Match of the Week Club: The Great War (TNA Wrestling 10-2-16)

Every week on Place to Be Nation, a combination of Steven Graham, Glenn Butler, Peter Saladino, Brad Woodling, Tanner Teat, Lawrence O’ Brien, JT Rozzero, Cowboy Morrissette, and Chad Campbell review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!

Feedback from last week:

JKWebb @

-Naito vs. Big Mike:  09/25/2016

-I really enjoyed Elgin’s selling of the left leg.  I liked that he was going back to it, even when he was on offense, after big moves or the running lariat into the corner.  Naito was on point picking it apart.  Elgin’s offense looked super stiff, which I always enjoy.  I loved Naito smacking Elgin around on the back of the head until it pissed him off and Elgin fired back at him.  The reversing of Naito’s swinging DDT into the powerful looking falcon arrow was awesome.  I kind of got lost a little bit during the interference, but I was quickly sucked back in during Elgin’s comeback with some killer looking lariats.  ****1/4

Manatee @

It’s interesting that Chad talked about how limb selling is very subjective in 2016 and then went on to praise Elgin’s leg selling in this match because I was rather annoyed by it. He was able to pull off his power moves with no problems and then every couple of minutes would slap his knee. Perhaps the fact that he made any effort at all is worthy of praise in today’s environment where no one bothers to sell anything.

The competitors:

It’s Broken Matt Hardy. I can’t fathom being a wrestling fan in 2016 and not being aware of the insane stuff that he is bringing to the table.

The storyline:

It is a Matt Hardy angle in 2016, you can’t explain the absurdity in one paragraph.

Glenn Butler:

The year is 2016, and the entire world is falling apart. Many of us feel that it’s all too much. Many of us feel like withdrawing in the name of self-care. Many of us feel like fading away. Many of us feel obsolete.

The year is 2016, and the most fascinating characters in professional wrestling are the Hardy Boyz. The year is 2016, and wrestling as it was meant to be is being produced under the aegis of TNA. The world does not make sense. Many see this as evidence that we are still in the wrong universe.

— —

Decay is a slow process. Decay is a process of corrosion, the slow conversion of something used and loved to something useless and cast aside, acted on bit by bit by its environment. Decay is a process of ever-increasing senescence, a growing weakness that you can try to outrun with doctors, medicines, new technologies, but in the end decay is going to hunt you down and make the kill. Decay is a process of decomposition, the process by which a person becomes a collection of bones holding up a shell of rotting flesh, picked at by still-living things from bacteria to insects to vermin. Decay is, indeed, the process of fading away.

Deletion is quick. Deletion is an annulment. Deletion is an expungement. Deletion comes as quickly as the stroke of a key, the strike of a pen, the gesture of an arm, the slice of a knife. Deletion comes as quickly as the count of a referee.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

— —

The stage was set for The Great War over the course of the entire summer when Matt Hardy, theorizing that one could make a Hardy Boyz breakup feud compelling, acquired a broken condeetion…and vanished. His enemy in this journey was Brother Nero, whom only Broken Matt could see for the venal, selfish spot monkey he truly was. Deletion can be different from annihilation, though — deletion can be selective. Upon accepting his obsolescence and acquiring a broken condeetion of his own, Brother Nero was able to add a dimension all his own and reinvent his character: he has adopted some aesthetic elements of Matt’s character, but he’s also recontextualized them within the framework of the newly-humbled little brother finally forced to knuckle under for Matt, the eternally looked-over part of their team.

Ever since it broke out of the Impact Zone, the entire Broken Matt/Brother Nero storyline has showed an incredible understanding of the essential alchemy of professional wrestling. The alchemy of wrestling is much like that of theatre — built on the transformation of heightened emotion on the part of live performers into emotional experiences on the part of viewers — with the added elements of athletic exhibition and various forms of pageantry. Professional wrestling usually uses the artifice of athletic competition to provide a structure for drama (indulging in a seemingly-eternal obsession with trying to be a sportscast, an obsession driven by wrestling’s long-time inferiority complex over not actually being a sport); what the Hardyz are doing now is using the artifice of professional wrestling to provide a structure for absurdist theatre, melodrama, and as many in-jokes as can be found or concocted.

The great strength of the Hardy videos has been the vast array of small touches. This is television that delights in the details, while wrestling typically operates in broad strokes. Everyone can name their own favorite details — Señor Benjamin’s flat line delivery and his Delete shovel, The Lake of Reincarnation, “prepare the battlefield for massacre,” Rosemary and the spider, Paint Regenerate, the Seven Deities, Skarsgård, the violin that summons Brother Nero, George Washington, “In the Pines,” every single thing that Vanguard 1 has ever done. The Great War begins with an instant classic, a virtuoso piano solo by Reby Hardy, wrapping up the metatextual play of this entire storyline in a medley of Matt and Jeff’s WWE and TNA themes and summarizing within a few minutes the lives that have brought broken condeeshions and broken brilliance upon them.

Eventually the apocalyptic war is reduced to an in-ring wrestling match, and it’s here that it falters. A point of convergence is reached, and the waveform collapses. (This is also the main reason that Delete or Decay has more rewatch value than The Final Deletion despite their shared brilliance.) The narrative framework and production values of a wrestling match are too limiting at this point. Attempts were made to break out of those limitations and retain some of the majick of the previous installments in the ballad of all that is Hardy: Vanguard 1 made a triumphant return with retaliatory mist, and in a move that admirably brings the focus back to character development, Broken Matt creates a moment of encouragement and succor for Brother Nero.

— —

Moments of grace serve to sustain us in our darkest moments. A eucatastrophe delivered from outside ourselves serves to sustain the fragile connections we struggle to maintain between our isolated brains and the outward world. In The Final Deletion, Broken Matt is saved from sure destruction by a majestic candle delivered by Reby, enabling him to set fire to the nefarious Brother Nero, enabling indeed the completion of the deletion. In Delete or Decay, Broken Matt is saved from sure destruction at the points of Janice by the sacrifice of Brother Nero, displaying his willingness to disregard his vessel in the name of protecting the sanctity and safety of King Maxel. In The Great War, it is Broken Matt’s turn to deliver the moment of grace at the climax of the match: for the sake of the crowd’s pleasure, for the sake of adding the perfect capper to the weekend’s most hotly-anticipated tag title match, and for the sake of deleting The Decay’s title reign, he allows Brother Nero a single night’s indulgence of his spot monkey addeection.

If you learn nothing else from the theatre of professional wrestling, learn this: we make these moments of grace for each other. As quickly and as deeply as moments of dissension can divide us, moments of grace can unite us in the bonds of fellowship.

Say ten Deletes and five Obsoletes. Go forth and indulge no more.

Steven Graham:

Oh my, it’s Courtney Rush (Rosemary) and Crazy Steve from Smash Wrestling! TNA also has Cherry Bomb and Pepper Parks, so it’s slowly becoming my local indie.

Although I enjoyed “The Final Deletion”, this “Great War” left me underwhelmed. This felt like TNA trying to do lucha underground, but not quite hitting that level.

The introductions with the piano was pretty awesome, but once the match started we were treated with a normal tag brawl for a bit before everything went backstage. The backstage stuff was much better and had some real highlights.

Backstage the two teams split where Abyss went with Matt Hardy, while Crazy Steve went with Jeff Hardy. I much preferred the Matt stuff, as more of it hit. They were completely outside the building and you had the real highlight of the match where Matt Hardy held fireballs in both hands before throwing them at Abyss. They also re-created the “King of the Road” match from Uncensored 1995. A very odd choice.

The Jeff Hardy stuff was fine, but baffling. At one point Jeff disappeared and turned into Boomhauer. Not following TNA this was just odd. At one point he did some magic and turned into Willow the Wisp. The brawling was fine, but this was all about Jeff’s characters.

After this segment we come back to the ring for average tag brawling before Matt give’s Jeff permission to hit a Swanton off a tall ladder through a couple of tables.

This was a weird disjointed spectacle. I’m not a huge fan of taping the middle portion of your match earlier in the day and splicing it into a live show. If the whole match was this backstage stuff, it would had worked a lot better. I’m not going to shit on this thing, because there was fun. However, I’m not throwing out praise. If you liked the Final Deletion, the middle portion of this match is definitely worth watching. If you like Hardy Boyz matches, like the one a few years ago against The Briscoe Brothers, there is no real need to check this one out.

Peter Saladino:

When the first Broken Matt mini movie happened, I absolutely hated it. I’m not a fan of intentional awfulness.  Encouraging your audience to hunt for boomsticks hanging into the frame or scenes where someone missed a cue just aren’t my idea of fun or entertaining. When you set out to make something bad, the end result is bad.  Anything else is a happy accident or a coincidence. The joke only lasts so long before the hipsters move on to something else to ironically enjoy.

The best decision Matt Hardy made with the Extended Broken Hardy Universe was to eliminate the intentional awfulness. Don’t get me wrong, these segments are still winking like crazy, but there is a seriousness to it and a filmmaking competence that was absent in the introduction. This universe is stupid, but it’s consistent and has its laws. Those laws are followed and played with. Recurring oddities are explained and callbacks are featured. It’s really a fantastic bit of world building the more you hold it up for appraisal.

The missing question has been “How do you translate this to actual matches?” Lost in the hype of The Final Deletion was the problem that the actual match parts were easily the weakest parts of the movie. The Great War went a long way towards solving that dilemma. Using a garbage brawl as a framing device, they found a way to translate the madcap fun of the Hardyverse into something that was both an actual match and filmed in a way consistent with the rest of the show. The match wasn’t workrate for the sake of workrate but it was filled with the kind of fun character work and in-universe callbacks that have made this saga so fun. The match showed some hate and violence and real stakes while still working in fun little in-jokes like the pumpkins getting thrown and smashed and Matt’s little winking shout out to the Ladder War from the same weekend before Jeff’s big dive. Even Vanguard One got his revenge on Rosemary with his anti-mist protocol!

Brad Woodling:

TNA’s biggest challenge going in was transporting the pageantry of The Final Deletion and Delete or Decay to the confines of a wrestling arena and a wrestling match with actual stakes. I think the layout here succeeded as this mixed in everything entertaining they did to build to this match, while still being a falls count anywhere brawl. The musical opening was fitting for their biggest show of the year and given Matt Hardy’s character and his wonderful embellishments, it didn’t really matter how Reby played the piano (she was perfectly fine in what was probably not an easy spot). The Hardys bought in and the crowd had bought in from the get go.

I think it’s arguable that Jeff was better overall than Matt in this match. His boiler room brawl with Stevie fit perfectly with the environment, featured a little of that Hardy magic and was really fun. Matt and Abyss slapping each other’s sides as they walked around the arena? Not so much, until of course Matt started throwing fire balls and they were fighting in the back of a truck as it sped down the highway.

Both of those out-of-ring adventures were fitting in their placement of the match and they tied up a couple things as well – Vanguard 1 getting his revenge on Rosemary (who has been awesome in all of this) and Reby eventually paying off getting misted at the start of the match by brutally powerbombing Rosemary through a table once everyone was back in the ringside area.

Escalating a match and feud that has featured shooting fireworks at each other is tough, but tacks always elicit a crowd reaction of anxiousness and fear. Matt putting Abyss through a barbed wire table with the tacks on it was fitting. And then his sandwich of another barbed wire table on top of Abyss followed by an elbow drop, was unique and a great nearfall (botched breaking of the pinfall aside).

Things do get a little wonky down the stretch; Jeff flat out misses the swanton and just lands full on Abyss’ chest, which had to have hurt like hell. It wasn’t a good night for swantons in general I guess as the finale over a big ladder and through the tables next to each other looked like it hurt Jeff more. But alas, the Great War took its toll on both teams. Maybe my favorite image to illustrate this was Maxell looking over his father’s shoulder at the carnage of broken table pieces in the ring.

Tanner Teat:

The Great War, how can I even begin to describe it? It is the most wonderfully absurd thing I have seen in wrestling all year, even beating out Final Deletion and Decay or Delete. Matt Hardy reinventing himself into the most interesting character in wrestling all year is definitely something I did not see coming, but I fully accept the reality we live in. Jeff, Abyss and Steve all did crazy stuff, but nothing beats Matt Hardy summoning fireballs from his hands in order to destroy Janice (Abyss’s weapon of choice) to a crisp. Overall, this was the most fun I had watching an individual match all year, sure it wasn’t the most athletic, but it is 2016 and I love the wrestling, ****1/2.

Lawrence O’Brien:

The Great War. You had to know when this started with Reby playing a piano, whilst Brother Nero sang his Obsolete song with Broken Matt’s DELIGHTFUL approval, this was going to be utter ridiculousness once again. They did not fail to disappoint in that department. There were so many ups and downs in this. The brawling all throughout Universal (They literally ended up in front of the Universal resort sign) got very hard to follow at times with camera following both Hardys and the Decay members in different parts of the backstage area. It was a bit of a tepid brawl segment, all things considered. That’s until things really picked up when Jeff Hardy morphed into your redneck neighbor who apparently had just watched way too many Flavor of Love reruns and went nuts on Crazy Steve and Rosemary. This came out of nowhere and had me almost in tears and was probably the funniest thing Jeff Hardy has ever done (intentionally or unintentionally).

Things got even wackier with some random crazed fan showing up in a pick up truck threatening Abyss who was planning on murdering Broken Matt with a nailed up 2×4. Rosemary got poison misted by Vanguard 1. Willow showed up again, making that TWO character changes for Jeff in the same match. In my opinion, Jeff totally stole the show in this one and came off more charismatic and hilarious than Broken Matt ever did during this Great War. Somehow, The Decay and the Obsolete and Broken ones ended up back inside the arena. Abyss took a ridiculously over the top bump on a barbed wire board and tacks which is about as routine as a headlock for him at this point in his career. Broken Matt obliged and ALLOWED Brother Nero to INDULGE on his high flying addiction for one night and put Crazy Steve through two tables from the top of a ladder to win the tag titles.

I’m not even sure what to make of this one exactly. Was it better than the Final Deletion? Probably not. You can only go so far with this shtick to the point where it feels almost too much out of a comic book. But maybe that’s what we need sometimes in wrestling, an absurd change of pace like this. Even if it has jumped the shark a bit, the Broken/Brother Nero act came through here as well as The Decay in providing some over the top, chaotic cheese. Jeff truly was the MVP of this one with how effortlessly he went in and out of the characters he did and made this match probably way better than it would have been otherwise.

Cowboy Morrissette:

What the hell did I just watch??? I kid I kid… I really enjoyed the Great War! I give TNA credit for creating a truly unique experience. More than a wrestling match, this was the theatre of the absurd. While Broken Matt and Brother Nero may not have the skills they once had in the ring, it is more than made up for with the sheer craziness of this whole angle. The crowd is bought in and the foils, Decay, played their part well. Some highlights for me were the crazed fan in the Delete shirt getting thrown into the bushes, the pumpkin head on Rosemary, and the barbed wire and thumb tacks that somehow produced no blood (someone will have to fill me in on this… was it just more absurdity or is there some kind of rule?). As a wrestling fan, I enjoy suspending reality for a couple of hours a week. It is my soap opera. I love this angle in that no one is taking themselves too seriously and it is just a good time. As far as the action in the match itself… it was about what I expected. Jeff seems to have quite a bit more left in the tank than Matt and the impressive moves were all his. From a pure wrestling standpoint this was pretty low quality, but who cares? It was a blast!

Chad Campbell:

I keep waiting on the other shoe to drop where I won’t enjoy these extravagant productions and when the hokey aspects go too far. It hasn’t happened yet and didn’t happen with the Great War. While Final Deletion was a masterpiece that is in heavy consideration for my top 10 MOTY list, this was simply a really fun brawling tag team match that added those zany elements to ensure this was a Hardy production. The thing I was most struck by with the pre-taped sections of the match were the reaction of the live Impact Zone crowd in watching the whole thing unravel. TNA faithful finally have something that truly feels groundbreaking and relevant in the wrestling world inside of their promotion. The smashing pumpkin spot was the apex of this whole ordeal and was a great comedy spot to give a wonderful nod to the viewer of the overall absurdity of what they are witnessing. There were some flaws with the match such as the length and even though Decay has their fans, I am not really one of them. Abyss never quite looks like the monster I hope him to be and him taking his customary tack spot didn’t resonate with me at all. Overall this was another grand chapter in the #BROKEN angle of 2016 and still left me clamoring for more. ***1/2

JT Rozzero:

Pro wrestling is amazing and the Great War is a perfect example of what makes it so amazing. Was it a perfect match? Far the fuck from it. But man was it ever different and ever so entertaining. Ever since this whole bizarro world launched, the Broken Hardy Family has produced some of the most unique and interesting television in recent American wrestling history. And even more amazingly enough, they are doing it in TNA. Right out of the gate the match was filled with callbacks and nuggets for those that have followed the whole saga. Matt Hardy presiding over the entrance like the demented Salieri that he is was so well done, and them mixing things up by having Reby play the piano while Jeff sings “Obsolete” was a great touch. And speaking of great touch… Reby’s tits in that dress. Hache mache.

The Decay has mainly been window dressing in this whole epic but they have held up their end of the bargain, buying into the madness and upping the creep factor. I would even argue that Steve, along with Brother Nero, stole the show in this one. For the first time since this started I thought Matt had a bit of an off performance, but it may have been by design. Jeff was certainly featured more and he delivered in spades. I popped huge for the bucket full of water from the Lake of Reincarnation that sent Jeff spinning through his past, capped with a huge cheer from the crowd when Willow showed up. And Jeff’s 100% buy in since Matt converted him has carried much of this angle and again here, as he was on fire throughout the match. Above all I really enjoyed the risks they took. And not physical… spot monkey… risks but just creative risks. They weren’t afraid to go way over the top and explore their surroundings and that led to the old King of the Road match callback, the Smashing Pumpkins joke and the fight outside the Universal Studios sign. These risks could have fell flat in most cases but it worked here because they have laid so much groundwork into the angle and characters and have also build up some credibility throughout the process.

One glaring negative was the length of the match. By the time they all headed back to ringside I was ready for it to end but it still rolled on for a bit longer. I get that they had to pay off Reby and Rosemary as part of this but I just think this section could have been much tighter. It didn’t seem to affect the live crowd though, who was red hot for all of this, even the parts that were outside the Impact Zone. The finish was good with Matt freeing Jeff from his anti-spot monkey prison and allowing him to indulge in a swanton off the giant ladder for the win and the straps. And with the pop they got throughout the final moments, the build and hype around it and given how the actual main event ended you could argue this should have closed the show. Was it as good as Final Deletion? No. Was it as good as Delete or Decay? No. But that had more to do with the limitations of the Impact Zone setting than anything they did out there. I argued on Clotheslines & Headlines that no part of this angle should occur live in an arena and I stand by that statement. But they did damn well with what they had to work with so full credit there. It is amazing to think the Hardy Boys would be the most groundbreaking wrestlers of 2016, but here we are. Instead of cashing in on their names and just drifting through the end of the careers they continue to bust their asses and challenge the conventions of pro wrestling. The Great War delivered and is worth a watch and even though the Decay has been deleted, I hope we are far from the end of this tale.