Derek Burgan reviews Matt Hardy Shoot Interview
The Big Picture: Conducted by RF Video, this two disc DVD set runs about four hours and covers Hardy's entire career with the second disc going in-depth on the entire Matt-Lita-Edge meltdown.
On to the DVD!
The shoot started off with Matt talking about growing up in North Carolina
and being a fan of the NWA, especially Ric Flair, while also enjoying WWE. It was, of all shows, WrestleMania IV (and its WWE one night title tournament, Beefcake vs. Honky, Warrior vs. Hercules, & Donald
Trump's hair) that got Matt and his brother Jeff completely hooked on wrestling. They never missed a single show from either NWA or WWE from that point on and started to make a habit of going to house shows.
In a story I could relate to, Matt talked about having to sneak around the house so he could stay up late and watch Wrestling
Challenge. God, I remember the days before I even knew what TV Guide was and I would scour the channels looking for whatever
syndicated WWE show would be on at midnight on Saturday night while keeping one ear on constant vigil, lest my parents hear
the TV on and force me to go back to bed. Years later a much more sad event would take place when I would seriously watch
scrambled broadcasts of WWE pay per view events because there was no way in hell my family would ever buy one. Trust me, you
haven’t lived until you stare at a TV screen for hours, like some sort of moving Magic Eye painting, just waiting for
that one brief second when the picture is only 85% scrambled.
Both Matt and Jeff became so into wrestling, they built there own ring
and started to hold shows for their friends every other week. They even trained themselves going by what they saw on TV. Matt
filmed the backyard shows and eventually a tape got into the hands of a local carny, who asked Matt and Jeff if they
would like to wrestle for his shows at the local fairs. All of this led to the brothers meeting the Italian Stallion and training
under Stallion for a short while. You may remember Stallion as a longtime jobber from WCW who Jim Ross would constantly note
was a "spaghetti eating champion." Hardy learned why American wrestlers always work the left side and other "inside" wrestling
tips most people won't pick up by just watching TV. The Hardys left Stallion, feeling that he was charging too much while
providing too little, and went back to doing their own shows while Matt went to college and Jeff got a full time landscaping.
By this time the brothers were cutting deals with local armories and finding sponsors to fund their shows, which seems to
be more effort than 90% of full time indie promoters put in today. There were a lot of great stories on what it took to put
together these small shows, including Hardy saying at first it would take Jeff and him eight hours just to set up their ring.
The Italian Stallion called back about six months later when he was looking for guys who could do jobs for WWE. This was back during the time when WWE would tape gigantic blocks of TV at one time and most of it being squash matches. Of the $150 Matt and Jeff got each night for their work, $100 had to go to Stallion for a "booking fee." Welcome to wrestling boys. On Jeff's first night he was put against Scott Hall because another Stallion worker refused to take the Razor's Edge. Hall was livid about the change in plans and took it out on Jeff in the ring. Jeff didn't complain, even though he was ready to quit wrestling, and the next night had Matt working against Hall. Matt gave Hall a little receipt by chopping the hell out of him, to the point where after the match both Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels good naturedly gave Hall crap about. From that point on Hall and the rest of the Kliq were cool to Matt and Jeff. The Hardy brothers also began to get a lot of heat with Stallion's regular workers because they were generating so much buzz in WWE, to the point where Stallion didn't tell Matt and Jeff about an upcoming show. The Hardys drove themselves to the show and met agent Jay Strongbow, telling Strongbow to start dealing directly through them for bookings. A couple months later the boys were doing a ton of dark matches and the matches themselves were more competitive as the Fed saw the raw talent the two had.
Signing with WWE: Matt said it was "awesome" getting his first WWE contract and talked about being sent to train at the Funkin' Dojo. This was a training class led by Dory Funk and Dr. Tom Pritchard which contained many guys the Fed was really interested in, including: Kurt Angle, Edge, Christian, A-Train and TEDDY HART! Hardy talked about getting their first TV win over Kaientai while having a smug grin walking to the ring as the crowd heckled them for being jobbers. Matt felt incredible after the match, but the Hardys went on to be jobbed out for about 50 straight matches. Around this point the Hardys did an indie show promoted by Greg Price (they guy who does those great Mid Atlantic fan conventions) where they fought a team consisting of, get this, Sabu and Rob Van Dam. Now that is a match I have to see.
One of the things that was interesting about the shoot is Matt's Rain Man-like ability to remember just about every show and angle that he and Jeff were ever a part of. There are times I can barely remember what happened on Monday Night Raw last week, let alone six years ago. Matt felt they finally "made it" when they won the WWE tag team titles for the first time against the Acolytes (6/29/99.) This was back when the tag belts actually meant something, which seems like several lifetimes ago. Hardy talked about being put with Michael Hayes and how crazy Hayes would get while drunk. In something I found hilarious, Hardy then told a story of how Hayes was desperately trying to stay with the Hardy Boyz even after the WWE creative team had decided to go a different direction. Matt and Jeff were then put with Gangrel as part of the New Brood. Matt loved that cool entrance they had (where the three would come up from under the stage surrounded by fire) but Gangrel's lack of self confidence led to WWE letting him go. The Hardys were still working against Edge and Christian on every house show though, with the agents always calling it the best match of the night.
The Hardys finally convinced "the office" to let them do a ladder match against Edge and Christian to close out the Terri Invitational Tournament. Edge and Christian were actually scheduled to win the fifth and deciding match, but on the day of the show Vince McMahon changed his mind. Well, some things never change. Edge was not happy with this turn of events, but this was the match that turned the Hardy Boyz from "WWE wrestlers" to "WWE Superstars." When the Dudley Boys came in from ECW, Matt suggested to Michael Hayes (who was at this point on the creative team) to have table matches with the Hardyz versus the Dudleys. As we all know now, the matches went over huge with the WWE fans because they were not used to seeing anything like it, but – like just about everything – WWE began to book too many of the crazy matches. Hardy said he knew the matches were burning out the wrestlers and the fans, making them meaningless, but went along like a good soldier and did what he was told to do. Another thing Hardy agreed to were the horrible promos that were scripted for him and Jeff by WWE "creative." Matt felt he had to deliver lines that he would never say in real life and that it hurt the Hardys developing as characters.
The Bradshaw Incident: Early in their tenure, Matt said that he and Jeff had to go through the initiation process in the locker room. Bradshaw couldn't believe that neither Matt or Jeff drank alcohol and kept trying to force them to drink on the road. Meanwhile there was a wrestler (Don "the Jackal" Callis) getting nuclear heat backstage that Bradshaw really wanted to screw with, so JBL told Matt that if the Hardyz would break off toothpicks in Callis' rental car keyholes, they'd be "part of the boys." I got the impression from Matt that, looking back, he realized this was a crappy thing to do to someone he had no problem with whatsoever, but it ended up getting the brothers accepted in the locker room. Matt said that he had never been around an atmosphere like that before and had to learn all the politics and games to survive.
The shoot went into Vince McMahon buying WCW and the horribly mishandled WCW InVasion. Hardy said there was a lot of confusion as all of a sudden all the WWE guys were babyfaces and all the WCW guys were heels. Fans that were giving huge heel heat to a guy like X-Pac were now expected to cheer him and it ended up just driving people away en masse. The Hardys found their TV time being cut so that WCW guys like Hugh Morris and Kanyon could get over. Hardy explained what he would have done differently and let's face it, just about anything else would have worked better. Hardy talked about pitching an idea to the "creative" team that would have the Hardys versus 3 Count's Shannon Moore and Shane Helms, but WWE felt both Moore and Helms "weren't big enough names" to justify that type of match. This is the same company that booked an Earl Hebner versus Nick Patrick "referee match" during the InVasion.
Matt versus Jeff: Neither Hardy was a fan of their proposed "feud," but Matt said their one match at Vengeance wasn't that bad considering Matt was sick as a dog and Jeff clearly didn’t give a damn. The "office" expected more from the Hardys though, and were still pissed that Jeff outright refused to an angle where he would kiss Lita and steal her away from Matt. Jeff told Vince McMahon himself, "I will not kiss her. I won't do it. I'll quit." Both the Hardys and Lita were then punished by being taken off TV till "creative" could figure out what to do with them. All three were still made to go to house shows though as the fans still couldn’t get enough. Only in WWE could stories like this happen.
Hardy talked about the huge angle between the Hardy Boyz & Lita versus Triple H & Steve Austin & Stephanie McMahon, saying that it was designed to give the Hardys a rub, but also so that Steve Austin could get some heel heat as the fans still wanted him as a babyface after the disastrous heel turn at WrestleMania 17. After their incredible main event match on Monday Night Raw, Paul Heyman pulled over the Hardys and said what just happened was "bigger than the NWO." Matt had to roll his eyes at that comment while saying that he works better with honest motivation rather than having smoke blown up his ass. The match went so well that on a spur of the moment decision, Jeff Hardy beat Triple H the next night for the Intercontinental title. Around this point in the shoot it became, at least to me, obvious of how much jealousy Matt has for his brother Jeff. I don't mean that in a "heat" way, as Matt obviously cares deeply for his brother, but throughout the DVD you will pick up on Matt saying how important he was to building up the Hardy Boyz "mystique" while being exasperated that Jeff was clearly getting the most attention for the success. It happens. Imagine what Marc Mero must have felt like watching his wife Sable go from his valet to the biggest WWE Diva in the company while his career floundered.
Matt felt that if the Hardy Boyz/Austin/Triple H feud would have continued it would have exploded, instead the Hardys were replaced by Kane and Undertaker. This was a case of "the old guard wanting to work with the old guard." Matt then talked about a match he had with Brock Lesnar in which Matt "shot" on Lesnar in the ring. Not technically a shoot, as Matt just did things Lesnar specifically told him not to do before the match. At that time Lesnar was starting to let his push get to his head so Matt was, in a way, reminding Brock where he came from. This was a solid story as Matt talked about Brock being FURIOUS when he walked to the back and Matt knew the two would be facing each other soon. The match they ended up having was very stiff, but professional, and Matt earned Brock's respect by not backing down when the 300 lb gorilla was in his face.
By this time Jeff Hardy was starting to totally withdraw himself from the old cliques, to the point where even his relationship with Matt was strained as Jeff was "traveling with guys he shouldn't have been traveling with." I'm pretty sure that's kayfabe for "Justin Credible." Jeff had become disenfranchised with wrestling and started to look at it like just another job. Matt talked about the famous ladder match that Jeff had with Undertaker at Raw and how Vince McMahon, despite all the crap Jeff had pulled in the previous months, was all over Jeff after the match putting Jeff over. This was another example of Matt being frustrated as at the time he was training harder then ever, eating good, tanning and showing up for work on time while Jeff was blowing everything off. To be fair, I was at that Monday Night Raw (it took place in my hometown of Manchester, NH) and the fans there were ready to blow the roof off the building if Jeff would have won. It would have been just like when Foley won his first WWE title in Worcester, Mass.
Birth of Mattitude: Matt went over the beginnings of the Mattitude era and how Shannon Moore became the first MF'er. Interestingly enough, during the Hardy feud with Brock Lesnar, Matt suggested Shannon take a huge bump from Brock during one of the matches. Shannon ended up taking this bump, which was a big highlight of that week's episode, and actually ended up saving Shannon's job. You see that week there were a bunch of wrestlers being cut, and Shannon was supposed to be one of the guys let go, but Shannon taking that bump changed Vince McMahon's mind. What's even more amazing is that Moore lasted another two years after that. I think Vinnie Mac forgot Shannon was still in the Fed.
Matt had a match with the Hurricane, that both guys loved, only to go to the back and find agent Dave "Fit" Finlay ripping it apart. Matt did a good Finlay impersonation saying that Finlay believed Matt didn't know what it took to be a heel and also didn't have the passion. Matt took all of this as very condescending and believes the heat started when Matt would tell Lita not to do dumb stuff in women's matches. Finlay at the time was the agent in charge of the women, so you can imagine how that went over. Finlay compared Hardy to A-Train, using A-Train as an example of what Hardy should aspire to be. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!! Believe it or not, because A-Train went to all the "voluntary" workouts and acted like a robot (doing whatever the agents told him), he was seen as more of a "can't miss" prospect than Hardy. This is what led to A-Train being the wrestler to "injure" Rey Mysterio to set up an angle that went nowhere when everyone in the world thought Hardy should have been to the guy to do the deed and gone onto an awesome cruiserweight feud with Rey Rey.
Zach Gowen: Despite all the people who couldn’t stand the one legged wrestler Zach Gowen, Hardy said that Gowen was always respectful to him. Matt said that Gowen wasn't a bad kid, just someone who was brought in and immediately put into a program with Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, the biggest babyface and heel in the company. Gowen had people in his ear telling him how great he was and got absorbed in the moment. The plan was for Zach to get his first win over Shannon Moore, and it was Triple H who suggested Zach to pin Moore, but then take Hardy's finisher. If the crowd ate it up, they would have a new program. Around this time Matt was making plans to go back to the Raw brand, and on his way out he was asked to job to Gowen by writer Dave Lagana. Hardy said that it was stupid to job him out as he wasn't leaving the company, he was just going from SmackDown to Raw. As you can imagine, this meant beyond nothing to WWE. After fruitless arguing, Hardy "did his job before leaving the territory" and four weeks later was on Raw.
Matt then meticulously went into the drama with Lita and Edge. If you wanted details and much more dirt on this story, well, you're going to get it here. Matt goes back to when Lita broke her neck (during the filming of Jessica Alba's TV series Dark Angel and had to stay at home while Matt continued to tour with WWE. Lita got depressed and gained weight, but Matt alleges that he stayed completely faithful. Matt talked about the time he originally started dating Lita, and back then he was also semi-seeing another girl named Lori. In a line that would haunt him for years, he told Lita that Lori was a lot like her, "except she looks like a super model." While Lita and Matt were becoming serious, Lori ended up catching on with a friend of Matt's, Joey Abs from the Mean Street Posse. Flash Forward several years 'til we get back to Lita sitting at home with a broken neck and Matt got a phone call out of the blue from Lori asking how he was doing. Lita was not happy about this phone call.
Despite merely being friends with Lori, Matt caught himself going too far and having to tell Lori that can't see each other anymore. Lori kept calling Matt, so he changed his phone number. Soon after Lita's neck was better and she came back to Monday Night Raw. "Everything was perfect," said Matt, and the beginning of the end was near. The Fed booked an angle where Matt would do a promo turning on Lita and afterwards no less than Vince McMahon himself absolutely hated Lita's reaction to the promo. Vinnie Mac lit into Lita backstage and instead of just taking it, Lita lashed back. "I'm not retarded! I know there's more then just huricanranas!" This was NOT the response McMahon was looking for and he basically blew Lita off, telling her that she obviously knew everything and he would no longer help her out. From that point on Lita kept getting jobbed out while Matt, who was guilty by association, was pushed to the back burner. It wasn't until Matt convinced Lita to apologize to McMahon that the punishment stopped as she swallowed her pride and soon after the two were back on TV again. Hardy made it clear that Lita was the type of person who doesn't like to take responsibility and would rather hide and hope everything goes away. As for the wrestling stuff, I don't think Lita came back much different than before she left, but while she was out all the other girls in the women's division got a lot better.
Weaved in and out of this story were Matt's feelings on WWE at the time, including Triple H's tendency to hold wrestlers back while bringing up events like Benoit winning the world title but Raw still being centered around The Game. The wear and tear on Hardy's body eventually built up to the point where Hardy had to get surgery and take time off. The doc told Hardy's ACL wasn't just torn, it was completely gone and added, "I don't see how you're walking." Hardy told McMahon and Johnny Ace the situation and they asked if he continue on until SummerSlam. Hardy agreed under the stipulation that he only work TVs. I'm sure you'll be shocked to find out Hardy was continued to be booked on house shows. Even mores shockingly, the injuries got worse. Eventually Hardy had the surgery and talked about the hoops Lita had to jump through just to get to the hospital to be with him. At this point Hardy couldn't have felt better about the relationship, but things would get bad fast…
Matt got a call from Edge's wife Lisa saying that she found text messages that Edge had written to Lita. Matt said he would look into it and was satisfied when Lita and Edge explained it away. On Valentine's Day, Matt knew something was up as he had a ton of stuff to give Lita, but she had nothing for him. This was odd as in previous years Lita had always gone overboard in gifts for Matt. Later Matt would find Lita's second cell phone and found out Edge had been continually calling her. Matt listened to some of the messages and felt his heart drop. After sending the voice mail to his phone and the Hurricane's cell (for proof), Matt stormed into his bedroom and yelled, "what the f--- is going on here?!" Matt kicked Lita out of his house and called up Edge's wife to let her know what he found. Matt then called Edge and said he would slap the shit out of him. Edge called Matt back, apologizing and crying. Matt felt betrayed as Edge was one of his best friends. A short while later, Edge's wife left him and Edge started calling Lita again.
Matt asked his webmaster to take Lita's pictures off of Hardy's personal website. A reader noticed the pictures were gone and asked what was happening. Matt said to ask Amy. That was all the story needed to break on the Internet and it wasn't long before everyone was speculating what "really" happened.
WWE was hot that the story got out. Hardy told Edge that Edge should go to SmackDown while Matt and Lita stayed on Raw so that could try to salvage their relationship. Edge said he still loved Lita and it was becoming an intense situation.
At the next Monday Night Raw in Raleigh, North Carolina, the fans began the "you screwed Matt" chants. Matt was scheduled to make his return at the Fayetteville show, but was then un-booked when everything went down. Matt went anyway to see his friends. It was after this show that Hardy went out with several wrestlers including Shannon Moore only to see Moore get into a head-on collision in his S.U.V. That very same night, in Columbia, North Carolina, Edge got his tires slashed. Okay, this is where it gets really weird. Matt had been seeing that girl Lori, and her old boyfriend Joey Abs, was furious. This of course caused Abs' relationship with Hardy to disintegrate. Anyway, Joey Abs called, get this, PETE GAS and told Pete that Matt Hardy had put a hit out on Edge, but since he couldn't get to Edge personally, Hardy slashed Edge's tires. Word got around and it eventually got to Johnny Ace, who used it as reason enough to fire Hardy. Actually, the reason Ace gave to Hardy was that "creative" had no ideas for him.
Whew! Seriously, Hardy took about an hour to go through the entire sequence of events and had every detail you could possibly want. At the end of it all, Hardy feels that Lita has remorse for how everything went down and that Edge has a little remorse, but much more crocodile tears. Hardy closed the shoot DVD by talking about a variety of topics, including Paul Heyman mentioning his name at the One Night Stand pay per view, the JBL/Blue Meanie incident and his Angelic Diablo character that was set to be his return gimmick on Monday Night Raw. After it was over, there was a short commercial Hardy did for www.SubmissionGame.com folks.
Overall Thoughts: As the recent voting for Taboo Tuesday proved, Matt Hardy still has a strong fan base despite being booked like an absolute goof by WWE. This two disc shoot DVD is a comprehensive look at Matt's entire career while also getting opinions about the wrestling environment from the Attitude Era through today from one of the most outspoken voices that is still within "the system." As detailed as this review is, it really only scratches the surface of what Matt talked about during the shoot. Matt Hardy got his big break during the middle of the Atittude Era, one of the most exciting times in wrestling history, and has a ton of stories about the events and people during that period. Matt laid all the cards out on the table concerning his thoughts on WWE writers, Triple H and, of course, Lita and Edge.
This would be a good shoot for anyone considering starting up their own indie promotion as Hardy talks about what kind of work it takes to do something like that and not lose your shirt. From a homemade ring in his backyard, to renting out armories for hundreds of fans, Matt has done it all when it comes to putting together a show. Hardy Boyz fans are going to be impressed by the level of detail that Matt goes into concerning his brother Jeff and himself, both in the ring and out. The video and audio quality are excellent as this is, in my mind, one of the top five shoot DVDs RF Video has made to date. You can purchase this DVD by Clicking HERE, or head on over to www.RFVideo.com and check out all the other shoot interviews they have to offer.
Special Thanks to Keith Lipinski for his help with this review.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).