WWE's Jeff Hardy on Turning His Life Around & His Rivalry With Elias
Jeff Hardy is a WWE daredevil known for climbing the ladder of success, literally and figuratively. Experiencing those career highs starting at a very young age also meant living very much a rock star lifestyle, which took its toll. The veteran has battled his demons, including drugs, alcohol and multiple run-ins with the law.
The “Charismatic Enigma” is upfront about these struggles, facing them in a storyline earlier this year with Sheamus on SmackDown. The 43-year-old continues to prove himself a survivor by coming out on the other end of adversity and even winning the Intercontinental championship in August.
The recently drafted Raw superstar has turned his attention to a returning new rival in Elias. The two are set to square off at Hell in a Cell. We caught up with the colorful superstar about turning his life around, as well as preview the big match and talk about making the jump back to Monday nights.
WWE just had the draft where you moved back to Raw. It’s amazing to think that your first appearance on the show was more than 25 years ago as Keith Davis. How does it feel to be back on Mondays and look back at the memories you’ve had?
Jeff Hardy: I totally haven’t thought about that in forever. The whole Keith Davis thing was in 1994 where I wrestled Razor Ramon on Monday Night Raw. I was only 16 years old. He destroyed me in that ring so hard. Now just to be here in October 2020 and on Raw again. It’s really cool to be involved and still doing it.
You’re coming off an incredible ladder match. You’re known for taking these big risks. What is your mindset now doing these types of moves as a veteran?
It’s really exciting still, especially the ladder match because that is me and my brother’s [Matt Hardy] claim to fame. That first tag team ladder match with Edge and Christian pretty much changed our lives forever. To still be able to do it and be passionate about it is really exciting. It’s that adrenaline rush that comes from ladder matches. I always compare it to my background in motocross. It’s just exciting to build a jump and conquer it. Coming up with these high spots and bringing them into reality for the WWE Universe to see and witness. As far as Hell in a Cell goes, I'm not going to lie. I saw that thing last Monday for the first time in person since I was in one. It’s so tall and scary. I’m perfectly okay never stepping into one of those things again. I had my moment.
How has it been being home more with your wife and kids? People often don’t think about the wear and tear that comes from traveling as a wrestler.
With everything that has happened to me in the last year, my life is so well-balanced right now. I travel about once a week to Orlando and back to North Carolina. It’s a steady pattern. My daughter is homeschooling. That’s tough. That’s the biggest difference with all of this, she doesn’t go to school for seven hours a day. She is doing amazing. I’m so blessed to wake up each and every day and be excited about life. Luckily, for me, I got all this artsy stuff in my head alive and well. Today I’ve been trimming shrubs out here and love every moment of it. It takes a while to get done, but that’s what I do. Achieve something without drinking or drugging. It has been a beautiful thing when I stepped into that rehab facility for the first time in my life.
The battle against your demons was part of a storyline with Sheamus, which drew some concern. But this can be seen as a cautionary tale turned success story that might be able to help others. What can you tell us about being a part of something so rooted in your personal life?
Honestly, WWE is where our careers started. It’s what I made a living doing. My entire professional life, this is where my dreams come true. Even the bar fight that ended the feud with Sheamus. Sure it was controversial, the storyline and me talking about being an alcoholic. I knew that payoff was an idea. I thought how that bar fight would be the right payoff against two enemies: the alcohol and Sheamus. It happened. It came to life.
Even in the ladder match or doing the Hell in a Cell match with Randy Orton — I have to give Randy’s wife props for the handcuff spot in that one. Years ago she mentioned, what if handcuffs were possible and being tied from the ropes to your earlobe. For this ladder match, I thought about what if they connected me to the ladder with handcuffs. Damn if that didn't come true. Everything I'm dreaming up is coming true thanks to WWE and the art form pro wrestling is. It makes me excited about the future. The thought of getting in front of a live audience again is crazy exciting because I’ll be getting my old theme music back, “No More Words.” I’m saving that for a live human being audience. I’m excited for everything and so blessed.
You talk about atmosphere. Without hearing the rush of the crowd before you go out through the curtain, is there anything you do differently to get pumped up?
Not really. It is quite different from the ThunderDome. The 2,000 people watching us are way different there. Originally, when I came back from knee surgery I think it was supposed to be in Detroit and 20,000 people. I was excited to hear that energy from the crowd. It ended up being in front of the Performance Center with no crowd. I faced King Corbin the first time, and it was complete silence. It was surreal. I still prepare the same way because all it takes is one wrong move or blink of an eye for something to go wrong and to get seriously hurt. My preparation has been the same, but the energy of the WWE Universe is dearly missed.
We have a carryover of your story with Sheamus. This feud with Elias, who came back and went after you thinking you attacked him a few months ago. What are your thoughts working with this emerging talent? There is also this musical element, which I'm sure is fun for you.
I saw his concert on Monday, and I really like his new songs. I was getting into them. It’s exciting to see a concert on a wrestling show, especially with me involved in music. I jokingly thought how cool it would be to have a battle of the bands. Raw is three hours every Monday, so there is room for it. Anything is possible in WWE. Elias is a really talented dude. I love that he has a guitar with him, and that’s part of his character. It is like a living, breathing thing. I look forward to the possibilities between us. We kick it off on Sunday with a little rock ‘n’ roll wrestling match. I’m looking forward to it.
You signed an extended deal with WWE that will keep you around for at least a few more years. What do you hope to accomplish in this new phase of your career?
I’ve already set a goal to be the WWE champion again or Universal champion before it’s all said and done. It’s exciting to think about the people I haven’t worked with yet and can work with now. You have Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston and Big E. The list goes on and on. Kevin Owens. There is so much potential for me in the next few years. Hopefully, I can continue on for five or even 10 more years. Time will tell. There is so much exciting stuff to possibly happen in WWE. That’s why I’m here.
We’re approaching Halloween. You’re known for masterpiece face paint work. How big is the holiday around the house?
Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. What is so cool, as I trim shrubbery around my house, is thinking, I’m at home this year. Last year I was in rehab. I missed Halloween last year. Although it is quite different with COVID, it’s good to be home. My two daughters love it. We love it as a family. I can’t wait to share it with them and hope for many more to come.
Any costume ideas? What are we going to be?
My daughter is obsessed with Star Wars right now. So it’s a bunch of Star Wars. I actually did this Undertaker tribute shoot recently. It was a mix with Undertaker and this mysterious Willy Wonka. I’m thinking of rolling that way.
We could be seeing a new persona on WWE. Look out.
Who knows? We might see Willy Willow.
WWE Raw, Mondays, 8/7c, USA Network
WWE Hell in a Cell, October 25, 7/6c, Pay-Per-View and WWE Network