Jeff Hardy is currently on a road to redemption.
Three years ago, the ultra-quirky daredevil professional wrestler (who's legendary for his high-flying and risk-taking exploits inside the ring for both World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action) was mired in a maelstrom of legal and personal issues, including charges of drug possession and allegations of hardcore substance abuse. Hardy's future was none too bright after he left behind a multimillion-dollar gig working for WWE and was possibly looking at spending years in prison.
Thankfully, Hardy settled his legal drama, recovered from his issues, and once again became one of the biggest stars in the wrestling biz. Later this month, he's scheduled to battle Austin Aries for the TNA's world heavyweight title here in the Valley at the promotion's biggest pay-per-view event of the year, Bound For Glory, which takes place on Sunday, October 14, at the Grand Canyon University Arena.
Despite his nickname of "The Charismatic Enigma," Hardy was remarkablly candid during a recent interview with Jackalope Ranch concerning his troubled past, as well as his feelings about the big title match, his artistic endeavors, and whether or not he'll return to WWE next year.
You've overcome a lot of personal demons in the past few years. Does it feel like some people are waiting for the other shoe to drop and for you to relapse? I don't care if they are. There's probably a lot of people that doubt me and are waiting for something to go down again. My heart and mind are stronger than they've ever been and I don't care what people think. I know who and how I am with my family and that's all I need.
Have any of the wrestling angles you've done regarding your addiction issues been like therapy in a sense? Yeah, I think it has. It's pretty much just owning up to what you've done and moving on. Again, its been my past year, since whenever I came back after Victory Road. All that dark stuff when I wasn't able to perform and coming back and proving myself to everybody here that gave me that last chance, I think it's a big part of recovery and just getting better. Especially when you know it was your fault and you know you own up to it and you continue and you move on and don't ever return. And music's helped me out a lot. I've expressed stuff through some of these songs that hopefully will be out before Christmas. In more ways than I've ever done an interview like this and it's really been a release and just a feel good moment for me to express myself and the things that have happened. Yeah, I mean I've owned up to everything I've done wrong and right now I'm so proud of myself.
Do you ever look at someone like Scott Hall or X-Pac, who haven't been as successful at overcoming his demons, and say to yourself, "I don't want to be like that?" I know how I am and what I've done and I wish it was as easy for [him] as it was for me I guess. Matt [Hardy] went through a dark period and I was just getting through my stuff and that was tough on me. I was like, "Oh my god, people are different." I've never suffered physical withdrawals from not doing drugs, but that's what separates me from everybody else, I guess, because I'm not like everybody else. I wish I could explain why some people don't succeed but I don't know. I mean all I know is how and who I am.
Speaking of your brother Matt, what was your take on weird stuff Matt was putting online about ghosts and whatnot? Yeah, I hated it. I hated everything he put up. I was embarrassed for him. But that was just stuff that he was going through. If I'm going to put something on YouTube it's just going to be fun.
Matt recently worked with Ring of Honor. How do you feel about that and how do you feel about your brother's road to recovery? I'm excited for him. He's doing great. He loves professional wrestling. It's just been a year since a lot of that went down and so he's doing extremely well. Yeah, we both went through dark, dark days and I can't wait to see him perform whenever he does the Ring of Honor.
When you started making your comeback and when he posted that recently statement about his recovery, Internet wrestling fans gave you both plenty of shit. How do you deal with haters like that? I don't. It's pure ignorance as far as I'm concerned. I don't need approval as far as what people thought of my match or how I looked or what I did or if I'm going to fail. I'm not an Internet guy at all...I don't even take time to read ignorance. It's amazing the power that people have behind those computer screens and whatever it is that makes them feel the way they feel that they need to say or type whatever they're saying about somebody is such insecurity and that's why I don't deal with any of it.
Will Matt ever make it back to TNA or even WWE? I don't know, it's up to him. Time will tell.
Would you ever consider going back to WWE when your TNA contract expires next year? Man, I really can't answer that. I'm happy where I'm at right now with TNA. But you never say never in this business, so it depends on where I'll be at in a few months.
How does it feel to have survived all your drama in recent years - such as legal issues, leaving WWE, and the fire that destroyed your home - and work you way back into the main event level and compete for the TNA title? It feels great because going through the dark days was...scary. A lot of people think I got fired from WWE. I didn't. I left there a top guy in a great position and had such a good run over that course of three years. But, yeah, things like the fire, the suspensions, the arrests, the charges...all of that is very mentally draining. It's been over a year now since I've been back and had my "one more shot." Around this time last year was when all that was going on and everything's just been real solid and real good. And now it's all about one more match. Basically I'm forgetting all that stuff, the demons and the dark days and I'm focusing on my biggest payoff. And redemption is to become world champion again.
Your final match for WWE was here in Phoenix in August 2009 against C.M. Punk for the their World Heavyweight Title. Three years later you're competing for TNA's World Championship in our city. Do you think that's sorta synchronous? It is, isn't it? I think I thought about that one or two times, but that's pretty cool when you think about it when you look back and everything that's happened in between. And if I can be successful in Phoenix, it is weird how things work, the way this world blows. Who knows? To think about what happened three years ago and I had to leave WWE because of a Punk and now to be able to win the world championship against a breakthrough talent in our business in Austin Aries would be great.
Are you looking forward to working with an athletic high-flyer like Austin Aries? And are you guys planning on stealing the show? Yeah, for sure, because I've been watching him for about the last year, even when he was the X-Division champion. From the elbow [drop] that he does and all the innovative things he does. Like wow,this guy's standing out big time. He's out there doing some stuff I've never seen before and I've never thought of and that inspires me. Oh my god, you put our minds together and yet who knows what's going to happen.
Without giving anything away, if you win the TNA title at Bound For Glory, would it be more important than either of your previous world title runs? Yeah, I think so. It was great when I was champion for the first time. That's like the ultimate goal in anybody's dream. That's the thing you always dream about. Just seeing how good the talent is here at TNA and especially to have such freedom to be different and do different things here. I'm really excited about what it's going to be like if I'm able to win at Bound for Glory.You're know for your quirky artistic creations, including that giant volcano in your backyard, doing your own face paint, and being in a band. What sort of art are you doing these days?
Mainly right now I would say I paint a lot. And then I brought that into wrestling world big time with my face paint now, because I paint up at every live event we do and it's always something different.I pretty much challenge myself every day to do something cooler than I did the last time. It's really exciting. But at home, yeah, I just paint probably more than anything.
You've also been busy with your band, correct? About a month ago, leading up to that month, there was two or three months that I was writing for my band Peroxwhy?gen all the time. I was just inspired some of these new songs that my guitar player came up with and one of my dad's friends that plays in his band and I wrote nine songs in two months, really cool songs. Music and painting are what I'm focused on probably more than anything.
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What do you paint? It's all abstract. It's faces more than anything. I do some plant life from time to time. I start with spray paint and then I go back in with acrylics and markers for all the definition.
How do you come up with some of the quirky and unusual stuff you create? It's just something I've always done. I kind of need like I need air to breathe, it's just like I have to do it. There's big wood cutouts that I've done at home for example, my Jack Russell that died when we lost our modular home, he was caught in the fire, there's a huge monument coming down the right side of my driveway to him. Every time I pull into my driveway, I remember him. It's just something I need to do all the time, especially now being a father. My little daughter is almost two years old. It took my inspiration to the next level..
Total Nonstop Action's Bound For Glory takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 14, at Grand Canyon University Area. Tickets start at $10.