The Three Count

T3C: Matt Hardy – A WWE career returned and moral principles lost

“A part of me knows it’s my home and that’s where I’ve been the last seven and a half years, and I would love to still be there…” That’s what Matt Hardy told me when I interviewed him at the recent London Expo. If you read that then it’s perhaps no surprise that Matt is now back home in the WWE, but he told me a lot more that day that makes his return very surprising indeed…

A part of me knows it’s my home and that’s where I’ve been the last seven and a half years, and I would love to still be there…” That’s what Matt Hardy told me when I interviewed him at the recent London Expo. If you read that then it’s perhaps no surprise that Matt is now back home in the WWE, but he told me a lot more that day that makes his return very surprising indeed.

It’s been one hell of an eventful year for Matt Hardy but when looked at in depth, it just shows that in wrestling only one thing really matters: Finding that all-important match the fans won’t want to miss. And if it means hurting people along the way, well so what!

For Matt Hardy, it all started to go wrong last year, long before his girlfriend starting looking for other men to sleep with! His knee was badly injured and he needed surgery so a perfect storyline was set up for him. He was re-united with Lita but then Kane began stalking her. He forced her to have sex with him which left her pregnant and then had to marry him live on Raw, well wrestlers never want to get married in church do they? Matt of course tried to stop the wedding but was badly injured by Kane forcing him off-screen and giving him time off for that much needed surgery. Once he was fit, he had a ready-made storyline waiting for him, but none of us could imagine what was going to happen next.

With Hardy on the injured list, Lita was still getting a big push on Raw. Her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and once fit again, she was ready to win the Women’s Title from Trish Stratus until injury at New Year’s Revolution put her back on the injured list. But even though she was unable to wrestle, she still had a big storyline as it appeared she was falling in love with Kane, the man she was forced to marry. Off screen was where the real action was happening though. Lita aka Amy Dumas was spending more time with Edge aka Adam Copeland and it wasn’t long before the couple were having an affair. Matt found out, made the news public and soon found himself released from WWE, now our story really begins.

Matt may have left WWE in unhappy circumstances but his presence was still being felt on Raw. Every time Edge and Lita appeared on screen they were booed and cries of ‘We want Matt’ and ‘You Screwed Matt’ soon got Vince McMahon rattled, or did they? The biggest problem Vince had wasn’t the fact real life was interfering with his wrestling circus, nor the fact Matt Hardy wasn’t in the company anymore, the big problem was that Lita was a face who was getting booed all the time! Lita started doing interviews backstage or on tape but that desire to find a big storyline was becoming too hard for Vince to resist. He decided it was time not just for Lita to turn heel but to join forces with Edge.

This takes us up to May and at the same time my beloved Southampton are about to be relegated, I’m at the London Expo interviewing Matt Hardy and he has plenty to say about the recent events.

Matt told me how he loves coming over to Europe, “England, specifically, London even more specifically.” Well he was hardly going to tell me he hated coming over but if one thing had been important to Matt since he left WWE it was the reaction of the fans and that had greatly affected him. “The outpouring, the overwhelming support has been touching to me. You don’t realize who your true friends are, who your true fans are, until something really bad happens to you.

So just how did Matt Hardy feel when he learnt he’d been released by WWE, was it a total shock? “Yes, specially considering the circumstances. I’d just been through a very tough time in my personal life in something I was definitely the victim in and something I had nothing to so with and something I never asked for. For the WWE to side with that side of it and just because I was the one that was off TV and at home, it really hurt because I’d been so dedicated. I’d sacrificed everything within me for seven and a half years. The simple reason I was sitting at home was because I’d given them my left knee. It was destroyed. They didn’t sit down and talk to me and think what was right for the business and what was the morally right point. It was disappointing they didn’t think about that.

But would it have been different if this had happened the previous year when it was Edge who was out injured while Matt was on Smackdown winning cruiserweight titles? “It probably would, it perhaps would be a different story. If I was the one on TV, it’d be a different story. If Edge had been off TV, it’d be a different story. There are lots of things that led to it being what it was but at the end it was business which is still a bad business decision.

Aha the word ‘business’ starts to get mentioned. Just why was Matt let go? Was he seen as someone who was out injured, no longer had Jeff to tag with and hadn’t really set the singles division alive, especially on Raw. Was Matt a sitting duck ready to be released when a reasonable excuse arose?

Back to the fans reaction and the chanting on Raw, what did Matt think of that? “Actual fans of the product speaking up and voicing their opinions that the situation is wrong. They know it is and understand the situation now and aren’t going to sit back and act as if they don’t because they see them (Edge and Lita) as the two people at the centre of the controversy. That’s why they’re bringing out the chants ‘We Want Matt’ and ‘You Screwed Matt’ because they’re really voicing their opinions and they know what happened was bad and wrong and we’re not just sitting back and doing what you tell us.

But in that search for the sell-out storyline, did Matt actually tell his fans the whole truth? While he was writing on his website about ROH and TNA and slagging off WWE, was he actually already on his way back to the company and just putting petrol on the flames that would fan the hottest storyline of the year in WWE?

I interviewed Matt just before Lita’s heel turn and alliance with Edge, what did Matt feel about the planned storyline? “It’s going to make the Matt movement even stronger, even more loyal by putting them together. It’s just Vince’s way. Vince isn’t afraid of taking a personal situation and trying to exploit it to better his business. I think in a way it’s not. I don’t want to watch this because it’s really bad from the moral point of view. It’s not just bad for me, but a slap in the face for people who have been involved in it and have so many feelings. People like myself and Edge’s wife and our close friends. I think it is wrong.

Wrong? So why is Matt now part of that storyline on-screen? Principles and moral beliefs don’t really exist when there’s a massive pay-day and resurrection of your career about to take place? If Vince is morally incorrect in running this storyline then Matt is just as guilty for becoming part of it.

With his WWE career seemingly over, Matt was keen to tell me about his forthcoming appearances on the Indie scene and how he’d use them to prove WWE wrong in their decision to release him. “I loved my time in WWE but the way my tenure ended which was really disgusting and terrible, I just want to go down to TNA and help them get the validity to compete against WWE. They’re looking to make it onto a more national scale and get on a bigger network soon, so to go there and make an impact would be the most meaningful thing to me, just to let WWE say they really made a mistake.

Matt also talked about a possible reunion with Jeff Hardy telling me “There’s no way you can have Matt and Jeff in the same promotion and not at some time have a match at some point. As a tag team we were the most exciting, definitely the most revolutionary tag team there ever was and no one is going to forget that. It was very special for us.

Of course I had to ask Matt what it’s like to take part in a TLC match. “You say your prayers before you go and make sure you haven’t done anything too bad because karma is going to kick you in the ass. It’s like any match but you’re going into a match that is a lot more dangerous, the risks are going to be higher risks so you have to go in there with a clear head and a game plan to give the fans all that you can give.

So much for history and it looks as if that Hardy Boyz reunion is on hold again but now Matt is back in WWE, the following statements make for interesting reading. Would he return to the company? “I would say yes, but once again it’s a tough call and I’m very torn. There’s still a part of me that wants to go out and show them what a mistake they made and there’s a part of me that knows it’s my home and that’s where I’ve been the last seven and a half years, and I would love to still be there but it’s changed so much.

’Changed so much’? What’s that all about then? “That’s the main thing I have a problem with. Over the last two or three years politically and in the locker room and in the office, the WWE have just really changed. Changed into something that is very uncomfortable. The whole episode with Matt Hardy and the terrible problems and the release just typifies what is wrong with WWE now.

So just what is wrong with WWE? “Right now, there are way too many people. When WWE acquired WCW they acquired all their agents and writers, all the other people who have so much say in different matters and we’re not on the same page. Then one person thinks the locker room should be this way and one person thinks it should be that way and a lot of people don’t know. It’s just chaos. Sure Vince is the boss but there are so many people under Vince who have power to mess with people’s livelihoods and it’s not a comfortable place.

But still Matt returned to WWE! So what about the prospect of a match with Edge? “With Amy/Lita I’m talking to her now, there’s not a problem there. As far as it is with Edge, I couldn’t imagine us being in the same ring without us killing each other. Perhaps they should change it from being a work into a mixed martial arts match. I’m sure people will pay to see that and I’d be up for that.

Could those final words from Matt be what Vince has in store for us at Summerslam? Whatever happens, Edge is still the main player in this feud. He’s booked to challenge John Cena for the WWE Title in the future so this is just a stepping stone, but one hell of a large stepping stone!

Fact is getting mixed in with fantasy at the moment in WWE, all in the pursuit of that one match. As Edge prepared for a tag match on Raw he was attacked both backstage and in the ring by Matt Hardy. The same happened this week as Edge made his way to the ring for his cage match with Kane. But hey, wait a minute, shouldn’t there be heat between Matt and Kane? Oh that’s just the storyline that was begun last year and mentioned at the start of this article. That doesn’t actually matter anymore and besides Kane is a good guy now.

To add to the overwhelming heat this storyline already has, Hardy doesn’t even get mentioned by the commentators as we’re supposed to believe this is a shoot rather than a work begging for a high PPV buy-rate. Hardy has interrupted WWE Byte This when Lita was being interviewed and on Raw, Edge talks about Hardy and how he let the off-screen happenings cost him his job.

So what happens next? Well Matt is being portrayed in a way similar to the Brian Pillman, loose cannon storyline that proved so popular in the 90s. Sure we’ll get to see Hardy v Edge, possibly in a non-sanctioned Lights Out match but where will it leave them afterwards? Like I’ve mentioned, Edge already has his main event match with Cena lined up and Lita can tag along with him until she’s fit to wrestle again. But what about Matt? Will this sudden outpouring of love for him carry on when he has to wrestle someone else? Will Vince even keep him in the company once he’s finished counting how much money he’s made out of Hardy v Edge?

I don’t blame Hardy for coming back to WWE, it’s the largest wrestling company in the world after all. One thing is for sure, whenever a wrestler gives you an interview, whether it’s worked or for real, the spectre of the mighty dollar will always make those comments just a pay day away from becoming null and void. But how much of what Matt has had to say is true and how much a work? Just when did he agree to return to WWE? Most people say it was just before the Edge and Lita wedding and that’s probably true. It’s likely that Vince couldn’t bear the thought of Matt wrestling for TNA once the 90-day clause on his contract expired. Or did Vince just plan this all along? Let Matt go as he wasn’t able to wrestle anyway, let him shout his mouth off and see what the reaction of the fans was. It may have been a bad year for Matt Hardy in terms of his love-life but it looks as if everything in his wrestling career has gone full circle even if a few moral principles have had to be jettisoned along the way.

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Stephen Ashfield