Wrestling star Matt Hardy has rejuvenated his life and career in 2012, performing for the top independent promotions in the United States.
Hardy will meet Sabu at Extreme Rising’s return to Philadelphia 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29.
The former WWE superstar is happy with the freedom of making his own decisions when it comes to his work schedule.
“A company now, like a WWE, has such strict rules and control of your life,” Hardy said, “as far as allowing you to do outside projects or trying to grow in different directions.
“Whether it be acting or things you want to do yourself or other business ventures, it makes it really tough. When you work for a company like that, they give you the schedule, and that is the one you work. With my schedule, currently, I can kind of make it and shift it around. Like the weekend before Christmas I took off so I can be with my family. I still get to do some really cool shows. It’s also fun because I get to wrestle a huge variation of opponents.
“The money is good, and I enjoy it. I’m still able to do what I love. I sort of redefined my passion for it because there is no more stress or pressure. It’s just me getting to practice my craft and perform my art with my own schedule. So it’s really nice. There are a lot more guys who are making the shift. It’s nice that there are places like the Extreme Rising, Ring of Honor and a couple of places that are really strong in the Northeast and California. These are places I can work regularly where they have really good attendances and really good shows and really good wrestling. So I’m thoroughly enjoying it right now.”
In the past year, he has competed against emerging stars such as Luke Hawx and ROH’s television champion Adam Cole. It takes him back to the days of when the Cameron, North Carolina native and his brother Jeff were breaking in to the business.
“I had that experience of being the young new guy that had the glimmer in his eye and all the talent in the world, but there are a lot of things you have to learn along the way,” Hardy said.
“Back in my day guys really didn’t go out of their way to help you like they do now. So for me to work with these guys and kind of give them tips and things to think about from all the experience I’ve had, I enjoy it. I feel like I’m giving back. I feel like I’m also doing a service to the business. So it’s a good feeling.”
It’s no secret Hardy, 38, has endured turbulent times over the years. However, the veteran was able turn it around by changing the way he lived his life and getting his priorities in order. Taking a more proactive approach to his career has also helped the performer.
“The biggest thing is my body not being in constant pain,” Hardy said. “One guy I like to use as an example is Chris Jericho. He was so smart about working three years and taking a year off or so. I went for 11-and-a-half years straight. I was one of those guys who was always on the road four days a week, five days a week. I always busted my #$% every time I get in the ring and work. It comes to a point where as you get older and your body starts breaking down, you have to realize that you’re a human being. You’re not a machine. You can’t go with that mentality.
“I’ve pushed my body way too far. I’ve made mistakes, as a way to working with the pain. Looking back now and taking a year off and working my own schedule. I have four, five, six days to recuperate during the week. I had a couple of noninvasive surgeries that have broken up bone chips of my back. I just started the DDP Yoga. I’m just doing things to improve myself.
“I have to give an honorable mention to my girlfriend Reby Sky, who is from Queens and Latin, so she has some fire in her. She always stayed on me in case I did get off track. It’s a combination of being in a real good place in life and realizing that I can’t wrestle the schedule that I used to back in the day. I won’t. There has been some interesting conversations that I’ve had, but I refuse to go back to work full schedule I did because I’m never going to put my body in the type of jeopardy that I did a couple of years ago.
Hardy’s brother, Jeff, has also faced his share of obstacles and demons. Now the TNA Impact Wrestling champion, Jeff has risen from the ashes, and Hardy couldn’t be prouder.
“I knew Jeff when he was the most unpredictable human being in the world,” Hardy said.
“You just never knew what Jeff you were going to get. Now Jeff is the most responsible person alive. I think it’s a combination of finding his path in life and being happy and doing what he thinks he needs to do with his schedule. He is also a dad. His daughter just turned 2. Now I think in life Jeff feels he has another human being that is more important than him. So that was a big factor as well.
“We’ve always been there for each other all the way through from the beginning. One day we dreamed of being tag team champions one time. Everything we did after that was extra credit. We’ve both had amazing careers and done more than we planned on achieving in our wildest dreams. As far as having each other’s back and being there for each other, that’s something that never changed. It’s a nice feeling to have your brother, who is your blood and best friend there for you.”
With his career thriving, Hardy is driven to succeed. In the past year, he has developed a renewed love of the game. The consummate performer anticipates his upcoming match with Sabu at the Extreme Rising show on Dec. 29.
“I’m pretty excited to do it,” Hardy said. “We actually had a tag team match back in 1997, right before Jeff and I signed with WWE. It was myself and Jeff versus Sabu and Rob Van Dam. We watch those few years when we are just getting in the business. He was one of those who had this mystique about him. Then with the way he went through those tables and the abuse he put his body through, you would wonder if he was human. He really carved out his own niche, as far as being his own character.
“There is no way I can look at a guy like Sabu and not respect him. All wrestling fans should respect him just for all the sacrifices he has made and put his body through. A lot of times Sabu wasn’t doing it because it was on the level of a WWE, where he was going to making a huge contract. He did it because it was his passion, and he did it to entertain the people. We’ve always had a mutual respect for one another. When we meet, people in Philly are going to get their money’s worth and won’t be disappointed.”
• Matt Hardy battles Sabu as part of a stacked lineup at Extreme Rising’s return to Philly 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29 from the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory. Rhino faces Devon Storm, and Luke Hawx takes on Stevie Richards. Jerry Lynn collides with Homicide. The Blk Out has agreed to face a mystery team in a steel cage. New tag team champions will also be crowned, and the show will feature the debut of Hijo De Rey Misterio against Bestia 666. For information, visit http://www.extremereunion.net
• Follow Matt Hardy on Twitter: @MattHardyBrand.
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