For more than two decades, Jeff Hardy has been one of the most well-known sports entertainers around the world.
Alongside his (recently retired) brother Matt, Hardy has won numerous tag team and singles championships across the globe, and was WWE's reigning United States champion earlier this year.
I recently spoke with the 'Charismatic Enigma' about WWE's upcoming show at UT-Arlington on Sunday, his new on-screen rivalry with Samoa Joe, and life on the road as a WWE superstar:
What's the vibe as performers preparing for a live show like the one in Arlington instead on something televised or on the WWE Network?
Hardy: "The coolest for me is when I was, oh gosh, 7-10 years old - we were at a show in North Carolina - and Sting was coming out, this was an old NWA [National Wrestling Alliance] show, and I was able to touch his shoulder. And he had his face painted, his neon green tights on, and the blonde hair - and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I want to do that. I want to make somebody feel like he made me feel right now.'
"So, like this Sunday for example, I'll be in the back painting up in whatever image I have in my head, and my thing is I hope a kid kind of feels the way I felt back then when they see me, especially because I come out like a zombie when my eyes are closed because I do the eyelids on my eyes and just the moment in itself - one photo is worth a billion words and feelings.
"So, I just hope I can make a kid feel the way Sting made me feel. That's the funnest thing for me now at live events because there's not a rush, there's like a patience behind it - the painting. Just like when I'm painting canvas, I'm using my face. It's very peaceful. And I just hope I can make that one kid each and every night feel the way I felt back then."
Was Sting always the influence for the face paint?
Hardy: "Sting and The Ultimate Warrior. I think Sting more because it was different every time, and that's why I am the way I am now. I'm very abstract anyways, and the Warrior it was just like a symbol on his face, just different colors. But Sting's was different every time back then, and I'm sure that's where I got it from."
You wrestled your brother Matt at WrestleMania 25 in Houston -- any other fond Texas memories?
Hardy: "That's my favorite for sure. Back when we were kids watching Bret and Owen Hart wrestle each other at [WrestleMania X], we finally got our brother-feud moment at WrestleMania.
"I remember we were real rushed on time, too, but my favorite part about that match - well, there were two parts - Matt won, and I kept my defeated streak going. But then, we did the first-ever human sandwich is what I called the spot. He was on a table and then I put a table on top of him, and he trusted me enough to pull that off. So, that's my favorite moment by far. And the Twist of Hate in the steel chair was really cool at the end of that match. But, yeah, that human sandwich was my favorite. And that's probably my favorite Texas moment."
Now that it has sat with you a couple of days, how crazy is it that Jeff Hardy had a segment on SmackDown this week celebrating more than two decades with WWE?
Hardy: "It's extremely crazy. What a feel-good moment just to be out there and see the evolution of myself. And for the crowd - Minneapolis - they were so respectful and great. It was very goosebump-ish."
You couldn't convince Matt to stick around a couple more weeks so he could have one, too?
Hardy: "Yeah, well, he needs one. He's on Raw, maybe he'll get one if he can come out of retirement or something. I'm not sure what he's thinking exactly about his future. And the Hardy Boyz, in general, naturally we always have heard 'future Hall of Famers.' And I don't really take that too seriously, but naturally, we will be. So, we'll see. Hopefully he'll get his on Raw one of these days."
Jeff Hardy vs. Samoa Joe seems like something that's going to continue. What's it like to work with him again?
Hardy: "We've worked a few times in WWE, but many times in TNA. Back then, we worked a lot. Same thing with A.J. [Styles]. And it's cool to think back then what we were doing in TNA, and to see us now in WWE. And after that intense moment of him interrupting my celebration, it's going to be a great feud. So, I'm looking forward to what's going to happen in the weeks to come.
You're obviously a very open book when it comes to the trials and tribulations that have come along during your career -- how do you feel about incorporating all of those real-life aspects into the on-screen WWE product?
Hardy: "It helps a lot, especially because people relate with it. Even a friend of mine, they were in from out of town yesterday, and he said when they were watching it - actually down with Matt - and he was like, 'Yeah, I kind of got mad.' - Because he's a recovering addict and all that, too.
"He said, 'I was getting mad when he was saying you weren't coherent, can't bring the champagne too close.' But, you know, you got to be confident in what you are and who you are, and I am. So, none of those promos like that - it reminds me back in the day with CM Punk, you know, the same kind of issues. It's all good. It's good for the fans, it's good for us, and it's good for the WWE."
The TLC [Tables, Ladders, and Chairs] pay-per-view is coming up, and one of the last big moments you've had on a pay-per-view is falling from the top of Hell in a Cell through a table. As you've gotten older, how does the body hold up and recover from things like that?
Hardy: "It takes a lot longer. Like that next day after Hell in a Cell was - wow. When I attempted the splash and I crashed through the table, and I got put on the stretcher, I didn't realize how bad my ankle was until I got off the stretcher. I don't know, I guess it was from adrenaline maybe or just from the fact I didn't stand up immediately. But yeah, my ankle was so banged up for the next couple weeks.
"But, overall, I've felt really good. My lower back, I've had some issues with that, and I've let off doing the Swanton Bomb at live events, and the Whispers in the Wind, I kind of take them away. And it helps, man, when you don't do that every night it helps. I see my chiropractor every two weeks, and it helps out. But it's pretty amazing how good I feel and how fast I heal still to this day.
"It's funny, I didn't know what was going to happen with Joe this past week, that I was going to start something with him. And I was talking to D-Von Dudley, we actually had to watch SummerSlam 2000 - the first-ever TLC match that was actually called TLC. And we had to talk throughout the match, and it was such a fast-paced, killer match and I said, 'Man, that's the one thing I'm kind of bummed about. I'm not on the TLC pay-per-view.' But then I found out what was going to happen with Joe later and I got really excited. So, hopefully we'll get a little position on the pay-per-view."
You mentioned on SmackDown this week you weren't in the middle of a retirement speech, but how much more time is there on the career of Jeff Hardy?
Hardy: "That's one thing I don't know. Because I truly do - especially like the Hell in a Cell match, and even now I have two beautiful daughters, a beautiful wife - but I truly do wrestle every match like it's my last because even a live event like this Sunday in Arlington could be my last match. The craziest thing could happen within the blink of an eye and it could all be over.
"So, when I say things like 'this is far from a retirement speech,' I really don't know that because it could end at any moment. So, I just try to enjoy every match like it's my last, and do what I love to do and that's entertain the WWE Universe."
Ever since your return at WrestleMania 33 in 2017, you've been stuck with the old Hardy Boyz music on your entrance. Now that Matt is off doing his own thing, could any changes be coming to your entrance music?
Hardy: "I feel like I'm stuck with it now. 'No More Words' was my theme back in '08 and '09, I believe. And all my fans want to hear that so bad. And so do I. But, I don't know, the band [Endeverafter] broke up back in 2012. I don't know if there's a rights issue, the publishing and music stuff is so confusing at times. But [the current music] should be the Hardy Boyz' music when me and Matt team again - like hit that music then. If they could bring back 'No More Words' eventually - I just need to push for it more, every week I need go ask, 'Hey, can we get that song back? What do we have to do to get it back?' Because I would love to hear it, and my fans would, too.
"I'll never forget when I first heard it, it was weird, I was like I don't know if I like this or not. But then the way music grows on you, if you don't like it at first, and the more you hear it the more it kind of becomes you. Yeah, that is my go-to as far as if I could have any song in the world I would bring that back in a heartbeat. And hopefully we can. I don't see what the issue would be, or even I've talked to my guitar player about covering it, getting the rights to cover it, and let me do the lyrics. I know the song by heart, and me and my buddy do it acoustically sometimes. Maybe I should pitch that, that feels right, and then save that Hardy Boyz music for whenever Matt comes out of retirement or whatever."
How does everyone in WWE celebrate the holidays on the road?
Hardy: "Last year, I was out with a rotator cuff surgery so I was home at Christmas, but I remember they did a live Raw on Christmas day, and guys had to fly out Christmas morning because Matt was one of them. I think this year we leave the day after, so we're home for Christmas and then we leave. But yeah, it's WWE, it's what you signed up for, it's go-go-go. For me, I leave on Saturdays, get home on Wednesdays, I have my Thursdays and Fridays. It's not too bad, it's just the long tours, that's the hardest part. When you're gone for like two-, two-and-a-half weeks. That's pretty rough, especially with family."
Not to label the 'next Jeff Hardy,' but is there anyone on the roster that you watch and the things they do in the ring excite you?
Hardy: "Oh man, sometimes I can hang around for the very last match after TV, and I'll watch 205 Live and it's like the X Games of wrestling. Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy, those guys, it reminds me of freestyle motocross. They just keep doing these amazing things, raising the bar, and it just keeps getting higher and I don't know how they do it, but that's kind of how we were back in the original TLC days when we first started doing the thing. The Dudleys had the tables. We had the ladders. Edge and Christian with the chairs. We had these great matches, and then it was - ok, what do we do next?
"It gets hard. It gets harder and harder. It's kind of like having lyrics in your head, you just got to come up with the ideas and bring them into reality. I think I got a few more in me, for sure, but yeah, when it comes to the next similar type of charismatic enigma Jeff Hardy style I would say Mustafa Ali. I see a lot in that kid."