Inside the battle between the Hardys, WWE and Impact over the ‘Broken’ gimmick

Friday July 14th, 2017

The battle over the “Broken” trademark is becoming an extremely personal affair.

The Hardys want full control of their creation. Matt Hardy created the “Broken” gimmick, while Jeff Hardy embraced it. The Hardys created and funded the gimmick on the Hardy compound, invested time and money into building the “Broken” gimmick, and were justifiably upset that a third party—Anthem Sports and Entertainment, which is the parent company of Global Force Wrestling/Impact—claimed ownership.

 

The two sides are actually not fighting over the “Broken Universe” trademark, because it is not trademarked by either side, but they are fighting over its ownership.

For those following the ebb-and-flow of the case, the smart move is to always follow the money. Sources tell Sports Illustrated that Impact attempted to sign Jeff Hardy to a lucrative offer, yet only offered Matt Hardy a fraction of what he had been making. Matt Hardy was also promised a position on the Impact creative team, but sources close to the situation informed SI that offer was rescinded by Impact head Jeff Jarrett.

Though the dispute has gotten ugly at times, especially on social media, it was nearly settled within the past month, according to sources close to the negotiation. Both sides came to terms on an agreement, sources say, with the Hardys paying $10,000 to $15,000 for the rights to the trademark. The deal would have included a non-disparagement clause, which Matt’s wife, Reby, mentioned on Twitter. A $1,000 fine would have been levied for the first offense, and then $5,000 penalties would have been enforced thereafter. The Hardys were even willing to sign off on a press release, publicly ending the ordeal on good terms. Yet Anthem then wanted 50 percent of all Hardy revenue, including Jeff Hardy’s art and music, which was viewed by the Hardys as a monumental heist and money-grab.

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“WWE has clearly stated via email that they do not want the ‘Broken Brilliance’ IP [intellectual property],” GFW said in a statement to SI. “GFW has been and always will be open to a licensing agreement for the IP to all parties, which is customary in the music and entertainment business, but revolutionary in the professional wrestling business.”

At no point did WWE state it was not involved in the “Broken” storyline, but they did not state they had no interest in the legal proceedings. The Hardys may also have a legal edge in their pending lawsuit against Anthem. Impact did not pay for any of the “Broken” shoots on the Hardy compound, nor did Impact ever pay rent for filming an entire episode of Impact on-location on Matt Hardy’s property. Reby has tweeted that there were never any child labor laws signed when her son, Maxel, appeared on Impact television, nor was her father, who played the role of Senor Benjamin, ever paid for his appearances. GFW/Impact films their show at Universal Studios in Orlando, and an unfavorable ruling in the court room could also lead to negative consequences with Universal, up to and including removal from the premises.

There is less clarity regarding the incentive for Anthem to hold onto the “Broken” trademark. If GFW/Impact’s goal is to profit off DVDs, t-shirts, action figures, or a digital series on the “Broken” Hardys, then they are in for a rude awakening. The Hardys will never endorse such products, and their fans would be explicitly encouraged not to purchase the merchandise.

Jeff Jarrett has been described as the ultimate opportunist, but the same can be said of many successful people in business. He is a very talented businessman currently in a precarious position. Jarrett has the opportunity to build Global Force Wrestling into a company that offers a legitimate alternative to WWE, but needs to weigh whatever incentive he has toward holding onto the “Broken” trademark against GFW’s already tainted image.

The company is already generating far too many negative headlines—most notably, its world champion, Alberto El Patron, is under investigation for domestic battery. Patron was suspended indefinitely by the GFW, but the company did not confirm to Sports Illustrated whether the suspension is paid or unpaid. GFW and Patron are in a very turbulent situation, and any positive news would greatly benefit the company’s well-being. Instead of battling the Hardys and allowing its pre-existing negative perception to intensify to an even more toxic level, GFW would be wise to focus on positively engaging fans with its in-ring product.

WWE is going to make money with the Hardys with or without the “Broken” gimmick. Anthem and Jarrett are doing themselves no favors by continuing to drag out this battle. GFW sources indicated that Jarrett’s plan is to stall, hoping that wasting money in an on-going legal battle will deter the Hardys from further pursuing the case. Yet the Hardys are prepared to damage GFW and Anthem by any means necessary in the court of law. The Hardys are clearly confident in their chances, as Matt and Jeff dropped “Broken” references this past Monday during a promo on Raw, and Jeff even used a lyric from his song “Obsolete” when he stated, “maybe we should just fade away and classify ourselves as obsolete.”

In the meantime, Matt and Jeff Hardy are chasing history in WWE. The Hardys are only two title reigns away from surpassing the Dudleys as the all-time leader for most reigns as tag champions in WWE history. Unlike the Dudleys and even the Road Warriors, the Hardys hold a unique legacy in WWE as, unlike the other two teams, the Hardys are Vince McMahon’s homegrown talent and first made their name in his company. WWE also has fully supported the Hardys in their “Broken” pursuit. Whether McMahon would ever, if given the chance, put the WWE machine firmly behind the “Broken” gimmick is up for debate, but sources have confirmed that McMahon is fully aware of the crowds repeatedly chanting “Delete!” when the Hardys appear.

The Hardys plan to emerge victorious in the court of law, but they have already won a unanimous decision in the court of public opinion.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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