Matt Hardy talks wrestling business, his start, the plight of tag teams, and Zack Ryder

Raj Giri of recently interviewed former WWE and TNA
star Matt Hardy. During the interview, Hardy discussed first signing
with WWE, the current state of tag team wrestling, changes in the
business from the Attitude Era, if talent is punished for getting
themselves over and more. Here are some highlights:
First signing with WWE: It was exciting. We actually
went the very first time with 'The Italian Stallion' Gary Sabaugh and
we did shows for him all across North Carolina, South Carolina,
Virginia, Tennessee. We'd work Thursday, Friday, Saturday and
sometimes for free. But, as long as we would work all his shows, he
would take us to WWE every few months when he got the opportunity to.
So, we were really excited. The first time walking in the dressing
room and just seeing the guys you've grown up watching on TV. They're
real human beings and they're interacting. Actually, getting to see
that every superstar was actually a human being was a pretty amazing
It was in March of 1998 when we signed up, and it was exciting. It was
obviously something that had been a life-long dream for both of us.
So, it felt like we had really attained something that we had worked
for and busted our asses to get. So, when we signed that, we knew the
work was just starting in so many ways, but to have that realization
of achieving a life-long dream was really special.
Being a part of the last great era of tag teams, and the state
of tag team wrestling:
I do agree, that was the last time
that tag team wrestling was really great during that era. I think you
had an era in the late '80's when you had the Hart Foundation, The
Bulldogs and all those other great teams then. I think the biggest
thing that affects tag team wrestling in this scenario -- because I
get asked this question a lot and this is usually the answer that I go
with -- in the late 80's, they had the Hulkamania era and the Rock &
Wrestling connection. Hulk Hogan was white hot and they had their top
guy. Hogan was selling out arenas everywhere and they could focus on
other aspects and other areas of the company.
Same thing in that period when they had The Rock and 'Stone Cold' and
they were white hot, selling out buildings everywhere. They could
focus on other things besides their main acts. Right now, they're in a
period where they're still looking for something. John Cena is the
face of the company, but John Cena isn't setting record numbers on TV.
Time and television has changed a lot as well.
John Cena's not setting record numbers on TV, he's not selling out
every house show, this, that and the other thing. They're going to be
worried about finding the best guy that's going to be selling out
every event, that's going to make pay-per-views sell more than ever
before, that is appropriate for whatever the time is before they're
really able to focus on tag team wrestling.
Over the last few weeks, they've tried to have a little bit more focus
on tag team wrestling but they will never get the full devotion and
focus of creative, Vince and likely Hunter until their completely
comfortable with the top guy situation.
Changes in wrestling from the Attitude Era: I have to
admit, I appreciated when there was a lot more creative freedom. The
guys had the chance to either go out and succeed on their own or fail
on their own. I think that's a good thing in a lot of ways. It's kind
of like, the times are a-changing. [Laughs.] The business changes with
it, it's just where they're at right now. They're a publicly traded
company, it's a huge corporation and they have people that are in
control of almost every aspect, with the exception of a few guys they
might trust to go out and do what they do. It's just kind of the state
of the game.
Do I think it's better when guys go out and succeed or fail on their
own? Yeah. I think that's how you get your next break out star in some
ways. Because if "Stone Cold" Steve Austin hadn't started in that era
in '96-'97 and got the chance to be "Stone Cold" -- as opposed to ten
years later in 2007-2008, where they say, 'OK. You're going to be The
Ringmaster and this is what you're going to say. This is what you're
going to do and this is what you're going to wear.' I mean, you'd
never have that amazing character of "Stone Cold" evolve into what he
was. Let's face it, that's the thing that really set the business on
fire more than anything else. He's sold more merchandise than any
other superstar in history and he's the most popular guy ever.
So, sometimes, I feel like guys get sent down to developmental
territories, to FCW, and they kind of strip down what's special or
creative about them which allowed them to get hired in the first
place. They kind of put them as a cog in the WWE creative machine. Is
that a good decision? I don't know. I guess if someone pops out that
they created and becomes a bigger star than 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin,
maybe so. But, I have a feeling that you strip away a lot of the
originality from the guys that may have needed that original spark to
become the next big thing.
If wrestlers are punished for getting themselves over as a way
for management to prove the fans wrong:
You know what? I wish
I could disagree with you and say you are off base, but I think you're
right on the money, man. A lot of times, if a guy goes off on his own
and really gets over, really establishes himself with something that
was his idea, sometimes they don't accept it as their own idea. That's
just the way things are.
Zack Ryder is a perfect idea. I actually just did an interview
recently with Maryland Championship Wrestling in Baltimore and they
actually brought up the name Zack Ryder to me and I said he was one
that really took it upon himself. He went from being one of the
Edgeheads to creating his own identity. He started doing the Youtube
He did it. He started using real smart, insider terminology and he got
himself over. Right now, he is one of the most over guys on the
roster, no doubts about it. But if you watch him, and he was off Raw
for 5 or 6 weeks, but the way the fans love him and respond to him
doesn't equate to the way he's being used on television.
You can check out the full interview where Hardy discussed wanting to
leave WWE in 2010, if he signed with TNA too soon, wrestlers leaving
at the peak of their careers, where he stands with Edge and Lita and
much more at

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