Space and Time: The Expedition for Gold Ends
You know those moments where a storyline is perfectly paid off? Where everything falls into place, and those days and weeks and months you spent investing into the story finally seem worth it? In that moment, you forget everything you hated about the story, and can only focus on how beautifully it all came together in the end. And in those moments, there is truly nothing better than professional wrestling. For many, a simple “I’m sorry, I love you” managed to erase months of a tepid “career in jeopardy!” storyline that Ric Flair was involved in.
Of course, on the contrary, when a storyline payoff is bungled, it only magnifies just how stupid everything leading up to it was, even if the lead up really wasn’t bad at all. Hogan/Sting, for example, featured a year of great build up, but the match was so disappointingly delivered, that it’s hard to look back on the thing as a whole with great memories.
Last Sunday, WrestleMania gave us such an incredibly proper payoff, that I’m still geeking out over the whole thing. I honestly don’t think I’ve been this entertained by something happening in wrestling since Rob Van Dam validated the 411 “one shot deal” joke by appearing at the Royal Rumble.
We “all” know the story, but the recap goes like this: around this time last year, Matt Hardy was broken by his brother Jeff’s selfish and hateful actions. This break led to Matt attempting to end Jeff’s career. He would eventually earn control of the “Hardy” name when he beat Jeff, relegating him to Brother Nero. However, Jeff would eventually experience a break of his own, where he would embrace Brother Nero as his true self. Once the two were united in their shattered beings, they completely focused on regaining the TNA World Tag Team Championships.
Upon winning the belts from Decay at Bound For Glory in The Great War, it seemed as though the Hardys had finally quieted the demons inside them, and could finally focus on happiness and serenity. Unfortunately, the Hardys would be attacked by the DCC, leading to Matt getting amnesia. This detour only lasted a couple of weeks, and once Matt regained his memory, the Hardys would defend the belts against DCC and Decay successfully.
After this victory, Matt would announce the Expedition of Gold, with a desired mission of proving that they were indeed the greatest tag team in all of space and time!
Over the following weeks, Impact wrestling would show us highlights of the Expedition, and we’d see or hear about the Hardys winning tag team championships in various locations. They would win titles in Mexico, West Virginia, Maryland, Chile, and even in their own OMEGA promotion! Sure, these were all small promotions, and the matches themselves usually felt like it had one supremely overmatched doing their best to not succumb to an all-time great team, but with each championship, it felt like the premonition was going to come true: that, at the end of this, the Hardys would be able to stay that they were just that great!
Of course, all good things come to an end, and more importantly, in Impact we just can’t have nice things. With those thoughts clear in our heads, it was no surprise to hear some weeks back that Impact’s new management and The Hardys were having trouble with negotiating new deals. Eventually, this led to Matt and Jeff no longer being with Impact Wrestling at all. Reports state that the two offered to return to Impact for one night to do the honors with the tag championship, but that Anthem refused the offer, instead choosing to have Decay appear with the belts in a single vignette, and then moving on with their lives.
At that point in time, I as a fan felt a little let down by Impact, quite frankly. Maybe it wasn’t Anthem, but it was still Impact that had invested so much time and effort into the Broken Hardy’s story, that simply having it end in a cutesy way via edited video clip just didn’t sit right. Anthem should have, at the very least, allowed Matt and Jeff to return and drop the belts so that the story could have had a proper conclusion.
But the world has a way of sorting things out. While The Hardys appeared to be losing all momentum they had built up through 2016, it turned out that Anthem’s refusal to accept the offer to lose the belts at a taping was the best silver lining imaginable. Still recognized as the Impact Tag Champions, the duo would show that they weren’t done with the surprises last month.
Sure, they could have easily lost the Impact Tag Titles first, and then gone to Ring of Honor and win their belts. And it still would have been a pretty neat moment. It would have still held meaning, and it would have still been a meeting of The Hardys and the constant thorns-in-their-sides, The Bucks of Youth. But that win was instead magnified by their status as Impact tag team champions. It meant that they now held 2 of America’s most prestigious tag team championships, and that the Expedition was still going on swimmingly.
And that, it seemed, would be where the Expedition would end. Word got out that Anthem was trying to keep Matt and Jeff from using their Broken personas, seemingly bringing it all to a less-than-WONDAFUL ending. Impact would eventually crown new champions in LAX, and the Hardys would end up losing the Ring of Honor belts back to those dastardly Bucks on the first of April.
Look – I’ll pull the curtain back real quick. I knew the Hardy’s were coming to WrestleMania. Well, I “knew” they were. My official “call” (for those who love that kind of stuff) was that “at minute 18 of a 37 minute New Day Segment,” The Hardys would appear and challenge The New Day to an impromptu match. Sure, I was wrong about the how, but I still knew with “100% certainty” that I would see Matt and Jeff Hardy in a WWE ring on WrestleMania Sunday.
That said, when Kofi, Xavier, and Big E appeared on the stage in their ring gear and started talking about how there was going to be a fourth team added, it was pretty obvious where we were heading and, hey – that was totally fine with all of us.
Once that music hit, my friends and I all got excited. I literally pumped my fists, screaming that “WE’RE GETTING THE ULTIMATE PAYOFF TO THE EXPEDITION OF GOLD!!! WE’RE GONNA FIND OUT IF THEY TRULY ARE THE BEST TEAM IN ALL OF SPACE AND TIME!!!” It’s almost like I get hella dorky during WrestleMania or something.
As I was saying, the second that music hit, I was completely enveloped in the match. I enjoyed the action itself – it was a fun, violent contest that had the attention of the fans throughout. And then, when it was all said and done, Matt and Jeff Hardy were holding WWE Tag Team titles in a WWE ring, bathing in the cheers of their many fans. Truly, they had proven themselves to be the best team in all of space and time, just as the premonition had so clearly forecasted.
Like I said, when wrestling pays something off properly, it can give you a feeling like no other. Having been so invested in the Broken Hardys storyline (from both a gripe and enjoyment standpoint), the way it seemingly ended in Impact just wasn’t right. Impact had devoted far too much time to the story, and Matt and Jeff had devoted too much time to the characters for it all to simply end with Decay laughing. That it could actually continue and live on in Ring of Honor, and finally in WWE, was incredible.
Yeah, we didn’t get the full, Broken versions. Matt threw out a few winks to the camera, and Jeff seemed to go back to being Jeff Hardy. Really though, that was just fine. The Broken Hardys storyline was born from a brother’s selfish act costing the duo their tag titles. Being a tag team champion was all that Matt wanted, and what caused his initial anger in the first place. For it to come full circle, and for it to end in WWE – where their legend truly was born – wasn’t just cool… it was appropriate.
On the grandest stage, after a rough couple of months to start the year, the Hardys’ Expedition ended with them holding the highest prize in all the land, officially The Greatest Team in All of Space and Time. It was so DELIGHTFUL, it was even better than GREEN BEANS!!
And while much was made about their returning home, or the pop they received from the crowd, I will always look at WrestleMania 33 as the night WWE gave Impact Wrestling an assist on finishing out one of their most innovative storylines ever in the most proper of fashions. Well done, guys.
It’s All Wrestling. It’s All Silly. We All Love It.