In October, the 41-year-old won the company’s heavyweight championship at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view broadcast in front of a crowd in his North Carolina hometown . His wife Reby and their three-month-old son Maxel were in attendance to help celebrate the victory.
“It was a very special moment,” Hardy said, gearing up for Impact Wrestling’s live debut Tuesday, Jan. 5 at 9/8CT on Pop TV “However, a lot of people dismiss that moment because I won the title and, a couple days later, relinquished it leading into the World Title Series. I would consider it in my top five moments in my professional wrestling career altogether, because it truly validated me as a success singles competitor in many ways.
“I’ve held a ton of singles gold in other places,” Hardy continues, “but to be the representative of an entire global promotion like Impact Wrestling — for them to have that confidence in me to carry their title and be their champion — was very special. I’m looking forward to get back what I believe is rightfully mine — and that’s the TNA world champion.”
The controversial finish of the Bound for Glory title match led to Hardy vacating the gold, which, in turn, led to a World Title Series. The former champ fought his way into the final four along with Ethan Carter III, Eric Young and Bobby Lashley. The conclusion of the intricate tournament takes place during the Pop TV premiere. Hardy says he has enjoyed challenging himself against emerging young stars like EC3 over the course of the last few months and wouldn’t mind another chapter in their rivalry.
“One thing I have to admit, regardless of what my character thinks, is that EC3 is a very talented individual,” Hardy said. “He is going to be a cornerstone of Impact Wrestling for a long time. You look at him and wonder how WWE missed the boat, because he is that good. It’s been a lot of fun working with him. It’s been totally new and fresh, having had no interaction before I started working with him. I feel like our characters complement one another. So it’s going to be interesting going forward because I think the story between Matt Hardy and EC3 is a long ways from over.”
Hardy’s brother Jeff has been on the sidelines after breaking his leg in a dirt bike accident. The older sibling remains a good support system, knowing how hard it is to return from injury — especially when there are setbacks.
“After 23 years, up until that point, he had never been injured before,” Hardy said. “He has been one of the most fierce, crazy wrestlers there has ever been. He has taken some ultimate risks. So for him to be hurt on a motorcycle and have what seemed like a routine broken leg, but now be more with ligament damage, it’s tough for him. Mentally it was very challenging, because I think there was a part of him in the back of his mind that thinks he was indestructible.
“I think we all do, especially when we are young and never been hurt before,” Hardy continues. “You think you’re indestructible — until you get hurt. I’ve been able to talk to him and help him with what is going on. The prognosis is very strange situation. There is one guy that thinks he should be OK with no surgery, but with some rehabilitation within six weeks or so. There is another who thinks it would need a scope done. Then there is another who thinks he needs a big surgery and to be gone for six months. So there are three specialists with three different opinions. Whatever happens, we are not 100 percent sure yet. He still has some ligament damage in his a knee and that is what has to be corrected before he can get back in the ring.”
Hardy himself is feeling terrific.
“To be able to do this and perform on a high level, I’m happy with how my year has been,” he explains. “I think having a son and being a father has made me more responsible and accountable for everything I do with my training, actions outside the ring and my eating.”
His son Maxel is already on the fast track to baby stardom, sporting 5,500 followers on Twitter.
“My wife started that,” Hardy said. “She is also very social, as well, and interactive. She thought it would be cute to give updates for him to look back at later. As an adult now, I would have loved to look back and see where my parents went and places they took me when I was a baby. So we have fun with it. We’re both very sharing and social people. He already has some paid modeling gigs with people offering free diapers, bandanas and things like that. He is a little celebrity in his own right.”
Baby Hardy attended multiple pro wrestling events, including one in South America. He is quickly becoming acquainted with dad’s workplace, as Hardy proudly serves as an ambassador for TNA.
This includes on social media.
“Sometimes people online become challenging,” Hardy said. “Sometimes they push people past their breaking point. I have a pretty high tolerance. I think I’ve done everything in life, both good and bad, so I’m pretty calm and collected, dealing with these people. It’s almost like playing chess, because, when it comes down to it, social media is all words. There are no actions. I’m a counter-puncher. I never attack, but if you attack me, I will counter back. Sometimes it’s about setting the record straight. There are totally insane rumors that start. I can kind of silence them or change people’s opinions.
“I can show them through my hard work it really exemplifies what TNA is trying to do,” Hardy adds. “I think it’s very important that Impact Wrestling survives and thrives. The wrestling industry needs that. It’s a great place for other wrestlers to come and perform and learn their craft. It also gives the fans an alternative when it comes to what they can watch. Nobody wants a monopoly with ‘WWE and that’s it.’ So I want Impact Wrestling to grow. I want Ring of Honor to grow, as well. But Impact Wrestling is my home and I wave its flag very proudly right now.”
Hardy is excited about TNA’s opportunity to start with a clean slate in 2016 with a new broadcasting partner in POP TV. The organization’s previous home, Destination America, was a rollercoaster ride that went down more times than it went up.
“I think Destination America had the best intentions when we started together,” Hardy said. “I’m much more hands on now than I was a year ago with Impact Wrestling and having creative input. But I think the network didn’t get professional wrestling in some ways. I don’t think they understood what it takes to truly make wrestling successful on their channel. They just saw us doing good ratings on Spike TV and that WWE does huge ratings on USA. “They thought they were going to put us on their station and be made. There were also the little things where they wanted to have all their programming in America. I know there was some issue with some of the U.K. tapings airing on Destination America. To me that sounds kind of crazy. That’s some of our best tapings and some of our most rowdy fans. It makes for some great TV.
“I just think as time went on there was a change in management and there was a change in kind of the functionality and what they wanted to do with the channel,” Hardy continues. “They are rebranding now. It was an unfortunate situation, because I really don’t think they understood what they were getting into in the beginning. From what I know and understand about the Pop TV situation, these people have a better grasp of what it takes to make wrestling successful on their network. I’m real excited for the opportunity. I think they are going to be a great partner for us.”
The veteran grappler is known worldwide, thanks largely to the exposure his years as a WWE superstar. Hardy’s background also includes promoting shows under the umbrella of his own company, Omega, a project cultivated with Jeff and close friends like Shane Helms. Given his experience, he lends some advice for TNA to take positive steps in the future.
“I think TNA needs to take a creative approach to the way we promote our product,” Hardy said. “Considering social media is so powerful and the internet is so powerful right now, people have so much information readily available at their fingertips. We have to realize that. We have to be careful about not insulting our audience. I think that happens a lot now, even with WWE. I think we have to say, ‘The casual fan is going to think this, but the smart fan is going to think this.’ So we have to kind of play off both of those. You have to take both into consideration with what you are going to do.
“I just think we need some new and original ideas in creative. I have a good idea of where I’m going the next couple of months. I feel more creative than I’ve ever been. My goal in 2016 as far as Matt Hardy and my story arc and people who are going to be around me is to be the most creative and different and do unique things that have never been done on pro wrestling television before. That’s the secret now.”
Hardy laments that much of the professional wrestling world feels “recycled.”
“Going to WWE programming you have the Authority, Vince McMahon. The authority figure has been so overdone. Wrestling fans need something new and fresh. To do that, you have to think outside the box, and that’s where I’m thinking. That’s where I propose TNA goes. We think out of the box and do things that have never been done before. We come at it with a smart, logical form of storytelling — but also creative.”
Check out Twitter on Monday nights and you will find those who have not been happy with WWE’s presentation as of late. Hardy feels now is the right time to hook those viewers at TNA.
“They have three hours of programming — and I understand it’s because they get paid very well to have that for RAW — but it’s almost like they have two hours of quantity but stretch it into three,” he said. “I don’t watch every week, but I do DVR it and try to watch to keep up. I want us to be better than the competition. If you’re frustrated and disenchanted with the three-hour RAW format, please check us out on Pop TV. I think we are going to be doing some different, new stuff. We have a great cast of characters and a great group of guys. I think the locker room is the best, not only from a talent aspect, but also from an attitude aspect. I think great stuff is ahead and a lot of new surprises that are really going to raise eyebrows the next few weeks.”
Hardy sounds as though he is going to stick around TNA for a while; however, there has been speculation about the future of the Hardy Boyz and the potential of a WWE return.
“Right now I’m standing atop the TNA mountain and waving the TNA flag proudly,” Hardy said. “My contract does come up in February. Obviously, I’m going to say ‘never say never,’ but my intention right now is to make TNA as great as it can possibly be. I think the wrestling world needs TNA. I think the wrestlers need TNA. I think the fans need TNA. I think they need it to be successful and grow and thrive. And I think that is what I’m here to do. I’ve been put in a position where I can make a difference. That is certainly my short-term goal is to make a difference and to put TNA on the map.
As far as my future goes, I like to keep people guessing! That’s part of the mysteriousness of Matt Hardy, as well!”
Impact Wrestling makes its live debut Tuesday, Jan. 5 at 9/8CT on Pop TV
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