Here’s more information than you need: I’m going to visit my folks this weekend which means I will be in the truck on Friday, gritting my teeth through a 17-mile-long stretch of curvy mountain roads when AEW Rampage airs. That means I won’t get to watch The Firm Deletion until Sunday or Monday. I love my parents, but I’m making a boo-boo face that I have to wait to watch that cinematic match for one main reason. It looks like Broken Matt Hardy is making a return.
Ah, the cinematic match, the rat bastard of the wrestling business. Filmed and edited like a short film, those matches take the fight away from the standard venues and into the outside world. Cinematic matches have also been derided for being too staged, the thing that performs a backbreaker of every other gimmick bout invented. Some fans would rather see managers in a shark tank suspended above the ring or a Judy Bagwell On A Forklift match than a pre-taped, heavily scripted bout.
Listen: cinematic matches are a perfect fit for the wrestling business, and no one does them better than Broken Matt Hardy.
How do you even explain the character of Broken Matt Hardy to a non-wrestling fan? “Okay, so Matt Hardy was feuding with his brother, Jeff. They had a cinematic match called The Final Deletion. When Matt lost the match, he became a different person. He talked in a weird accent. He began calling himself a “vessel” for other spiritual entities. He became convinced that the animals in his petting zoo were inhabited by the souls of historical figures. Matt had a drone, and he set things on fire, and he fought people at his home in North Carolina. His wife, father-in-law, and kids were also involved, and the fans loved it.”
Sounds crazy, right? But that’s the basic overview of what happened. Broken Matt, with a white Kitty Bartholomew streak in his hair, set up his property (also known as the Hardy Compound) as not just a wrestling ring, but a battlefield.
It was a wild and wacky ride, but it elevated both the genre of cinematic matches and Matt Hardy’s character to another level. His in-ring taunts of “Delete! Delete! Delete!” became favorite chants among live crowds. Hardy’s descriptions of his opponents also became legendary. In Hardy’s promos, the Young Bucks became “The Bucks of Youth.” Chris Jericho became known as “The Hole of the Ass.” He spewed hilarious gibberish, dwelling solely in his own Broken Universe, where the only thing that made sense was wrestling. At his house. Because why not?
Hardy may be a pioneer in that type of match, but he wasn’t the only one to take part in their own wrestling mini-movie. During the WCW Uncensored pay-per-view in 1995, Dustin Rhodes and the Blacktop Bully (the constantly repackaged Barry Darsow) engaged in the King of the Road match. There was a steel cage filled with hay bales and foreign objects on the back of a semi moving down the road at a kayfabe 55 miles per hour.
What a mess. Purporting to take place in real-time, the sun was obviously at different places in the sky during the match. Rhodes and Darsow were both fired after the match because of violating WCW’s “no blood” rule. It was a ridiculous affair, but tons of fun to watch. The same can’t be said for one of WWE’s most notorious attempts at the genre.
At Payback 2017, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton battled their way through the House of Horrors match. Designed to cement Wyatt’s reputation as a creepy bayou sumbitch, it did the opposite. Indeed, there was a house, but the true horror was in the execution. Spots in this match included Orton being thrown into a comfy couch, and squashed by a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull refrigerator. Wyatt got thrown face-first into a sink full of dirty dishes. Because wrestling, the match concluded live at the arena inside the ring. We didn’t even get a clean finish.
In June 2021, Ring Of Honor mainstays Mark and Jay Briscoe fought each other in a cinematic match at their family chicken farm. Beginning in the practice ring set up in a barn, the brothers brawled their way outside. They leapt off of carports and recreational vehicles, hurling each other all over the barnyard. Their father followed them the whole time, screaming at the boys, “You good? You good now?” To be honest, they probably weren’t good. But the match was as fun to watch as a Saturday night parking lot fight at Shoney’s.
There are drawbacks to presenting a cinematic match. Remote shooting is expensive and a logistical nightmare. Those bouts are great for TV, but annoying for audiences at the venue. If you buy a ticket in an arena for a live show, and you wind up staring at the trons for twenty minutes while two guys slap each other around in a different location, that’s a bummer.
Regardless of the quality of the bouts, cinematic matches have been both entertaining and memorable. Those matches have also cemented Matt Hardy as a legend. From his beginnings as a high-flying acrobat to becoming an eccentric weirdo luring opponents into well-laid traps at the Hardy Compound, Hardy is a master of reinvention. Broken Matt may have been his finest creation.
Does it matter who wins The Firm Deletion? Not really. What matters is that Broken Matt Hardy is back doing what he does best, setting up caskets and fireworks and yelling at “Bill Who Is Big.” Refrain from peeing or going to the corner store for a beer run during this match. Enjoy seeing a master at work, in an element he did not create but revolutionized. Even if only for a few minutes, the universe is once again Broken. All we can do is watch things play out.