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By now, you’ve probably all watched the pay-per-view or you have at least seen the video. Matt Hardy, perched on top of a scissor left with Sammy Guevara, falling through a table and smacking his head off the concrete.
You watched Hardy lay unresponsive after the spot, and you watched as referee Aubrey Edwards tried to squeeze his hand and checked for any signs of consciousness.
You watched as Hardy gave Edwards no indication that he was conscious. Then, you watched Edwards call for medical help. Minutes went by, but it felt like time stood still. Hardy eventually woke up and had trouble getting to his feet. When he finally did, he wouldn’t stay on his feet for long, stumbling to the side and falling back on the same cold, gray concrete that the back of his skull had smashed against minutes earlier.
Presumably, AEW president Tony Khan watched this all unfold as well. Khan said after the show that he sent in AEW’s doctor – former WWE physician, Dr. Michael Sampson – and Dr. Sampson cleared him to finish the match.
Let that sink in for a moment. A doctor cleared a man who was visibly unconscious and had trouble standing up, to then finish a wrestling match which required him to climb scaffolding. On top of that, Tony Khan was okay with it.
Even if Hardy passed AEW’s “protocols,” at best, that decision was dangerously irresponsible. At worst, it was entirely disgusting. Moreover, if a clearly unconscious wrestler can pass your “protocols” only a few minutes after regaining consciousness, maybe it’s time to get some new protocols.
Khan has been a breath of fresh air as a wrestling promoter. His accessibility to the media and his willingness to explain his motivations are just two of the things I genuinely admire about him. But I can’t justify how this was handled. This situation was not dealt with in a manner that makes me believe AEW has a new, progressive way of running its pro wrestling company. Instead, it was the opposite. It came across like the slimy wrestling promotion treating its talent like a piece of meat.
Khan said after the show that Hardy was okay, despite going to the hospital.
“Most importantly is that Matt is okay and it looks like Matt is going to be okay,” Khan said on a post-show media call. “What happened with Matt, was Matt had taken a fall in the match and I stopped the match, paused the match, and sent the doctor to check on him. I was concerned Matt could be hurt, so I rang the bell so Matt could be checked.
“When the doctor checked on him, the doctor had passed him and cleared him on the protocol. … Then Matt came back after and he passed the concussion protocol. He’s doing okay, I spoke to him right after the match and then again just now. He went as a precaution to the hospital just for tests to check out that he’s okay, but it looks like he’s okay, which is why the doctor cleared him to continue. It was not something any of us enjoyed and it was something that was a scary moment, but the most important thing is that Matt is okay.”
Matt’s wife, Reby Hardy, tells a different story.
According to Hardy’s wife, he remained in a Florida hospital on Sunday morning in order to undergo additional scans.
“Let me be absolutely f–cking clear,” she wrote, “there is NOTHING entertaining about a concussion. Shame on everyone in that goddam building.”
Hardy followed up saying that her husband was “idiot No. 1 in this scenario” and “I’ll let you figure out who No. 2 was,” before finishing with, “They needed additional imaging done after his CT. He’s still in the hospital. 1000% concussion. Anyone with eyes could have told you that, though.”
Anyone but AEW management, apparently.
Tony Khan followed up in the afternoon on Sunday, providing an update that said Hardy was finally released from the hospital, and saying that Hardy did not actually suffer a concussion.
“An update on Matt Hardy: it’s great news!” he tweeted. “Matt’s ok, we sent him to the hospital as a precaution & he’s passed the MRI + CT scans, he doesn’t have a concussion, and he’s being driven home now. Matt will be at Dynamite on Wednesday night to thank you amazing fans for your support!”
Even if he doesn’t technically have a concussion, someone who was knocked out cold should have never been allowed to continue wrestling a match, especially a match that required him to climb a scaffold some 10-15 feet into the air, untethered. Remember, why Hardy may have passed the doctor’s on-the-fly protocol test, none of these scans or brain images were taken until long after the match was complete. AEW had no way of knowing, with full confidence, that Hardy was okay until Sunday afternoon when Khan provided his update and all the necessary CT scans were done by doctors.
In addition, regardless of whether or not Hardy technically had a concussion, his condition was severe enough that doctors opted to keep him in the hospital overnight for additional tests. Despite that, AEW and Dr. Sampson deemed his condition OK enough to complete a wrestling match.
Notwithstanding the hecticness unfolding around her, referee Aubrey Edwards did all she could to protect Matt and still do her job. After Hardy regained the ability to stand up, albeit barely, he tried continuing the match with Guevara but Edwards shut it down, again calling for medical help a second time.
Dr. Sampson then walked into the camera shot in a matter of seconds. It seemed pretty clear, given how quickly he entered the shot, that he was standing right off camera, but allowed the match to continue without evaluating Hardy.
“Yes there was time (to make a proper decision),” Khan said. “It was actually a good amount of time. The doctor did clear him. Matt did not pressure him. Dr. (Michael) Sampson would not be pressured into clearing anybody. He’s pulled people from our shows without hesitation whether it’s been over something with a blood test or an injury; he’s very strict about that stuff. That’s why, when people have had injuries where he’s uncomfortable with them doing physicality, we never put those people out there. I never would have gone against the doctor’s decision. Most importantly, Matt would not have been able to overrule the doctor’s decision.
“That’s what happened. The doctor cleared him, Matt also did want to continue, but the doctor cleared him. At that point, when the doctor cleared him and Matt clearly wanted to continue, that’s why we continued.”
Aubrey Edwards did her job, but let’s be honest, the responsibility never should have been hers. Anyone with functioning eyeballs knew that Hardy was hurt. Khan can take credit for “pausing the match,” but he should have stopped it. Dr. Sampson may have cleared him, but Tony Khan is still in control of the show. It’s his company. He needed to be a leader and protect his wrestler on Saturday night, and he didn’t do it. Instead, he allowed a dangerous situation to get more dangerous, as Hardy climbed a scaffold, and after the show threw all of the responsibility on the doctor’s shoulders.
It didn’t take a doctor to see that Matt Hardy had a serious head injury.
The whole situation is interesting, considering that the Khan family also owns an NFL team.
Let’s, for a second, pretend that Hardy was the quarterback for Khan’s Jacksonville Jaguars. If he took a hit in a game that knocked him unconscious, he would have never been allowed to return to that game. Moreover, he might not have been cleared to play the following week.
But in Khan’s wrestling world, someone who was clearly knocked unconscious climbed a scaffold less than 10 minutes later.
It’s all even more striking after Khan, just a few days ago, talked about his “good friend” Chris Nowinski on the media call to hype All Out.
“Frankly, I’m good friends with Chris Nowinski,” he said. “I really believe in Chris’ work, and I think the Concussion Legacy Foundation does great work. Chris has come in at my request and spoken to all of the AEW talent and we have a good relationship with the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and Chris is my good friend.”
I wonder what Nowinski thought of that Hardy situation?
Ironically enough, he’s spoken about these scenarios in the past, when NFL players were knocked unconscious and returned to play, detailing such a moment that happened to former wide receiver Wayne Chrebet.
“After a pretty ugly congressional hearing for them, the NFL saw the light and decided to make some pretty dramatic changes to their policies on how they treated head injuries,” Nowinski told NPR in 2011. “And one of them was that athletes were no longer allowed to return back to a game when they were symptomatic of a concussion. Prior to this, a famous example is (from) 2005, when Wayne Chrebet, a New York Jets wide receiver, was knocked unconscious on the field for a minute. The Jets team doctor happened to be the head of the NFL’s concussion committee and thought it was a good idea to let Wayne go back into the game 10 minutes later. And, of course, Wayne retired from the game from post-concussion syndrome at the end of the season. But no one ever pieced those two things together. And so, that practice was now going to be stopped and to the benefit of a lot of players.”
Even if Hardy passed protocols that have been put in place, is losing consciousness not “symptomatic” of a concussion? Is it not symptomatic of some form of head trauma?
What’s even more frustrating is that AEW and Tony Khan could have easily stopped the match. Sure, there was a “stipulation” that Hardy would have to leave AEW if he lost, but when has a stipulation like that ever stopped a wrestling company from changing course? For God’s sake, it’s not real. Tony Khan can do whatever he wants, and if they merely threw out the match as a “no contest” and then evaluated Hardy, presenting the match on Dynamite once he was healthy and able to safely work, no one would have complained. If anything, we’d be applauding Tony Khan for putting the wrestling B.S. aside and protecting his talent, putting health and safety first.
Khan said that he’s had Nowinski in to talk to AEW talent. Perhaps, he should have that same conversation with Nowinski, himself.
Mike McMahon is a PW Torch contributor who also hosts the All Elite Aftershow on the PW Torch Dailycast. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TorchMcMahon and email him at torchmcmahon [at] gmail.com