Jeff Hardy made his return to TNA Wrestling in triumphant fashion. Sorry, my mistake; "Willow" made his TNA debut in triumphant fashion.
Hardy returned as the Willow character and joined MVP’s team in the Lethal Lockdown match. He helped MVP and the American Wolves defeat Team Dixie. They wrestled control of TNA operations away from TNA owner Dixie Carter.
Willow made his Impact debut on March 13, getting disqualified in a match against Rockstar Spud. He whacked Spud with an umbrella while entangling Spud’s legs on the top turnbuckle in the tree of woe.
Yes, you read that right. Willow hit Spud with an umbrella and got himself disqualified.
Let’s analyze this scenario. Hardy, as the Willow character, made his debut on free television against Rockstar Spud. A former TNA champion appeared in a match against Rockstar Spud. In my opinion, Spud hasn’t shown enough to belong in that ring. Willow also gave the referee a Twist of Fate and then assaulted Spud some more.
Willow’s appearance was strange, bizarre and outlandish. He sauntered down the ramp toward the ring in a black coat and demonic mask while twirling a black-and-white umbrella.
When he took off the coat, it was just Jeff Hardy in a mask flaunting a mean streak.
Jeff Hardy’s Willow character is being set up to fail.
Don’t blame Spud; he’s just doing the job conceived by the TNA creative team. If anyone’s to blame, it’s Hardy himself.
Hardy had a great opportunity to completely reinvent himself by his look, but he failed.
Compare his reimagining to Mick Foley’s WWE debut in 1996. Foley took a character in Mankind and made it his own. He even went from a psychopathic persona to a lovable underdog. This was the same man who became a hardcore legend as Cactus Jack all over the world.
Keep in mind that it took time for Foley to win the fans over. It took years of quality promos and matches. Hardy, however, isn’t known for great promos.
Hardy’s Willow character could suffer the same fate as the persona changes of Samoa Joe and AJ Styles.
Joe was repackaged as the leader of the “Nation of Violence,” a character that lasted two months before Joe enrolled in the Main Event Mafia.
Styles also underwent a character change before returning to his old ways, a storyline that ran for only six months.
Maybe the third attempt is the charm for TNA when it comes to repackaging its wrestlers. Maybe it has found Hardy’s niche and can garner more intrigue from the fans.
Hardy’s initial transformation reminds me of the Undertaker's biker character, a gimmick which debuted in 2000. The Undertaker made it work by mostly being himself but slowly changing his appearance. His biker persona lasted more than three years.
Jeff Hardy is no Undertaker or Mick Foley, nor should he be. Hardy needs to carve his own path to make Willow work.
Frankly, with TNA’s track record, expect the Willow character to have a shelf life of three months.