James Dixon: Following a release covering the series of matches between the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz in 1999-2000, as well as a tape about the Hardys’ manager Lita, the brothers get their own hour-long profile release. It starts with the revelations that Jeff likes coming home at least once a week to relax and that Matt likes to sew and used to make all of his own gear. A strange way to start out. Matt then calls Jeff an oddball, which is not news, and Bubba says how stunned he is that the brothers are related because they are so different and have nothing in common. We see Jeff’s wacky house which is full of life-size fibreglass figurines, fake rubber plants and his embarrassingly bad self-crafted statues, which look like the handiwork of a child. “Jeff is not here with us on Earth” says Michael Hayes, a man who has met more than his fair share of off-the-wall guys over the years, as Edge brings up Jeff’s frankly cringe inducing “emoetry”. “The perfect description of me is “weird”” says Jeff. Oh, we know. Edge adds that he would like to go on vacation in Jeff head because he thinks it would be serene. I think it would be like being at a techno rave while on acid.
Matt says he enjoys the road, making him the first wrestler in history to do so, because they to make it fun. We then see Matt sitting in the corridor of the Gund Arena in Cleveland, venue of the famous No Mercy ladder match, and he puts over the nostalgic feel of the hallway, calling it hallowed ground to him and Jeff. That’s all a bit too much like “emoetry” to me, but the match itself certainly was important for them. Matt takes credit for the idea of doing the ladder match, and then the brothers talk about it a little. Jeff says the one thing that kept running through his head was the directive “safe and spectacular” that they were told by Shane McMahon. And then sure enough, Matt botched the very first spot, making a cock of running the ropes at the same time as Jeff and whiplashing his neck off them. Much credit to him then for quickly pulling it together and not letting that minor mistake play on his mind, and then being able to deliver the far more dangerous and complex stuff that followed. Christian talks about the first big pop of the match (which was a ladder tug-o-war leading to a garrotting in the corner) and how the audience reaction built from there. It did; every move, every spot, every high risk bump climaxed wonderfully and all combined made this one of the most memorable and important matches of the era. Christian tells how he noticed one of the ladders was broken and that Jeff took it upon himself to fix it, which was a risky thing to do when they had to then climb it and use it for more spots, especially when they had plenty of spares. Matt discusses the worst bump he took; an innocuous looking ladder shot and bump over the top, which caught him square on the ear. I can imagine that one stung. Jeff says he remembers everything that happened in the contest, but his favourite spot was the famous and innovative seesaw spot, which is definitely great, but watched post Armageddon 2006 conjures up images of Joey Mercury getting his face brutally smashed in by the same move (indeed it was Jeff who executed the move that night too. Yes, seven years later and the Hardys were still doing ladder matches. Not that WWE were bereft of fresh ideas or anything). Jeff says the spot was the thing that injured him the most in the bout, giving him a bruised tailbone from the landing. The two teams then describe the finish in detail and Matt rightly states that the match did a lot for all of them and points out that the Hardys have come a long way since debuting… in 1998! Yes, he conveniently forgets the four years they spent with the company as job boys, which would be fine except that in a few minutes we see them putting over such luminaries as King Kong Bundy, Crush and Waylon Mercy from 1994 onwards, contradicting what Matt just said.
To the story of how the Hardys became fans of wrestling and watched WrestleMania IV when growing up, and we see their home videos from when they used to wrestle each other as kids with all their cute little characters. We skip them training themselves, though Edge rather drops them in it: “They wrestled around the backyard, which we can’t condone…” he says. Hypocritical of him really, what with him and Christian having done the exact same thing in their school. We get some highlights of the Hardys’ early indy work, then a really bizarre shot of them and two unidentified guys in nWo shirts. The thing is, as stated Matt and Jeff started with the WWF in 1994, and were pretty much there ever since on and off. Parading around in shirts of the opposition’s hottest act was a silly thing to be doing. They talk about how their father wasn’t impressed with the lack of money they were making and that he wanted them to get a real job, though now they are rich and famous he likes the business, obviously. Bruce Prichard puts them over for their hard work and heart, and talks about them being with the company as semi-regulars for years before they were finally given a contract. We see the contract, which they didn’t even read and just signed. Marks. “There’s a lot of very cool stories of how guys got here” says Edge, before putting over the Hardys for training themselves and working hard to get to the WWF. He reckons it could be a movie. Well yeah, it is a nice story and a feel-good story at that… when this was filmed. But the way they both turned out as drug abusers, rehab frequenters and in the case of Matt, a woman beater too, makes this more sad when viewed with the benefit of hindsight.
We see the Hardys winning the tag belts in a fluke win over the APA and positively fly through their associations with Michael Hayes and Gangrel. Things get confusing as we return to the feud with Edge & Christian and the ladder match that we have already seen, and Jeff calls Mick Foley “Nothing but inspiring” for his comments (telling them that they just “made” themselves) post No Mercy. Foley responds, saying that the dressing room knew what the Hardys could do but everyone needs that one match to convince the fans as such, and No Mercy was that one match that got them over. The scatterbrain format continues as we go from that back to their childhood, as they briefly talk about their mum dying young from cancer, and their dad (who Jeff says is his hero) raising them alone and disciplining them well (though, look how they turned out…). We then get a random video interlude set to their dad strumming away on an acoustic guitar, which includes then still friends Matt and Edge playing around with the picture special effects on a handheld camera, and Jeff talking about how comfortable he is with sexual exploits, but that he believes they should be kept private. That comment probably didn’t help quash any of the many rumours at the time about what his “deal” was.
At WrestleMania 2000 they took the No Mercy bout and added the Dudleys to the mix, and the results were much the same. It’s a tremendous bout, though not quite career defining in the same way, but still another in a long list of stunt matches featuring the teams that is definitely worth hunting out. The continued innovation of the ladder match continues with this effort, and the addition of two extra bodies makes for some great spots, such as Bubba’s three stooges helicopter impression with the ladder, a sequence towards the end where all six guys climb for the belts and take wild bumps, and then the brilliant “table mountain” spot at the end with a table set up over two ladders. Watching this makes me wonder why the other two teams didn’t get their own tape releases too. A lot of the stuff may have been repeated, but each duo had done plenty of other things as well to make it worthwhile. I suppose they did release the TLC – Tables Ladders Chairs tape that featured all three duos. We see all six guys hugging and thanking each other backstage after the match, then move to the treatment room as it turns out that Jeff knackered his heel with a crazy Swanton off the huge ladder, which he describes as “12-foot but feels like 50”. We see Francois Petit working on his leg as Jeff expresses surprise that he even hit the table because with the pain of the landing he just figured he had skimmed it at best. Talks turns to the duo’s kick ass entrance music which Edge says he sings along to when they are coming to the ring, but he admits to preferring their old theme. I disagree. This is brief and doesn’t offer much. It would have been nice to hear from Jim Johnston about it actually, especially as the newer piece was used as token WWF music atop highlight packages before it was given to the Hardys. A missed opportunity for some insight.
To SummerSlam 2000, and the first ever TLC match, a genuine ***** epic that builds properly and is far more than just spots for the sake of spots. It’s yet another memorable and groundbreaking match that will be remembered long into the future. The highlights don’t really do it justice, because while we see the big impressive bumps and weapon shots, none of the psychology is retained and the flow is lost. Matt Hardy’s insane backwards bump over the ropes through a stack of tables doesn’t lose any of its lustre though, and seeing Edge spear Lita inches away from a ladder is still disturbing because of how close she came to a serious accident. Jeff’s bump after being swatted off the hanging belts is nasty too, as he lands on his feet. That could have caused serious knee problems; just ask Jim Cornette.
Next some footage of Jeff being a daredevil and his short attention span. We see him on dirt bikes (he has a track in his garden) and a quad, as well as more of his insane bumps. Matt says he has no fear. An epilepsy-inducing video follows, and Jeff says he has to be more careful now that he is a WWF superstar… then we see him crash his bike. He says his motocross track was getting boring so he built a volcano in his backyard to jump over… Erm… Okay then! Actually it is just a hill with a barrel on fire on top of it, and a trail of burning gasoline down the side. It’s pretty cool, but to call it a volcano is a stretch. Who outside of Bam Margera does this stuff in real life?
The Hardys commentate on their cage match at Unforgiven 2000 against Edge & Christian and modestly call it “great” (Lee called in **¾ elsewhere in this tome). Jeff went out early but still got the piss kicked out of him a bunch of times while on the outside. The psychology here was fairly good, as Jeff realised he had screwed up by leaving the cage with Matt now being outnumbered. Matt took some meaty bumps and talks about them sucking, then Jeff whacked the ref, which was a little out of character, but he was worried about his brother’s wellbeing and needed to get back into the ring. He ended up making things worse, but then Matt ducked a Conchairto and fired back. Jeff brought a ladder into play and frustrated Edge because he couldn’t get to him, and as he climbed the cage everyone in the building rose to their feet, and he hit a wild corkscrew moonsault off the cage. Lita followed with a sick rana off the ladder on Christian, which with her sloppy track record was a risky spot. A Conchairto on top of the cage to Edge finished him off and the Hardys dropped simultaneously to win the belts. I generally hate tag cage matches for their shitty psychology, but they coped with it quite well here.
We get a few seconds of the forgotten ladder match between the teams on RAW and the subsequent Los Conquistadors shenanigans because Edge & Christian weren’t allowed another tag title shot. It was all good fun, albeit occasionally confusing for the fans, and ended with the Hardys donning the gear themselves and outsmarting Edge & Christian at their own game before beating them to regain the belts. Jeff claims people were surprised when they revealed themselves as the Hardy Boyz, but no… Everyone had just seen them do the Twist of Fate and the Swanton and got it right away, so that is just nonsense.
To the brilliant TLC II match at WrestleMania X-Seven, which Matt and Jeff again watch from home and commentate on. It’s interesting to hear them discuss the spots actually, and makes me think that a release with “performer commentary” like you get on say Red Dwarf DVDs would have been pretty interesting. Jeff rails on Bubba for a powerbomb through Edge on a table, which saw him land head-first rather than with his back on Edge’s stomach. Then Matt gets pissed about Bubba too, this time for cracking him with a ladder in the head that bust him and caused stitches, but didn’t look like anything special at all on camera. “Why, Bubba? Why?” pleads Matt. When watching the stuff back Matt comes across like such a mark, which is actually endearing rather than annoying. It is nice that he was still into wrestling even after years of being involved in it. Annoyingly we don’t see the end of the TLC II, but rather Matt asking Jeff if the super-ladder Swanton that he did on Spike Dudley and Rhyno is “living for the moment”. Jeff doesn’t really answer, looking dismissive and bored.
We round things off with other guys putting the duo over as talented and full of heart, with Christian saying they will probably fly solo down the line. They did, eventually, and Jeff ended up as WWE Champion for a while there too and one of the most over performers in the company, before leaving due to burnout, getting busted for alleged opium trafficking and going to rot in the career graveyard that is TNA. Matt on the other hand surprised everyone by being the Marty Jannetty of the two (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the outrageously underrated Marty), though he was pretty entertaining as “V.1”. Matt says he wants to be respected and be a locker room leader like Steve Austin, the Undertaker or Triple H and that he is “a good person”, all of which is just hilarious in hindsight.
Summary: It’s a fun hour of big bumps and stunts, with some interesting comments and insight into some of the brothers’ more famous matches. A lot of what is on offer has been seen before on the TLC – Tables Ladders Chairs tape and some was rehashed for the Before They Were WWF Superstars release that came out just after this one. But for Hardy Boyz fans there is enough new stuff here to make this a worthwhile watch, and while it might not be among the best profile tapes that the company has put out, it still warrants a viewing. Recommended.