Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Somewhere between my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
Two of the most popular WWE athletes in recent memory are real-life brothers Matt and Jeff Hardy, who have earned their place in the company through exciting performances, dedication and a real love for the sport. Primarily, their skills were best suited when they paired up as The Hardy Boyz, a successful tag team that won many championships and thrilled audiences the word over. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, Matt and Jeff made a name for themselves through a series of high-flying matches featuring tables, ladders and chairs that regularly stole the show on bi-weekly broadcasts and monthly pay-per-view events. Utilizing their natural athleticism, willingness to take risks and creativity in the ring, The Hardy Boyz set WWE's excitement level to a standard that it may never see again, at least not on a regular basis. Simply put, these gifted performers have made their mark on the wrestling world...and they're barely 30 years of age.
Despite wrestling together on many occasions during the past few years, Matt and Jeff have since branched out as singles competitors. They've both managed to hold their own, for the most part---and that's exactly what Twist of Fate: The Matt and Jeff Hardy Story aims to remind us. Past releases like Leap of Faith have focused solely on their run as a tag team, while digging lightly into their lives before wrestling. Other DVDs like The Ladder Match have dug deeper into their more extreme exhibitions; in fact, they're represented eight times on that release. Spread across two discs, Twist of Fate collects two new documentaries told in The Hardys' own words, featuring additional comments from friends, relatives and co-workers. Paired with the documentaries, of course, is a selection of matches highlighting their accomplishments as singles wrestlers, though we're also treated to a few tag team bouts. In any case, here's the real question: is Twist of Fate a worthy follow-up in its own right...or is the WWE spreading the Hardys' legacy too thin?
Disc 1 starts us from the beginning, as Matt Hardy recalls how the untimely death of his mother affected the Hardy family, leaving himself and Jeff to be raised by their discipline-driven father. The Hardys' gradual drift towards wrestling from a young age is explored soon enough; specifically, Wrestlemania IV and the excitement it brought to their young lives. Through their early experiences wrestling with friends on a trampoline to the founding of OMEGA in 1997, it was obvious that such dedication would eventually lead to WWE contracts. His well-publicized relationship with Lita that turned sour is also touched upon, but it's certainly not a focal point. More than anything else, Matt presents himself as the more grounded of the two brothers: displaying practicality, dedication and sewing skills well beyond his years, it's easy to see why he and Jeff have excelled in the ring.
Disc 2 tells things from Jeff's point of view, treading familiar ground before revealing a more introspective look at the rebellious younger brother. He goes into slightly more detail about their early days in the WWE, jobbing to more popular wrestlers and serving as extras during pay-per-views and the grand entrances of bigger stars. Wrestling, however, proves to be only one focal point. Jeff's outlets seem to be his creativity (including art and music) and risk-taking: whether dreaming up new stunts in the ring or soaring off hills on his dirtbike, the younger Hardy is certainly the more attention-seeking of the two. He speaks candidly about failing a drug test and leaving WWE for a year or so, gradually getting his act together and returning as a successful singles wrestler. Unfortunately, the documentary was completed before Jeff's most recent struggle with addiction and the loss of his North Carolina home in a fire.
Regardless of current events, Twist of Fate reveals a brief but intimate look at two immensely talented brothers who should continue to find success. They don't dig especially deep; especially Jeff's story, which feels a bit too vague and repetitive to serve its purpose. Running at roughly 60 and 45 minutes respectively, these documentaries are paired with bonus matches that showcase the brothers' talents as singles competitors. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with portions of letterboxed footage, Twist of Fate is on par with the most recent crop of WWE DVD releases. Colors are generally bold and bright as the source material permits, while black levels and contrast levels are typically solid. Pixellation, digital noise and artifacts can be seen during certain bonus matches, but these don't become too much of a distraction. Overall, this is a solid effort and one that fans will enjoy.
The audio is presented in a fairly standard Dolby Surround mix; likewise, it's roughly on par with recent WWE titles. The documentary footage is fairly straightfoward, with cleanly recorded dialogue during recent interviews and vintage clips alike. During the bonus matches, crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. Optional subtitles and Closed Caption support are not offered, unfortunately.
(12 matches on 2 single-sided DVDs)
Disc One: The Matt Hardy Story
Disc Two: The Jeff Hardy Story
Listed in detail above, the twelve Bonus Matches make up the bulk of this extra material---and luckily enough, they're fairly entertaining. The first two matches on Matt's disc are easy standouts, especially the brutal Steel Cage match against Edge that holds up nicely. Another lost gem is a match from the OMEGA days [below left] with the Hardys facing off against The Serial Thrillaz (none other than Gregory "Hurricane" Helms and...well, some other guy). Shot on the cheap, this relatively scarce relic shows that the fans of Omega really appreciated the match they got to see. The two televised matches aren't nearly as impressive, but they're still worth a look.
Jeff's disc is relatively similar: there are several standouts along the way, but some of this material feels a bit too thin...perhaps Leap of Faith and The Ladder Match raised the bar too high? The tag match from Royal Rumble 2000---against Matt and Jeff's longtime rivals, The Dudleyz---is a winner for obvious reasons, as is the solid Steel Cage match against Johnny Nitro seven years later. A pair of bouts with Triple H proves to be fairly entertaining, as well as the recent Steel Cage match against Umaga from earlier this year [below right]. Even so, it's obvious that WWE didn't have a great deal to choose from here: five of the seven matches on Disc 2 are from 2007 onward, and several of them simply aren't big enough to feel like part of a true "Best Of" package.
Aside from the bonus matches, we also get an Additional Clip featuring the Hardys at home with their dogs, plus a brief Music Video of a song by Jeff (paired with clips from the documentary and his more memorable matches). These bonus features, like the documentaries, are presented in 1.33:1 format and include no optional subtitles or Closed Caption support. All told, there's several hours' worth of material to dig through here, even if some of it doesn't reach as high as we'd like.
Twist of Fate marks at least the third time that Matt and Jeff Hardy have been at the forefront of a WWE release...and for the most part, it proves to be a satisfying and enjoyable experience. Several bonus matches feel a bit weak in comparison to other "Best Of" releases, though the new documentaries and a few pay-per-view bouts even things out nicely. The technical presentation is roughly on par with recent WWE discs, while the added content does a passable job of supporting the main features. Casual fans should be happy with a rental, but there's enough here to make Twist of Fate a worthy addition to your wrestling collection. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.