By Chris Shore
2011 was not a good year for Matt Hardy. He was fat and out of shape. He started using drugs at a scary level, leading to being released from both WWE and TNA, as well as several run-ins with the law and numerous YouTube videos that revealed exactly how out of it he was. One rumor that floated around was that he almost burned his house down after leaving the stove on and a plastic item near the stove melted and filled the home with toxic smoke.
Hardy's behavior continued to spiral out of control. He became more hostile to people he didn't know (even tweeting a thinly-veiled threat about me) and his friends and family started to push back. After several arrests, Hardy went to WWE sponsored rehab where he promptly got drunk and was kicked out. This lead to his arrest in North Carolina and eventual court ordered rehab on November 29, 2011.
Hardy finished rehab and came back healthy by all accounts. We all feared that a return to wrestling could derail Matt's improvement, as it had to so many others before him, so when he announced his return to the ring in 2012 it was received with some trepidation.
Matt started with smaller shows around North Carolina and worked his way up to a nice feud with Kevin Steen in ROH. Hardy was a heel in most of these appearances, especially with the "smarter" crowds, and embraced the heat well. He cut promos about how the fans called him "Fat Hardy" and chanted for him to die. He channeled it into his heel persona and he was well received for it.
But the Hardys, both Matt and his brother Jeff, are natural babyfaces. There is something about them that makes you want to cheer. Maybe it's their humble upbringing in Moore County. Maybe it's their risk taking. Maybe it's their personalities. Whatever it is, people want to cheer the Hardys. But would they want to cheer them if they thought they were bad guys in real life? That was the question I had when Matt (and to a lesser degree Jeff) went down in flames to drug related issues.
Jeff rebounded quickly. His mistakes had been more public, but less extensive, than Matt's. He walked back into TNA the conquering hero. Matt had to work longer and harder to rehab his image to the same degree he had rehabbed his body and mind. The fan girls had stayed with him--they had been sullied by Matt's behavior to the point where Twilight fans were "mean girlling" on them--but could he win the rest of the crowd back?
On November 30, 2013, two years and one day after being released from prison and ordered to return to rehab, over 2500 fans exploded when Matt's trademarked music blared through WrestleCade. The music, which had been too loud to the point of pain for most of the night, was drowned out by the cheers for Matt and new wife Reby Sky. The barricades, which fans had been admonished to stay off of, filled with children holding up their hands in the classic "V-1" gesture. Grown men and women joined them in cheering for Matt. The fact that Matt is from the state certainly helped, but he is not from the area where WrestleCade was held so this wasn't just a homer crowd cheering for their guy. This was real babyface shine.
I sat at a table with a group of smart fans who wanted to heckle Matt with the same fat and pill jokes. They pointed out he had a little belly still. They made fun of his problems and his "Matt Hardy will not die" catchphrase. It was easy. Matt has certainly given people plenty of material to work with. But I saw something different. I didn't see the guy who spiraled out of control and crashed in epic fashion. I didn't see a guy who blamed a poor physique on being unable to do sit-ups. I didn't even see the guy who said he hoped to "bump into" me one day.
I saw a guy who beat all that. I saw a guy who, when he climbed the ladder to grab the title and pop the crowd again, completed his climb back to the top of his game. Matt Hardy will never headline a major wrestling event again. Those days are gone, But Matt Hardy still has plenty to give the world of professional wrestling and the 2500 fans in attendance were there to soak up every bit of it they could.
Hardy is to be congratulated for pulling himself out of the nose dive his life was in just a few months ago. I hope that those fans who still see him as a heel and treat him as such find an appreciation for the work Matt has done, and continues to do, to entertain them. There can be no question he is beginning to win people over. One of those smart fans, who yelled things all match long, looked at me after Hardy won the title and simply said, "The motherf***er is over as hell, isn't he?" Yes he is.
Shore's Blog: The resurrection of Matt Hardy
Dec 2, 2013 - 03:48 PM
Dec 2, 2013 - 03:48 PM
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