One of the biggest pieces of news in all of professional wrestling this past week came on Thursday when the WWE placed Jeff Hardy's alumni profile on WWE.com. Although it was a total non-story in actuality, it had many fans buzzing and allowed the WWE to outshine its main competition in the form of TNA.
Hardy's contract situation with TNA has been a major topic of conversation among wrestling fans for the past several months. It was well known that his deal was set to expire this month, and that sparked rumors regarding a potential return to WWE. Hardy said on many occasions that he was happy in TNA and had no intention of returning to the WWE, but many wrestling fans refuse to take things at face value.
Did WWE release Jeff Hardy's alumni profile in an effort to scoop TNA?
In the end, Hardy remained true to his word as he signed a two-year contract extension with TNA on Thursday, according to WrestlingNewsWorld.com.
That was certainly a major coup for TNA as he is unquestionably the company's most marketable star as far as full-time wrestlers go. Securing Hardy should have allowed TNA to shine brighter than anyone in the wrestling world on Thursday, but the WWE one-upped TNA as it so often does.
Hardy's alumni profile was placed strategically on WWE.com earlier in the day and it had many wrestling news sites scrambling. Since Hardy's contract was set to expire and WWE suddenly had his likeness plastered on its website, the natural progression in the minds of many was that the WWE was making a play for Hardy and may have even been on the verge of signing him.
In reality, a WWE alumni profile means absolutely nothing.
The WWE has a right to create an alumni profile for any former superstar regardless of what company they work for currently. The WWE retains certain rights when somebody goes elsewhere, so it is able to continue utilizing wrestlers in some ways after they leave. There is no rule against talking about somebody's WWE accomplishments on WWE.com, and that is all the WWE did in Hardy's case.
His alumni profile consists of a few photos, several matches and a synopsis of his WWE career. It's very standard stuff, but wrestling fans have never been known for their ability to react to news properly and accordingly. When something happens in the WWE, the Internet Wrestling Community in particular tends to magnify it and mutate it into something that it isn't.
That is precisely what happened with the Hardy situation.
Something similar occurred when the WWE added Sting's alumni profile to its website several months ago. It meant absolutely nothing and WWE had every right to do it since it owns everything related to WCW. Fans jumped to conclusions and thought it meant that Sting was on the verge of signing with the WWE, but that didn't come to fruition.
Because of that, the WWE brass knew how fans would react if it did the same thing with Hardy. News tends to travel fast through wrestling circles, so my belief is that the WWE learned about TNA re-signing Hardy before it officially made the announcement. In an effort to steal press and headlines, the WWE posted Hardy's alumni profile ahead of time, so the story was more about the WWE than it was TNA.
There is no doubt that TNA earned some publicity when Dixie Carter announced later in the day that Hardy had been re-signed, but the damage was already done. The WWE managed to take TNA's big news and mold it into something different. It isn't as if the WWE needs more attention than it already receives, but this was a no-lose situation, so it made perfect sense to involve itself in the Hardy situation.
I doubt that the WWE normally cares much about what TNA is doing. Even though TNA is technically the WWE's closest competition, TNA isn't a threat whatsoever. TNA's television ratings are lackluster, and the writing gets worse with each passing week.
If there is one thing that TNA has that the WWE may be jealous of, though, it's Hardy.
Hardy developed into a big star in the WWE and still has a huge fan following, so I'm sure Vince McMahon would have welcomed him back with open arms if the opportunity presented itself. It wasn't meant to be as Hardy opted to sign an extension with TNA instead, but the WWE saw an opening to capitalize on TNA's big day.
While it could be argued that TNA had Hardy's contract in place and announced it strictly because of the WWE releasing his alumni profile, that's irrelevant. TNA was too slow on the trigger, and it's almost as if the act of re-signing Hardy got lost in the shuffle due to the pandemonium that the WWE created with the entire alumni profile situation.
It can be argued that TNA ultimately won the battle due to the fact that it retained Hardy, but the WWE effectively rocked the boat and took away much of the cachet surrounding TNA's announcement. No company knows how to manipulate the wrestling fanbase better than the WWE, and this was a perfect example of it.