On Sunday morning, hours before the Young Bucks wrestled the Hardys on pay-per-view at Double or Nothing, Matt Jackson sat down for breakfast.
Unable to focus on the scrambled eggs, bacon, or sourdough toast, he wrestled with the enormity of teaming up with his brother Nick against the legendary Hardys. He loaded up on coffee and carbs throughout the day for that requisite extra boost of energy, all while feeling that rare nervous energy while preparing to wrestle the greatest tag team ever.
“I told Nick this might be the most anxious I’ve ever felt before a match,” Matt said. “We’ve wrestled the Hardys before, but never on a platform this huge.”
Five years ago, the Bucks wrestled the Hardys in a Ring of Honor ladder match, a phenomenal affair completely overshadowed the very next night when the Hardys made a shocking return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. A half decade passed before the door reopened this past March when Jeff Hardy joined his brother Matt Hardy in AEW. Over the past three months, visions of Bucks-Hardys turned into reality.
The Hardys have been an integral part of pro wrestling since 1997. The two brothers from the antique town of Cameron, N.C., reinvented the genre with a combination of aerial maneuvers, charisma, and an eagerness to put their bodies on the line. Their matches involving tables, ladders, and chairs redefined the entire industry, and they have set the industry aflame for over two decades. While they were making magic in the ring, Matt and Jeff Hardy also carved a lasting impression onto the young minds of Matt and Nick Massie–best known now as Matt and Nick Jackson–who were back home watching in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“The Hardys were so popular in our teenage years,” Nick said. “It felt like every kid in high school dressed like them. We had to secretly pretend we were too cool for school and didn’t like them. But I specifically remember choosing to play as them in the video games every time I was playing alone. We eventually gave in and admitted our fandom and dressed and wrestled like them in our homemade backyard wrestling ring. We then started an independent wrestling company just like they did. We’d eventually become a tag team just like them. We patterned everything in our career off of them.”
And last night, on pay-per-view, they wrestled the Hardys.
This was not the greatest match of their careers. But it was certainly one of the most meaningful.
The moment alone resonated as a symbol of success and longevity for both sets of brothers. The Hardys’ distinguished path to greatness is well known, but the Bucks have also built themselves into wrestling icons–and the top tag team in the world–by consistently delivering compelling matches and an unwavering ability to evolve. They have captured the old-school aura and mystique of pro wrestling in the ring, which is remarkable considering they show an entirely different, once forbidden side of it on their groundbreaking Being The Elite YouTube show.
Sunday night’s match at Double or Nothing stands as a 19-minute study in how to deliver when the lights are brightest. Matt Hardy, now 47, and Jeff Hardy, 44, remain excellent in the ring, though not the same athletic marvels they once were. Yet the chemistry between the Bucks and Hardys was immediately noticeable, and the four made certain that the match stood out for its in-ring drama and a handful of perfectly timed outrageous high spots, like Jeff Hardy’s swanton bomb onto Matt Jackson on the ringside steps.
“We definitely wanted to present something fresh to the audience,” Matt Jackson said. “Many of our fans have seen our other matches, and we wanted to respect that. Our biggest goal was to show the people that the Hardys are still great and have a ton of gas left in the tank, all these years later. And we didn’t want to have to lean on the greatest hits. Every great artist creates new art and reinvents themselves. The Hardys clearly stood their ground. The highlight of the match was seeing and hearing the Hardys having another big career moment.”
Unlike their encounter in 2017, the Hardys were victorious at Double or Nothing. Matt Hardy landed the Twist of Fate twice on Nick Jackson in the ring, followed by an exclamation point of Jeff Hardy hitting a picturesque swanton for the win.
“We’re all a bit older now than we were during our Ring of Honor match, and there was a lot more doubt from critics that we’d be able to pull off a great match, or as great as a match that we’ve had in the past,” Nick Jackson said. “Those matches have a reputation as being classics, so we had big shoes to fill. But we thrive under situations like that and prefer when there’s a chip on our shoulder. So we went out, motivated to prove the naysayers wrong and put on a memorable match that we were all super proud of.”
Part of the joy of the Hardys-Bucks match was hearing the crowd come alive. Masters of the craft, the four performers in the ring–as well as Brandon Cutler, who has thrived in his role as the Bucks’ third piece–excelled in the way they turned the match into a symphony, featuring multiple parts that each told a different, distinct story before the finish.
“Our job is to predict the future when we create wrestling matches,” Matt Jackson said. “Most of the moments we knew exactly where we were going. We’re driving the vehicle and taking the passengers on an up-and-down journey. There’s always great unexpected surprises though, and you just need to go with the flow. At one point the crowd started chanting for Brandon Cutler, and it gave us something to play with on the fly. It was like a little gift. There’s nothing better though when something you bet big on earlier, ends up paying off.”
The buildup to this match also included the Bucks and Cutler cosplaying the Hardys on Rampage this past Friday, a genuinely fun moment to watch that also built perfectly to the Hardys enacting their revenge at Double or Nothing.
“I think that was my favorite segment I’ve ever done,” Matt Jackson said. “We used to do that very thing in our parents’ backyard, and now we got to do it on cable television. I feel like it stood out too because there hasn’t been much of that on the shows lately. We have no problem leaning into fun and comedy when it’s appropriate.
“And I’m really proud of the match. They’re the greatest in-ring tag team of all-time and the biggest box office, needle-moving, merch money-makers ever. So losing to them isn’t a tough pill to swallow.”
Sunday’s match illustrated that there is still more story left to be told. And there is plenty of reason to believe that Double or Nothing was only the starting point for some creative bouts between these two illustrious tag teams.
“If we have anything to say about it, that was not the last time we’ll wrestle the Hardys,” Nick Jackson said. “There are so many other gimmick matches we are yet to explore. They clearly showed they’ve still got it.”