The two of them began their own promotion, OMEGA, in the mid 90’s – one that saw Jeff & Matt, as well as Shane Helms, Joey Matthews (aka MNM’s Joey Mercury) and Shannon Moore, groomed into future stars of the industry.
After a couple of years as “WWE Jobbers”, Matt & Jeff finally found success as The Hardy Boyz, and garnered international recognition after their Terri Invitational Tournament series with Edge & Christian, before going on to redefine pro-wrestling at the beginning of the millienium in the infamous TLC series of matches.
2005 saw a massive turning point in Matt’s career. Released from the WWE, it was revealed that Hardy’s former real life love interest, Amy “Lita” Dumas, had an affair with Hardy’s former friend Adam “Edge” Copeland. After an underground movement began to get Hardy back into the WWE, Matt and Edge had one of 2005’s most memorable feuds in a situation that to this day has fans questioning the blurred lines between reality and wrestling storyline.
NZPWI Editor Dion McCracken spoke with Matt Hardy days before the No Way Out 2006 pay-per-view and just a couple of weeks before Matt is set to joins the stars of WWE SmackDown at New Zealand’s first ever WWE live event.
Dion McCracken: Bursting onto the scene as one half of the Hardy Boyz, my guest at this time has held the WWE and WCW Tag Team Titles, along with the European, Hardcore and Cruiserweight Championships. He went on to be involved in one of the most intriguing angles in WWE history, as real life tragedy spilled over into the wrestling ring in 2005, as he went on to show that he simply will not die; he is Matt Hardy.
Matt, how are you?
Matt Hardy: Good, how are you?
Yeah good thanks.
You grew up in North Carolina where you and your brother Jeff began the OMEGA promotion; what was it about that group of guys that saw so many of them go on to have successful careers?
I think one of the big things with OMEGA that made us so successful, and made all the guys so successful, was… so many times in the wrestling business, you just have a group of individuals, you know, who are kind of out for themselves, to move ahead, and we really, honestly, and genuinely, really wanted the whole group to move ahead, and really did all we could to help everyone get better and improve, and do all we could to help each other, and I think everyone improved at such a great rate because it was such a team effort.
Do you miss tagging with Jeff or do you prefer being a singles wrestler?
I miss teaming with Jeff, it was fun. You know, and I could never take away the great times and the great memories, and all the great matches and experiences we had together.
But right now it’s time still, and I do believe it’s time for me to do my stuff as a singles competitor. And it’s tough, breaking from such a successful tag team, and becoming a successful singles guy, but just like my slogan says, “I will not die”, I’m not going to go away on ’em, it’s gonna take a lot for them to kill me off.
How do you look back on the Terri Invitational Tournament against Edge and Christian?
It was just a huge turning point for us. I mean, I’ve said this before, but it’s really the point where Jeff and I went from being WWE wrestlers to WWE Superstars, because that really put us on the map, and helped move us up another level, and made people sit back and say “wow – these guys are something special”.
That standing ovation you all received on the RAW after the No Mercy ladder match must have been an incredible feeling, and I guess it would have been a vindication for you guys from the fans?
Yeah, I think so. Because especially here, in America, to really make it, I mean, the fans have to respect you as well. And it was really an ultimate show of respect, not only getting a standing ovation the night of that match, but then the following night on RAW, just walking up there and getting a standing ovation.
And it was just extremely exhilarating. I remember it as one of the most touching moments of my career. I remember it just sent chills up and down my spine.
Ah… honestly, my memories of that night are… I remember there was a lot of pressure on us, just to try and top the things we’d done before, which continually got harder and harder.
And I remember it was also tricky, just because we had three extra people in that match as well, because we had Spike Dudley, we had Lita and we had Rhino involved in there as well. You know, so there was just a lot of stuff going on, and it seems like if my memory serves me correct, we didn’t have as much time for the match as we would have liked to have had.
So there was a lot of pressure on us, to go out there and perform and try to live up to our expectations, you know, and I think we definitely made the most of it.
As his brother, were you ever concerned that some of Jeff’s bumps were going too far?
Ah… sometimes. But you know when Jeff was in the zone as far as taking crazy bumps there was no stopping him, haha…
… because he, you know, when he was in that zone, when he was working for the WWE as far as taking crazy bumps, he just really believed that he was indestructible, so.
Do you think Jeff is done with professional wrestling?
I don’t think he is entirely done with it. I think Jeff is just at a point where, in his life he just really enjoys being at home and being with his girlfriend and with his pets, and just living the slow life, because he was just so burnt out and overwhelmed by the WWE schedule. But down the road I think as he grows older and still needs to mature, you know I definitely think he could take his life in a different direction, still try and wrestle on a different level.
How did the “V1” gimmick come about?
It was just an idea that I’d kinda spawned, just from getting ready to become a singles, on my own. And I was like, well, a version one of any program, is like the original program. So now if you see Matt Hardy as a singles wrestler, you’re not seeing just a portion of Matt Hardy from the Hardy Boyz tag team, you know, a portion of Matt and a portion of Jeff. Now you’re seeing Matt Hardy, the Version 1. The total, complete package.
And it also had the pretty cool hand sign to go along with it, you know with the V and the 1, so it all fit together pretty well.
Let’s say Matt Hardy was the Chairman of the WWE for one year; what changes to the company or the product would be high on your priority list?
Hmm. That’s a pretty good question.
Some things that I would like to see, is once again the tag division given a little more attention paid to. I would like to make sure too that guys definitely are promoted and pushed on their overall ability, not just because they’re – of a size issue.
And the Cruiserweights… actually now that Gregory Helms came over to SmackDown, they’re seeing a little more attention, I think the Cruiserweight Division is something that could continually be a big draw for the WWE, I would definitely use it a lot.
Those would be the main things, those are the first things that stick out in my mind.
You had some memorable matches with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels in 2005; are there any others you’d liked to have worked with during your stint in the indy circuit?
Hmm. I don’t know, those are two of the guys that really stand out. You know, so I’m trying to think… actually, I had a match that was actually booked with Abyss that I wasn’t able to fulfil, as I’d already started back on the WWE schedule, I think he’s real talented.
Obviously your personal life has played a large part in your development in recent months…
…how comfortable are you with real life being used in professional wrestling angles?
Well mine was pretty interesting. It was tough to deal with personally, and from a professional aspect it made for a pretty intense story, and pretty good stuff, and there’s no denying that the matches that Edge and I would have whenever we’d step into the ring together… but during that time it was kind of a down time, you know, it’s funny, I can’t wait to write a book again, because there’s been so many twists and turns since I rejoined WWE that’s happened professionally and personally, that people wouldn’t believe, I’m sure would have their jaws drop open.
Right now I’m at a point where, personally, I was able to get through that and I was glad I was able to get through it and move on, and I’m ready just to get back, just to being Matt Hardy and type to build upward mobility, you know, for my own career.
But it was a tricky situation, and looking back now I think “wow, I got through that pretty good, considering”… I don’t know if I could do it quite as good if I had to repeat it at this exact moment.
Uh… I liked parts of it. There’s obviously things that I would have changed. You know, but… hah, looking back like at the Steel Cage match, that we had at Unforgiven, where I beat him with the leg drop off the cage, I absolutely loved that match, that’s one of my favourite singles matches of all time. You know and the Street Fight we had was a favourite of mine as well, I thought that was a really good match.
I mean, and I knew it was going to be tricky for me, coming back, because Edge is one of the golden children of the WWE now, so I knew I was in a tricky spot… so it was all good though. I got through it OK. I’m not going to complain about little particulars just because… the fact is, the WWE was always my dream, growing up as a child, and I lost it momentarily, and then I got it back, so now that I have that opportunity back I’m gonna make the most of it.
What are your goals in the WWE now that you’re back?
Well the first thing that is my goal now that I’m on SmackDown would be to win the US Title, just because I’ve never won that before. And I think that the goal of anyone, who is a serious competitor, who gets into the wrestling business and then makes it into the WWE, I think their ultimate goal is to be the WWE Champion or the World Heavyweight Champion, and that would be my ultimate goal. To win the US Title, and then to eventually move on, and one day win the WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship.
Are you enjoying being back on SmackDown?
Yeah. I am right now. I’m just getting back into a groove. I really feel now more than any other year, 2006 is going to be the year for Matt Hardy.
Would it have been even possible for you to stay on RAW with Edge and Lita still over there, or that wouldn’t have been an option?
Ah… I guess anything’s possible, haha.
You know, it just all depends. As far as feelings with Lita, I have no problem with her, she ah… everyone knows we have a lot of a past together or whatever but she, is still kind of in an unhealthy place.
Edge, I’m not a fan of at all. Professionally, I think he’s good, but personally, I have nothing but disdain for him. And I could have stayed there, because I could just go about my business and do whatever I had to do, and be a professional, and I’m sure he could have as well.
But you know the choice was made for me to go to SmackDown and for him to stay on RAW so… like I said, once again, I’m not going to argue about particulars. You give me an opportunity to go on SmackDown, I’m gonna make the most of it.
What do you do off the road to unwind?
Ah, actually I’ve been doing a lot of interior decorating in my house. Yeah, I got all my furniture and all my things that I need together, but I was looking around at my walls and they’re pretty bare. I’ve been in the place for over three years now and I just thought “man, I need to dress this place up some.” So I’ve actually been doing that, that’s been my pastime for the last couple of months and I’ve really enjoyed it.
And I also when I come home man, I got this nice hot tub with a DVD player, and I just love to sit in my hot tub, watch a DVD, relax and drink a beer. I enjoy that a lot as well.
What do you think fans would be most surprised to learn about you?
To learn about me?
Ah, that I’m probably a lot more like them than they all think.
When you do eventually hang up your wrestling boots, what then for Matt Hardy?
Um… you know, I’m not exactly sure. I’m sure that I would love to be involved in the wrestling business in some way, shape or form altogether, doing something…if it’s being a trainer, or trying to book, or help out behind the scenes, whatever it may be, I’d definitely love to be involved…
And another thing I think I’d like to do, which whenever I was off with my knee surgery I was doing The Hardy Show project, you know, over at thehardyshow.com. And that was a lot of fun. Where it was more or less cameras following me and Jeff, following our lives and what we do, and some of the crazy things that we do day in and day out during our lives, and that was a lot of fun. Even some sort of project like that.
Whenever I retire, I just want to have fun. I want to do things that are just absolutely fun to me, and nothing that seems like a job.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received while you’ve been in the industry?
I don’t know necessarily about the best advice, but probably what I’ve learned, I’ll say this. This is maybe advice I’ve given myself…
The thing I think I’ve learned that’s helped me more than anything else was to be patient, and be persistent. You know, like things aren’t gonna change overnight. You know, and even if you have a great period for a couple of months, things are going to slow down again, and you’ve got to remember that.
Or, if you have kind of a bad period for a couple of months, things are going to get better again, you’ve got to remember that. You’ve just gotta to be patient, you’ve got to be persistent, and have a never say die mentality. Like my slogan says man, I will not die, that’s definitely the epitome of me.
Do you find that the international live crowds are different from the US ones?
Yes. They’re a lot better. The US fans are definitely spoilt. Because they get so much WWE, they get so much RAW and they get so much SmackDown… it’s so great to perform overseas, just because the fans are so enthusiastic, and just so genuinely excited to be there, and be at a WWE show. And I’m thoroughly excited to be coming down to New Zealand, it’s my first trip there, and I’m sure the fans are just going to be off the charts.
And just the enthusiasm level that the fans display always makes the guys in the ring work that much harder. You know, whenever the fans are enthusiastic, I promise you – the wrestlers in the ring will always go further to give you a better show.
You’re set to team up with Road Warrior Animal to take on MNM here in a couple of weeks; as a former tag team champ yourself, it must be exciting to work with a legend like Animal?
Yeah it is, you know, ha… it’s weird, and don’t tell him I said this…
… ‘cause he’ll get upset, but my brother and I grew up watching those guys, and thought they were real cool. And considering that he was a member of one of the greatest tag teams of all time, and I would like to say that the Hardy Boyz were one of the greatest tag teams of all time as well.
You know, us getting together, Matt Hardy and Animal, that makes for a very unique combination, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Well thanks very much for your time Matt, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, all the best for No Way Out, and we look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Most definitely man, take care of yourself, and I will see you at the show man, in Wellington.