Back in 2011, Immortal were running roughshod over TNA.
TNA’s big idea that year was to invert their “They Are Coming” slogan and re-debut the Main Event Mafia to oppose them. Scott Steiner, Booker T and Kevin Nash were slated to return and join Sting and Kurt Angle in a battle against the dastardly Hulk Hogan and his cronies. While it was nice to see TNA lean more on TNA nostalgia than ideas from elsewhere, it wasn’t exactly the most forward thinking idea. It was a group of people over 40 battling a group led by Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Eric Bischoff. It didn’t exactly scream future of the business.
As you more than likely know, the deal fell through.
Kevin Nash and Booker T instead opted to return to WWE (as surprise entrants in the Royal Rumble that year) while Scott Steiner instead showed up and inevitably joined Immortal (so did Angle for that matter). That, along with the absence of Jeff Hardy following the now infamous Victory Road 2011 main event vs. Sting, left a void in TNA.
Places Nash and Booker were meant to fill were suddenly left empty. TNA opted to promote Bully Ray into Jeff Hardy’s role (a move that sparked the best run of his career) and placed Fortune (AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm and Frankie Kazarian) to opposite Immortal.
No doubt disappointing, this series of events forced TNA’s hand regarding positioning Styles, Roode and Storm further up the card — positioning the company toward the future, not the past.
There are clear parallels in 2017.
It appears that communication has broken down between TNA and The Hardys regarding new contracts. On the surface this seems like a big loss to TNA. Off the back of The Final Deletion and The Broken Hardy act it seemed like Matt and Jeff were the best thing TNA had going, the only act capable of generating any buzz. The Final Deletion was one of the most watched episodes of Impact of 2016. The act still has traction on social media and the Hardys are a clear attraction on the independents but not where it matters for TNA. It would seem the Hardys are far too big of names to simply let walk.
Now the reality.
The Broken Matt Hardy act has moved the needle for TNA exactly once. While you can get caught up in Matt Hardy’s Twitter presence, that does nothing for TNA’s bottom line. They are paying big money for Matt and Jeff Hardy and getting very little real return on that investment.
TNA doesn’t run house shows, they barely sell PPV’s, they have to compete with outside parties when selling Hardys merchandise, and TV numbers haven’t moved. It is nearly certain that TNA are losing money on the Hardys. And this is coming off the back of a disastrous year where the company was not even close to living within its means and nearly collapsed on a number occasions. Something had to give.
TNA had to cut costs to come even close to operating on a sustainable basis. And taking a cold hard look at it, letting Matt and Jeff walk is likely the right move.
As novel, entertaining and buzzworthy as Broken Matt Hardy was in 2016, it will never be that fresh again. In many ways the character is already running on fumes. I talked in my Impact review last week about how the character has basically stagnated since The Great War last October. That was the end of the narrative arc. They told the story they planned to tell. Matt and Jeff fell apart and got back together again. By the time Total Nonstop Deletion and Apocalypto came around, the whole thing began to feel self-indulgent — descending into mere schtick without the substance to cut through it all.
And Matt and Jeff are no longer youngsters. They’re getting on in years and Jeff, brilliant as he was from 2012-2014, is clearly feeling the effects of the injuries he accrued in 2015. If the Hardys were the cure to all of TNA’s woes it would have happened in 2014. Or 2015. Or 2016. It hasn’t. And letting them go is likely the best course of action because of that.
Drew Galloway announced his departure last night on Twitter and is a considerably bigger loss, at least as a performer.
Galloway is such a versatile, dynamic performer that he can be plugged pretty much anywhere to do anything. Unlike Matt and Jeff he’s in the prime of his career and carries himself and works with such credibility that he can easily be made “the guy” or help make somebody. His is a major loss to a company that is running short on those kinds of wrestlers.
You might ask: how does big names and essential performers leaving TNA present them with an opportunity? The answer is twofold.
First, it frees up money. TNA can likely hire a half dozen or more promising talented young wrestlers for the cost of the Hardys alone. TNA built its initial reputation on being the first place to showcase the hottest young acts. To simply offer them a platform and grow along with them. Chasing that goal again will be an essential step in taking the company forward again.
Second, in the same way that the Main Event Mafia opting for WWE created an opening for Bobby Roode, James Storm, Bully Ray and AJ Styles — the Hardys and Galloway departing equally creates opportunity. If they fill that space with even more Mahabali Shera, they’re doomed.
If they place that opportunity in the right hands, they may well have a fighting chance.