Matt Hardy Talks About The Attitude Era, The State Of The Industry & More

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 feeling.

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 videos.

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 by clicking here.

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