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RAW Magazine – January 2003

NEW AND IMPROVED

Matt Hardy’s Version 1 is just the Beginning

Matt Hardy made his name as one of the Hardy Boyz. Now, he’s breaking out on his own and proving that he’s just as good a singles competitor as he was a tag-team specialist. When paired with his brother Jeff, he rarely spoke, relying on his ring skills to carry him to the top of that division. Many people wondered whether he could make it alone. Now, we’re seeing another side of Matt, a more complete performer who is excelling in all facets of the business. He’s given us Matt Hardy Version 1, Mattitude, and has redefined what it means to be extreme. According to Matt, it’s just the beginning…

RAW Magazine: When did you find out that you and Jeff were breaking up and you were going to Smackdown! to work as a singles competitor?

Matt Hardy: I knew it was inevitable. It had been discussed for five or six weeks before it actually happened. I think WWE was ready for us to do our own thing. We had done just about everything we could as a tag team. As it turned out, I found out that I’d be going to Smackdown! the night before I turned on Jeff on RAW.

RAW: What was going through you mind when you found out?

Matt: I was ready to go. When I found out, we had just started a little angle with Undertaker, Jeff was supposed to battle ‘Taker, and when that was done, he was going to take some time off to rejuvenate himself and spend some time recording his music. Unfortunately, at about the same time, Stone Cold left the company, so WWE needed all the star power it had on RAW. So they asked Jeff to stay on the show and not take any time off.

Well, Undertaker and Jeff ended up having their great ladder match, and he endorsed Jeff by showing him respect. So Jeff was established as a singles star. He was then featured for several weeks on RAW, and I was just sort of left out of the picture. I think they thought that having us both on RAW in a similar capacity was confusing.

I had been promised that I would go to Smackdown! and would be given a good opportunity; so while it was aggravating being left out for a while, I knew my opportunity would come. When I finally found out that I would be going to Smackdown!, I was very excited.

RAW: You had been traveling and wrestling with Jeff since 1993. You had also been traveling with Lita for a couple of years. How did you adjust to traveling alone?

Matt: There was actually a point when Jeff, Amy{Lita}, and the Hurricane–who’s a good friend of ours–and I traveled together. It was a blast. It was like the gang was back together again. Then the brand extension took place, and we lost The Hurricane to Smackdown! Then Amy got hurt. When Jeff was going through that period when he was pretty burned out and was only working TV tapings, I was still doing three house shows a week, so I was traveling by myself already.

RAW: Did you enjoy having time to yourself?

Matt: It was different at first. But it doesn’t take me long to adapt to new situations. After a couple of weeks, I got used to it. Then after I went to Smackdown!, I was traveling with The Hurricane again, as well as Shannon Moore. Then I lost The Hurricane again because he went back to RAW. So, now I travel with Shannon.

RAW: Has your relationship with Jeff changed since you went your separate ways?

Matt: In some ways I think I may have irritated Jeff a bit in the past because I am so focused on this business, while he has so many interests. He likes sports entertainment, but he also likes writing poetry and making music. He likes building aluminummies and sculpting the landscape [of his property] with his Bobcat. If he doesn’t do all these things, then he doesn’t feel that his life is complete.

I, on the other hand, am content spending nearly all my time on the business. So I think that maybe he was a bit irritated that I could be happy spending 275 days a year traveling and wrestling, while he felt a bit incomplete. I felt our relationship was kind of strained for a while.

Now we’re on separate shows and only home two days a week together. But we hang out all the time and get along great. We call each other after each show to see how it went.

RAW: How have you avoided burnout?

Matt: I’ve never been burned out because I love this business. It’s just a huge part of my life. Ever since I’ve been a teenager it’s been what I’ve done. I really don’t knwo what I would do without it. Fans often apologize for wanting to talk about the WWE with me, but I tell them that it’s no problem at all. I enjoy talking about it. In my five years here, I ‘ve asked for zero vacation days. The only think that gets really tough is the travel and the lack of sleep.

RAW: Where did Mattitude come from?

Matt: Everything I’ve done has been my idea. When I found out that I was going to get an opportunity to be on my own, I started writing down ideas. I still have about 10 other things that I want to incorporate into my character, but I think we need some time to get them all in, as people are still soaking in Mattitude Version 1.

In this company, you do get a lot of help, though. Adam Pennucci who works as a producer in television, came up it really helps me. And it fits perfectly with Matt Hardy Version 1. There are a lot of talented people behind the scenes who make WWE what it is. Adam did a tremendous job, and I can’t thank him enough.

RAW: What triggered the idea for Version 1?

Matt: The Version 1 idea came up a while ago. Edge, Christian, Jeff and I had our first ladder match in 1999, I had an idea for the four of us to be a DX-like group and call ourselves Version 1. We were to be the Version 1 of what WWE Superstars should be in the future. Obviously that idea never went anywhere, but I always kept it in the back of my mind. Then when I knew I was going solo, I thought it would work well, taht Version 1 was the first real look at Matt Hardy himself.

RAW: How was the idea received?

Matt: The first few times I mentioned it there were a few people that liked it, and a few people that were skeptical. I just asked for an opportunity and, lo and behold, it’s working.

RAW: When you and Jeff were together, you guys were heartthrobs and huge fan favorites. Now that you’re a heel, has the reaction of fans changed away from the ring?

Matt: Away from the ring, it hasn’t changed. One of the thinkgs that I attribute that to is that fans are so smart. I don’t think we give out fans enough credit when it comes to what they know. Pretty much anything they want to know, they have access to. They are so far behind the curtain, especially since we put out the Leap of Faith home video, eXtreme magazine, and all the other magazines, articles, and behind-the-scenes features on us.

Nobody really believes that Matt Hardy is a self-absorbed jerk or a bad guy. That might be a character I’m portraying, but the real Matt Hardy is a good guy. Sometimes, it’s hard to really convience people of my character when I’m in an arena. People know it’s their job to boo, but there are some die-hard Hardy Boyz fans who won’t boo. They still scream and yell for me because they know who I really am.

In a way, that’s really cool, because I think the business is going to change to where there won’t be heels and baby-faces but just strong characters. Whichever character is more popular in a match, that’s who the fans will root for.

There’s really only one person who sustains a solid heel persona, and that’s Chris Nowinski. I think the reason is the way he was portrayed on Tough Enough. People think that he’s really a jerk. And yet there are some great heels like Eddie Guerrero who get cheered at times. Sometimes he performs so well in the ring that fans will chant for him despite his having a heel persona.

People are too smart and they have respect for you as a performer. So, even if you’re a heel, if you do a great job, you will get cheered…

RAW: Does that make it harder for you? If you aren’t a built-in face or heel, it seems that you have to be that much better to get a reaction, that you can’t simply rely on stereotype?

Matt: I think it makes it a little tougher, but I think that in general it’s a tougher time in the business because people know so much about what goes on.

RAW: Do you think the fans will still be as into the product if the good guy/bad guy dichotomy is gone?

Matt: I think as long as you have a good character and both of the Superstars are popular, then they’ll still be into it.

We’ve been saying it’s entertainment for so long. We take fans behind the curtain, so we can’t then insult their intelligence and tell them that the same person is different.

RAW: Do you get as big a thrill hearing the boos as you did hearing the cheers?

Matt: The only thing is that when I come out from the back and stand on the stage, I want people to react. As long as they are reacting–whether booing or cheering–then I know they are having a good time, and I’m happy. If they’re giving me the V-1 sign or pointing at me and saying “You suck,” I feel great. I’ll worry when I come out and people don’t do anything.

RAW: How easy or difficult has it been for you transitioning from a tag-team specialist who rarely spoke to a singles performer who speaks often?

Matt: It wasn’t hard. It’s something that I think I could have always done if given the chance. But there is a certain style and format that we need to speak in. What it really takes is the opportunity to go out and practice your craft, mess up, improve, and keep going. After a few weeks, I caught on, especially with this special character that I created and felt very comfortable with. Now it’s great.

Every time I go to a Smackdown! taping, I hope I have an interview or an opportunity to speak in the ring or in a vignette. It’s a strong quality of mine now. Also, being a heel has opened a lot of doors for me because you don’t have to worry about looking stupid or looking dumb, arrogant or mean. You can go anywhere.

RAW: Were you ever worried about being pigeonholed as a tag-team wrestler or just one of the Hardy Boyz?

Matt: I was never worried about being pigeonholed as one of the Hardy Boyz or one-half of the tag team because I had the confidence to know that if I got the opportunity to go on my own, I would succeed. I’m really tunneled-visioned when it comes to WWE and sports entertainment. But I was worried that I might not get the opportunity to strike out on my own, that I might not get the mic time, the interview time. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to break out.

RAW: Are you satisfied with the way things are going?

Matt: Yes I am, but my motto is Matt Hardy is only scratching the surface. My old football coach always said that you don’t stay the same. If you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse. So I try to continually keep working hard to improve. But if I had to retire today, I’d be happy with everything I’ve done.

Everything that Jeff and I did with the Hardy Boyz was like a dream come true. It was always a dream of mine to have a T-shirt out. We did that. It was always a dream of mine to have an action figure out, and we did that as well. We had video, magazine, and DVD, and those were dreams of mine as well. Now my goal as a singles competitor is to repeat the whole process. I’ve got to step one with a T-shirt, and hopefully I’ll make it the rest of the way. My ultimate goal, of course, is to become WWE Champion. To some people it might seem impossible, but I was told that making it to the WWE was impossible. So I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen.

RAW: You and Jeff have a book coming out this March–The Hardy Boyz: Exist 2 Inspire–A Biography in Motion. Is there any special theme to it?

Matt: The book starts with Jeff and I growing up and what led to us getting interested in sports-entertainment. We were pretty wild and crazy kids and there are a lot of really great stories. To me, the most interesting parts are the times before we got to the WWE, seeing all the trials and tribulations, working in the indies, and doing all the crazy stuff we did.

I think it’s really different because we have a very different story than any of the other guys who have written books in the last few years. It’s a complete look at our lives from when we were kids all the way through when Jeff battled Undertaker and the era of Mattitude began.

RAW: Did you have any reservations about writing the book considering how young you guys are?

Matt: Not really. I thought about that, but in life, you never know when or if you’ll get this opportunity again, so you don’t want to turn it down. We’ve done a lot of stuff in our lifetimes, probably enough for two books. There’s plenty in there, a lot of good stories that even our most die-hard fans have probably never heard. There’s one about how I was actually paid to go to a prom with someone back in high school, stories about fights we got into, and a whole lot more.

I try to be the most fan-friendly sports entertainment Superstar that I can be. The fans make us and the WWE. I’d just like to thank all the people who have supported me over the years. Whether it be by buying merchandise, providing feedback, or yelling at me in the arena. I really appreciate it.

RAW: Any idea when Version 2 is coming out?

Matt: I don’t know. I think Version 1 still has a lot of legs left. But you never know. Version 2 of Matt Hardy may not even be Matt Hardy. It might be something different…..

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