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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, January 26, 2001

Hardy brothers should stick together

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
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For quite awhile now, hints have been dropped left and right that the brothers Hardy may be splitting up. They even cost each other the Royal Rumble this past week, and were quite upset with each other despite the fact that everyone knows there was no chance that either of them could have won it. Now, more than ever, their seemingly imminent breakup is being teased, and as is always the case when a tag team breaks up for the first time, Matt and Jeff Hardy are being sized up for possible singles success. I hate to be Mr. Doom and Gloom here, but I don't think either man has what it takes.

The general but far from unanimous consensus seems to be that Jeff Hardy is the more talented of the two brothers. I am inclined to agree. I think Jeff is largely responsible for the team's success (if you want to call a few sparse title reigns and lots of backburner time 'success'), as his high-flying antics are the reason most people bothered to turn their heads for Hardy matches. Everything about him, at least since his debut as a WWF superstar, has always screamed "look at me!", right down to his colourful hair.

Given that, let's talk about Matt Hardy first. I think Matt is the underrated Hardy, and that he contributes his fair share to every match in which he wrestles. If anything, I think Matt has a better sense of in-ring timing and ring psychology than Jeff Hardy, and has spent more of his time and effort practicing such matters.

Still, Matt lacks just about everything that makes Jeff great, including his amazing aerial arsenal and his general flair. I'm not saying Matt Hardy couldn't be a good wrestler, but that we haven't seen enough of him on his own to have any idea, and that at least nothing he's ever done suggests he could be a real star. This isn't some kind of death sentence, I mean I could say the same thing about Bradshaw. It's not a knock, it's just that he's never done anything that enables me to even imagine him wrestling Triple H for the title at Summerslam. That doesn't mean he won't still do it. Still, just because I can't rule him out doesn't mean I have any more faith in him than Hardcore Holly, for example. Some wrestlers, I think, have proven that they're not main event material (Steve Blackman comes to mind), but most are still just untapped potential. Matt fits somewhere between Blackman and Holly.

If anyone, Jeff is the odds-on favourite to break out and make a real name for himself. After all, we've seen it before. The Rockers were poised to go pretty much nowhere, so it seemed, but Shawn Michaels broke that barrier. No, he demolished the barrier. He became one of the most memorable heavyweight champions in recent memory when no one thought he would do it.

Hold on a minute. That comparison has been made a few too many times. Just because the Hardys are a smaller, high-flying team doesn't make them The Rockers. It doesn't make Matt Hardy Marty Jannetty, and it doesn't make Jeff Hardy the next Heartbreak Kid, either.

I have to be blunt. Jeff Hardy is a good wrestler. He has the high-flying skills and amazing athleticism to make it in this business, but that may be all. He's a good wrestler, though. He's not great. He lacks a lot of tools that a good all-around wrestler should have.

For example, Jeff Hardy sells well, but he sells like Mick Foley. That is to say, he doesn't sell at all, he just absorbs impact. Foley's matches looked so realistic because they were, not because he was making it look real. You throw Foley on the mat, he falls and hits the mat. It looks like it hurts because it probably does - or at least it would hurt anyone else. Jeff may be able to fall off a ladder or jump of a cage, but that doesn't mean it's going to look good when he fights The Rock for half an hour and all he's got to sell for are punches and kicks. That's where Michaels excelled, among other places - selling everyday moves and playing the rag doll. I'm not convinced Jeff Hardy can do that.

Jeff also lacks a balanced offense. Not to overuse the Mick Foley analogy, but he's got a ton of high-calibre, five-star offense that looks absolutely great, and he comes up with many great innovative moves regularly, but he doesn't have the three-star offense that big stars need to fill in the gaps. Ric Flair made a career of the simplest of moves: chops, holds, and twists. Jeff Hardy doesn't have that. I'm not convinced that Jeff can last under those circumstances, and I mean both forty minutes in a main event match and five years of such matches.

Jeff Hardy is not the most charismatic man in the world, either. He's not just going to have to wrestle anymore if he goes single, he'll have to actually talk, too. There's no evidence that he can get a crowd riled up, be it for or against him.

Jeff Hardy is very, very small. Shawn Michaels may have been small as well, but I think even Michaels looked a little bigger than Hardy. Again, Jeff won't be wrestling in the main event against Kaientai or Edge and Christian (well, maybe Edge) - it'll be The Rock and Triple H for him, should he get there, or at least guys like that. You don't have to be a behemoth anymore to succeed in wrestling, but even new champ Kurt Angle is a big guy with awesome muscle definition.

Jeff Hardy is an above average wrestler, even in a major league context. He's a great competitor, and he'll probably reveal more assets and skills as he progresses. But as of now, just like his brother, we have no reason to believe he's the Next Big Thing and I personally don't think he will be. I think that analogies to Kidman (an awesome cruiserweight but an overrated heavyweight) or Mick Foley are much more appropriate, I don't think there will ever be another Mick Foley in terms of how he made his name and how he became successful.

There are a lot of guys I'd put my money on before Jeff Hardy, including Hardcore Holly or Edge. Get in line, Jeff.

Here's the mailbag.

Peter Traverse, from petertraverse87@hotmail.com, writes:
"I really enjoyed your article on the logical WCW main-eventers. I think that Scott Steiner should, and will, be the man that WCW is built around for the next few years. Since Steiner is not going to be wrestling much longer I think that they should start grooming someone to take Steiner's spot. That person: Sean O'Haire. He's big, good looking, he can wrestle and within the next few years he should develop the mic skills needed to become the World Champion."

Peter, I don't disagree with what you have to say, but I think you're missing something. Scott Steiner may well be gone soon (we don't know this for fact, but he's getting older and has had some health problems), and Sean O'Haire could develop "within the next few years" the mic skills he needs.

O'Haire is a great talent, and I think he's WCW's best prospect second only to Mike Sanders. But he's new and green in so many areas, and I don't think he'll be champion material by the time Steiner is ready to go. WCW needs a man in the interim, someone already experienced but not yet a huge star. Preferably, someone Canadian with a Maple Leaf finisher hold.


Rita McGarvey, from emrtnz@bellatlantic.net, writes:
"Did wrestling at any time beat Monday Night Football in the ratings, Monday Nitro and Raw combined?"

Peter, I don't disagree with what you have to say, but I think you're missing something. Scott Steiner may well be gone soon (we don't know this for fact, but he's getting older and has had some health problems), and Sean O'Haire could develop "within the next few years" the mic skills he needs.

Not to my knowledge, no. Wrestling's ratings peaked at perhaps a ten-point-oh composite, maybe a little higher, and MNF rarely if ever goes below that at all. To top it off, wrestling's ratings rarely peak during football season, perhaps because of competition from football on ABC. I don't have an archive of Monday Night Football ratings, but I'm fairly certain this is the case. If anyone has any contrary information to share, please feel free.


That's all for this week. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for writing in and have a safe weekend!


Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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