SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
News of the Week: The Broken Universe now the sole possession of Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy has won the battle.
But, in this case, peace will not follow the war.
Hardy’s crusade now continues, on a much larger scale, as he introduces and familiarizes the WWE audience to his eccentric universe.
After a lengthy legal dispute, Hardy officially owns all of the “Broken Universe” trademarks, which include “Broken” Matt, Brother Nero, and Vanguard1. The trademarks were transferred to Hardy from Impact Wrestling at the end of January, concluding a nearly 10-month battle between Hardy and his former employer, Impact.
Anthem Sports and Entertainment, Impact’s parent company, provided this statement regarding its decision to come to terms with Hardy: “We don’t have anything to add to this story, but we are happy to have resolved this issue and are focused on the future.”
In addition to good business, sources close to WWE and Anthem confirmed that the issue was ultimately resolved due to finances.
If Anthem had not turned over all of the rights to Hardy, there was the possibility of a legal battle between Anthem and the Hardys. Anthem could have potentially owed money for the usage of Senor Benjamin, King Maxel, and any other characters that never signed releases or were compensated for their work. There is even a chance that this could have even opened the door to sue Pop TV, a risk that Anthem chose not to take. So to not lose any more money or damage their image, Anthem chose to allow the trademarks to transfer to Hardy. Another positive for the company is that Anthem now has a Broken Universe DVD they can release and add onto their Global Wrestling Network service.
Anthem Executive Vice President Ed Nordholm is a savvy businessman, but when it came to pro wrestling, he began his tenure in Impact by listening to the wrong people. Jeff Jarrett and his advice to Nordholm served as the culprit that caused the entire dispute. Anthem has now changed their whole philosophy, letting talent keep their intellectual property due to the Hardy scenario.
In an amazing twist of fate, Jarrett’s disparagement of Hardy actually turned into a tremendous positive.
Jarrett doubted that the “Broken” character could ever draw money, which ultimately led to Hardy’s exit from Impact and return to WWE. Now, Hardy owns the “Broken” intellectual property and he is well positioned to extend his career. There is no doubt that Hardy, at 43, has much more of a future creating storyline-driven matches as “Woken” Matt than he does wrecking his body as “Tables, Ladders, and Chairs” Matt.
Hardy was criticized in some circles for being too selfish or even naïve for fighting for intellectual property, and plenty argued that he would not have fought the same battle against WWE. But those critics are using a narrow framework and missing the much bigger picture: Hardy fought for his rights, and won, which benefits the entire Impact locker room. This also serves as his legacy in the company.
As for his chase for superstardom in WWE as “Woken”, there is a major factor in play that gives a significant advantage to Hardy: experience.
Hardy has a built-in trust with the WWE audience after wrestling on television for the past 20 years. People are open to the character because of that connection, plus Hardy has a history of evolving to make his character work.
Hardy was on Twitter before the vast majority of wrestlers, connecting to the wrestling audience in a manner that was unheard of at the time. Hardy created YouTube videos answering questions from fans in the mid-2000s when people had little to no concept of the positive impact that could have on a career.
Hardy is also taking ownership of his “Woken” persona in WWE. He has already rolled out videos re-introducing Vanguard1 and King Maxel as WWE exclusives, knowing that the vast majority of WWE fans were not watching his “Broken” work in Impact. Hardy’s close friend, Jeremy Borash, just signed with WWE. For those unaware, Borash was a major part of the “Broken Universe” creative in Impact.
WWE is behind Hardy, creating new merchandise and giving him time–more specifically, television time on Raw–to build interest in the character.
It is unlikely he will ever be “Broken”, because WWE prefers to own their patents, but the “Woken” character will succeed in WWE because Matt Hardy will find a way to make it work.
This is far more than a premonition: bet against Hardy at your own peril.
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore has become a destination location for those who make a living in professional wrestling.
Running Jimmy’s is a labor of love for John Minadakis, who grew up in the restaurant, living in an apartment that sat atop the dining area.
“We only had one cable box that was for the restaurant and our apartment,” said the 34-year-old Minadakis, who runs Jimmy’s with his brother Tony. “Monday nights in football season were for Monday Night Football, but my brothers and I would change the channel so we could watch Monday Night Raw, so everyone in the bar would have to watch wrestling. My father would call upstairs and say, ‘What are you doing? Put the game back on!’”
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood is directly connected with professional wrestling. WWE stars–particularly Roman Reigns, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and The Miz–now make sure a meal at Jimmy’s is a part of every trip to Baltimore.
The restaurant was opened by Minadakis’ father, Jimmy, in 1974, and has been run by his children since he passed away in 2003.
“This was my father’s dream,” said Minadakis. “He came to the United States from Greece with less than three dollars in his pocket, and he built Jimmy’s from the ground up with his bare hands. To us, he’s the ‘American Dream,’ and we’re proud to wear his name on our shirts.”
WWE talent have always had their preferred locales over the years, including overseas–a visit to the Ribera Steakhouse is a necessity when working anywhere near Tokyo–and Jimmy’s has supplanted Sabatino’s as the go-to destination in Baltimore.
“The personal relationships we’ve built with the guys have really helped solidify our relationship,” said Minadakis. “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support from the guys.”
Minadakis even combined with Roman Reigns this past January for an event at Jimmy’s to raise money to grant a child’s dream with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The idea first formed when Minadakis saw a photo of Reigns wearing one of the Jimmy’s Famous Seafood shirts from their Under Armour collection–which is a Baltimore-based company–and Minadakis thought he could use the photo for a good cause.
“Roman was wearing one of our Jimmy’s shirts when he met with a child from Make-A-Wish and I thought that was pretty cool,” said Minadakis. “So I copied the picture onto our Twitter account and promised to donate a dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every like on Twitter.”
Minadakis stuck to his word and raised $12,200, but still wanted to accomplish more.
“I don’t want Jimmy’s to just be the ‘dollar people,’” said Minadakis. “I want to see it all at work, I want to be in the trenches. So I called Roman, and he reached out to WWE and Make-A-Wish.”
Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic used the donations to grant 5-year-old Torres “Trip” Walker’s wish to attend WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, and the reveal was set for last November during the WWE’s visit to Baltimore.
Then Reigns came down with the mumps.
“So Roman suggested that he’d drive down from Philly during Royal Rumble weekend in January, but unfortunately, the child was hospitalized on New Year’s Day,” said Minadakis. “Luckily, he was able to fight his way out of the hospital stay, he came to the restaurant, and then Roman worked his magic.”
Reigns was scheduled to spend 30 minutes with the child, but his visit lasted over three hours.
“It was really special,” said Minadakis. “The hair was rising on everyone’s arm, and every kid there was in complete shock. It was amazing to see the community and Roman come together to allow this kid’s dream to come true.”
Minadakis remains as passionate about the Jimmy’s experience as much as he is the crab cakes, and his connection with WWE and the city of Baltimore has as much to do with the service as it does the food.
“This is a community stop,” said Minadakis. “Besides the great food, it’s that experience that makes Jimmy’s stick out. People that come to Jimmy’s become part of our fabric and DNA.”
In other news…
• Sting spoke at the Arizona Comic Con in January, and explained why he announced his retirement at the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make any kind of announcement until I did it at the Hall of Fame,” said Sting. “I was wavering, I was kind of back-and-forth on it. I got hurt wrestling Seth [Rollins], and the neurosurgeons and everybody [were] saying I needed surgery, and then I had trouble with cervical spinal stenosis, or whatever they call it, and there were two areas in my neck that were really messed up bad, although I don’t have any pain or side-effects. One more bad fall and it’s not going to be good for me, so I just thought enough was enough.”
Naturally, the very next question asked was, if Sting ever returned to the ring, who would he wrestle?
“Undertaker,” confirmed Sting. “Now do I regret not leaving [sooner for WWE]? That’s actually a good question, but a tough one to answer. On one side, it’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, I wish I would have gone earlier.’ On the other hand, I really don’t have any regrets. But my dream match for more than a decade, or maybe two decades, was to have a good match against ‘Taker. I always wanted to have that.”
Sting was also asked about his toughest opponents, mentioning that he locked up against no one tougher–or more demanding–than Raw GM Kurt Angle.
“One of the toughest opponents I had in the early days was Big Van Vader,” said Sting. “But in my later years, it was Kurt Angle. They called him ‘The Machine,’ and Kurt is a machine. He just does not stop. He’s pretty relentless and very physical. You’ve got to be at the top of your game to wrestle Kurt. He is a perfectionist and demands a lot of everyone around him.”
• AXS TV officially announced today that it will carry a live broadcast of New Japan’s “Strong Style Evolved” show on Sunday, March 25 at 8 p.m. ET from Long Beach, California. Jim Ross and Josh Barnett will provide call of the show.
• If you have a sneaking suspicion that the feud between Booker T and Corey Graves feels too manufactured to be true, then you are correct.
Booker T unleashed a detailed account of his dislike for Corey Graves on this past week’s edition of his Heated Conversations podcast.
Sources close to WWE confirmed that Booker did this to give a little extra heat to Graves–who plays a heel on television–on his way out, as well as give some extra attention to Booker’s show now that he is off Raw.
After being replaced last week by Jonathan Coachman on Raw, Booker T explained on his show that the decision was made, ultimately, because of Corey Graves.
“I’m a nice guy, until you get on my bad side,” Booker said on his show. “Corey Graves, right now, I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on my bad side, but he’s the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now.”
Booker T explained that there were many in WWE who believed he was going to engage in a physical altercation with Graves, which Booker promised would be a one-sided affair.
Graves responded with words of his own on Twitter.
Booker T is 52-year-old Booker Huffman, who is raising two children at home with his wife and campaigning for the Houston mayoral election in 2019. If and when an opposing candidate asks Booker why he threatened bodily harm upon Graves, then the former five-time champion can simply respond that it is just how business operates in pro wrestling.
• Ring of Honor announced that Kenny Omega will wrestle Cody Rhodes at April’s Supercard of Honor XII in New Orleans.
ROH’s new streaming service, Honor Club, is expected to launch this spring and carry the Supercard of Honor show.
The show, which also includes the Young Bucks, ROH champion Dalton Castle, as well as New Japan stars Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi, will run at the exact same time as WWE’s NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. But those inside ROH believe there will be more buzz over their show than WWE’s.
And they have reason to be right.
ROH is the benefactor of the incredible “Being the Elite” videos, which are the modern-day version of the black-and-white NWO vignettes that were cutting-edge in the late 90’s.
NXT will counter with Andrade “Cien” Almas defending his championship against Aleister Black, as well as Shayna Baszler challenging women’s champ Ember Moon, and the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament. But, as the Bullet Club buzz continues to thrive, it appears fans prefer to see Cody Rhodes in ROH than watch a tag team tourney in honor of the Rhodes name at NXT.
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson return this Friday at noon ET with a new podcast, featuring a thorough look at The Undertaker during the years of 1995-1997.
“I’m so fascinated by these three years,” said Thompson. “Business was down in ‘95, they’re working high school gyms, Mabel is in the top of the card, and ‘Taker is wearing that funny face mask thing. Vince was still trying to figure out what do with The Undertaker.”
The Undertaker was still in his original “Deadman” run in ‘95, but began to evolve in ‘96 and especially in ‘97 with the Ministry of Darkness.
“By the time ‘96 rolled around, we see the blow-off match with Diesel and the program with Goldust,” said Thompson. “Then we transition into Mankind, which is one of the best feuds ever. In ‘97, ‘Taker is almost accidentally main-eventing WrestleMania 13, almost by default. Had Shawn Michaels not lost his smile, that main event looks totally different. But Vince McMahon was in trouble with Shawn, and he looked to the place he always looked when he was in trouble–to The Undertaker. ‘Taker then helps carry the company through ‘97, then picks up later that year with Kane.”
Thompson noted that this stretch is possibly the most unique consecutive years for any worker in the history of the business, and added that the show will also investigate ‘Taker’s presence in the locker room.
“The Undertaker had his own crew, the Bone Street Krew,” said Thompson. “This is a very interesting way for us to dig in and look at how he became Vince’s guy. He was the foundation of the company. Undertaker kept everybody in check and always had Vince’s back. Even last year at ‘Mania, when they needed to put Roman over, Vince called ‘Taker.”
For those still wondering, Thompson also addressed whether he and Prichard would be part of Undertaker’s Bone Street Krew or Kliq lifers.
“Bruce would be part of the Kliq,” said Thompson. “I’m BSK – I’m not going to put up with all of the BS on Twitter. If you’re going to run your mouth at me, I’m going to call you out.”
Tweet of the Week
Whether you love or hate Roman Reigns, I thought this picture did a remarkable job of capturing a kid who misses his big brother.