By Chuck Carroll
Jeff Hardy is one interesting dude. There really isn’t another way to put it. He’s a modern-day renaissance man: world-champion wrestler, painter, musician, husband, father. His life has played out better than any Hollywood script ever written. He’s gone from on top of the wrestling world to behind bars only to resurrect his career and rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.
He seems happy now. Perhaps that’s because his life is full. As a wrestler, he and his brother Matt Hardy are on the cusp of revolutionizing pro wrestling. They are redefining boundaries and taking creativity to new heights with the Deletion series in TNA Impact Wrestling. And he promises that there is more to come. In fact, the segments have been such a hit that the company green lit a full two-hour show for the series. Total Nonstop Deletion airs December 15, and Hardy promises it will be the “funnest wrestling show ever.” The show also afforded him the opportunity to work with the legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, whom he’s admired for years. And he’s hinting that we could see more of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson in the future.
He’s working for a company that appreciates his imagination and gives his group the creative liberties to usher in a new era in wrestling. And although his contract expires at the end of February, he says he wants to stay. Sorry, WWE fans. But can you honestly imagine seeing something like The Final Deletion on Monday Night RAW? Of course not. And creativity is paramount in his life.
His loyalty to the brand is strong despite the public turmoil between investor/Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan and the company and its former owner, Dixie Carter. He considers both to be his friend, which puts him in the unfortunate position of being in the middle. Hardy, along with the bulk of the TNA roster, are being kept in the dark about a lot of the goings-on. The former WWE Champion is okay with that though. He says he doesn’t need to know everything.
Besides, he doesn’t have time for all that drama. His plate is too full for that mess. He has a family at home, he sells his own artwork, and most recently he’s been in the studio working on his solo debut, Spawn of Me. The six-song release is reminiscent of what rock radio used to be. The rich sound and vocals blow so much of today’s homogenized garbage right out of the water. Music has helped shape Hardy’s life, and he boasts of being influenced by everyone from NWA to Lil Wayne to Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Chuck D, Randy Travis, Johnny Cash and Vanilla Ice. Yes, Vanilla Ice.
The album is deep and takes listeners on a journey through his mind’s inner-workings. The title track is inspired by to his two daughters. The lyrics flowed through his mind and onto paper shortly after his daughter was born last New Year’s Eve. But the track that most wrestling fans will relate to is “Irreversible,” an opus to his dark fear of developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, known better as CTE. It’s the potentially fatal disorder caused by repeated head trauma.
Hardy has been diagnosed with no more than three concussions during his career, but fears he’s suffered far more than that.
“It’s so scary what it can do to you in the long run,” he said.
He fears even the simplest of bumps in the ring can cause irreversible damage and the uncontrollable depression that strikes many who have the disorder. Many are unable to cope with diving into a dark mental state and end their own lives. Hardy says that happened to his hero, Junior Seau, who he calls the “linebacker of all linebackers.” Also not lost on him is the recent retirement of Daniel Bryan whom he has a great deal of sympathy for. But what scares him the most is not knowing whether he has CTE until it’s too late. And that’s the crux of the song — irreversible damage.
For now, Hardy says he doesn’t have any of the symptoms commonly associated with CTE and has no suicidal thoughts. In fact, he says the only depression he’s ever experienced was while he was battling a Vicodin addiction. Today, he’s clearheaded and views his drug-related arrest in a positive manner. “It’s better to get arrested than to die,” he said.
Hardy is also self-distributing the album on his website. He is planning on releasing all of his music in that fashion in the future, including his band Peroxygen’s third album. Hardy is targeting an early 2017 release for that and possibly touring later in the year. He’s talking about having a concert in Nashville next March when he’ll also be in town to wrestle. If all goes well, there’s a good chance we’ll see more of Hardy on a different kind of stage in the future.
We spoke at length about the album, the ebbs and flows of his life as well as his future in the wrestling business. You can listen to the entire interview here.
I hear some 90s rock in there. What were your influences in putting Spawn of Me together?
I’m really not sure. I’m just a huge alternative rock fan, but I love country music. I grew up around it. My dad is a great guitar player. He’s straight up country. So, if he hears anything I do he’s like, “you ain’t never gonna make a dime off of that.” My influences range between Eddie Vedder, Lil Wayne, Chuck D, NWA, Johnny Cash, Randy Travis. I love it all, man.
A lot of time there is a personal emotional meaning behind the songs. Which one did you have the deepest connection to?
The song “Spawn of Me” started back in 2010 when my daughter was born. I wrote a song for her called “Ruby.” But when my second daughter was born last New Year’s Eve, I totally rewrote it and made it about both of them. And it also mentions my guitar player’s daughter. The song is dedicated to them.
Another song on there that is very powerful and very serious is called “Irreversible.” It is about my fear of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). It’s crazy in the NFL they take it so seriously because you have to. It’s so scary what it can do to you in the long run. And with me being a pro wrestler I’ve had my share. Diagnosed concussions only about two or three, but I’m sure there’s been a lot more. It’s as simple as simple can be. If I do a little flat bump and I hit my head really hard, there’s like a strange vibration, and I’m like “Oh my God, did I just have a concussion?” And a lot of times it’s like a déjà vu sensation like I’ve been there before. Luckily it hasn’t happened in about six months. But you can only be so careful.
Thank God they’ve eliminated things like chair shots to the head, because that was just ridiculous. When we first started, everybody was taking chair shots to the head.
The song also talks about suicidal thoughts. They haven’t gotten to me yet. Basically, it’s about my fear about developing CTE, and I think you can only get tested for that when you’re dead. But I feel really good.
When you see someone like Daniel Bryan retiring or Chris Borland with the 49ers walking away after one year because of concussions, does that strike more of a chord with you?
I mainly think of Junior Seau. I used to be a huge Chargers fan. He was the linebacker of all linebackers, and when I heard what happened to him, it was so sad. With Daniel Bryan … when you see how much he loves pro wrestling and now is depressed about it, it’s sad. It breaks my heart, and at the same time it scares me, because I know I could be in the same boat at any time in the future.
Have you noticed any mood changes since you were diagnosed with concussion?
My biggest run-in with depression was in 2009. I was addicted to Vicodin. I ended up getting in trouble because I had way too many. I got arrested. But you know what? All that’s over. I’m six years clean now. I think shortly after I got clean I felt really good… I’m so clear-headed now… Luckily, I’ve never had to be on depression medication or anything like that. I’ve been able to get by. And now with the second daughter that just makes me stronger. But going back to addiction, it’s better to get arrested than die. That’s the way I look at it.
Talk to me about the process of putting this together. When did it start and how long did it take?
It started after my daughter was born when I wrote “Spawn of Me.” … Then Dale Oliver from TNA Impact Wrestling would just send me tracks that he had laying around, and I would write to them. Probably over the course of six months we developed these songs. … Then I went out to his house and recorded six songs in two days. The hardest one was “Equivalent,” because the verses are really fast and it was hard to breathe. That one speaks about being down on myself.
(Another) one of my favorites was the last one we recorded which is called “Oblivious.”
Why did you feel it was time to break away and do a solo release?
My deal with TNA was that I wanted to be there if they let me do a new theme song every year for Bound for Glory. I knew that nobody had ever done that or will ever do that, because the songs become so catchy. And when it hits, people know who’s coming. But that was one thing I wanted to do. So going back to 2010, when I returned to TNA, we started that. … I actually wrote a song called “Obsolete” that my brother and I would come out to before he delved into his broken brilliance. Now, his wife plays piano beautifully, and she actually did a slow version of “Obsolete” mixed with Matt’s intro music. We’ve actually done some live entrances before. While she’s playing the piano, I’ll sing the two lines and we walk to the ring. That’s super cool, and it’s made me more ready to perform, get out on the stage and start singing some songs.
You’ve been doing some really creative stuff in TNA Impact Wrestling Series with the Deletion series. You’ve just filmed Total Non-Stop Deletion at the Hardy compound in North Carolina. Could you see yourself getting that kind of creative freedom in another promotion?
It all began with The Final Deletion. … We did some amazing stuff there… And now we did Apocolypto, which will be Total Nonstop Deletion. That was filmed on our property, and it’s going to be the funnest wrestling show ever. I can guarantee that, because we did some wild stuff. It’s one not to be missed for sure. I don’t think we would get that creative liberty anywhere else, but I could be wrong.
As far as I’m concerned, right now, I want to stay with something new and fresh instead of going back to something old that I’ve already been to and done a lot for and with. I don’t think we can go wrong with staying at TNA and seeing where it goes in the future. Hopefully make it the best company that it can be.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Express is in Apocalpyto, true or false?
True. That was incredible. I love those guys. We’ve known them for years and I’ve always wanted that dream match. And you’ll get a little taste of it. It’s still not the dream match that will ultimately happen in the near future, but you’ll get a little taste of us wrestling out in the 28-degree weather. What happens to Ricky Morton is just incredible. It’s just incredible. You have to see it.
What other surprises are in store? Who else is on there?
Rock ‘N’ Roll were the biggest. There’s these guys, The Bravados, they’re local, and they’re great. They pop up. Itchweed, my comical alter ego, has in-ring wrestling debut, and its pretty nuts. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out because I haven’t seen it. It felt very weird doing it, wrestling as a comical character. I think it’s going to be funny and show another side of me and hopefully another talent of mine. Naturally, you’re going to get all your Jeff Hardy stuff and Matt Hardy stuff in full effect.
There have been a ton of changes and a very public courtroom battle at TNA recently. Some reports say talents are being kept in the dark about a lot of things. What has this experience been like for you?
It’s very strange. Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins is a good friend of mine, and he loves pro wrestling. I understood that he was a huge investor, but evidently he’s out now however that happened. They still haven’t told us everything. There’s some new management coming in. They’re paying people and taking care of things. I’m not sure what’s going to happen or where it’s going to go. I’m just going to have faith in the company. Especially if they build the show around myself and Matt. I don’t think they can go wrong with that.
For them to trust us to just go out there and do what we do … I can’t complain with that. I love that.
Have you spoken with the new management about the creative liberties you’ve been given?
No, I haven’t. But we’re on the verge negotiation now. We’re supposed to meet with somebody before the end of the year. We should know something soon. We’re supposed to meet with the new higher-ups pretty soon, and we’ll go from there. Hopefully we’ll work out a great deal and stick around for a while and keep trying to be original and make TNA the best it can be.
When does your current contract expire?
February 28th. I think Matt’s is around the same time.
How would you categorize your relationship with Dixie Carter?
I love Dixie. She’s always been super good to me. When we worked out our deal in 2012, she was kind and generous. She took care of me. She’s always been great to me. I know there are certain things they can’t say. I don’t expect them to tell us everything. I’m just happy to be getting paid and have a good job and be able to support my family. I have no complaints about Dixie.
Has anyone else in the locker room approached you about doing their theme?
No, actually! The closest thing to that would be Jeff Jarrett, we’re very good friends, and he runs Global Force Wrestling. One of his guys uses a song off our last band album called “Obtuse.” I was honored by that. Jeff heard it and said I had gotten a lot better and asked if he could use it for one of his guys. I said of course. Hell yeah, of course!
I actually went to a show before I was able to wrestle because my leg was still hurting. I did a little interview, and I was able to see the guy come out to my song. That was really cool.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.