If there is one lesson to be learned from the most recent WrestleMania, it’s that nobody is ever truly gone in professional wrestling.
The event was highlighted by Stone Cold Steve Austin wrestling his first match in 19 years—at the age of 57—and taking a suplex on the concrete floor. The weekend also featured Vince McMahon (76) wrestling a match against a former NFL player (and taking a very ugly Stunner from Austin), Japanese death match legend Atsushi Onita (64) teaming up with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (both over 60), PCO (54) continuing to have no respect for his body, Minoru Suzuki (53) winning his first title in the U.S. at Ring of Honor, and 51-year-old Johnny Knoxville doing a Jackass/Looney Tunes tribute match with Sami Zayn.
The point is age is just a number in professional wrestling. There is always a place for the legends of this business. Matt and Jeff Hardy are undoubtedly two legends of professional wrestling, and the so-called “Final Run” of the Hardy Boyz will make a stop at the Waukesha County Expo Center on Saturday, May 7.
The brothers started wrestling in their backyards on trampolines at the ages of 14 (Matt) and 11 (Jeff), even starting their own backyard wrestling promotion called Trampoline Championship Wrestling. They then made their way to the professional circuit, debuting professionally in 1993, when Jeff was only 16. The two would do some work in the WWF as enhancement talent with Jeff Hardy lying about his age to get the spot wrestling the recently departed Razor Ramon.
The brothers continued to work on their craft and eventually, finding a lack of wrestling options in North Carolina, opened up their own wrestling promotion: OMEGA Championship Wrestling. The company mixed a more athletic style that was starting to take hold in the United States with the classic Southern style to great success. It was popular among tape traders at the time, especially Matt and Jeff’s legendary match-ups with the Serial Thrillaz (Shane Helms & Mike Maverick).
Of course, their future would be in the WWF/WWE and they officially signed with the company in 1998. They slowly gained in popularity in the company after signing (and ditching the plaid.) They eventually came to be managed by Michael Hayes, formerly of the Freebirds, and their alliance with him led them to becoming WWF Tag Team champions for the first time. The reign would only last a week, but it would not be their last.
Their breakout came in October of 1999 at the No Mercy pay-per-view, where they wrestled Edge and Christian in a ladder match. It’s hard to believe now, but this was the first ever tag team ladder match. The two teams would set the bar extremely high in this one, stealing the show and solidifying their place as important parts of the roster. They would go on to one-up themselves many times over the years in TLC matches with Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz. (If anything, they were almost too good at the ladder match as they always delivered and were then put in more and more ladder matches.)
Matt and Jeff had a unique look at this time that still defines them to this day. Their extremely tight shirts, baggy pants, hand signs, and long (wet) hair made them look cool in a way that few wrestlers could match. Jeff would later add face paint which took things up a notch. They had a unique style and loved jumping from high places which made them popular among younger fans and, especially, young women. Their matches always featured loud cheering for both, but especially for Jeff. His body was his main form of communication and he used it to form a unique, almost primal connection with the audience. If Steve Austin or The Rock were the ones that drew people into the door, the Hardys were the ones that people were screaming over once they got in.
Of course, like all tag teams in modern wrestling, they had to break up, but it never really took. Nobody wanted to see them fight, no matter how hard companies tried or how many of Jeff’s dogs Matt killed.
They managed to split up when personal issues drove Jeff out of WWE and onto Impact Wrestling’s roster. The two found a ton of success individually, but the thought of them teaming back up again would never leave the minds of their fans. Both of them could be truly great on their own, but they could never match the feeling that people had when they were together.
The Hardys knew it too and they always managed to find their way back together. It didn’t matter if they were in two different companies or if Matt was Broken, the Hardys always found their way home and the fans always ate it up. Their run as the Broken Hardys against the Young Bucks was a huge success and one of the things that showed the Bucks what was possible in the future with All In and, eventually, All Elite Wrestling. The Hardys indie run was insanely successful at that time, but it came to an end when the two made their return at WrestleMania 33 to one of the loudest surprise ovations in company history.
For a time, that seemed like it would be the last of the Hardys together. Matt eventually left WWE and went to AEW while Jeff stayed behind. There was time left on both contracts, they seemingly did not get along on social media, and both brothers began showing the wear and tear of bodies that have fallen off ladders many, many, many, many times. It felt as if the next time the Hardy brothers would be together would be long after they could be “The Hardy Boyz.” More nostalgia than greatest team ever.
Then Jeff Hardy was released from WWE.
Not long after that, Matt and Jeff announced they would be getting back together for their “Final Run” with tour stops all over the country, including Saturday, May 7 in Waukesha.
Jeff Hardy has since debuted in AEW and reunited with his brother there, complete with tight shirts and baggy pants. (It didn’t take Jeff long to find something high to jump off of.) Fans are able to watch them together on television each week, but it’s clear in watching that the end is near for this team. They have nothing left to prove and bodies weren’t meant to go through all that theirs have. They have earned their ride into the sunset when they are ready to take it.
Are they going to take it? Is this the final Final Run for the Hardys? Probably not. It took Terry Funk about 10 of these retirements before it finally stuck. There’s always one more match and one more payday when you have reached the heights that these two have.
The days of shirts being tight on purpose and jumping from high places are numbered. This Final Run might not be final, but it’s definitely the end of something for these two.