Yesterday I had the chance to talk to Jeff Hardy, former World Champion wrestler. While Hardy is mostly known for his daredevil antics every Thursday night on TNA’s Impact Wrestling on SpikeTV, Hardy is also an artist and musician. In this Q&A Hardy discusses his Pearl Jam/Stone Temple Pilots fandom, writing his own music, his reactions to reports of TNA being cancelled by SpikeTV, reuniting the Hardy Boyz, his Willow character, working with Sting, his feud with CM Punk, and how he reacted to Vince Russo’s decision to turn him heel in 2010. You can catch the Hardy Boyz vs. the Wolves tonight on SpikeTV at 9PM on TNA’s Destination X show.
First off I wanted to talk to you a bit about music. I remember seeing a shoot DVD you did 10 years ago, and you actually quoted a lyric from STP’s “Still Remains” and you mentioned that Eddie Vedder was a big influence of yours. Can you discuss a bit growing up in the 90’s, and how the bands from that era influenced you?
Oh, they were a huge inspiration. My brother actually introduced me to Pearl Jam, and before that I was going through my Vanilla Ice stage, Public Enemy, N.W.A., I was a huge fan of rap. But man, when I heard Ten, I fell in love with the vibe of alternative rock. Then Stone Temple Pilots followed that, and oh my gosh, then Nine Inch Nails, and I just became obsessed with that form and style of music.
It’s influenced me in and out of the ring. My painting, my motor cross riding, that’s what’s always helped me to remain inspired. But the lyrics from “Still Remains” inspired me to start writing poetry, which now has ultimately become songs. I know I’ll never be as good as I want to be as a singer, but man if I could ever come close, like even 50% [as good] as Eddie Vedder or Scott Weiland, I would be pleased.
What are some of your favorite songs or albums from that era, and have you ever seen any of those guys live or met any of them, like Billy Corgan?
Yeah, I’ve met Billy several times, he’s a wrestling fan. I saw STP once, I saw Pearl Jam about 6 or 7 times, I saw Manson once, I saw Tool and Korn at Lollapalooza , that was crazy amazing. Every time I’ve seen Pearl Jam, they get better with age it seems. I saw them in Charlotte last October, it was a packed house, and they were better than ever.
You mentioned writing your own music, you released your own music last year, and you’ve been writing your own theme music off and on in TNA for 10 years going back to “Modest.” What are your memories of writing that song, “Another Me,” and “Resurrected.” Also what are the difference between working with Dale Oliver and Peroxwhy?gen?
Working with Dale has been great, we go to Nashville and record when we can fit it in. We’re 6 tracks into the new album. I was close to giving up, because even with the songs on the first album Plurality of Worlds, I’m just in this space where I’m just talking, and I’m like oh my god. Now, I listen to [my new] songs back, and I sing the songs so much better, because I’m getting out of that safe zone.
Everybody will hear [it] when these songs are released. It’s a huge step in the right direction for me when it comes to being unafraid vocally, and just going for it, and trying to find my true voice, with that passion. Plurality of Worlds needed a lot more passion in my voice, and this second album is going to bring that passion. But working with Dale, he pushes me to try to not be afraid to go here and there vocally with different notes, and harmonies, it’s just been amazing for him because he’s such a professional.
Is it the melody that comes first, or the music? For your theme songs does it have to do with inspiration from a character change?
Back in the days of “Modest” I had a Triton keyboard and I would make a beat. “Modest” and “Another Me” are the only two where I would make a little beat and then write the song. Then “Resurrected” was just Dale sending me an instrumental. We had [talked about what was going on at the time], it was after [TNA] gave me a second chance after the letdown at Victory Road 2011. It was like, oh we should write this song called “Resurrected.” I was like, you know what, that’s a great idea.
So that was telling the story of me getting that second chance, and not screwing up, and making everything count. But then after that we wanted to change it every year, and it was completely my idea. It doesn’t make sense to most people, but I was like, if I’m going to be here for 6 years, how cool would it be to have a new song every year at Bound For Glory? So far, we’ve done that, and hopefully we’ll do that for 2 more.
Moving onto wrestling, the first thing I’ve got to ask, is what’s your reaction to the reports that SpikeTV won’t be renewing their contract with TNA, and all of the crazy stories flying around?
I don’t know, I’m not a social network guy, I don’t even read timelines or tweets. But I’m sure negotiations are – I still have hope. It’s not really my problem, but I hope we remain on Spike, I hope they can work something out. Gosh, I hope 1 or 2 years from now we’re still coming on every Thursday night on Spike. I don’t know, I go to the shows, I do the best I can in the ring. That’s my commitment to the company, is to do what I can do to make the show good. It’s their job to use me in the right fashion. As far as re-signing with Spike, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope we remain.
You’ve gone through a lot of character changes in the last year. How did bringing your Willow character to TNA come about, and when and why did you go back to being Jeff Hardy recently?
Years ago, I think my 2nd year in TNA on this 2nd run, my buddy Shannon Moore and his wife, she’s a phenomenal seamstress, and she made me a Willow mask. We’d thrown the idea around, but my hair was short, so I was like: ‘I need to grow my hair back if I want this to really look right.’ She made the mask, and then some time passed, and then maybe a year and a half or so later, my hair got longer. Jeff Jarrett and I started talking about the possibility of bringing Willow to TNA. I was like, ‘Yeah!’ I was kind of intimidated, but it’s one of those things that when I look back on my career, I’ll be glad I that I did it.
It’s something I would have loved to do years ago, but the timing was never right. WWE never would have went for it. They would never want ‘Jeff Hardy staying covered, because [he’s] this money maker.’ But that’s what’s so cool about TNA being open-minded, they take a few risks, especially with me, and letting me do that. Because instead of that aggressive heel bad guy character that Willow was back in the OMEGA days, I think now that we’ve experimented with it, it can be a more kid friendly type of deal. Because my daughter Ruby just loves Willow, Kurt Angle’s son Kody loves Willow too. When Jeff Hardy came back, I was just starting to see masks in the crowd, it was just getting rolling good.
But then the reason for Jeff Hardy’s return, is obviously because Matt Hardy came back, and naturally we wanted to do some Hardy Boyz tag matches. That’s the big match this week on Destination X, Thursday night at 9PM on SpikeTV, it’s going to be the Wolves and the Hardy Boyz for the World Tag Team Titles. But that’s basically why Willow is not around right now, because the Hardy Boyz have reunited.
When it came to Willow’s character development and promos, was a lot of that just you? Because there was a lot of wild, David Lynch type stuff going on there.
Yeah, they sent a guy out here. I was off in January and February, and I didn’t think they were going to follow through with it, but I got a call around the end of January and they said that wanted to send a guy out to film some vignettes for Willow’s character development. They pretty much left it up to me when it came to how it was going to look, and how I was going to act and talk. Man, that was an exciting time for me, because I’ve never really gotten to do cool vignettes leading up to a big debut. That was awesome for me, sitting there at home and watching the anticipation build for Willow. In my opinion, they were so bizarre and cool.
With all the tattoos I have now, there’s no way it can be the way it was back in the OMEGA days, because it’s obvious it’s Jeff Hardy. But still, leading up to Willow’s debut, I think it went really well, and it was only getting better, especially with the kids beginning to like it. I think now in the future, looking forward, it’s going to be even cooler, the idea I have to interact Willow with Jeff Hardy.
You mentioned Matt being back in TNA, your facing the Wolves on Impact, and Team 3D on an upcoming episode. What’s it like tagging with Matt again after awhile being at such a good place in your life now? Also what was it like being back in the ring with Team 3D after so many years, and do you think you will continue tagging in TNA, maybe some other matches, like getting Beer Money back together?
Oh, that that would be amazing if that happened. But as Matt goes, I don’t know if he’s going to sign a long term deal, I don’t know what he wants to do. But I think the coolest thing for me, I did a few independent shots with Matt back in June, we had two tag matches and they were just great. The guys we worked were just awesome, and we just felt like we were just as good as we were back in the day. Now bringing that back to TV, after Matt and myself, we went through our dark period, and to come out of that and the other side still rocking it, it feels really good to say that we can still go out there and be the Hardy Boyz, and for the fans to still vibe on our style.
The Hardys reunited on Impact Wrestling, photo taken by Marcin Gubernat
During your TNA runs you’ve worked with a lot of different people in creative, including Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, Dusty Rhodes, Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff, Bruce Prichard, and currently John Gaburick. What are your memories of working with some of those guys, and what have you learned from them and how have they helped with your character?
The biggest change for me, and challenge for me, was when we did the Anti-Christ, the Jeff Hardy heel turn. I mean it was one of those things: ‘Oh this is insane, of course they’ll never expect it, but why not let’s go for it?’ I know it’s fun to be the heel, it’s fun to be the bad guy, but it was going to be near impossible to pull off. We all know how that kind of ended: bad. The overall vibe, you can be a heel and do funny things, but it’s just not for me. My life story in professional wrestling, to be a heel it just doesn’t work. Even with a mask, when the fans know it’s me, I’m just a babyface at heart.
That was the biggest change, and Vince Russo I think was in charge back then. But I went for it, it’s always fun, it’s pro wrestling, why not? I knew I was going to be able to do a few cool and fun things, that I would enjoy watching, and that I would get to experiment with a different vibe, especially with promos. It’s always much more fun to get to cut promos as a heel, but it ran its course, and I would say that’s the biggest challenge.
I thought that heel run featured some of the best promos of your career. You mentioned it was Russo’s idea at the time, what was your initial reaction to turning heel for the first time in your career, do you think there’s more that could have been done with the character?
It was scary, but still exciting. It’s a blast to be a heel. I knew it was going to get a stunning reaction when it happened, like: ‘Oh my god I can’t believe they did that!’ But my mentality was, ‘They kind of like it, but are they going to believe it for a long period of time? Am I good enough to pull that off?’ Really as a wrestler, I’m not that good as a heel. I can do some funny things and cut a few decent promos. I was scared, but excited at the same time.
That run ended obviously with the Victory Road thing with Sting, and you had a match with Sting on Impact too and wrestled him a few times. What was your relationship like with Sting over the years, when he was in TNA?
It was great, I was still always a bit starstruck every time I would say hello to him at TV’s, because he’s the man. He’s a huge influence for me, back in the day it was him in the NWA, and The Ultimate Warrior in the WWF, that was the combined Jeff Hardy. It really shows now, I’m 36 years old, I think that influence shows pretty clearly through who I am now. But yeah it was great, I can’t wait to see him pop up here in the future.
Another random question about a legend, you did a 6 man tag team match with the Macho Man in TNA in 2004, do you remember talking to Randy at all when he was in TNA?
I remember saying hello it’s a pleasure to meet you, that type of deal. I think it was myself and AJ Styles, and he was our tag partner. We did a 6 man tag, again it’s something that I can say I did, and I’m so glad I got to do that before he passed. He was one of my favorites too back in the day, it’s always cool to be able to look back at your career, and say man I’m glad I was fortunate enough for that to happen to me.
A guy you did a lot with in the past was CM Punk, who recently reportedly retired. There have been different things said between you guys during the years, but it’s been 5 years now, how do you look back at that now as being a key feud in your career?
It was one of the biggest, pretty close to the best. We had a good chemistry, completely different people, but at the time it was perfect. He is so good, he is so good. That’s another collection as far as feuds go, that I am going to look back at and go, wow I am glad I got to work with that guy and create some immortal artwork that is going to go down in the history books. It’s all good now, I went through my times as far as the way I felt about him, but he’s a good guy, and a good wrestler, he’s done great.
When it comes to your future, you still go out there and give it your all every night. Your match with Lashley on Impact a couple weeks ago was great. Some fans get on you for some reason and think: ‘Why does he still go out there and give it his all?’ To me, I think it’s cool that you do. But how much longer do you think you’ll keep going and wrestling, especially with the way you go every show?
I really don’t know, that’s one of the coolest things about being with TNA. I’ve pretty much got a dream job man, I have a 3 year old daughter, a wife, and a beautiful family. I’m able to spend so much time with them, and plus, when I go to work like New York, I go 3 or 4 nights in a row, and I go hard. Then I come home, and I have a couple weeks to heal up before I have to do it again. So it’s been perfect for me, especially for my style. Basically the way I look at it, 3 years from now if I feel the way I feel now, I’m still going to be doing the things I do now, as far as [seeing] a vision I want to conquer, and pulling it off. Ultimately with my style, if I feel like wrestling 5 years from now wrestling the way I did against Bobby Lashley the way I did, I’m going to do it. But I can’t say, my career might end next week when we’re filming, I’m not sure.
In a perfect world, who would you like to wrestle before you retire? May it be from WWE, TNA, ROH, or wherever?
I think deep down, it would have to be Jushin Thunder Liger. When I first started watching Japanese wrestling way back in the day, he just stood out to me. A lot of the inspiration for Willow back then, was from [him], as far as the mask, superhero, or villain. Oh my gosh, to know he’s still flying over here and working every now and then, makes me want to say: ‘Hey, I want to be part of that dream match.’ So more than anything, I’d say it’s Jeff Hardy vs. Jushin Thunder Liger.
Maybe at Bound For Glory in Japan, he actually wrestled Samoa Joe years back at one of the Bound For Glory shows.
Oh god, that would work out (laughs).