With a twist and a turn, Randy Orton’s on-screen psychotics had just created a quite iconic visual. Why? Well it was simple really, Orton had lodged a screwdriver through Jeff Hardy’s ear, and he was now taking immense joy in violently mutilating it. Whilst the moment itself was startling, it inexplicably didn't feel too out of place within this match. The intensity had been there from the first view of Orton and with a pre-match stare-down, the tone had been well and truly set before the first bell had even rung.
Once it did sound though, Hardy was on fire right away, jumping Orton as a fitting brawl commenced. Both men immediately slotted into their roles with ease: Hardy the desperate, vulnerable hero and Orton the vile, vicious villain. When explaining professional wrestling’s magic, citing ‘the little things’ can be a crutch of sorts but sometimes, it’s about all I can say to describe what I see. Orton’s bitter scowl at the chants for his foe, his subtle cowardice when in danger and moreover, the way it so perfectly contrasted with his immense aggression when in control.
For Hardy, he was the same man that had garnered adoration for almost two decades but this time, he had an extra layer of palpable inspiration too. As he writhed in agony, there was a helplessness to his struggles, a sincere plea for support as he tried to fight through Orton’s latest assault. The ‘art’ of professional wrestling is a bizarre concept and depending on what you like, its definition is really whatever you want it to be. For me personally though, it’s an almost unexplainable authenticity, a bizarre believability that frankly has no right to exist.
Battling within a big red structure as multiple inanimate objects surrounded them, Orton and Hardy used their wealth of experience to create an experience that was gripping from start to finish. Regardless of the scenario’s insanity, these two performers played their roles so magnificently that their every action made sense. For that 25 minutes, it felt as though you were truly watching two rivals trapped in the most violent environment possible. One fueled by evil and the other an admirable wild man, simply desperate to silence his foe’s claims.
After re-watching it a couple of times, this is my genuine attempt to understand why this match moved me so much. I’d enjoyed their programme going in, but my actual interest levels for the pay-off weren't particularly high if I’m being honest. Yet somehow, I became enthralled and invested as the minutes went by, almost entranced by the horrific violence. It all just made so much sense to me and considering the match’s actual content, that’s an admittedly ridiculous thought. It’s for that reason that for the most part, I’ve tried to avoid simply recounting the tale’s action.
Now don’t get me wrong, this match was filled with gasp-worthy moments. Whether it be Hardy’s body destroying a ladder, a chair-assisted Swanton Bomb or even a picture-perfect superplex, the work here was immaculate but it was what came in-between that I think for me, was most effective. There wasn't a title on the line and considering what they went through, some could cite the lack of stakes as a point of confusion but for me, that only made this story all the more meaningful.
This was a fight for pride, a battle for personal conviction, the final chapter of conflict that emerged out of nowhere and frankly, had exceeded all expectations. It’s for that reason that I also loved the seemingly polarizing finish too. In a world of slick finishes and neat finales, this was the most suitable ending imaginable. The levels of violence had continually climbed from the first bell and by the end, Jeff was prepared to destroy himself in order to potentially close the show. Eventually, he did just that and with the referee frozen in fear, Orton simply wanted to win…regardless of what was at stake.
As the referee regretfully counted three, Hardy’s limp body perfectly represented what he’d been through. Just as he has so many times before, Hardy had given everything he was physically possible of and sadly, it still wasn't enough to overcome Orton’s onslaught. Whilst humbled at times in the heat of battle, the renewed Randy now moves on to his next chapter, still as reprehensible as ever. Though maybe not ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘daring,’ this is a story as old as time and with two men of this caliber, it can still be told rather beautifully.
I totally understand that for some people, this was just a fun Hell in a Cell match with a few lasting visuals. The great thing about pro wrestling though is that due to its reliance on our own personal investment, we can often see different things in the same exact match. For me personally, this was one of the finest matches I’ve seen in quite some time, a genuine masterpiece worth admiring and analyzing. In 25 minutes, Orton and Hardy showed the world that their passion hasn't faded a jot, instead producing an affair that’ll likely stick with me for years to come.
This match was a perfect encapsulation of why I personally follow the wild world of professional wrestling. The violence was absurd but the meaning behind it was magic and to me, that’s the real art-form that through frustration at times, I’m really searching for. Either way, salute to these two soldiers. Through all the ups and downs, their love for this profession just refuses to decline, for better or for worse.