Saturday 1 March 2014

Wisp of Fate

Whether you like Jeff Hardy or not it would take a pretty robust argument to convince most people that he doesn't have name value. As one half of the Hardy Boyz he was involved in some of the most exhilarating and interesting stunt matches of the WWF's Attitude Era. For much of the 2000s, whether he was working in WWE, TNA or elsewhere , he was considered one of wrestling's rising singles stars. When he returned to WWE in 2006 he immediately entered into a programme with Edge and went on to have a rivalry with Triple H. A WWE championship victory in December 2008 finally solidified him as North America’s, and possibly the world’s, premier babyface.

And he'd done it all under his real name. Today if someone who's made it to the top of WWE exits the company they have to leave their ring name behind. While it's rarely a full blown problem for promoters they go on to work for it can and does create needless hassle. Not being able to slap a WWE star's name on a poster means said promoters aren’t able to fully capitalise on their hiring. Which is why WWE does it of course.

Jeff Hardy and those who employ him to wrestle don't have that problem. They can use the name he competed under in WWE and benefit from the work Hardy did there. For a company like TNA, the promotion Hardy is still currently signed to despite not having appeared for a while, this should be irresistible. It's a way for them to show that they're on WWE's level. Not only that but it’s a way for them to use a former WWE star in the same fashion WWE used them. That's something TNA has built a reputation for doing.

The new look's fine. The name change isn't
But they're not doing that with ‘The Charismatic Enigma’. After years of presenting Jeff Hardy as Jeff Hardy, the sensible thing to do when you have him contracted to your company, TNA have decided to use him (or agreed to his request to work) as Willow. It's a simplification of the Willow the Wisp name he used to use when he first started wrestling, years before he got signed by the WWF and became a star. That’s a practice not uncommon for many wrestlers when they first start out: create a character to play until they figure out what they're doing, then discard it and adopt a new name or persona.

Barring one or two appearances, most notably at Ring of Honor’s inaugural Death Before Dishonor event1 , that's what Hardy did. He switched to his real name, possibly because he realised he stood more chance of getting over that way but more likely because someone in the WWF did, and so that's the name that carries cache with wrestling fans. Not Willow (the Wisp).

I can understand TNA wanting to alter Hardy's on-screen persona in TNA. Aside from his heel run as part of Immortal he's been a face for both his stints with the company, which total either five or six years depending on whether you count his long periods of inactivity while under contract. A change was needed and a character more in line with Hardy's creepier Wisp persona is as good a fresh direction as any. It allows him to do new things and be placed in new situations. After so long doing and saying the same sort of things that's what he needs in order to remain relevant and continue to be of benefit. But the name change is a step too far. Jeff Hardy is who people will tune in to watch, not Willow (the Wisp). And with TNA still on their seemingly never ending quest to get people to watch their shows reasons to watch should be what they want to provide.


1 That appearance saw him enter dressed in the Willow the Wisp outfit but compete as Hardy, getting heavily booed while doing so.

No comments:

Post a Comment