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CALDWELL'S TAKE

CALDWELL: An Unforgiven PPV story - Matt Hardy's Not Dead Yet

Sep 18, 2005 - 4:50:00 AM


By James Caldwell, Torch Columnist

The United Kingdom has delivered Mr. Bean, Keeping Up Appearances, and other comedic marvels, but none surpasses Monty Python's troupe of comedic absurdity. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the second scene begins with an overworked mortician asking local residents to bring out their dead in exchange for money. One man in particular is so hard on his luck that his asking price is only 9 pence (or about $0.16) for his dead neighbor.

The catch? Well, the dead neighbor isn't quite dead yet. In fact, the neighbor, who is suddenly alive with life, declares he's getting better after exiting a state of terminal illness. The seller, who needs cash like Mike Tyson needs another payday, throws the neighbor in the medieval equivalent of a hearse after his desperate cry of "I'm not dead yet" falls on deaf ears.

On some twisted parallel, such is the life of Matt Hardy. Left for dead by critics, fans, or anyone who just doesn't see how losing to Rob Conway and Gene Snitsky is a sign of upward mobility, Matt Hardy is confident his decision to sign with WWE wasn't the mistake of the century. He's reassured friends and detractors that WWE isn't killing the "heart and soul of Matt Hardy." Naturally, skepticism will be in vogue until the bell rings following his cage match against Edge at Unforgiven tonight.

However, Hardy's condition can only improve after being turned into Edge's personal whipping boy over the last two months. Even after taking Edge through a table off the Raw entrance stage on August 29 - where things seemed to take a turn for the better - Hardy's momentum was quickly erased. In baseball, the old adage goes that a team is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. In the case of Matt Hardy, his push was only as effective as next week's Raw.

After taking Edge through the stage, Hardy found himself staring down a mismatch against Snitsky the following week. While Hardy was taking a beating that subsequently led to an underwhelming loss, Edge and Lita were in the catbird's seat watching the life being sucked out of Hardy's character.

With Unforgiven merely hours away, Matt Hardy comes into the match with nothing to lose and everything to gain. His character has taking a drubbing worse than Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. He's already lost the girl to the heel. The mystique and sense of purpose that was attached to his name upon his return has been wiped away. Hardy is a broken down man, but he has an opportunity to even the score with Edge.

For Edge, there's nothing to gain and nothing to lose. If he beats Hardy again, it's simply reinforcement - not additional proof - for his new and improved heel persona. It would be like tacking on another touchdown after holding a 51-0 lead in the fourth quarter. By then, either you're watching another game or on the way to the parking lot; the effect is non-existent.

Edge's advantage in this feud is so pronounced through his promos, victories, slobberknockering, and presentation as the real badass that he has nothing left to prove. Therefore, it is imperative that Matt Hardy wins this match. For Hardy, it's a chance to even the score in one steel cage match. For Edge, it's a chance to have something to play for in another match such as Survivor Series in a Last Man Standing match.

If you look at the political breakdown of this feud, Edge has more political backing than Matt Hardy does. Of course, juxtaposed against the number of political allies true to Matt Hardy, anyone on the roster could pass for a card-carrying member of the McMahon family. However, WWE sees more in Edge's character than that of Hardy's. Have you noticed the shorter hair Edge is sporting? He didn't chop off a few inches because he had a coupon at the local barbershop. It's management's way of presenting Edge in a more marketable fashion.

Keep in mind, Edge is carrying around a briefcase good for one title match between now and WrestleMania 22. When that match occurs - unless WWE decides to throw away a well-developed opportunity in hotshot fashion - Edge will need to be strong in opposition to the babyface champion, who will most likely be John Cena. If Edge wins tonight at Unforgiven, the victory does not solidify him as a heel opponent at the level of the current #1 contender, Kurt Angle. However, if Hardy wins and rebuilds credibility after suffering through two months of decadence, the door is open for a meaningful rubber match in the series.

The third match is where Matt Hardy's character must die. For Edge, a meaningful victory over a strong opponent at Survivor Series should elevate him to the main event slot he's been clamoring for since he broke away from five-second poses and TLC matches. Edge has been reaching out for that brass ring for some time - he was even scheduled to face John Cena at Summerslam until Hardy reappeared on the scene - but he has consistently come up short.

If WWE management truly believes in affording Edge an opportunity to use the clause inside that briefcase after he's delivered several commanding promos and believable beatings, the benefit of Hardy winning tonight should be evident. Edge wins nothing with a victory tonight; he wins everything with a victory at Survivor Series.

"What about Hardy?" you may be asking right about now. Well, a victory means reaffirming his character by reviving the intrigue that was there on July 11. It's a necessary revival that will add life to Hardy's claim that he's not dead yet.

"And losing at Survivor Series?" you may also be asking. A loss at Survivor Series means the end of this fight against Edge that has consumed the Internet over the last 6 months. It also means the end of Matt Hardy, as we know him.

One of the drawbacks to Hardy's character since returning has been the quality of promos. His promo on August 1 following the infamous McMahon handshake wasn't something to include in the training seminar. His counter-argument to Edge on Byte This prior to Summerslam wasn't any better. However, he's a well-spoken individual, as he helped create a great product for the Ultimate Insider's DVD series. Nevertheless, when it comes to in-ring promos, Matt Hardy - the real character as a reflection of a real person - is not someone WWE can build around. That Matt Hardy must die at the conclusion of this feud.

The rebirth is the "Angelic Diablo" version of Matt Hardy - a character that impressed Triple H on videotape and brought thousands of hits to his Internet show. It's a character that isn't a cookie cutter replica, but a concept that can bring a certain freshness to the Raw brand in stark contrast to the muscle heads like Chris Masters and narcissistic models like Rob Conway.

When it comes time for WWE to map out the conclusion of this feud, the end should not be tonight in Oklahoma City, but rather at Survivor Series where Hardy's present-day character should end as well.

Tonight at Unforgiven, WWE needs to give reason for people to care about Matt Hardy once again so Edge can single-handedly pull the plug at Survivor Series. After the dust settles, Edge can move to the elusive main event with tremendous momentum behind him. For Hardy, there is an opportunity to return with a renewed purpose and fresh character. Matt Hardy isn't dead yet, nor should he be after tonight's cage match.

James Caldwell writes from Southern California and his DVD selection is, of course, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Have a thought on Hardy vs. Edge Part II? Drop James a line at jamescaldwell@pwtorch.com.


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