One year ago today, 410,000 people tuned into TNA’s flagship Impact Wrestling programme on Pop TV to witness an event. After a bitter four month dispute, Matt and Jeff Hardy were to clash one last time to settle their score. However this was no ordinary match—there was a ring, there was a referee, there was a ring bell and you could win by pinfall but there was one vital difference. The match took place in the Hardy’s back garden. This was backyard wrestling on an all-new scale.

TNA leaned into the absurd like they never had before. Taking the silly, over-the-top nature of the Broken Matt Hardy character (which was much maligned when it originally launched) to it’s absolute limit, The Final Deletion was utter spectacle. Further establishing many elements of the broader Broken Universe (such as Skarsgård the dilapidated boat, Vanguard 1, the expanded role of Senor Benjamin and the Lake of Reincarnation) The Final Deletion was when the Broken Matt character truly arrived. It felt like TNA had created something relevant to the modern wrestling landscape for the first time in an age. Broken Matt felt like essential viewing. Viewed through the lens of playing along with the madness rather than cynically detached, it was wildly entertaining and totally different

Both TNA and Matt Hardy deserve a great deal of credit for taking the risk and leaning into the Broken brilliance so hard. It was a risk, even on the minor TNA scale.

Matt (and to a lesser degree Jeff) was a long established character with a considerable degree of cache with the audience as Matt Hardy. Something so other for him as a character could have easily been rejected. In fact it was originally rejected. For every two thumbs up on the original pre-Slammiversary contract signing that established so many of the most well known Broken Matt beats there was one thumbs down. Initially people didn’t get it. Or at the very least were reluctant to play along. For The Final Deletion itself that ratio is dramatically different.

Equally for TNA, a brand with a reputation for being laughed at, it could easily have been seen less as a charming romp and more as plain dumb. Another reason for TNA to be ridiculed. To take that chance and produce something utterly unique in the US pro wrestling landscape should be roundly applauded. It should have taught them a lesson about the merits of being something entirely their own rather than a cheap imitation of something else.

The Final Deletion spawned an entire Universe.

Delete or Decay, the direct sequel as The Hardys battled Decay, aired a month later in August. While it didn’t draw next nor near the same attention The Final Deletion did, it did at least show that the Broken Matt character had legs. While Final Deletion played more for farce, Delete or Decay was a horror. The Great War at Bound For Glory last year seemed the natural closer on the Broken Matt character as the Hardys regained the Tag Team titles but the character soldiered on through a bout of amnesia to Total Nonstop Deletion, an enjoyable but self-indulgent display that showed that the character was running out of steam more than anything else.

Through all that I will defend the artistic integrity of The Final Deletion and the broader Broken Matt character until my dying breath. Some will look back on The Final Deletion and chuckle. On the surface if you simply parachute in the match is an over the top display of absurdity. Two brothers fighting each other in their back garden, summoning one another with a violin, jumping out of trees, attacking with drones, shooting each other with fireworks and attempting to drown the other in a lake that resurrects past alter egos. Finding the whole thing just a little silly is pretty understandable. However it was an integral part in one of the most essential stories TNA has ever told.

The story of Matt vs. Jeff Hardy was a story of brotherhood, betrayal, corruption, and greed. Matt and Jeff won the tag titles together. Jeff hurt himself and cost Matt those belts due to his own stupidity. Matt pursued singles gold. Matt then won singles gold and proved he was just as good as his brother but Matt lost himself in the process. He tied his entire sense of self to that belt and when it was Jeff of all people that cost Matt the title that was a betrayal Matt couldn’t overcome.

Matt became “Broken” and rendered Jeff “Obsolete”. Matt learned in Delete or Decay that Jeff may not be so selfish after all. Matt and Jeff won the tag titles and repaired their brotherly bond. That arc from May 2015 to October 2016 was one the best paced, smartly told stories in TNA history. It was grounded in character despite being built around pageantry.

The Final Deletion, aside from being wildly entertaining, was the key pivot point of the dispute.

The point of no return, the point at which all seemed lost. Matt lighting a symbol of the Hardy team on fire to defeat his brother was more than a brilliant piece of imagery, it was also profoundly melancholic. The vital gut punch to add substance and pathos to the sheer spectacle of it all.  To turn the whole ordeal from a fun side attraction into something essential, something which further informed and developed the characters.

TNA may never tell a better story than this again.

Looking back on it a year later however things should be viewed a little differently. While as many people haven’t watched an episode since as did The Final Deletion, that reflects how not only did TNA not capitalise on the little momentum it created but that they also weren’t equipped to in the first place. TNA didn’t run live events so many indies capitalised more on the hot Broken Matt act in that regard. Nor did TNA have a well run, smart merchandising machine so most of that revenue went to Matt Hardy and Pro Wrestling Tees.

TNA’s digital strategy was rickety too, easily illustrated by the fact that it took two days for them to upload a complete version of The Final Deletion on their own YouTube channel long after anybody that wanted to see it already had, or that Delete or Decay can only be found on the Pop YouTube channel (region locked to the US) or that they broke Total Nonstop Deletion’s Apocalypto in 10 separate three minute chunks as if to be deliberately obtuse.

The only place TNA were reasonably set up to benefit was through TV ratings, and even that didn’t materialise. The person the Broken Matt Hardy character benefited most was, unsurprisingly, Matt Hardy. It made him relevant in the modern wrestling landscape to a degree that he hadn’t been for years. He was a hot commodity again. He got paid to advertise himself for two hours on Pop every week only to reap the majority of the benefits of that character himself. It was a sweet deal for him. For TNA from a commercial standpoint the Broken Matt burned bright and fast. From a critical one, the character was imperative viewing until Bound For Glory 2016 and struggled to stay novel after that.

The Broken Matt character creatively ran out of steam after Bound For Glory 2016.

On July 5, 2017, a year on from when The Final Deletion originally aired, much has changed.

TNA is no more. The Impact show remains but it is now presented under the Global Force Wrestling and Anthem banner. As part of that change The Broken Hardys departed the company in March without even even losing the TNA World Tag Team Titles. The split was bitter, as despite returning to WWE the Broken Matt character has been shelved due to a legal dispute surrounding the ownership of the characters between Matt and Anthem.

The Broken Matt character already feels like a distant part of Impact’s past. In spite of creating so much chatter last year the company has entirely moved on.

But for a moment, just a moment, TNA and Matt Hardy combined to create something special. The lesson from the Broken Matt Saga should be plain for all to see. Novelty, risk taking, and a unique identity are essential components in creating something worth paying attention to in the modern wrestling landscape. Be yourself, stop trying to be somebody else. Above all else though, The Final Deletion and the Broken Matt Hardy character in general can be looked back on as a weird, innovate and utterly entertaining era of TNA history.