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I've only watched one segment of WWE Smackdown thus far - the opening segment with Matt Hardy's post-Royal Rumble promo explaining why he took out brother Jeff Hardy and cost him the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble.
Before we dive into whether the promo was effective, advanced storylines, and did all that, we need to look at some questions to flesh out this heel turn for Matt.
First off, we need an explanation of why Matt Hardy would help his brother win the WWE Title in the first place before costing him the belt one month later. Was he setting Jeff up for a more dramatic crash and burn, thus inflicting more pain, by helping him achieve his title aspirations first?
Second, we need to know if Matt was behind the Survivor Series hotel attack, the hit-and-run, and pyro accident. If he was, we need to check Jeff for any existing brain cells left. I would certainly be able to tell if my brother jumped me in the hallway of a hotel. If Matt wasn't behind the attacks, we need some information on whether he orchestrated the plot using a third party or if everything was completely random, which would be a cop-out storyline explanation.
Third, we need to know how Matt knew his brother wouldn't be pinned in the first ten minutes of his match against Edge, to where his plot wouldn't have been pulled off. Yes, yes, yes, mid-match run-ins are apart of WWE's presentation, like wrestlers pretending the camera isn't there sometimes and acknowledging it at other times, so we'll conveniently ignore this situation.
Fourth, we need to the "why" on Matt choosing to relinquish the role of being his brother's keeper. What finally drove him to this point? How long had he been plotting? Was it the talk of concern for Jeff's character and no attention to him that finally got to him?
Plenty of questions to be answered. Let's see how WWE and Hardy addressed things in the promo.
"Someone is trying to stop me from living my dream," was Jeff's key quote via a voice-over recapping the Royal Rumble match between Jeff and Edge where Matt turned on him.
After showing Matt turn on Jeff, they showed clips of the Hardyz era, growing up together in North Carolina, and celebrating many highs as a brother tag team.
In the arena, no music as Matt Hardy walked out on stage in a dark suit. A slight limp. A chair in hand. No announcers. A few boos over the dead air as Hardy fans in the arena voiced their displeasure.
Once in the ring, Hardy sat down on the chair and stared straight ahead while some fans booed and others sat in stunned silence. Hardy said he finally doesn't have to share the spotlight with Jeff. That answers question four.
Cue up some "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" thinking music or perhaps the "Mankind" music that played during his early promos from the boiler room. Hardy began his deep, dark promo that was subtle in its delivery. WWE incorporated some family shots while Matt explained himself.
He's been his brother's keeper personally and professionally. And he's tired of it. That answers number four again.
Then, ever since Jeff became WWE champion, all of these accidents started happening. Hardy said no one can prove he attacked Jeff in the hotel, caused the car accident, or caused the pyro. A little mystery to number two, but good mystery to see how this plays out.
What you can prove is that he laid out Jeff at the Royal Rumble. Matt was sitting in the steel chair he used on Jeff, and said all of the pain Jeff put him through for so many years was transferred back to Jeff. "And it felt good," he said.
Matt said no one knows how difficult it is to take care of a brother like Jeff, who is a constant mistake. He said he spent so many nights worried about Jeff when no one could find him. "No more," he said. "Without me in Jeff's life to be his guiding light, Jeff Hardy won't even be able to survive."
Matt said Jeff is a psychological wreck, but he's never been healthier or happier. If his survival means Jeff's total destruction, then so be it.
Now to share some blame externally. He went to the fans, saying he's tried for over ten years to get the fans to like him. Signed autographs, taken pics, and done everything in his power, but it's never good enough. Matt said they only care about the irresponsible screw-up known as Jeff Hardy.
"From now on, the only person I care about is me," he said. Matt looked deep into the hard cam beneath his dark eyes and told Jeff he has one thing to say. He said he is decreeing that there is no such thing as the Hardy Boys. Cue up the retro Hardy video clips.
He no longer considers him his partner... or his brother. Matt looked around the arena as the fans chanted for Jeff. Matt nodded along, knowing that would be coming. Fade to black.
The promo was excellent. It was subtle, which was needed to answer just a few of the obvious questions. The points were hammered home more effectively by a few great "paying attention to details" items.
First, Hardy's choice in wardrobe. If he showed up in jeans and t-shirt, no one is taking him seriously. He didn't need to pursue the Chris Jeriche route of "evil villain" suit and tie because that's not his style, like John Cena's style isn't wrestling boots and trunks, but Hardy went casual dark. Good choice.
Second, he lowered his eyes to the camera. Classic heel tactic of not showing the "whites in his eyes" so the audience doesn't trust him. He didn't over-play this item from his storytelling toolbox, but let his eyes subtly tell the story of deceit and distrust, like there's something more to this story than meets the eye.
We got the answers to some obvious questions, but there's more here. What's missing from the story? Good use of the "heel eyes" tactic to keep viewers guessing and wanting more information in future weeks leading to Jeff's comeback.
The distrust was effective for the audience to build up "hope" for when Jeff returns. Hope is such a key in getting people to spend money. I'll buy this shirt because I hope it will attract a future mate. I'll order this weight-loss formula because I hope it will allow me to shed a few pounds. I'll order this PPV because I hope I will receive temporary satisfaction when Matt gets his comeuppance.
Building up "hope" because Matt appears to be hiding something by giving his side of the story and not allowing equal time to Jeff was a great piece of TV storytelling. Matt held up his bargain with a subtle, effective, promo where fans hoped for something that he wasn't willing to provide.
Matt's promo only answered a few of the lingering questions, while adding mystery to the key questions. Like Jim Ross said in his blog, the overall presentation - words, costume, lighting, music, tone, etc. - was the key to Matt having one of his finest moments as a WWE wrestler.