. More on that later.

Jeff Hardy has competed with TNA before, but this was before he was ever at the main event level of the top of wrestling, WWE. See, TNA, although they like to speak of themselves in the same breath as WWE, up to this point, have not been anywhere near them. But, now that they have shown that they can sign the hottest free agent in wrestling, as JR says, “business is about to pick up.” Hardy showing up in TNA was a legitimate surprise to the fans, the talent, and the rival company. For the first time, I was actually surprised that TNA had signed someone. Very few, if anyone saw him coming to TNA. Symbolically, this is the biggest acquisition TNA has had ever.

Jeff Hardy hasn’t been out of the limelight for very long, he isn’t coming in after months and months of negotiations, he is still at the top of fan’s popularity. Fans don’t consider him a wannabe WWE guy, because, quite frankly, if he wanted to be with WWE, he still would be. Wrestler’s like Rhino, Dr. Stevie, Bobby Lashley, Matt Morgan were nothing but mid card talents in WWE who had never quite hit it big time. Now, with Hardy, TNA finally has someone who is still in the last stages of the prime of his career. Kurt Angle was also a big “get” for TNA, but he hadn‘t been in the main event scene when he left, and it wasn’t at a time when TNA had the outlet to be seen by millions of new fans.

Popularity is something that Jeff Hardy brings to TNA. And, that popularity is very high. During his time in WWE, he had the attraction of the male audience as well as the female audience. His popularity nearly rivaled that of John Cena. That popularity will only lead to more money for TNA. If TNA does things right, they have signed the perfect talent, because not only is Hardy relevant, popular, and fresh, he can also sell tons of merchandise. The merchandise I see most on kids these days is John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and Jeff Hardy.

I do have to wonder how serious Hulk Hogan is about pushing the younger talent. Seriously, they are already handling this Jeff Hardy situation the wrong way. Why did he show up from the crowd with little to no fanfare and then start a feud with Homicide? I realize it was at the beginning of the show to hook viewers, but why was the rest of Impact not all about Hardy? Sure, they showed him painting a picture that my five month old nephew could have made and being chased down by 13 year old girls, but why not make him more relevant?

Homicide? Last I knew of Jeff Hardy, he was in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship, and now he is starting a feud with Homicide…this almost makes me want to commit homicide to whoever booked this. The fact is that Hardy should have been part of the main event scene somehow later in the show.

The signing of Jeff Hardy, whether it be short or long term, is a milestone in TNA company history. It is the first time there has been a big, exciting, main event caliber jump from one wrestling company to the other in years. This gives wrestlers as well as both companies opportunities to make something happen. Although Hulk Hogan is the focal point of this new “war” between TNA and WWE, Jeff Hardy is the true Leonidas of TNA. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end like that movie under the direction of Hulk Hogan. Plus, look at it this way, if all else fails, TNA can just come clean on Jeff Hardy’s drug charges and attempt to get some name value that way. There is no such thing as bad press, right? Let’s be honest, wrestling companies have done more shameless things to get their name out there, right Monday Night Raw weekly guest host gimmick?

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