If the last Smashing Pumpkins record you owned was Adore, and you’re curious as to what the band’s mercurial frontman Billy Corgan is up to in 2016, you may be surprised to learn that despite all his rage, he is still just a rat in a cage. Match.
(Take a moment to finish booing that introduction before we proceed. And… okay.)
The longtime pro wrestling fan, who had made appearances with ECW in the late 90’s and for a time owned Chicago-based indie promotion Revolution Pro, was hired by TNA Wrestling in April 2016 as Senior Producer of Creative and Talent Development, became the company’s President this past August, and is currently involved in a bidding war with none other than Vince McMahon himself to become the company’s full owner.
Since the day its cringeworthy name was announced, TNA has never been able to come remotely close to challenging WWE’s domination of the pro wrestling/sports entertainment landscape. Of course, there have been a few highs over the years; this Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe encounter is widely considered one one of the best matches of the 2000s, and the surreal promo-off between Jay Lethal and Ric Flair is a legitimate all-time great wrestling moment:
But despite the company’s occasional streaks of buzzworthy action, they’ve consistently managed to squander any hard-earned goodwill in increasingly comical displays of ineptitude, wasting the prime years of some extremely talented, mostly-homegrown grapplers, building several years worth of storylines around this guy, and creating embarrassing career lowlights for some of the most legendary vets to ever lace up boots (this image from Flair vs Hulk Hogan at 2010’s Lethal Lockdown looks like a deleted scene from The Wrestler that was left on the cutting room floor for being too soul-destroyingly sad.)
Yet against all odds, Total Nonstop Action has survived destruction time and time again to put together an improbable 14-year run, an impressive accomplishment in an industry utterly dominated by a billion dollar corporate behemoth. And that’s where Billy Corgan comes in.
Since taking on a predominant creative role with the company, Corgan has instilled a few minor changes, recently launching a new, more MMA-influenced Grand Championship and making a splashy signing, nabbing in-demand free agent Cody Rhodes, who recently walked away from a huge WWE deal due to creative frustration. But unquestionably the greatest mark he’s left on TNA, and the pro wrestling world in general, is the saga of #BROKEN Matt Hardy and Brother Nero, a truly insane bit of avant-garde absurdity that is probably the most ludicrously wonderful thing happening on any television show right now, regardless of genre.
Though #BROKEN Matt is first and foremost the creation of Matt Hardy, Corgan has spoken at length on how he was able to overcome significant backstage resistance to make sure the character saw the light of day, and thank God he did. The storyline, which began with Matt Hardy (of legendary Attitude era WWE tag-team The Hardy Boyz) spiralling into madness after losing the TNA Heavyweight Championship, getting a ridiculous Beethoven haircut and adopting an unidentifiable foreign accent, has incorporated short filmmaking along with elements of action, horror, music and surreal humour to push wrestling into previously unexplored directions. A word of warning, though. Once you begin to explore this epic saga, there is no turning back. It is a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed.
It began with a contract signing between #BROKEN Matt and “Brother Nero” (Jeff Hardy) for a match that was to be held at TNA’s Slammiversary event:
The clip became the closest thing to a viral hit that TNA had ever produced, so Hardy and Corgan wisely decided to double down on the insanity, leading to the Final Deletion, the Internet-breaking face-off between Brother Nero, #BROKEN Matt and, naturally, his fleet of aerial assault robots:
Corgan, Hardy and TNA’s creative team have since struggled to recapture the magic of the Final Deletion, but you can’t really blame them, since trying to top one of the greatest works of art in human history is no easy feat. But they’re still doing great stuff. This opening of Impact Wrestling from early September features House Hardy performing their signature song, Obsolete, and really is worth watching just to hear how #BROKEN Matt pronounces the word “premonition”:
#BROKEN Matt biting a fan at ringside was also a highlight:
The Final Deletion sequel, Delete or Decay, wasn’t able to move the needle to the same extent, but with this storyline Hardy and Corgan have managed to do the previously unthinkable: get people talking about TNA Wrestling.
Suddenly, the future is looking bright for a promotion that has spent most of its existence as a perpetual wrestling punchline. If rumours are to be believed, TNA is in late-stage negotiations to sell its entire tape library to McMahon and WWE, while Corgan is on the verge of assuming full ownership of the company and jettisoning the TNA name altogether in a rebranding effort. It would represent a tantalizing clean slate for wrestling fans who have been desperate for a more legitimate form of competition to the dominance of “MeekMahan”:
Few would have predicted that the ones leading the charge would be the frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins and the lesser-known half of a tag-team whose glory years were nearly two decades ago, but the fact is that #BROKEN Matt Hardy’s Great War has already been won and TNA (or whatever it’s going to be called a few weeks from now) is no longer obsolete.