Thursday, April 13, 2017

The "Boyz" Are Back

Did you truly expect Matt and Jeff Hardy to steal the show at WrestleMania 33? Sure, there were rumors that they would show up in WWE eventually. Maybe the added ladders to the tag team match tipped you off? Regardless, this is one time that even if you did "know," you were still surprised. The Hardy Boyz returned to the company even bigger stars than they had left it. As with anyone who truly "gets" the business, Matt and Jeff reinvented themselves. Like Chris Jericho, Sting, Hulk Hogan, and even to an extent Shawn Michaels, the biggest stars in wrestling stay on top when they find ways to become relevant again. The Hardy Boyz did it at just the right time.

Admittedly, I became a Hardy "fan" in an odd way. I always respected what they brought to the business, but during their rise to the top I really wouldn't have described myself a fan of theirs. I didn't dislike the duo, but I wasn't rushing out buying their latest t-shirt, either. They weren't really in my demographic, although their female companion Lita certainly was. It took actually meeting the "Boyz" and seeing how genuine they were with their fans for me to truly come around.

When I did finally start counting myself a fan of the male side of "Team Xtreme," I found that there was no shortage of great items for the pair. Magazines, action figures, trading cards. From the glory days of the Attitude Era through what were some truly great times for TNA/Impact Wrestling, The Hardy Boyz were part of several great periods.

Their look certainly lent to some great figures. I still remember being on a family vacation somewhere in the Midwest and stopping into a Meijer store. Not having the chain here in Pennsylvania, it is still my one and only visit to the establishment. That shopping trip is where I found the very first action figures of Matt and Jeff. Both would go on to have figures produced under both the WWE and Impact banners, but I still prefer one of their appearances in one of my favorite lines: Jakks WWE Classic Superstars. The pair first had figures in the line based on their early look in all black attire. With the Classic Superstars packaging also being black, I felt that those figures were visually unappealing. When the brothers reappeared as "chase" figures that celebrated the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line (complete with blue packaging), I felt that they had received their definitive represenations. It's still a shame that Lita did not join them in the line.

Lita was included in my favorite magazine cover featuring "Team Xtreme." The magazine of the same name was a special put out by the WWF at the height of their popularity. Featuring articles, centerfolds, and even a fold-out cover, looking at it may remind you of something that Jim Crockett Promotions would have released for The Rock 'N Roll Express. Initially, I probably picked up the magazine simply because it was something new on the newsstands (and for Lita). As I later got into having so many of these items signed, I was glad that I had picked it up.

Two of my favorite Jeff Hardy memories, and one personal piece of memorabilia, involve live events. On one November 2008 Sunday in Johnstown, PA, I will never forget being amazed at just how over Jeff was. Every child in the building had the Jeff Hardy "sleeves" on. You could see them surrounding the ringside area like a sea of green and white arms. Fast forward a few years and I find myself ringside at a TNA event somewhere in West Virginia. Jeff had started painting his eyelids so that his eyes appeared open even when closed. I just happened to have my digital camera out as Hardy made his rounds. He noticed this, came over to me, and posed with his eyes closed while I got the shot. It's still a favorite picture of mine and I ended up having it autographed at some point.

Of course, a return to one of the biggest marketing machines in the world only ensures a plethora of new items for the Hardy Boyz. New shirts! New trading cards! New...action figures. Infamously, a Mattel Jeff Hardy figure was produced early in the license in some shape or form but never officially saw a release. Will we see that figure? There's no doubt in my mind that we will see both "current" and "retro" figures of the brothers. I'm sure that a set coupled with Lita isn't out of the realm of opportunity, either. The Boyz would also make great additions to the Hasbro-styled "WWE Retro" figure line.

And how about those who want to see the "Deleted" and "Broken" Hardy characters? My opinion? It's been done. It was a gimmick that revitalized the pair. It would never have dominated an entire WWE show as it did elsewhere. Will we see hints of it here and there? Absolutely. But right now you're getting a nostalgia run for two superstars who highly deserve it. Enjoy it!

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