The Genius of Matt Hardy
Just as I was complaining about needing a new kind of magician ( see my blog Changing the Face of the Game posted 5/30/08) I am shown the way by Matt Hardy. As the walls around professional wrestling come down and we are being shown the more 'Hollywood' aspects of this sport, the average fan is starting to appreciate different performers for different reasons. Now the show is what it is. Entertainment that is good, great or simply okay. A fan can now appreciate a great heel as well as a great face. It's all about finding your stroke as the saying goes.
This leads me to MySpace. Yes MySpace, the over advertised, super exposed monster of online cacophony on the internet. As my interest and fascination with professional wrestling peaked out after attending Wrestlemania 24 and watching the man that I've grown up watching Ric Flair, retire, I discovered an interesting thing. Some of the performers had pages on MySpace. I thought it was pretty open and rather progressive at first and then I started to truly pay attention. I'm fascinated by the process of celebrity. Not truly with the figures themselves, I am more fascinated by the ability to convince hundreds and thousands of people that who you are being is worth paying attention to.
Months ago just for the hell of it, I asked Matt Hardy to be a friend. Well, I must admit, it was after my roommate showed me an excerpt from the Hardy Show and I fondly commented, "I grew up with those guys," as any tomboy growing up in the South can attest to. At a time when I was missing home terribly, watching the Hardy's in their natural habitat was ambrosia. So I requested and was accepted. Over the past few months I have been enjoying the blogging and the pictures and the whole floorshow of the slew of performers that have created pages if for no other reason than to make sure that someone else hadn't created a page and claimed that it was them. Seems smart and insanely astute as a public figure. But while paying attention I noticed the most interesting thing. Some people used MySpace as a means to an end. Others as a tool.
The media beast is so unruly because no one knows where it’s going. Not the stat monkeys, not the performers, no one knows in the end what is going to get you an audience and what will lose it. Every once in a while the Fates blink and something that should've been panned completely annihilates all. Speaking as an artist, I've always cheated. I cake on stage make-up to a degree that my own mother couldn't recognize me and then I scrub myself clean, dress horribly and mingle after performances and listen to what is being said. And then the very next night, I do the exact opposite and rate the change. If all is the same, I'm doing my part, if not; I then find it very hard to discover what exactly flopped, other than asking other performers. But we ruin this for each other because as performers we have a whole different language and culture all our own. Depending on the art form what is considered great by another player is crap for the viewing audience. In other words, knowing what we like to see in a performance binds us. We are not always the best judge of what the audience actually wants.
Right before Wrestlemania, Stone Cold Steve Austin did an interview with one of the Wrestling Podcast shows. During the interview he talked about Jeff Hardy and commented that the people just seem to love him. It was inexplicable and without a push from the company. My roommate and I agreed and I looked over at her and said, “It's the same for both of them."
This is where the genius of Matt Hardy begins. Since the beginning of the WWE tour in Australia there is no forum more up-to-date about the live events than the blog of Matt Hardy. He requests comments from fans and tells them in full detail what has happened. Simultaneously the man runs his own PR and color commentary. I looked over at my roommate last night and just said, "Brilliant, that one has figured it out." What Matt Hardy and by proxy Jeff Hardy have done is create a cost efficient media machine that just keeps giving. Through constant blogging, Hardy Show production and availability, and personal pics, the people are always in touch with the Hardys. In a media culture where even your lowest level NFL player considers himself untouchable, you know that Matt Hardy just read what you had to say. The popularity of MySpace, FaceBook, Digg, YouTube, Blogger and everything that says loudly and passionately, you have a voice and I want to hear what you want to say dictates that the general public is very sick of being general. They want to be individual. What better way to endear a loyal fan base than to show them that you care enough to let them be individual. In turn, they will care enough to give you the world.
While I've seen this done in many ways by many people, from musicians to politicians I must admit I'm quite partial to the Matt Hardy approach. Unlike other celebrity and sports figures, this presentation is in just the way and to just the depth that the person behind the character can condone. The fan becomes comfortable watching and reading because it is comfortably given. And it actively deters from seeking information outside of the source. There is no point, he’s shooting you straight. You know that because whether it actually is or isn’t, it feels real. Seemingly unbeknownst to the wrestling hierarchy, Matt Hardy and company have raised the bar and the playing field has just acquired a new virtually limitless element. Within this new element is the aspect of wrestling that I thought always needed to come back. The fans have to know you, they have to love you, and they have to know that you want them there or can't stand them there. There is no art worth watching that doesn't emotionally involve you. The audience is too smart; you can't use smoke and mirrors on them anymore. They need flesh and bone.