WWE vs. AEW: Weighing Matt Hardy’s Options Following Apparent Raw Write-off
Following months of rumors regarding his future with WWE, Matt Hardy was seemingly written off TV this week on Raw via a vicious attack from Randy Orton. The multi-time tag team champion simply said "Goodbye" in a tweet posted shortly after the show.
It was an excellent segment designed not only to get additional heat on Orton but also further play up speculation that Hardy could well be on his way out. Given Hardy's history with Edge throughout his iconic career, it worked wonderfully.
With Hardy's contract with the company reportedly set to expire in early March, he has to be considering all options. WWE has largely been good to him and his brother, Jeff, since their triumphant return three years ago, but then again Matt has a lot more to offer than simply serving as an enhancement talent.
Fans have pegged All Elite Wrestling as a popular place for him to wind up eventually because of how well he'd fit in, specifically with The Dark Order and his "Broken" persona. There is also the possibility he hangs up his boots sooner than expected and works as a backstage producer for either promotion.
The upcoming conclusion to Hardy's "Free the Delete" YouTube series should offer a big hint as to what he has in store for fans going forward. In the meantime, let's analyze all of the options on the table for The Woken One and where he would be best utilized.
Re-Signing with WWE and Being Given a Push and More Creative Freedom
In a perfect world, Matt Hardy should end his career where it started—in WWE. Given how he's been utilized lately, though, that may not be realistic.
Per Mike Johnson of PWInsider, Hardy isn't holding out for more money from WWE during these contract negotiations. The former Raw and SmackDown tag team champion is aware the next deal he signs could be his last and understandably wants to make the most of it.
Sitting on the sidelines, as he did for most of 2019, isn't ideal, nor is getting relegated to "jobber" status and being brought in every so often to put someone else over. He's better than that and should be doing much more than he is right now.
It has been heavily implied through Hardy's "Free the Delete" YouTube series that he has pitched countless character ideas to WWE management and has been turned down every time. He experimented with "Big Money Matt" online last year as well as his "Woken" persona, but neither were picked up by the creative team.
The only way he stays in WWE is if the company allows him to portray one of those characters, specifically "Woken" Matt Hardy, on Raw or SmackDown. He also needs to be used in a meaningful manner and not in pointless squash matches every week.
No one is advocating for Matt to be WWE champion, but he should be positioned at the midcard level at the very least. WWE needs to fully capitalize on "Woken" Matt Hardy in every way imaginable or release him so he can do the gimmick elsewhere.
Re-Signing with WWE as a Backstage Producer and Part-Timer
Matt Hardy has made it clear on countless occasions he wants to wrestle for a few more years before he definitively calls it a career. That doesn't mean he can't continue to compete as a part-timer for WWE while also serving as a backstage producer.
Although Brock Lesnar has been synonymous with the "part-timer" status since returning in 2012 and only wrestles a handful of matches each year, that doesn't have to be the case with Hardy. He shouldn't be subjected to WWE's rigorous road schedule and should only be brought in for the television tapings.
Additionally, Hardy has experience working as a backstage producer for WWE. After initially teasing retirement in 2018, he served as an agent for SummerSlam and other events alongside Jason Jordan, who had to retire from active competition earlier in the year due to a neck injury.
Needless to say, Hardy has a brilliant mind for the business and can help out in a multitude of ways. Whether he's working with younger talent on their matches or offering his expertise to the tag team division, he can be a valuable asset to WWE behind the scenes.
Above all else, this role would be easier on his body at the age of 45.
This may eliminate any possibility of him wrestling as "Woken" Matt Hardy on a consistent basis, but depending on the money and schedule, it might be in his best interest to explore this option if it was available.
Going to AEW and Becoming the Leader of the Dark Order
From a fantasy booking standpoint, nothing would be cooler than seeing "Broken" Matt Hardy resurface in AEW and be revealed as "The Exalted One," aka the all-powerful leader of The Dark Order.
Dark Order were far from must-see when they originally arrived in AEW, but the company has done a terrific job of giving viewers a reason to care about them with the #JoinDarkOrder campaign in recent months. It has also been teasing the idea of a leader for the stable, and Hardy would seem perfect for the role.
Even if that isn't what AEW has in mind for Hardy if he were to sign, the promotion is an all-around better fit for him as he enters the twilight of his career. He would only have to wrestle once or twice a week and most certainly be given the creative freedom he has long desired.
It would a shame to see The Hardy Boyz broken up again, but Matt has to do what's best for him at this point and not for a team that arguably ran its course a while ago. As previously noted, he wouldn't have to be aggressively pushed in AEW, but almost anything is better than the hand he's been dealt in WWE for the past year.
Both Christopher Daniels and "Hangman" Adam Page have been heavily teased to be "The Exalted One" in recent weeks, but Hardy would give the group instant credibility and make much more sense given the nature of his "Broken" character.
If AEW can manage to pull it off, the reveal would make for an incredible moment.
Going to AEW and Working as a Backstage Producer and Part-Timer
Perhaps Matt Hardy doesn't have his sights set on leaving WWE solely because he wants to wrestle more. That could be a factor, but helping the next generation grow might be just as important to him.
If the role was offered to him by WWE, along with a part-time in-ring gig, then that would be ideal. However, he may be happy to get out of the company bubble all together and instead be guaranteed the opportunity to wrestle as often as he'd like while also serving as an agent.
Truth be told, WWE has hired far too many producers over the past year or so. Everyone from Abyss and Jeff Jarrett to Jason Jordan and Tyson Kidd is working for it in a backstage capacity, meaning Matt's influence wouldn't be felt nearly as much there as it would be in AEW.
Even if Matt isn't revealed to be "The Exalted One" in The Dark Order, he could still wrestle on an occasional basis and be saved for special occasions. This is similar to the deal Edge was reportedly offered by AEW earlier this year, though it likely wouldn't be as lucrative.
AEW already boasts a handful of notable names behind the scenes, including Arn Anderson and Dean Malenko, There aren't so many that Matt would be as overshadowed as he would be in WWE, and AEW could use someone with the star power he has on air.
As a part-timer, Matt can wrestle at his own pace for AEW and get a few more years out of his career, as opposed to burning himself out too quickly where he is now.
Leaving WWE and Sticking to the Independent Scene
Although WWE and AEW are Matt Hardy's likeliest options once his contract expires, they aren't his only options. At 45, he could return to independent scene and close out his career on his terms.
Prior to coming back to WWE in 2017, he was one of the most popular acts in all of wrestling with his "Broken" persona. He experienced a career resurgence with Impact before taking his beloved gimmick to Ring of Honor and other promotions across the globe.
Even while he was with Impact and ROH, Hardy made countless appearances in independent promotions and had great matches everywhere he went. The indie scene is hotter now, and with the flexibility to make his own schedule as he pleases, that would be an intriguing option for him.
That isn't to say he can't re-sign with WWE down the road or test the waters for a run in AEW, but spending some time on the independents would be the smartest course of action. He'd be able to reevaluate everything better and get a sense for where he'd be best suited.
There's something incredibly exciting about not knowing where Hardy will show up next. He could leave WWE only to return within months, or appear for AEW without actually putting pen to paper.
No matter what he chooses to do, anything involving Matt Hardy is guaranteed to be brilliant.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.